Three recent documentaries about the state of our world

It’s been a great few years for documentaries, and 2020 was no exception. Each of these films, released last year and available to watch at home, shine a light on the world we currently live in, from our electoral politics, to the American prison system, all the way to government corruption at the highest levels.


Directed by Garrett Bradley

Director Garret Bradley met Sibil Fox Richardson while working on another film, and originally intended to make a short documentary about Richardson’s story. However, when Bradley received over 100 hours of home videos from Richardson, documenting the day-to-day lives of herself and her six young sons, Bradley knew there was a larger story to tell.

What followed is Time, the story of Richardson’s 20-year fight to have her husband released from a 60-year prison sentence for armed robbery, all while raising their six sons in Louisiana. Time is a film about patience and injustice, illustrating the frustrating flaws in the American prison system. Richardson is a true force of nature, and the film’s central message is a galvanizing plea for prison reform, and a beautiful portrait of how time can move so slowly, and then all at once.

Available to stream on Amazon Prime.

Boys State

Directed by Amanda McBaine & Jesse Moss

Gen Z took a front seat in the election this year, trolling out of touch politicians and bringing their collective voice to the political process, something that a group raised by the internet was more than ready for. In Boys State, Gen Z takes the spotlight in a different political process. This documentary follows the weeklong Texas Boys State, where over 1,000 teens from across the state come together to create a faux-government, adopting party platforms and campaigning for office, culminating in the big prize of winning governor.

Boys State serves as an accurate – at times depressingly so – microcosm of American politics. The filmmakers follow a handful of boys who represent the political spectrum, progressives to blood-red conservatives, some filled with optimism for the political process, others cynical and calculating in their drive for power. The actions of these 17-year-olds say more about the state of our country’s electoral politics that any cable news pundit could. At times uplifting, at other times horrifying, this documentary is as thrilling as any blockbuster.

Available to stream on Apple TV+.


Directed by Alexander Nanau

Where Boys State shows how resilient political idealism can be, Collective arrives to expose the dark underbelly of the political machine.

On October 30, 2015, a fire broke out at the Collectiv night club in Bucharest, Romania, killing 26 people and injuring over 180. In the months following the fire, an additional 38 victims died in hospitals, largely due to negligence and improper care. The ensuing public outcry and mass protests led to the resignation of the ruling government party, and installation of new leaders.

Collective follows a team of journalists investigating widespread corruption, stretching far beyond the fire that set them in motion. At times utterly depressing, especially as the scope and scale of the rot begins to set in, it is ultimately an enthralling portrait of how journalism should function in a free society, protecting the most vulnerable from the powerful. 

Available to rent through Apple, Amazon, and Vudu.