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Must See Documentaries for 2024





Good documentaries teach us about the world, provide truthful insight on an unfamiliar topic, and help us understand the world around us a bit better.


 

Exterminate All the Brutes



 

This project premiered a few years ago, but I still think about the documentary’s messages. You may already be familiar with Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck’s 2016 documentary, “I Am Not Your Negro,” but if you missed his four-part docuseries, “Exterminate All the Brutes,” you can rectify that mistake.

 

Explained as “The path to the new world, an unsettling and intricate story of genocides, conquest, slavery, and the fabrication of ‘Whiteness,’” Peck takes the audience on a journey to examine and expose some the world’s darkest moments. Peck uses three books, Sven Lindqvist’s “Exterminate All the Brutes,” Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s “An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States,” and Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s “Silencing the Past” to explore a more complete and honest history of Western civilization.

 

As we once again watch the attempted extermination of peoples across the globe, and despite the dissonance the status quo might want you to lean into, Peck’s guidance through the past will help you navigate the confusion of the present.


 

The Mission (Hulu)



Did you hear the news about the Christian missionary sailed to North Sentinel Island to preach the gospel and was killed by indigenous people, despite being warned not to, despite being told the Sentinelese were hostile, despite the island being off limits?

 

John Chau was an evangelical who believed it was his mission to spread the word of Jesus. So, he turned his conversion fantasies into a plan to intrude upon the Sentinelese people, a hunter-gather society untouched by the modern world, to bring them the gospel. He called the island, “Satan’s last stronghold.”

 

I was concerned directors Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss wouldn’t tell the unvarnished truth. The program was made in partnership with The National Geographic Channel, which has a well-documented reputation for perpetuating ideas about other cultures across the globe—while they do manage to tell the story they skirt the opportunity to call a thing a thing.

 

If you watch this doc, be sure to also watch “Exterminate All the Brutes” to learn exactly how someone like Chau is created.


 

Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over (Max)



love music documentaries about Black artists, especially those examining legendary performers. Warwick’s story is no exception because her career is testament to the challenges of being the first Black woman to crossover into pop and how one stays relevant over a 60-year career.

 

Being the first Black singer to do things like tour Europe completely, or the first recording artist to perform in front of the Queen Mother of England were huge accomplishments for Warwick, most of which I had no idea about. It was also wonderful to revisit some classic standards at their start. Warwick sang “A House is Not a Home” before Luther Vandross made it his own.

 

The documentary is light on details about many of the challenges she faced as her career shifted with the time. We’re not told how or why Warwick involved herself with the Psychic Friends Network or how she found herself filing for bankruptcy due to a thieving accountant. Perhaps we don’t really need to. She sold more than 100 million records and won six Grammy’s. Overall, it’s a solid look at a storied career.


 

Little Richard: I Am Everything (Max)



Little Richard has fascinated me since I was a kid. I’d never seen anyone quite like him, and in the 90s he tended to show up on TV shows and movies I watched—think “Fresh Prince,” “Full House,” “Martin,” “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?” He was good for a moment of brevity, telling people to “Shut Up!” and reminding us he was the innovator and the original, the architect of Rock N’ Roll.

 

As I got older, I heard how the music industry robbed him and essentially erased his significant contribution to the invention of Rock N’ Roll. I also learned about how sexuality and religion complicated his life. “Little Richard: I Am Everything” attempts to explore these topics and does a great job of filling in the context of his life and career.

 

It’s a beautifully done documentary and will leave you understanding and appreciating Little Richard even more.


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Perdita Patrice is a Texas-based writer and documentary filmmaker. She enjoys live music, reading, and watching TV. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @perditapatrice

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