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Ten IDA-Supported Films You Should Watch Before the New Year

By Catalina Combs

collage of film stills: woman in pink dress with man in white and black shirt, teens holding plastic guns with bullet proof vests on, man in african garb holding up his hands in praise in the middle of a crowd, tall plastic figure of a man in a black suit, woman sitting down with hand to head, man and woman sitting next to each other wearing suits, disabled person in a wheelchair holding a big Q block, man in all black turning around in a chair, man in blue checkered short with a white cowboy hat.

As we get ready to say goodbye to 2022 and welcome 2023, we thought you could spend the holidays watching and learning about some wonderful films and series that are available to stream from the comforts of your home. Film and television viewing has evolved over the years and documentaries have found a way to adapt. Everyone loves documentaries and streaming seems to be giving a new breath to the nonfiction genre. 

For over 40 years, the International Documentary Association has been doing its part to support nonfiction filmmaking and filmmakers. We strive to champion the vital work of documentary storytellers and foster a thriving and inclusive documentary culture. With the help of viewers like you, we have awarded $1.2 million annually in production and development grants directly to documentarians through our IDA Enterprise Documentary Fund, Pare Lorentz Documentary Fund, IDA Netflix Global Emerging Filmmaker Award, IDA Sarowitz Project Completion Fund, and Logan Elevate Grant.

Below you will see a list of 10 films we recommend watching as we count down to the new year. These documentaries are our most recent IDA Grantees and can be found on most viewing platforms:

1. What We Leave Behind (Netflix)

After a lifetime of bus rides to the United States to visit his children, Julián quietly starts building a house in rural Mexico. In filming his work, his granddaughter crafts a personal and poetic love letter to him and his homeland. What We Leave Behind (Dir.: Iliana Sosa; Prods: Emma D. Miller, Isadore Bethel) received the IDA Sarowitz Project Completion Fund in 2022. Stream it now on Netflix.

2. Aftershock (Hulu)

Through one family's tragic loss and fight for justice, Aftershock (Dirs./Prods.: Paula Eiselt, Tonya Lewis Lee) examines one of the most pressing and shameful national crises in America today and the growing movement that surrounds it: The U.S. Maternal Mortality Crisis. Aftershock received the IDA Enterprise Documentary Fund in 2020. Stream it now on Hulu.

3. Storm Lake (Amazon Prime/PBS)

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Art Cullen and his family fight to be the journalistic voice of their rural Iowan farming community through their biweekly newspaper, The Storm Lake Times. Storm Lake (Dirs.: Jerry Risius, Beth Levison; prod.: Beth Levison) received the IDA Enterprise Documentary Fund in 2019. Stream it now on Amazon Prime Video and PBS.

4. Q: Into the Storm (HBO)

Q: Into The Storm, a six-part documentary series from director Cullen Hoback (Terms and Conditions May Apply) and executive producer Adam McKay (HBO’s Succession), charts a labyrinthine journey to uncover the forces behind QAnon. Spanning three years in the making and traversing the globe, the series follows Hoback as he investigates the movement fueled by conspiracy theories that have grown in scope and political significance, chronicling its evolution in real time, and revealing how “Q” uses information warfare to game the Internet, hijack politics, and manipulate people’s thinking. Q: Into the Storm received an IDA Enterprise Documentary Fund grant in 2019. Stream it now on HBO.

5. Procession (Netflix)

Six midwestern men — all survivors of childhood sexual assault at the hands of Catholic priests and clergy — come together to direct a drama therapy-inspired experiment designed to collectively work through their trauma. As part of a radically collaborative filmmaking process, they create fictional scenes based on memories, dreams and experiences, meant to explore the church rituals, culture, and hierarchies that enabled silence around their abuse. In the face of a failed legal system, we watch these men reclaim the spaces that allowed their assault, revealing the possibility for catharsis and redemption through a new-found fraternity in this documentary feature. Procession (Dir.: Robert Greene; Prods.: Douglas Tirloa, Susan Bedusa, Bennett Elliott) received an IDA Enterprise Documentary Fund grant in 2019. Stream it now on Netflix.

6. At the Ready (HBO)

Ten miles from the Mexican border, students at Horizon High School in El Paso, Texas, are enrolling in law enforcement classes and joining a unique after-school activity: the criminal justice club. Through mock-ups of drug raids and active-shooter takedowns, they inch closer to their desired careers in Border Patrol, policing, and customs enforcement. We follow Mexican American students Kassy and Cesar and recent graduate Cristina as they navigate the complications inherent in their chosen path and discover their choices may clash with the values and people they hold most dear. At the Ready (Dir./Prod.: Maisie Crow; Prods.: Hillary Pierce, Abbie Perrault) received the IDA Enterprise Documentary Fund grant in 2019. Stream it now on HBO.

7. President (Hulu)

With the country in an economic crisis, longtime Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is ousted in a 2017 coup by then-Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Before the ensuing and bitter election, 40-year-old lawyer Nelson Chamisa steps in as opposition leader. There are death threats against the charismatic but relatively inexperienced Chamisa, and he's forced into hiding. Election foul play is suspected, results are delayed and activists hit the streets. Camilla Nielsson's documentary, produced by Signe Byrge Sorensen and Joslyn Barnes, won a Sundance Special Jury Award for Verité Filmmaking – just weeks after the storming of the US Capitol. The disgraceful response to America's 2020 election reverberates throughout President. This is a timely reminder of what democracy means and how hard it is to reclaim once it’s lost. President received an IDA Enterprise Documentary Fund grant in 2019. Stream it now on Hulu.

8. Not Going Quietly (Hulu)

When 32-year-old activist and father Ady Barkan is diagnosed with ALS and given four years to live, he finds himself in a deep depression, struggling to connect with his newborn son, whose presence reminds him of the future he will miss. But after a chance confrontation with Senator Jeff Flake goes viral, Ady decides to embark on a wheelchair tour of America, using his final breaths to crusade for healthcare justice. Ultimately, Ady discovers that collective action and speaking truth to power offers a source of hope for the future that transforms his relationship with his son and his belief in what is possible for his family. Not Going Quietly (Dir.: Nicholas Bruckman; Prod.: Amanda Reddy) received a Pare Lorentz Documentary Fund grant in 2019. Stream it now on Hulu.

9. The Big Scary "S" Word (Hulu)

A former Marine and a public school teacher in two different states find themselves broke and unable to sustain their livelihoods through their jobs. Activated by the energy of Bernie Sanders’ 2016 US presidential campaign and the murmurs of a state-wide teacher strike, both turn to socialism, a once-fringe ideology, to tackle problems larger than themselves. The Big Scary “S” Word (Dir./Prod.: Yael Bridge; Prod.: Morgan Spector) delves into the rich history of the American socialist movement and journeys with the people striving to build a socialist future today. The Big Scary “S” Word received aPare Lorentz Documentary Fund grant in 2019. Stream it now on Hulu.

10. Through the Night (Prime)

To make ends meet, Americans are working longer hours across multiple jobs. This modern reality of non-stop work has resulted in an unexpected phenomenon: the flourishing of 24-hour daycare centers. Through the Night (Dir./Prod.: Loira Limbal; Prod.: Duana C. Butler)  is a vérité documentary that explores the personal cost of our modern economy through the stories of two working mothers and a childcare provider— - whose lives intersect at a 24-hour daycare center in New Rochelle, NY. Through the Night received an IDA Enterprise Documentary Fund grant in 2018. Stream it now on Amazon Prime Video.