There are endless discussions these days about the differences between the various traits of the many generations currently intermingling in the world. The Boomers are aging out but still mainly in control, Gen-Xers are moving closer to established and middle-aged, and the younger generation (Gen Z?) are quickly becoming tastemakers. Then there's my generation, the much-discussed millennials. We're analyzed, criticized, and still heavily marketed to, and we're in a place where we have the power to make a lot of changes in the world. But we need to make sure we're informed about it, and working your way through some of the documentaries every millennial should watch is a good way to start.
Documentaries are incredible for the way that they fuse entertainment and education, and for the ways that they can provide new revelations about historical, social, political, and cultural issues as they examine them in unique ways. Some of the docs on this list are very wide in scope, examining large swaths of time or collections of people, while others are very intimate, digging into the details of a person or a places. All of them address important social and political issues that, as millennials, we need to be aware of and informed about, so that we can help change the world for the better.
1. 'The White Helmets'
Millennials need to be educated about the conflict in Syria, and The White Helmets, which follows members of an organization dedicated to rescuing those injured in the destruction, is a critical step in that education.
2. 'The Hunting Ground'
In a post-Brock Turner world, and after the release of a report stating that 15 percent of University of Texas-Austin's female undergraduate students have alleged being raped, the more conversations about campus rape culture, the better. The Hunting Ground is a very good place to start.
Ava DuVernay's outstanding 13th is the history class you needed to have but likely didn't, at least not until college and maybe not even then. It takes on the history of racism in America after slavery was abolished, making a damning case for mass criminalization and the prison industry complex as a new slavery.
4. 'Fire At Sea'
The global refugee crisis is a huge problem that is not going to go away any time soon, and millennials would do well to watch this intimate documentary about the experiences of those on the island of Lampedusa, which sees thousands of refugees facing devastating risks to cross the Mediterranean.
5. 'I Am Not Your Negro'
Every millennial should have a strong knowledge of James Baldwin and his observations about race relations in America. The idea that white Americans don't need to deal with racism should, for millennials, be a notion that has long been acknowledged as naive and untrue.
6. 'Inside Job'
The financial crisis of 2008 looms strong in the memories of millennials. Inside Job dives into the story of what caused that, and reminds us of the consequences of greed and unchecked indulgence.
7. 'We Were Here'
As millennials, the LGBTQ rights movement has always been a part of our lives, and we have grown up in a world where HIV is no longer a death sentence. We Were Here reminds us of the time when that wasn't the case, and tells the stories of those in the queer community who, while the government did almost nothing, fought to stop the ravaging of their community by this disease. As the rights of LGBTQ people come under further threat in 2017, it is important to remember those who fought in the past.
As the debate around the autonomy of women and their right to make their own reproductive choices only grows more painful and chaotic, all millennials should watch Trapped, which shows just how difficult restrictive abortion rulings have made life for the women trying to control their reproductive health and the providers trying to help to them do that.
9. 'Growing Up Coy'
The battle for the rights of transgender people in 2017 is far from over, and as members of the trans community are persecuted and forced to fight to have their humanity recognized, all millennials should be staying updated on the legal and personal experience of being trans in today's world.
10. 'Homeland: Iraq Year Zero'
Millennials have been shaped by the Iraq War in so many ways, and it's important to gain a greater understanding of the enormous global consequences. This devastating documentary by Iraqi filmmaker Abbas Fahdel chronicles life in Iraq in 2002, right before the war, and one year later in 2003.
11. 'TIME: The Kalief Browder Story'
Kalief Browder was 16 in 2010, when he was arrested after falsely being accused of stealing a backpack. Unable to pay bail to be released, he was sent to Rikers Island, where, after years of mistreatment, he committed suicide in 2015. His story of abuse at the hands of what many deem a racist criminal justice system is necessary for every millennial.
12. 'Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer'
As the fight for gender equality becomes more and more difficult, and as the politics of America become further enmeshed with those of Russia, this documentary about Russia's incredible punk feminists Pussy Riot, and their protests against an oppressive, sexist regime, is a must-watch.
13. 'Cartel Land'
This harrowing documentary exposes the drug trade at the Mexico-U.S. border and the horrific consequences of the conflict that it causes.
14. 'The Internet's Own Boy: The Story Of Aaron Swartz'
Aaron Swartz was a programmer and perhaps the most well-known Internet "hacktivist," who fought to keep the Internet, and thus information, open and accessible to all. He was arrested for illegally downloading academic journals from JSTOR to share freely, and later committed suicide. This documentary tells his story, and is vital for any millennial interested in the many complex legal challenges that the Internet Age has introduced.
15. 'The Queen Of Versailles'
This one, about a super-rich family and their quest to build an enormous house in Florida, might strike you as oddly unrelated to the social justice struggles facing our generation. But it actually, in its microcosmic way, helps construct a really valuable and rather unflattering picture of America in the late aughts, the hubris and the shortsightedness that helped put us where we are right now.
16. 'Chasing Ice'
We're in an environmental crisis, and millennials will be forced to reckon with the consequences of climate change during our lifetime. For a firsthand look at the results of our warming planet, turn to Chasing Ice, which is a beautiful as it is terrifying.
Being a millennial beings being aware of what's going on in the world, and these documentaries should be a good start.