We discuss 10 documentaries like Descendant you must watch. Check out these watch list recommendations!
The documentary follows descendants of the survivors from the Clotilda, the last ship that carried enslaved Africans to the United States, as they reclaim their story. These historical documentaries are educational and always necessary to watch.
There is much to learn from other countries and different perspectives, and that’s why the medium of documentary filmmaking is important. These filmmakers get to the truth and show everyone’s stories in the best form. These films are never biased and explore every situation differently.
There are many stories that need to be told, like Descendant, and these filmmakers go deep into history to find an important and relevant story to share with the world. These documentaries are meticulous and accurate, and a lot of research goes into assembling these stories. There is also an emotional connection that is formed with these stories because they’re so real.
10 documentaries like Descendant you must watch
I Am Not Your Negro (2016)
Writer James Baldwin tells the story of race in modern America with his unfinished novel, Remember This House. The documentaries that explore racial struggles throughout history are incredibly important and have been released at the right moments to educate America. These stories are important, and James Baldwin is probably one of the most important Black voices to educate everyone on race in modern America.
A chronicle of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965. Directed by the lovely Ava DuVernay, Selma is a powerful film that shows the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (David Oyelowo) and his campaign to secure equal voting rights. This film came out during former President Obama’s second term and made an impact because of DuVernay’s vision for the film.
Malcolm X (1992)
A tribute to the controversial black activist and leader of the struggle for black liberation. He hit bottom during his imprisonment in the 50s, he became a Black Muslim and then a leader in the Nation of Islam. His assassination in 1965 left a legacy of self-determination and racial pride. This Spike Lee joint is probably one of the better iterations of the life of Malcolm X as it is adapted from Alex Haley’s novel. Denzel Washington’s turn as Malcolm X was powerful and it is still one of his best performances. It’s an educational film about everything that happened to him in his life, and how hard he had to fight.
Filmmaker Ava DuVernay explores the history of racial inequality in the United States in 13th, focusing on the fact that the nation’s prisons are disproportionately filled with African Americans. Another important piece from DuVernay came out during a difficult time in the United States and shows the rate of mass incarceration. There are important facts and numbers to show how horrible it has been for a very long time, and how it has continued to grow.
Freedom Riders (2010)
The story of the Civil Rights Movement interstate busing protest campaign. Similar to Descendants, this shows the past stories and how one moment impacted the rest of their lives. It shows different perspectives and how everyone has pushed forward to reach their present selves.
Da 5 Bloods (2020)
Four African American veterans battle the forces of man and nature when they return to Vietnam looking for the remains of their fallen squad leader and the gold fortune he helped them hide. Another Spike Lee joint explores the horrors of war for Black Americans during the Vietnam War and how these men were treated on the front lines. Da 5 Bloods shows PTSD in a different way and highlights what these men carried with them.
The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 (2011)
This is a Swedish documentary film directed by Göran Olsson, that examines the evolution of the Black Power movement in American society from 1967 to 1975 as viewed by Swedish journalists and filmmakers. This is another important moment in history and Olsson explores it quite well in this documentary as he highlights those important years. These stories happen over time similar to Descendants as the impact of that moment in anyone’s life and that’s why it carries.
Former first lady Michelle Obama takes an intimate look at her life, hopes, and connections with others. Becoming is also based on her memoir, explores her life as the first lady, and shows a different perspective of her that many hadn’t seen because it was behind closed doors.
Two Distant Strangers (2020)
In this Oscar-winning short film, a man trying to get home to his dog becomes stuck in a time loop that forces him to relive a deadly run-in with a cop. Even though this is a short film, Two Distant Strangers is an important watch and explores a time-loop that puts the viewer in the perspective of a Black man in America. These moments affect people differently and everyone carries them differently.
The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (2017)
Filmmakers re-examine the 1992 death of transgender legend Marsha P. Johnson, who was found floating in the Hudson River. Originally ruled a suicide, many in the community believe she was murdered. One of the most important people that helped the queer community have a voice. If it wasn’t for her, the community wouldn’t have had the fire that it did throughout history, and broken barriers until now.
Do you have any other recommendations for documentaries like Descendant? Let us know!