My Favorite Sundance Documentaries (on Netflix, iTunes and YouTube)

In one week, the Sundance Film Festival will commence. As a three-year returning attendee, I find my enthusiasm and downright giddiness growing each year. It’s not about the parties, it’s not about the celebrities — it’s about the movies, which together present an eclectic mix of passion, wisdom and delight.

By far one of my favorite cinematic viewing pleasures comes in the form of the documentary, which for me, does the job of what many of my history teachers failed to do, tell a good story. Below are my favorites from over the years, that are available either on Netflix, iTunes or even YouTube.


The Oath: This was one of my favorite films from 2010 Sundance, hands-down. Following two brothers-in-law who served as Osama bin Laden’s former bodyguard and driver, it captures and contextualize issues that have befuddled Western media in the post-9/11 world, questioning notions of jihad, Guantanamo Bay and Al-Qaeda.


Riding Giants: You don’t have to be a surfer or even a fan of surfing to appreciate the riveting phenomenon of big wave surfing. Stacy Peralta does a tremendous job capturing the history of the sport while providing a sense of intimacy, humility and childlike wonder for these magnificent forces of nature and the surfers who seek them out.

  • On iTunes, it’s available to rent starting July 1 ,2012
  • On Netflix, it’s available on DVD and Blue-ray


Restrepo: Winner of the 2010 Sundance Grand Jury Prize for Documentary, Restrepo takes the audience into Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, a stronghold of al Qaeda and the Taliban, where the U.S. Army has been fighting for the hearts and minds of the Afghan people. It manages to capture the nuances of the war, illustrating how distinct and dissimilar this battle is from ones we’ve waged in other countries, like Iraq.


BhuttoWith exclusive interviews from the Bhutto family and never-before-seen footage, the filmmakers provide a sweeping epic of the first woman to lead an Islamic nation, who from birth seemed destined for greatness and whose assassination was all but a foregone conclusion.


Bobby Fischer against the World: This was by far my favorite documentary from Sundance last year, taking the audience inside the life, and sometimes mind, of chess champion Bobby Fischer through an array of up close and personal interviews. You don’t have to be a fan of chess to be mesmerized by the man who found himself at the helm of the Cold War.


The CoveThis shocking exposé goes to death-defying measures to reveal the thousands of dolphins being slaughtered each year in a hidden cove in Taiji, Japan.  The 2009 Sundance Audience Winner, it is a must-see.

Available on Netflix Instant




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