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10 great documentaries you can watch on The Big Issue TV with a free month’s trial

With one month of The Big Issue TV available free of charge, check out some of the great documentaries on our subscription video on demand channel.

Here’s a special offer not to miss for fans of brilliant documentaries! We are offering readers one free month’s subscription to The Big Issue TV, our curated video on demand service that is packed with important films.

If you have a few hours to kill after watching all of The Beatles: Get Back (perhaps multiple times, or is that just me?) or are eagerly awaiting the BBC’s next classic natural history series, Green Planet (we’ve seen some of it – and it is right up there with David Attenborough’s very best), then this could be the perfect time to check out TBI TV.

There are hundreds of documentaries to choose from – organised by key subject areas: politics, social activism, the environment, health and technology, finance and culture. There are also timely playlists each month – with Black History Month, Pride Month, Women’s History Month, Earth Day, White Ribbon Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and a new Movember: Mental Health Special playlist all still available to watch.

Here are ten of the best films on TBI TV.

The Gospel According to Al Green

One of the all-time great music documentaries. It tells the story of the southern soul singer’s journey from seductive soul sensation to spiritual leader. It begins and ends with Green, alone with his electric guitar, singing I Love You With All of My Heart with that blessed, beautiful voice as clear as it ever was. But between, director Robert Mugge captures Green in conversation – discussing his spiritual journey, the death of his former girlfriend Mary Woodson who scalded him with hot grits before taking her own life, and the way he adapted and evolved from performer to preacher.

“The ingenuity, the class, the charisma, the steps, the movement, the hesitation… you take all of this that you learn in pop and R&B and use it to your best advantage,” he says, in the in-depth interview at the heart of the film.

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No wonder Uncut magazine described it as “one of the most joyful and powerful film profiles of a major musical artist ever made.”

A Revolution in Four Seasons

This film won Best Documentary at the Vancouver International Women in Film Festival for its depiction of two women fighting on opposite sides of the political debate in Tunisia, the country that sparked the Arab Spring.

The political and social stakes are high as journalist Emna Ben Jemaa campaigns for a country of free speech that is free from corruption. Her work is contrasted with Jawhara Ettis Ennahda of the Islamist Party.

Both must navigate tough choices between their home lives and political work, wary of the way women are treated in Tunisian society, but desperate for a democratic future for the country they love. A fascinating account, showing that we can still find so much in common with our political adversaries.

Inside The Storm: Lego

“We had lost the plot, we had lost our identity”. These frightening words are spoken by Lego CEO Jørgen Knudstorp (the first non-family CEO in the company’s history), who helped the globally famous toy manufacturer fought back from the brink of destruction and, ahem, rebuild itself brick by tiny brick.

The story of the change in Lego’s fortunes at the start of the new Millennium is fascinating – and a reminder to take the quality of children’s toys seriously.

War/Peace

“The Republican Party in the United States is dedicated to destroying the species.” The film begins with this ominous warning, delivered in the deep, sonorous tones of Noam Chomsky. The film goes on to re-introduce 1960s radicalism to a new generation. It tells the story of student activists Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, who founded the anti-Vietnam war group “The Weathermen” at the University of Michigan in 1969.

The group’s members would go on to carry out bombings of government buildings, including an attempt on the United States Capitol, the Pentagon and several major banks and police stations. This film, a self-styled ‘propaganda film for peace’, asks a difficult question: how can we make a change if peaceful demonstration is not effective?

Hello My Name is Lesbian

A fine film with an eye-catching name, Hello My Name Is Lesbian is a celebration of love and sexuality. The filmmakers gather women aged from 19-84 living in Denmark – one of the world’s most sexually liberated countries. And with animated sequences, brilliant archive footage and a diverse, beautiful cast they weave a beautiful story and create an uplifting story, full of positivity and joy.

Stierlitz

A fascinating dive into the cultural cold war. In the 1970s, a hit soap opera broadcast on the leading Russian state channel called 17 Moments of Spring, served up serious Soviet propaganda. The hero of the series was Stierlitz, the antithesis of James Bond and another entirely fictional character. However, somehow CIA analysts were fooled into believing he was real.

Free Men

Kenneth Reams was sentenced to death in 1993, aged just 18. Another black man convicted by a majority white jury for a crime he did not commit. But he did not give up on life, despite a quarter of a century of solitary confinement. Instead, he found love, art, poetry and a voice – which he uses to narrate this astonishing documentary from inside his prison cell. Against all odds, Free Men is inspirational film of hope and resilience and celebrates spiritual freedom, even when the physical body is locked up.

Smoke and Fumes: The Climate Change Cover-Up

“For me, this is the biggest scandal in human history”. Any documentary featuring these words, spoken by a high ranking environmental lawyer in Washington, demands our attention. And this vital film exposes six decades of climate change cover-up, revealing how huge corporations funded campaigns and scientific studies tasked with talking down the climate change emergency. Since 1957 companies such as Exxon and Shell have known that burning fossil fuels sparks climate change – and as well as suppressing this information, they actively prepared for a warmer world – building oil rigs to withstand rising sea levels and Arctic pipelines to withstand melting permafrost. Taking the story from the 1950s right up to the Trump presidency, this film exposes why climate change denial remains big business, and how climate change deniers became so entrenched in their worldview.

The World According to Amazon

Many of us have relied on Amazon more than ever during lockdown – but what is life like inside the global empire that has revolutionised the world economy? This documentary, launched on Black Friday in 2019, explores both Amazon’s business model and its impact on the way we live, work and spend. A rare peek inside the world Jeff Bezos built – a global store that sends out more than five billion parcels a year – from its inception in a suburban garage in post-grunge Seattle in 1994 sending out less than 20 books a day to total global domination in just a quarter of a century.

The Beatles: Parting Ways

Yes, we even have a Beatles documentary – and this one is substantially shorter than The Beatles: Get Back. However, like Peter Jackson’s film it is respectful of the band and offers a fresh perspective on the individuals involved as it charts the post-Beatles careers of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.  

The Big Issue TV is a subscription video on demand service showcasing documentary films that are challenging, provocative and vital viewing.

All films are hand-picked by The Big Issue team, with new content added each month. Access one month of BITV free of charge – go to thebigissue.tv and enter code “BIGOFFER”.

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