5 Touching And Thoughtful Documentary Films

Much of the power of documentary cinema lies in its ability to show us the world we live in, illuminating both the experiences of others and the broader social conditions that shape our communities. Because of this, documentaries are unique vehicles for disseminating vital knowledge and effecting real-world change. Tackling everything from transgender rights to disability awareness and nutrition, the films included here present truly enlightening accounts of issues facing us today. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

5 Documentary Films That Enlighten and Inspire

Title Director Subject
The Most Dangerous Year Vlada Knowlton Embattled parents band together to fight for transgender rights
Leitis in Waiting (feature length) and Lady Eva (short) Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson The former, about a devout Catholic of noble descent who organizes a beauty pageant presided over by a princess; the latter, about a transgender woman on a journey to become her true self in the Kingdom of Tonga
Intelligent Lives Dan Habib Three pioneering young adults with intellectual disabilities challenge perceptions as they navigate high school, college, and the workforce
In Organic We Trust Kip Pastor An exploration of what organic food really means, with farmers, certifiers, scientists, and critics looking at the content beneath the label
Gloria's Call Cheri Gaulke Chronicles the phone call graduate student Gloria Orenstein received from Surrealist artist Leonora Carrington in 1971, and its effects on Orenstein's life

The Trailer For Leitis in Waiting

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A Clip From In Organic We Trust

In Depth

Documentary films can educate and inspire, taking us on poignant journeys of introspection and awe. In no particular order, here are five documentaries that span a wide variety of subjects, from transgender rights to the science behind organic food, and offer thought-provoking and uplifting narratives.

Starting off the list at #1 is The Most Dangerous Year, an examination of 2016 when a wave of anti-transgender bathroom bills began sweeping the nation. Documentary filmmaker Vlada Knowlton captured the ensuing battle from the perspective of a small group of embattled parents as they banded together to fight a deluge of proposed laws that would strip away the rights of their young, transgender children.

The documentary has received numerous accolades, among them from Common Sense Media, Queerguru, and a Gender Justice League Award. It has also screened at film festivals in Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Fort Lauderdale. To watch the movie, you can buy the DVD, or stream it via Amazon, iTunes, or Google Play. Educational institutions and nonprofit organizations can purchase licensing through Collective Eye Films.

It has also screened at film festivals in Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Fort Lauderdale.

Filling the #2 position are the duo, Leitis in Waiting, a feature documentary, and the short film, Lady Eva, about an intrepid group of transgender women rising to reclaim their righteous place in a South Pacific Kingdom. The movies were official selections at Outfest, Frameline41, and AFI Docs. The Educational DVD and Streaming Package includes public performance license for unlimited screenings in classrooms and community assemblies.

Leitis in Waiting follows Joey Mataele, a devout Catholic of noble descent, as she organizes a beauty pageant presided over by a princess, provides shelter and training for a young contestant rejected by her family, and spars with American-financed evangelicals. Lady Eva profiles a transgender woman on a journey to become her true self in the Kingdom of Tonga. Set in the last remaining monarchy in the Pacific, the film explores the clash between traditional culture and modern religious zealotry.

Coming in at #3 from filmmaker Dan Habib, is Intelligent Lives, which stars three pioneering young American adults with intellectual disabilities who challenge perceptions of intellect as they navigate high school, college, and the workforce. Academy Award-winning actor and narrator, Chris Cooper, contextualizes the lives of these central characters through the emotional personal story of his own son, as the film unpacks intelligence testing in the United States.

Academy Award-winning actor and narrator, Chris Cooper, contextualizes the lives of these central characters through the emotional personal story of his own son, as the film unpacks intelligence testing in the United States.

Intelligent Lives was an official selection of the Martha's Vineyard Film Festival and screened at both The National Down Syndrome Congress and South by Southwest. You can support the film's Opening Doors Campaign, which advocates for inclusive education and employment, by hosting screenings and special events, and sharing images across social media.

In the #4 spot is In Organic We Trust, a documentary that follows director and producer Kip Pastor on a personal journey to answer commonly asked questions about organic food such as defining what it is and whether it really is better for us. Farmers, certifiers, scientists, and critics explore the content beneath the label and the truth behind the marketing.

Called a relevant and revelatory documentary by the Orange County Register, In Organic We Trust was a runner-up at the Wild and Scenic Film Festival and winner of a Taste Award. Community Screening Licenses include a DVD, publicity materials and photos, and permission to host a viewing of the movie for a group of people.

Community Screening Licenses include a DVD, publicity materials and photos, and permission to host a viewing of the movie for a group of people.

Wrapping up the list at #5 is Gloria's Call, which chronicles the phone call graduate student Gloria Orenstein received from Surrealist artist Leonora Carrington in 1971, sparking a lifelong journey into art, ecofeminism, and shamanism. The short film uses art, animation, and storytelling to celebrate the adventure, from the cafes of Paris, to the mountaintops of Samiland.

Carrington was an English-born Mexican artist, painter, and novelist. She was one of the last surviving participants in the Surrealist movement of the 1930s, and a founding member of Women's Liberation in Mexico during the 1970s. Gloria's Call has screened at festivals in Newport Beach, Ann Arbor, and Nevada City, and was an Official Selection at Albany Filmfest.