Must watch documentaries on Netflix

The Fish Tank from Whore’s Glory

As part of my goal to stream as many movies and TV shows on Netflix as I can (mostly because I don’t have cable), I have discovered some great documentaries. Some people consider documentaries boring since there isn’t much action, I, however, think, not only can they entertain, but also educate us about the world, art, religion, people, cultures and the list can go on and on.

So as part of my venturing out to different forms of storytelling, I discovered three great documentaries on Netflix that should be put in the queue if not yet viewed.  These aren’t recent documentaries but these stories told are captivating and thoughtful. One deals with prostitution, another about art and garbage, and one about sushi.

Whore’s Glory (2011)

The story takes place in three different countries where the women work in one of the oldest professions: prostitution. Directed by Michael Glawogger, this story purposely lacks a narrator or any commentary except for the interviews done on the women who sell their bodies to make a living. It doesn’t take a judgmental tone but rather shows what the women think and feel about sex as a job. The women in Bangkok, Thailand, sit behind a glass room called a Fish Tank and wait until picked by customers. Before work, the women are shown going to a Buddhist shrine to pray for good business.

It then takes us to a more upsetting place in a compound called the City of Joy in Bangladesh where prostitution is legal. Many of the girls shown here seem to be teenagers or even younger and are often sold to madams by their families to help feed the remaining family members.  These girls are trained from a young age to sell their bodies and learn the business so they can become madams themselves.  The last section takes place in the red-light district of Reynosa, Mexico where the prostitutes are older and are often addicted to drugs. The most graphic scenes take part in this section where a woman charges 300 pesos for partial sex. The documentary starts from the glitzy lights of Bangkok and ends on a melancholy note in Mexico.

Waste Land  (2010)

As the title suggest, the film is about waste but surprisingly the film deals with the people who work in Sao Paolo, Brazil, biggest landfill and how the trash they pick is renewed into art. Artist Vik Muniz, who is a Sao Paolo native based out of Brooklyn, chose to collaborate with the catadores, or trash pickers, to bring amazing art out of trash. Muniz, who is known for his re-creations of famous artworks using unusual materials, changed the lives of the catadores who participated in the film introducing them to a world beyond the landfill.

The process for the art included Muniz taking pictures using the pickers in some famous poses and then blows the picture up on the floor in a nearby studio where he would direct the pickers to fill the images with garbage collected from the landfill. A photograph of the finished assembly was the final art work. It’s hard not to get teary eyed when Tiao, one of the catadores featured in the documentary, weeps as his photograph is sold in London for $50,000.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)

Jiro states in the opening he dreams of sushi and the documentary tells the story of a then 85-year-old Jiro and his passion and love for making sushi. I am not a big fan of sushi; however, watching Jiro prepare and make his craft is fascinating. He is a perfectionist to the point that he worries about the placement of mats on the counter. And if you want to be an apprentice at his restaurant, you need to learn how to squeeze a towel properly before moving into the kitchen. His passion for sushi borders on obsession but that is what makes the documentary and Jiro interesting.

His restaurant is a small eatery in Tokyo near a subway station and only seats 10 people. It takes about a three month reservation period to eat there and the minimum cost is roughly $300. Although his sushi looks simple, his restaurant was awarded three stars, the highest possible, by the Michelin Guide. For any sushi lover this is a must watch and for anyone interested in learning about a man who loves what he does.

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