Review: Documentaries around the world

For Sama – Syria

Many parents start a baby diary. But when your parents are filmmakers they are more likely to film your first steps instead of writing about them. And when they live in a war zone they are more likely to record your first airstrike than your first day at the nursery. That was what Waad Al-Kateab did for her daughter Sama. All war documentaries are heartbreaking but the true beauty of this film is its simplicity – it is really just the story of a lovingly mother trying to protect her baby, in a place where no one can feel safe. It’s like watching a real-life romance.

It is the diary of a young mother hunted by the though of not living to rase her child. It tells the story of how life continues everyday in the middle of death and chaos. People fell in love, get married, and have children. But any attempt to have a normal life is repeatedly crushed by the horrors of the Syrian war. It turns the stories of distant suffering into real people with fears and dreams so similar to our own. For me, I just couldn’t stopping think how I never thought of Aleppo as more than a war zone. But for over two million people it used to be the happy place of some of their precious memories. Those people don’t just lose their losing friends, their family, their jobs or they safety. They also lose their homes and any resemblance of their lives. So what is it left? 

Sex and Love around the world – Japan, India, China, Lebanon, Jerusalem and Germany

This show is fascinating. It is real life proof that good journalism can also be incredibly entertaining. In this CNN series Christiane Amanpour wanted to give us a break from the cruelty of ‘hard news’ – thank you! In each episode, she dives in into a completely different culture. In Tokyo she discovers 40% men are virgins, and most people never heard someone say ‘I love you’. In Dhelhi, she interviews transgenders who are treated as wish genies on the street, then ostracized in everyday society. In Beirut, she meets women terrified with the idea of being touched by a man, and fearful of losing her virginity to their own husbands.

The documentary addresses important questions about love, sex and human relations around the world. I was so surprised to see societies I considered conservative were actually far more open minded than I would think. In India, for example, sexuality and nudity have always been part of its culture which explains the origin of Kamasutra. 

I felt women were the protagonists of the show. At the same time it shows us how feminist is still important to make sure women receive sex education, gain their financial independence which allows them to make their own decisions, and are respected no matter their sex life. It also interviews powerful women who want to make a change and are not scared to make her voices heard.

The Edge of Democracy – Brazil

This documentary has hit me harder than I could imagine. It describes the rise and fall of Presidents Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff with exclusive access to the protagonists. It’s a story about political polarization and an interesting watch for every political junkie. But for me, it was much more than that.

The author Petra Costa was brought up in a very political family. Her parents were left-wing activists, who were persecuted by the military dictatorship. Although she has lived in democracy her all life, she was taught to love and care for the rights so many people fought to gain. She was raised to remember the sacrifices made to turn her country into a fairer place for her generation. This is something I can really relate to. My own country has left in a dictatorship not too long ago, and as the far-right slowly seems to rise again, I can’t stop myself from feeling we are betraying the older generations. I’m not sure where the world is going but is so painful to see where we are currently standing. 

And if the pain and fear of the threats to democracy weren’t enough, the historical context of Brazil should shame every Portuguese. It certainly shamed me. 

Street Food – Latin America and Asia

I must admit this show was my guilty pleasure during the first lockdown. I devoured both seasons in a blink of an eye. It’s far from the traditional cooking shows. In fact, I would more likely describe it as a travel show. But the twist here is that it takes you travelling to a specific country through their traditional cuisine and flavours. You won’t really learn new recipes but you will get a sense of the different traditions and cultures – all from how and what they eat. And that’s part of its magic! Each episode explores one country’s famous street food, the history behind it and the story of the people who cook it and sell it every day. 

Disclaimer: If you are too eager to travel, this may not be the best show for you (or maybe it is). Personally, it hasn’t helped. It made me want to pack my backpack and leave to explore the world. But I really can’t explore anywhere outside of my county, so it was a bit frustrating. But it at least gave me a new hobby, as I dedicated some time trying recipes from the show, chasing weird ingredients online and using my family as lab rats for my culinary adventures. They were initially very pleased for not having to cook, but it didn’t always go well and we ended up having more pizza nights than expected.

Beatriz De Valejo E Silva Abreu Ferreira

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