FilmSocial Issues

After The Screen

I love movies. I’m not a film guru, not even close (Buzzfeed Quizzes told me that; 5/30), but I do love a good, solid movie. Over this first month of summer, I’ve probably been to the theaters more than I have throughout the entire year — Dunkirk, by the way, is a pure masterpiece, and I would have cried if I weren’t staring unblinkingly with my hands over my mouth because wow. Still, as great as movies are, nothing can beat a documentary. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t get slightly bored during the one about Stephen Hawking, The Theory of Everything (not to be confused with the 2014 drama based on Stephen Hawking), but for the most part, I could devour them.

After The Screen

(Image Source: Esquire)

The great thing about documentaries is that you not only take away something from them to mull over thoughtfully for a few hours, but that they have the power to shift your mindset. I’m a vegetarian, and if you told me that three years ago, I’d tell you one word: chicken. But my brother watched Food Inc in grade 5, a documentary on the meat industry, and that sparked something. Soon the conversations about ethics were circulating throughout my family, and then it didn’t really seem like a question anymore. My whole diet has been changed with the help of that one documentary, and from my diet, came a change in lifestyle. I do go to the mall — not often, though — but after watching The True Cost, there’s always been that little itch, and I can’t ignore it.

Feeling that I’ve been influenced so strongly by documentaries, I wanted to see what someone else’s experiences with them had been. But, I didn’t want to choose somebody who I already knew had been notably impacted. Instead, I wanted to see if, maybe, any person who I chose at random (within the group of people I know) would have something to say that would be long enough to fill this article. I decided to interview a friend who, from what I knew, didn’t have any remarkable connections to documentaries, or noticeable lifestyle changes from them.

What are some documentaries that you’ve seen?

I’ve seen Blackfish and Super Size Me. I’ve also watched a lot of music documentaries; Amy, Searching for Sugarman, Muscle Shoals and The Wrecking Crew. A long time ago, I watched An Inconvenient Truth. I’ve seen all sorts of Michael Moore documentaries. I also saw Leonardo DiCaprio’s Before The Flood, and the new documentary Bee Nation.

After The Screen

(Image Source: Her Campus)

Have any of these documentaries impacted you in a substantial way?

Blackfish, for sure. I’ve always felt something very not right about these big animals in captivity, but I never knew to what extent. I remember going to Marineland as a kid, and you don’t think about it all, you just enjoy the fun show. Of course, by the time I saw Blackfish, it was all in the media of the trouble Marineland was getting into. I think what struck me the most about Blackfish, were these young trainers who had a sincere love for these animals, and were given wrong information — the fins that flopped, they were told that happens in nature. But that’s not true. Or these whales’ lifespan, that they only lived 20 years in nature, but of course, that’s not true either. And the whales, it’s obvious that they’re not meant to be in captivity — what animal is? — but something else that stuck with me was how different whales had different cultures, and that was completely ignored. The ignorance to it causes conflict among the whales, and sometimes even death. Actually, someone I know said that they saw Tilikum (the main orca) in Victoria, a long, long time ago, and Tilikum was transferred out because he supposedly killed a trainer. Of course, now we all know why these “behavioural issues” occurred.

I haven’t been to Marineland since I was a kid, but Blackfish certainly reaffirmed that I wouldn’t go there. It’s about ethics, I’d never take anyone there. On top of that, watching Blackfish made me want to learn more about Orcas. I ended up watching hours worth of mini-documentaries on them on YouTube.

Super Size Me impacted me a lot, as well. We all know how bad fast food in, but it really reinforced how truly terrible fast food is. When my daughter was in daycare, and they were giving out McDonald’s for a birthday, I didn’t want her having. I sent spaghetti, and my poor daughter had to watch everyone else eat McDonald’s. To be honest, it was pretty rigid, and it wouldn’t have killed her to eat it, but I had just seen Super Size Me at the time and it was foremost in my mind. Even now, I don’t have fast food — aside from road trips. Just remembering how the guy in Super Size Me was headed toward death, well, it’s a choice to eat fast food, so I just don’t.

After The Screen

(Image Source: Wikipedia)

How important is it, in your opinion, for people to watch documentaries like Blackfish and Super Size Me?

It’s important to get the information, and documentaries are very user-friendly. It’s probably one of the good things about the Internet — well, Netflix, specifically. Sometimes we just do without questioning, unaware. Watching a whale jump is entertaining, but we need to understand what’s behind that. It’s mistreatment. Knowing the information, whether you care or not, is incredibly important. Being aware and educated not only influences, but sometimes dictates your choices. I won’t go to Marineland, and for the same abuse and exploitation as shown in Blackfish, I won’t go to the circus if there are animals involved. The Ringling Brothers are going out of business, and it’s for that very reason.

After The Screen

(Image Source: Simonae)

When An Inconvenient Truth came out, it was a big deal, and it made it very understandable for regular people to understand that global warming is a serious thing. I think it took a documentary to do that — a published paper wouldn’t have had the same impact.

Being aware, taking the initiative to watch something to become more aware, is something everybody can do. Documentaries are pretty accessible, and I would recommend all the documentaries my interviewee mentioned. Documentaries are a forum for people to open their eyes and minds, and if you’re reluctant to hunker down and grab a bowl of popcorn because you really don’t want to end up overwhelmingly guilty, don’t worry, there are all sorts of documentaries out there. Nope, they’re not all serious and world-shattering. But sometimes those are the documentaries that need to be watched. Even if they prompt the slightest change in lifestyle, maybe just a choice to read up on what’s happening with the bees instead of binging Game Of Thrones (even though, I know, Ed Sheeran did just have a cameo), that’s still something. That small decision may just snowball into something bigger, and more importantly, for the better.


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