Watch a Documentary, Be Interesting at Parties

By Christie Marchese

Picture Motion

I recently came across a brilliant commercial for The Economist from 1996. In the video a businessman is settling into his seat on the flight, when former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger sits in the seat aside him. The narrator asks, “Ready for a nice chat?”

I love this commercial. It calls out the fact that we all wish we knew more about the world around us, and the real reason why; to connect with other people. The commercial powerfully implies that the real benefit of being an Economist subscriber isn’t just knowing more, it is the ability to have a meaningful conversation with an influential person.

Now imagine changing the commercial to ask “seen any great documentaries lately?” It works just as well, if not better. While the Economist can get you up to speed on what is happening right now, documentaries can put you inside a situation and with great storytelling, give you a perspective on important issues it is hard, or impossible, to get any other way.

The feeling of education and empowerment documentaries give people is unlike anything else. In less than two hours you have stepped into an entirely new world. You are armed not just with the statistics of an issue or been exposed to something that been covered up, but through film you experience another person’s point of view. The empathy you feel for the characters deepens your understanding of a topic. By engaging our sight and sound senses, film does that in a way that no printed story could.

BRITDOC have just announced the recipients of their annual prize for films that have made the greatest impact on society. Every single one of these films gave me a new point of view on life and empowered me to engage in conversations I otherwise would have shied away from.

There are so many brilliant and important films that have shaped our world and thanks to an increase in broadcaster interest in documentaries, and the proliferation of digital streaming platforms like Netflix, HBO Go and Sundance Now’s Doc Club, they have never been more accessible.

Take the announcement as an opportunity to watch one or all of these incredible films. Let these films give you a perspective on the world. I promise, the “future you” at that work event wanting to have interesting things to say about Edward Snowden, you’ll be glad you saw CITIZENFOUR.

Find out more about combining
great art and great impact.