Our Favourite Documentary Series

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Cheer

Cheerleading has been one of those Americanised fascinations in pop culture that hasn’t broke the UK just yet. It’s romanticised and leaves audiences astounded with flips and tumbles, a long way away from the sidelines of baseball and American football games. Nope, here the finesse is the main attraction. The series follows Navarro College, multiple-time national title winner of the annual collegiate cheerleading championships, and walks audiences through the path to the 2019 edition of the competition. We see how they choose their teams, what goes into routines, how fast plans change, and the sacrifices that come along with the search for “cheer-lebrity” status as with Gabi Butler, a member of the team famous in the cheerleading world.

Cheer does not shy away from just how hard work it takes to get to Daytona Beach, Florida; from injuries to social issues and everything that comes with being a teenager, it’s not a straight path to success. Right from episode 1, we get to see why cheerleading is the most dangerous sport, with concussions and bloody noses. Literal blood, sweat and tears go into these routines – months of training for but a moment they might not even get. Stunning aerial moves and gymnastics are shown with candid interviews with coach Monica Aldama and the gymnasts themselves, going through the history while also disputing the myths.

But through all of this, we are shown what makes cheerleading and in particular competitive cheerleading something glamourous, what the fans see: the spectacle and the 2 minutes and fifteen seconds where they dominate the floor. You will come away from this documentary series wanting to at least try gymnastics again (okay, maybe jumping over a puddle and calling it parkour), or introduced into a completely new sport that you had no idea was this extensive.

Louise Chase

The Innocence Files

Netflix, at this point, is the centre of the documentary series. Now in collaboration with The Innocence Project, Netflix has dropped The Innocence Files which tells the untold personal stories of eight wrongful convictions within the American justice system. The series delves into the Innocence Project – a group of detectives that prove innocence for a living – as they work to the bone to overturn and liberate wrongfully convicted individuals. All of the cases are extremely harrowing and you can’t help but ask yourself if there is any decency to humanity these days, but at the same time you are totally engrossed and hanging on every word of the detectives and supposed criminals.  It touches on every single variable and constricting factors that have the potential to change the perspective of entire criminal cases, investigating the treatment between white and black individuals within the justice system and putting the correct people behind bars. This is a documentary series that is the definition of ‘binge-able’ and should be the next up on your list.

Olivia Dellar

Inside The World’s Toughest Prisons

Netflix have a whole range of intriguing and interesting original documentaries, but it’s Raphael Rowe’s Inside The World’s Toughest Prisons that catches my attention most. Prisons are institutions which exist all over the world, and act as almost a universal aspect of human nature. Whether or not you agree with how these institutions operate on the global scale, this documentary will open your eyes to the exceptionally distinct ways different countries deal with criminals.

Across 4 seasons, Raphael Rowe investigates and showcases the conditions of prisons from Paraguay, to Germany, to Mauritius. At 19 years of age, Rowe was sentenced to life for murder and robbery, wrongfully convicted, so he knows exactly where to go and what to ask. Spending 12 years in the prison institution, his own brutal experiences have enabled him to want to showcase the life of prisoners across the world, where millions of viewers can witness the inhumane conditions. In a BBC Breakfast Interview from 2018, he outlines that his aim was to “reveal the attitudes that different countries and cultures have to the way they treat prisoners”. This is certainly achieved here, and Inside The World’s Toughest Prisons should be on everybody’s to-watch list.

Georgie Holmes

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Second-year archaeology & history student and Culture Editor 2019/20. Loves archery and Assassin's Creed, and still hoping to one day find the doorway to Narnia.

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Live Editor 2019/20 & third year English student. Can usually be found procrastinating my degree at a gig, or trying (and failing) to complete my Goodreads challenge

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classic culture editor 20/21. third year english student with unhealthy shakespeare, hannibal lecter, robert plant and 70s nostalgia obsession.

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