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The 7 documentaries every woman should watch in 2019

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Hannah-Rose Yee
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From Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Knock Down The House to Leaving Neverland, these are the non fiction films to put on your list this year 

Of all the movies coming out of the Sundance Film Festival, it was a documentary about a group of trailblazing female politicians that made the most noise.

Knock Down The House, the documentary that follows 29-year-old congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and three other political hopefuls, was one of the festival’s biggest hits, receiving rave reviews and selling for a record-breaking $10 million to streaming platform Netflix.

The documentary follows four female nominees running for office in the 2018 midterms, with behind-the-scenes footage on the campaign trail and in the lead up to the elections. But of the four hopefuls, only Ocasio-Cortez made it through the primaries, so the focus of the documentary is on her and her historic, glass ceiling-smashing victory last year, in which she became one of more than 90 women voted into the House of Representatives. 

“In the beginning, the fundamental question is ‘Why you? Why do you think you can do this?’” Ocasio-Cortez notes at one point in the documentary, when discussing making a bid for political office. The answer, she concludes, is: “Because no one else would.”

But Knock Down The House isn’t the only buzzy documentary coming to streaming platforms and television this year. Here are a few of the other titles to add to your must-watch list.

Leaving Neverland

It’s been billed as one of the most intense viewing experiences of all time, a four-hour-long documentary that details claims of shocking abuse by Michael Jackson against two men, then aged seven and ten.

Ahead of the film’s premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, the Michael Jackson estate released a damning statement about the movie’s credibility. “This is yet another lurid production in an outrageous and pathetic attempt to exploit and cash in on Michael Jackson,” the statement read. But the filmmakers have stood by the production, stating that “survivors’ voices need to be listened to.” 

The documentary will air on HBO and Channel 4 in spring.  

American Factory

Coming soon to Netflix is American Factory, a documentary about the culture clash between American and Chinese workers in Ohio that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

The film, which charts the mounting tension between a glassworks factory’s new Chinese billionaire owner and its employees in the middle of the recession, has been hailed as an intimate and incisive portrayal of working class life. It will stream on Netflix later this year.

Sea of Shadows

Leonardo DiCaprio is behind Sea of Shadows

Leonardo DiCaprio is the producer of this tense, nail-biting thriller about an endangered species, a dying ecosystem and a million-dollar black market in China.

Coming to National Geographic later this year, Sea of Shadows tells the story the Sea of Cortez in Mexico, where the Chinese market for the totoaba fish has led to overfishing and the near-collapse of the ecosystem. It has been billed as a passionate cautionary tale of the damage currently being done to the world’s environment. 

Untitled Amazing Jonathan Documentary

In the Eighties, a magician using the stage name Amazing Jonathan was one of the world’s most popular illusionists. But when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, the world prepared to bid farewell to him. 

This documentary follows Jonathan’s recovery from illness and subsequent comeback tour, which, according to the director, raised more questions about truth and magic than it answered. This documentary was bought by Hulu out of the Sundance Film Festival and will stream on the platform later this year.

Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love

Marianne Ihlen and Leonard Cohen, at left, in Hydra in Greece in the Sixties

Fans of the Joan Didion documentary The Center Will Not Hold will find much to love in Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love, the story of musician Leonard Cohen and his muse Marianne Ihlen. 

Following the pair’s relationship through the Sixties and all the way to 2016 when both Cohen and Ihlen died, the film is an ode to the power of creative partnership and provides a window into the romance and passion of their lives.

Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics And Men

It’s been 25 years since the release of Wu-Tang Clan’s epic debut album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), which means it’s high time that the rap collective was honoured with a documentary looking at their success. 

That movie is finally here in this four part docuseries coming in May to Showtime that delves into the lives of RZA, Ghostface Killah, U-God, Masta Killa and Cappadonna and how their music changed the genre of rap forever.

Images: Getty

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Hannah-Rose Yee

Hannah-Rose Yee is a writer, podcaster and recent Australian transplant in London. You can find her on the internet talking about pop culture, food and travel. Follow her on Twitter

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