Time Out takes a look at the best documentaries on Netflix UAE right now, including box sets, fashion, sport, crime and more. See the trailers.
By Time Out Dubai staff08 June 2016
The great thing about Netflix is quite simply that you will find something for every for every taste, especially when it comes to documentaries. So whether it's fashion, fast food or good old fashioned crime solving, there's plenty to sink your teeth into.
And what's more, since expanding to the UAE and beyond, the offerings are growing every month.
For now, here's a handful of brilliant documentaries to get involved with.
Iris Apfel is exactly what you want to be when you’re 93 – she’s funny, badly behaved and wakes up every morning ready to take a bite out of the world. Which makes this documentary, directed by the legendary doc-maker Albert Maysles (his last film before he died in March), a delight. Apfel is a style icon. She came to fashion superstardom late, in her eighties, plucked out of retirement (she’d worked all her life as an interior designer) when a museum exhibition of her clothes became a surprise hit in New York. ‘I’m a geriatric starlet!’
Fashion is a funny old business. All that effort spent making us dress identically in boring black, then along comes a one-off eccentric like Mrs Apfel and they’re falling at her feet. ‘Wear everything and the kitchen sink’ is her style motto, and she’s instantly recognisable behind enormous owlish glasses, wearing outfits so bright you can probably see them from Mars. We watch as fashion designers, including J Crew’s Jenna Lyons, trip over themselves to worship at her altar, and cosmetics giant Mac launches a line of lipsticks in her honour.
As for Mrs A, she’s having the time of her life as fashion’s oldest it-girl, though she’s still just as happy rummaging around a shop in Harlem for African bangles or bargain hunting at a flea market. It’s not just fashion either. This woman has plenty of blunt wisdom to share. She’s knows a thing or two about marriage (she and Mr Apfel have been devoted to each other for over 60 years). She’s against plastic surgery (‘You come out looking like a Picasso, with scrawny hands that don’t match your face’). And despite having spent a lifetime (and a fortune) devoted to clothes, she knows what’s important in life: ‘It’s better to be happy than well-dressed.’
Before The Terminator and Twins, Arnold Schwarzenegger was just a small-town Austrian boy with a big dream: to become Mr Olympia. This film is soundbite gold, with some epic one-liners. For us, this is Arnie at his best with his youthful naivety, and it will no doubt inspire many to make use of that dusty gym card. One for the #fitspo massive.
Pumping Iron starts knocking preconceptions sideways in its opening moments - with a sequence showing Schwarzenegger taking ballet lessons to improve his posing style - and it goes on to demonstrate convincingly that bodybuilders are as 'normal' in their vanities, foibles and rivalries as any other group.
The movie is a very shrewd mixture of documentary and realistic fiction, put together with both eyes and ears on entertainment value; it has, for example, an extremely agreeable LA session-rock score. Its strongest card is the outrageously charismatic Schwarzenegger, but its view of musclemen and physique contests in general has a charm not unlike Rocky.
Can you dig it? New York action classic The Warriors may be fictional, but the film’s unique style was drawn from a very real source: the inner-city gang members who took their inspiration from the Black Power movement and their illustrated leather jackets, and set about trying to raise a city up from poverty. This documentary is fascinating, uplifting, at times hilarious and at others, heart-breaking. You have to see it.
If you're even a little bit into shows like The Jinx, Forensic Files, or love the podcast Serial, you need to watch the Netflix original Series Making a Murderer. This 10-episode documentary series chronicles Steven Avery, a Manitowoc County, Wisconsin resident who was wrongly accused and convicted of sexual assault in 1985. Almost two decades later he was released from prison and cleared of all charges due to new DNA evidence and the Wisconsin Innocence Project, which proved and convicted a man that should have been the main suspect all along.
Then just two years after Avery re-claimed his freedom he was arrested for murder of 25-year-old woman Teresa Halbach, and there is a whole lot of evidence that just don't add up. Are things already starting to sound pretty sketchy? That's because they are.
Making A Murderer makes use of lots of raw courtroom footage and you are given the evidence to examine the case. Netflix creates an outstanding documentary not only because of the compelling nature of the case and the ominous "this could happen to you" reality, but as the viewer you are asked to take into account the roles each person played in the case (the judge, DA's, forensic anaylists, etc).
Take a good, hard look at the trappings (and failings) of how the American court can system work in this engrossing series.
Steve James' essential inner-city epic chronicles the lives of two young blacks growing up in a Chicago housing project. At 14, basketball prodigies Arthur Agee and William Gates win scholarships to a suburban high school, St Joseph's. Then their fortunes diverge.
William looks set to follow in the footsteps of St Joe's favourite son, all-star Isiah Thomas. Arthur doesn't make the cut. Skinny and immature, he finds himself back in the inner city when his parents fall behind on the fees. Over the next four years, however, the boys' lives are to intersect more than once, and in unexpected ways.
A three-hour documentary about basketball is probably not most people's idea of a night out, but this one rewards the effort. James and his collaborators shot more than 250 hours of footage, and the cumulative emotional power is simply devastating.
Sport is the only dream Arthur and William are allowed, their only ticket out of the ghetto, but they also have to carry the weight of their parents' aspirations - and if they make it, they will become role models for thousands of kids just like them. Unforgettable.
Broomfield’s ongoing investigation of the rotten underbelly of civilisation, LA-style, finally hits pay dirt, exposing a quagmire of race politics, brute power, instant wealth, glamorised violence, tribalism, murder and denial. Broomfield’s main line of inquiry into the unsolved homicides of gangster rappers Tupac Shakur (in 1996) and Christopher “Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace (1997) follows the allegations of ex-LAPD detective Russell Poole, who found evidence implicating corrupt fellow officers in both killings through their connections to Shakur’s record label Death Row and its feared boss Suge Knight.
A groundbreaking environmental documentary goes behind the scenes of the world’s meat obsession and uncovers the incredible damage being done to the planet as well as to ourselves. It’s an exposé on factory farming that doesn’t just highlight the animal plight, but also the lasting impact that the practises of the past 40 years have had.