These days, it’s not uncommon for the general public to be interested in documentaries, especially considering the popularity in recent years of films such as Netflix’s Oscar-winning “My Octopus Teacher.” It’s especially important to watch documentaries about animals and/or the environment, as they can be great tools for educating people on topics with which they may not be familiar.
Fortunately, the prevalence and variety of streaming services make it much easier to watch these types of films than in years past, and filmmakers/producers may even enable viewers to stream their films for free on sites such as YouTube. Those who enjoy going to the theatre may be able to catch some of them there, although documentaries are often shown in limited release. Also, many of the films mentioned below can be rented or purchased on demand through a variety of services.
Below, you will find a list and explanation of 10 documentaries about animals and/or the environment that have been released in 2022 that you should watch.
1. All That Breathes
HBO co-production, “All That Breathes,” is the first film to win Best Documentary at both the Cannes and Sundance film festivals. The film is centered on two brothers living in one of the most populist cities, New Delhi, as they race to save the native black kite bird, birds of prey who are “essential to the city’s ecosystem.” These kits have been falling from the sky fairly quickly as a result of air pollution and general environmental toxicity in the area. Directed by Shaunak Sen, the film is about the unexpected connection between the Muslim brothers and the avians they are trying to save. It has been hailed as a “beautifully told” story that also depicts the city of New Delhi in an accurate light. “All That Breathes” is currently playing in limited theatres and will premiere on HBO and HBO Max sometime in 2023.
2. The Conservation Game
Source: Cargo Film & Releasing/YouTube
Michael Weber’s “The Conservation Game,” tells the story of retired cop Tim Harrison, who discovers that there’s a surprising connection between celebrity conservationists and the exotic pet trade. Harrison and his team take the fight to Congress and elsewhere, as Tim reckons with his past and with his former hero. Scott Marks of The San Diego Reader said that the film “should have the same impact as The Cove and Blackfish,” the former of which won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. Other reviews tout it as a game-changer for the animal entertainment industry and an eye-opening look into an industry we thought we knew so well. “The Conservation Game” is currently available to rent on various streaming services, such as Apple TV and Google Play.
Source: IFC Films/YouTube
Andrew Arnold’s documentary, “Cow,” shows the difficult, lonely lives of dairy cows. This nearly wordless film tells the story of Luma, a dairy cow who has her calf taken away from her, among other atrocities — all so that humans can drink cow’s milk. This documentary sheds light on the cruel dairy industry and is an immersive experience aimed at obtaining viewers’ empathy for dairy cows in particular. RogerEbert.com praised Arnold for not “reaching for a Disney-esque depiction of these animals” and that “Cow” is more akin to Viktor Kossakovsky’s “Gunda” — released a couple of years ago — than something more light-hearted and educational you might find on Disney+. “Cow” is available to rent, and also on DirecTV Stream.
4. The End of Medicine (As We Know It)
Source: Collider Exclusives/YouTube
At just 70 minutes, director Alex Lockwood’s “The End of Medicine (As We Know It)” explores the link between global health threats like pandemics and humanity’s treatment of animals. The film, which is executive-produced by vegan activists Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara, takes us inside the lives of animals on factory farms. In addition to showing the cruelty that these animals experience, “The End of Medicine” explains the negative health effects of eating a carnivorous diet. According to a review on Film Threat, the film is most effective when it “discusses the connection between factory farming and the overuse of antibiotics,” and when the footage shines a huge light on the mistreatment of animals on factory farms. “The End of Medicine” is available to stream for free on Roku, Tubi, and Vudu.
5. The Green Planet
Source: BBC Earth/YouTube
The BBC’s “The Green Planet” features noted environmentalist Sir David Attenborough, and consists of five separate episodes. The docuseries follows Attenborough as he “travels the globe to reveal the secret lives of plants.” Innovative camera techniques are utilized to show viewers the inside of plants, which are all instrumental to life on our planet. For an even more immersive experience, viewers can check out The Green Planet AR Experience. All episodes of “The Green Planet” are available to stream on the PBS app.
6. Just Animals
Tuffi Films’ documentary, “Just Animals,” is a personal film starring — and written and directed by — Finnish animal activist Saila Kivelä, who regularly participates in undercover investigations of factory farms. The film follows Saila’s journey as she clashes with the contrasting ideals of her sister while trying to determine what kind of a person — and an activist — she is. “Just Animals” was shown at a variety of festivals throughout Europe and also at Hot Docs Canada. Unfortunately, it is only available to stream in Finnish but hopefully will reach English-speaking services in the future.
The documentary “Overheated” is exec-produced by and stars Grammy-winning singer/songwriter (and noted vegan activist) Billie Eilish. The film premiered in June of this year at Eilish’s Overheated event, which consisted of six days of climate action panels, as well as performances. “Overheated” focuses on climate action and anxiety and how they intersect with the indigenous population. The film’s director, Yassa Khan — a Welsh-Pakistani filmmaker — said that “capturing the inspirational and passionate voices” of the people in the film “talking about the most important issue” of today was very important to him. Eilish’s fellow talking heads include her brother Finneas, her mother Maggie Baird, activists Samata and Vanessa Nakate, musicians Girl in Red and Yungblud, and fashion designer Vivienne Westwood. The 40-minute documentary is available to stream for free on YouTube.
8. Polar Bear
Source: Walt Disney Studios/YouTube
“Polar Bear” is a Disney+ original documentary, and the story follows a new polar bear mother as she deals with the challenges that polar bears face today. Directed by Alastair Fatherill and Jeff Wilson and narrated by Oscar-nominated actor Catherine Keener, focuses on how climate change is affecting this one particular species. One review touted “Polar Bear” as a “compelling documentary” featuring beautiful visuals and a “deeper call to action.” This call to action encourages viewers to donate to such nonprofit organizations as Polar Bear International, which helps polar bears’ habitats. The film is available to stream on Disney+.
9. Surviving Paradise
Netflix’s original documentary “Surviving Paradise” is directed by Renee Godfrey and Matt Meech and narrated by British actor Rege-Jean Page. This film takes place in the Kalahari Desert, as a worsening dry season leads herds, packs, prides, etc. to rely on each other to survive in this harsh landscape. While this is mainly a family-friendly film, Common Sense Media says, it does contain a ” few disturbing images that may not be suitable for younger viewers.” However, the review states, “Surviving Paradise” is “an exemplary picture of wildlife existence in the wilderness.” The film is available to stream on Netflix.
10. Why on Earth
Source: Blue Water Film Festival/YouTube
“Why on Earth,” directed by Katie Cleary and featuring Oscar-winning actor/director Clint Eastwood, traverses the world to show the “vital connection between humans, animals,” and the planet. The film consists of rarely-before-seen footage that shows the effects of climate change — most notably deforestation — on endangered species worldwide. Alan Ng from Film Threat writes that the film “shines much-needed light on the crisis of animal extinction and cruelty while offering some real solutions to the problem,” as opposed to similar documentaries that merely present a problem with no solution. Ng says that, while the ending hits hard with meat shaming, the film should still embolden activists to do more. “Why on Earth” is available to rent on several different streaming services.
There are so many other documentaries about animals and/or the environment that are worth watching, including some that have won major awards, and others that have turned people into vegans and/or environmental activists. If you watch any of the documentaries above, or another one that is relevant to these issues, recommend them to your friends, family, etc. Hopefully, these films will inspire others to make active changes in their daily lives.
- Joaquin Phoenix Joins PETA Campaign to End Speciesism
- Indian Capital New Delhi Faces Public Health Emergency as Air Pollution Reaches Toxic Levels
- 5 Animals That are Victims of the Exotic Pet Trade
- Animal Activists Speak Out About Dairy Cow Treatment
- O2 Arena Goes Vegan For Billie Eilish’s Six-Day Climate Event
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