Previously, we listed five non-fiction films that will shake your faith in humanity. Indeed, it is horrific to look at how evil people can be towards their fellow human beings (well, not that we don’t already see it on American prime time news these days). But take it that we’re doing an Abraham bargaining with God that there are still good people on Earth. We list five other non-fiction films to prove our point.

dark waters
non-fiction films: Dark Waters
Mark Ruffalo (Robert Bilott) | Credit: Arizona Republic

In the late 1990s, American chemical company DuPont illegally dumped chemical wastes from its operation site into the streams of Parkersburg. Its irresponsible actions killed farm animals and caused residents to develop cancer and thyroid disease. Since DuPont controlled the majority of the town, politicians and journalists turned a collective blind eye to its wrongdoing. Environmental lawyer Robert Bilott, however, felt compelled to challenge the odds to hold DuPont accountable for its harmful negligence.

Directed by Todd Haynes, Dark Waters is based on a series of articles including Nathaniel Rich’s The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare and Bilott’s own memoir Exposure. The film presents how Bilott – who used to represent DuPont as its defense lawyer – switched sides and engage in a long and tedious legal battle with DuPont to make them pay (literally) for what they’ve done to the environment and the lives of innocent citizens.

Watch the trailer here. Dark Waters is also available on Amazon Prime.

Coach Carter
non-fiction films: Coach Carter
Samuel L Jackson (Ken Carter) | Credit: Sportbible

For Ken Carter (played by Samuel L Jackson), the ultimate dream is to see his college basketball team become champions. But unlike most other coaches, he wouldn’t allow this goal to disrupt the boys’ education and future. In 1999, because its academic performance wasn’t up to scratch, Carter decided to suspend his team from playing basketball before the championship in spite of their protests.

Coach Carter is about a man’s determination to set his players on the right path in life. It was neither part of his job nor within his pay grade to do so. The film throws light on how Carter played different roles for every one of his players – mentor, role model and even father figure. From controlling their attire and speech, to imposing additional rules in school, Carter did whatever he could just to prepare his players for life after high school and secure a scholarship in college.

Watch the trailer here. Coach Carter is available on Netflix.

Just Mercy
non-fiction films: Just Mercy
Michael B. Jordan (Bryan Stevenson) and Jamie Foxx (Walter McMillian) | Credit: Forbes

In 1988, African American Walter McMillian was dealt the death penalty for a murder he didn’t commit. His prayers for justice were answered when lawyer Bryan Stevenson stepped in to challenge the system. McMillian was spared from the gallows and regained his freedom in 1993, thanks to Stevenson’s tenacity in uncovering the perjury and police coercion in the case.

Filmmaker Destin Daniel Cretton’s Just Mercy took inspiration from Stevenson’s memoir Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. The film closely follows the journey of both men – McMillian suffering six years of wrongful conviction, and Stevenson’s dedication to helping those who could not afford legal representation. Award-winning actors Michael B Jordan and Jamie Foxx did a great job of portraying Stevenson and McMillian respectively.

Watch the trailer here. Just Mercy is available on Amazon Prime.

Hacksaw Ridge
Hacksaw Ridge
Andrew Garfield (Desmond Doss) | Credit: Screen Daily

Desmond Doss was a World War II hero unlike any other. For starters, he would not carry a weapon onto the battlefield. Because of this, he also ended up not killing his enemy. He was that close to being labelled a coward, but then Doss deflected an enemy grenade and saved the lives of 75 comrades. Doss sustained a fractured left arm as well as 17 pieces of shrapnel lodged in his body. To put all this into perspective, Doss did have the opportunity to defer his military service. He could have avoided all this.

Actor/filmmaker Mel Gibson felt that The Conscientious Objector, a 2004 documentary about Doss, didn’t do enough to underscore the depth of his heroism. So he made Hacksaw Ridge in 2016 to set the record straight. He wanted the world to know about Doss’ contributions. With numerous Oscar and Golden Globes nominations, we’d say Gibson succeeded.

Watch the trailer here. Hacksaw Ridge is available on FandangoNOW.

Schindler’s List
Schindler's List
Liam Neeson (Oskar Schindler) | Credit: Medium

Seven Academy Awards. Seven BAFTAs. Three Golden Globes. Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List needs no hype. For the unacquainted, the historical drama recounts the journey of Oskar Schindler, who started out as a smooth war opportunist, but ended up harbouring and saving more than a thousand Jews from the Holocaust. Liam Neeson plays the role of his life as Herr Schindler, who makes a 180-degree turn from his original mercenary plans, to using everything in his power as an entrepreneur to shelter Jews and keep them out of the Nazi gas chambers. Beautifully shot in black and white for retro effect, it uses red as a spot colour to make the narrative starker. It’s a long film with scenes that will wrench your heart, so be prepared.

Fun fact: Spielberg’s film is based on Thomas Keneally’s book Schindler’s Ark. And it’s actually told by one of surviving Jews Poldek Pfefferberg.

Watch the trailer here. Schindler’s List is available on Amazon Prime.


Other honourable mentions: Erin Brockovich, Gridiron Gang, The Last Full Measure, Resistance, Tears of the Sun, and The Blind Side.

written by.
Lester Tan
Lester is into films, food and basically anything culture related under the sun.

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