What to Watch This Spring (2020)

Springtime viewing for the discerning #HealthEd teacher. Here’s an update on a very popular series of #slowchathealth blog posts, which provide you with a list of documentaries/shows, available to stream, that have a #HealthEd slant to them. I’ve included shows from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Kanopy.

Some I’ve seen, the rest are on my ‘watch list’. I’m not suggesting that you show these in your classroom, although some definitely have content that you might want to view and discuss with your students, depending on their age. I’ve included links to the documentary website (many include great associated resources) if one exists, plus the most pertinent Twitter link related to the title. Feel free to share your suggestions with me and on Twitter using the hashtag #slowchathealth.

Pandemic (Netflix)

Could a docu-series be more perfectly timed? Dr. Dennis Carroll, director of USAID’s Emerging Threats Unit, warns in Pandemic:

When we talk about another flu pandemic happening, it’s not a matter of if, but when.

What might be the best element of this is that we hear from the scientists themselves. With the Coronavirus continuing to develop, it is being suggested that these are the voices that are being suppressed as world leaders seek to control the narrative. If there is a villain here, it’s not just the virus itself but misinformation that often spreads in tandem with a pandemic.

I’m nervous that the producers of this series will soon be telling us…”We told you so”.

Oh, and while you’re at it. The Contagion movie is awesome, has some scenes filmed in Chicago and a friend of mine is an extra in it.

Sex, Explained (Netflix)

When Salon wrote about this 5 episode series they said “From Big Mouth to Mean Girls, depictions of the unprepared and unqualified sex education instructor, who is often also the gym teacher for some reason, causing some unsuspecting preteen to faint at the sight of an ovary diagram have become ingrained in the pop culture canon.” They must have seen my Tedx talk(!).

Narrated by Janelle Monae, the documentary takes us from the biology of attraction to the history of birth control, exploring the ins and outs (and ins and outs) of sex. Episode 3 takes a look at the history of birth control, both hormonal and non-hormonal. Incidence of dangerous side effects, non-consensual experimentation and enforced or coerced sterilization are highlighted which might be of interest to those who are teaching reproductive justice.

This is steamy and sexy, and walks a fine line between entertaining and educational.

Three Identical Strangers (Hulu)

Wow! How had I never heard of this story before? This award winning 2018 documentary film examines a set of American identical triplets, born in 1961 and adopted as six-month-old infants by separate families, unaware that each child had brothers. We learn that the separations were done as part of an undisclosed scientific “nature versus nurture” twin study, to track the development of genetically identical siblings raised in differing circumstances. Combining archival footage, re-enacted scenes, and present-day interviews, the documentary reveals how the brothers discovered one another at age 19 and thereafter sought to understand the circumstances of their separation.

Official site

@iiistrangers

Far From The Tree (Hulu)

Based on a Time magazine book of the year, this documentary looks at how families accommodate children with physical, mental and social disabilities and differences. Make sure you have a box of Kleenex to hand. There will be tears.

That Sugar Film (Amazon Prime)

Take this award winning movie from 2014 with a pinch of …sugar. The film follows Damon Gameau’s experiment on himself, changing from his normal diet containing no refined sugar to a ‘health-conscious’ diet low in fat but high in sugar, equivalent to 160 grams (40 tsp) of sugar per day. As a result, Gameau gained weight, grew lethargic, and developed fatty liver disease. The sugar diet was selected such that his calorie intake was not increased from his normal diet.

We have to be cautious when teaching about nutrition in class, and although this movie is an enjoyable watch with good intentions, it has been claimed the film is “not rigorous enough to prove anything at all”.

@ThatSugarFilm

Official site

Thin (Amazon Prime)

This 2006 documentary was filmed at a 40-bed residential facility for the treatment of women with eating disorders. The film follows four women with anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and other eating disorders in their struggle for recovery.

The film portrays staff meetings, therapy sessions, mealtimes and daily weigh-ins that depict the highly structured routine of inpatients’ daily lives. It also explores their turbulent interpersonal relationships, and highlights the efforts of the medical team and the complex tasks they face. One review stated that the movie is “a saddening, sobering depiction of trying to heal in an institution that, on paper, might seem to be a safe, positive place for treatment, but in reality is just as flawed and bureaucratic as any other institution.

Revolution: Food (Amazon Prime)

Revolution: Food is all about the positive changes taking root in our modern food system. It focuses on real farmers who are growing/raising real food — and the consumers who are demanding it.

One review stated “the movie not only tells an important story, but also is so beautiful because of the breathtaking cinematography throughout the movie. This film, Revolution Food, is a must see for everyone. The movie is one of hope and inspiration in a time where we are being barraged with so much bad news about our food. You will be inspired!”

Official site

Tiny Shoulders. Rethinking Barbie (Hulu)

This documentary takes “a retrospective look at the doll’s unexpected origins and what she represents today — part fashion icon, part lightning rod. Featuring newly discovered footage and interviews with Gloria Steinem, Roxane Gay, Peggy Orenstein, Mattel insiders and cultural historians, the documentary follows the progression and regression in women’s recent fight for equality by weaving six decades of shockingly sexist media with fly-on-the-wall insight into Barbie’s invention and reinvention.

If you liked Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay, you’ll like this.

Vegucated (Kanopy)

“Part sociological experiment and part adventure comedy, Vegucated follows three meat- and cheese-loving New Yorkers who agree to adopt a vegan diet for six weeks. Lured by tales of weight lost and health regained, they begin to uncover the hidden sides of animal agriculture that make them wonder whether solutions offered in films like Food, Inc. go far enough. This entertaining documentary showcases the rapid and at times comedic evolution of three people who discover they can change the world one bite at a time.”

This award winning documentary addresses the resistance that some people feel towards vegetarianism and veganism, the disconnect between farm animals and the purchasing of meat, the origins of omnivorism and the ethical, environmental and health benefits of a vegan diet. As someone who is transitioning towards including more plant based meals into their diet I am interested in seeing how the three subjects of the documentary fare.

Official site

@vegucated

Bite Size (Kanopy)

“America’s battle against childhood obesity is an issue too big for many to fully comprehend. With one in three children overweight, the epidemic is sweeping our nation at an unforgiving rate. But in spite of these odds, Bite Size showcases the stories of four inspiring kids from diverse backgrounds who are fighting for their health one day at a time. Proving that it’s not just about the number on a scale, what really matters is learning what keeps you active and makes you happy.”

Official site

Two Million Minutes (Kanopy)

2 Million Minutes is a series of documentary films exploring students in the United States, India, and the People’s Republic of China spend the nominal 2,000,000 minutes of their high school years. The premise of this production is that very child has the same two million minutes of high school. How students and parents allocate that time is wildly different between the three cultures – and has profound implications for each country’s future. Chapter 4 advocates some solutions for the United States to become more competitive in education.

Oceans (Netflix)

Examining the vital role that water plays in human existence and the cause-and-effect interplay between oceans and the environment. Filmed over 4 years and in over 50 locations, this is part thriller, part meditation on the vanishing wonders of the sub-aquatic world.

42 page educators guide

If you want to check out other documentaries recommended by #slowchathealth, you’ll like:

What to Watch This Fall (2019)

9 Netflix Documentaries to Watch This Summer (2018)

9 Netflix Documentaries to Watch This Summer (2017)

#summerreads a list of books that I lined up to read over the summer of 2018, many of which had been recommended by my PLN. Includes some great links to book suggestions that will inspire you. Look out for an revised version of this post coming soon.

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