If the world could use one thing right now, it would be more empathy. There’s no better way to understand others’ experiences than to learn about them firsthand, which is why we travel—to be exposed to new people, cultures, and perspectives—but an open mind and a curious attitude can be nurtured whether you’re traversing the globe or relaxing on your couch at home. We’ve compiled a list of five documentaries that will inspire the global citizen in you so that we can all continue to be compassionate and understanding, no matter where we come from.
Kevin Macdonald’s Life in a Day was shot on a single day—July 24, 2010. The community-generated film, distributed by National Geographic Films, features a selection of footage from more than 80,000 videos submitted to YouTube by contributors worldwide. The crowd-sourced film gives a unique, poignant, and timeless glimpse into what it’s like to be alive in 192 countries across the globe.
Cinematographer Kirsten Johnson’s Cameraperson is a documentary like we’ve never seen before. A mixture of footage captured over Johnson’s 25-year-long career of documentary-making combines a wide range of scenes from a boxing match in Brooklyn to the daily routine of a Nigerian midwife. The film explores the relationship between the camera and its subjects and asks the question, “What does life—filmed—look like around the world?”
3. How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change
Filmmaker and activist Josh Fox crosses 12 countries on six continents in How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change, documenting how communities on “the front lines” of climate change are coping. The riveting film explores the aspects of humanity that climate change can’t eradicate, turning a sense of hopelessness into determination.
Calling all food lovers! This Netflix documentary series (presented in one-hour segments titled “Fire,” “Water,” “Air,” and “Earth”) explores the evolution of food and its ability to connect humans across cultures. The series follows food writer Michael Pollan, highlighting theories of how cooking has influenced human evolution and helped forge deeper connections between ourselves and our traditions.
5. Girl Rising
Girl Rising, a film focused on the global campaign for girls’ education, uses the art of documentary storytelling to galvanize action that helps girls everywhere have access to education. Director Richard E. Robbins documents the stories of nine girls from countries such as Haiti, Peru, and Afghanistan who face tremendous challenges in pursuing their dreams, giving visibility to the barriers girls encounter and ensuring that girls’ education is part of the conversation worldwide.
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