Streaming now: films that dig deep

Image from "Knock Down the House" documentary.

By Meryl Kornfield

When asked how she got a homeless mother in New York City to share her story in the film “Lucky,” journalist Laura Checkoway said writing celebrity profiles for publications and in-depth pieces helped her develop a knack for getting people to open up; that, and a lot of patience. Checkoway was on assignment when she found the subject of her 2015 documentary.

Some have argued filmmakers can’t be journalists, including Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday who wrote a story headlined “Documentaries aren’t journalism, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

Others say any story told truthfully and independently of a source’s wishes is journalism.

As journalists continue to find new mediums and tools to share stories, the movies remain a stunning, thought-provoking way to chronicle curiosities. Journalists and filmmakers alike have found the visual platform a powerful venue for profiling people or investigating diverse topics.

Below are a few issues investigative films streaming now:

Politics
Knock Down The House (2019): The film chronicles the campaigns of four women from working class, non-traditional backgrounds who ran for Congress, including Bronx-born Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the only candidate profiled who won. The other candidates — Amy Vilela of Nevada; Cori Bush of Missouri; and Paula Jean Swearengin of West Virginia — share a focus on relating to their constituents through their ideology and upbringing. In that respect, the film not only identifies a burgeoning interest in female politicians but also an interest in an increasingly popular political message about being from stepping away from the establishment. Streaming on Netflix

Panic: The Untold Story of the 2008 Financial Crisis (2018): Investigative reporters are always interested in bringing their audience into back rooms, where the power players make decisions that influence the course of history. This film by Vice is no different in that, for the first time ever, former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, as well as politicians, including Nancy Pelosi and Rahm Emanuel, and others from former Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson to Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke, talk about the most significant taxpayer-funded bailout in recent history. Streaming on YouTube

Technology
The Truth About Killer Robots (2018): Artificial intelligence has already influenced factory productivity, transportation and even the devices we keep in our pockets most of the day. This film explores how pervasive the technology is and dangers it could generate. In some ways the film is an attempt to clarify misconceptions, but it also reinforces fears some users may have only had nightmares about. Streaming on HBO

The Bleeding Edge (2018) Filmmakers discover and discuss how medical interventions have become the third leading cause of death, interviewing patients and doctors who witness how devices could cause major maladies, and sometimes even death, after surgery. “Holy crap,” exclaims one nurse in the film as a patient reveals the complicated and dangerous condition a device, which was supposed to help, had caused. The documentary also details the large profit margins that come from creating these devices, which are often overpriced. Streaming on Netflix

Sports
At The Heart Of Gold (2019): While Larry Nassar’s abuses are not unknown, the testimonials from the athletes at the center of the story bring a personal light to the narrative that has gripped the nation. The documentary also highlights a system that had given a higher priority to gold medals and accolades than to the health and safety of the young gymnasts. Streaming on HBO

LGBTQ
State of Pride (2019): From Stonewall to the present, “State of Pride” relates the history of the LGBTQ community among three young people celebrating pride across the country from Tuscaloosa to San Francisco to Salt Lake City. While it is not the only film to come out during Pride Month, this movie  encapsulates the newsworthiness of the subject and how current the message is to those interviewed and the audience. Streaming on YouTube

Film Festival
IRW is proud to be a partner in the fifth edition of Double Exposure Oct. 10-13 in Washington, D.C. Double Exposure encompasses a cutting-edge film program and a professional symposium that brings together journalists and filmmakers and the industry that supports them (funders, producers, media platforms, exhibitors, etc.) to explore key issues, exchange resources and advance new projects through a thoughtfully curated series of panels, workshops, screenings, networking sessions, pitch opportunities and more.

The festival showcases the best investigative reporting and visual storytelling while exploring industry trends and challenges. Passes are now available at dxfest.com.

Investigative Reporting Workshop special:
Get 15% off on film passes with code IRWDX19.