04 November 2019 Blogs, Academic, Community College, Public, Faculty, Librarian

TransMilitary to Playing God: The Latest Documentaries in Academic Video Online

Immigration, climate change, LGBT+ rights, political corruption: these topics and more are covered in provocative and often-controversial new documentaries from ProQuest.

Immigration, climate change, LGBTQ+ rights, political corruption: these topics and more are covered in provocative and often-controversial new documentaries from ProQuest

By Alison Roth

“Documentaries have a way of joining people in a society that gives a s---,” said Sheila Nevins, a well-known documentary thought leader, in a June 2019 Wall Street Journal article.* “Documentaries say, ‘look at the real world, see if you can shake it up a bit.’”

When it comes to education, documentaries have become a fundamental piece of both higher-ed and K12 curriculum. Documentary films provide a lens into others’ realities, honing critical-thinking skills with viewpoints that challenge our personal opinions and assumptions. They also give insights into experiences and emotions textbooks can’t provide, helping viewers build empathy.

For faculty and students looking to shake up the world a bit, here’s a look at some of the recently added documentaries in Academic Video Online. Each film we’ve highlighted is only available from ProQuest.


LGBTQ+ Studies, Politics and Current Affairs, Law

Around 15,500 transgender people serve in the U.S. military (notably the largest transgender employer in the U.S.), where they must conceal their gender identity because military policies ban their service. TransMilitary chronicles the lives of four individuals (Senior Airman Logan Ireland, Corporal Laila Villanueva, Captain Jennifer Peace and First Lieutenant El Cook) defending their country’s freedom while fighting for their own.

On Her Shoulders

Global Issues, Women’s Studies, International Law

At 23 years old, Nadia Murad, a 2018 Nobel Peace Prize Winner, is a survivor of the 2014 genocide of the Yazidis in Northern Iraq who was able to escape sexual slavery at the hands of ISIS. Nadia has become a relentless beacon of hope for her people. “On Her Shoulders” follows this strong-willed young woman as she fights to bring ISIS to justice and save her people from extinction.


International Business

A multi-billion-dollar American development is poised to engulf a small coastal community in Mexico with a hotel and condo complex. But local people are banding together to save their way of life and the delicate ecosystem on which they all depend. This powerful yet intimate documentary reveals how rampant, unsustainable development is destroying communities, ecosystems and long-held ways of life all over the world – and how it can be stopped.

Playing God

Business and Economics, Political Science, Law

Why is the life of a firefighter who died a hero in the Twin Towers on September 11 worth a million dollars less than that of a stockbroker who lost his life in the same disaster? Shortly after 9/11, one man was appointed to have sole responsibility for deciding how much compensation was to be received by people according to their individual circumstances: Ken Feinberg. This is more than just the story of a controversial man who at times seems virtually omnipotent. It shows what happens when economic interests and people’s lives become intertwined by tragedy.

Anote's Ark

Global Issues, Environment and Social Issues, Human Rights and Public Health

What if your country was swallowed by the sea? The Pacific Island nation of Kiribati is one of the most remote places on the planet, seemingly far-removed from the pressures of modern life. Yet it is one of the first countries that must confront the main existential dilemma of our time: imminent annihilation from sea-level rise. President Anote Tong’s struggle to save his nation is intertwined with the extraordinary fate of Tiemeri, a young mother of six, who fights to migrate her family to New Zealand. At stake is the survival of Tiemeri’s family, the Kiribati people, and 4,000 years of Kiribati culture.

Losing Alaska

American History, Environmental Studies, Anthropology, Politics and Current Affairs

“Losing Alaska” tells the story of a small community dealing with a slow-moving disaster. They have known for decades that their future was in peril – they’ve seen the land dropping away on all sides and the river growing stronger year after year. They are losing up to 50 feet of land per year, every year.

Freedom Fields

Global Issues, Women’s Studies

In post-revolution Libya, a group of women are brought together by one dream: playing football (a.k.a soccer) for their nation. As the country descends into civil war and the utopian hopes of the “Arab Spring” begin to fade, can they realize their dream? And is there even a country left to play for? Freedom Fields is a film about hope and sacrifice in a land where dreams seem a luxury. Through the eyes of these accidental activists we see the reality of a country in transition, where the personal stories of love, struggle and aspirations collide with history.

The River and the Wall

Politics and Current Affairs, Immigration, Environmental Studies, Global Issues

Five friends embark on a 1,200-mile mountain bike, horse and canoe expedition down the Rio Grande to document the borderlands before construction of a wall and to explore how it would impact wildlife, immigration, public lands, border security and landowners. Told through stunning cinematography, the film will take you on an adventure down the U.S.-Mexico border to see the 1,000-foot-high canyons, vast mountains, vibrant cities, and lush forests in the path of Trump’s proposed border wall. The team comes face-to-face with the human side of the immigration debate and enters uncharted emotional waters.

Rigged: The Voter Suppression Playbook

Politics and Current Affairs, Law

America’s democracy is threatened. Narrated by Jeffrey Wright, “Rigged” tells the story of how the principle of "one person, one vote" is being compromised, and how American citizens are fighting back.


Global Issues, Individual and Groups Rights, International Humanitarian Law

Jamil Sunsin is the only person in his family born in the U.S. when the entire family was forced to return to Honduras, a country wracked with violence. After a knife attack, Jamil is traumatized, and becomes terrified to leave home. The family makes an excruciating choice to send him back to the U.S. Now 15, Jamil tries to survive without his family and fights against a broken immigration system. This intimate portrait is a rare look into the aftermath of deportation and family separation amidst the current backlash against America’s immigrants.

Freedom for the Wolf

Politics and Current Affairs, Comparative Government, International Political Science

"Democracy is in crisis. A new generation of elected leaders are dismantling freedom and democracy as we know it.”

Filmed over three years in five countries, “Freedom for the Wolf” is an epic investigation into this new regime of illiberal democracy. From the young students of Hong Kong, to a rapper in post-Arab Spring Tunisia and the viral comedians of Bollywood, we discover how people from every corner of the globe are fighting the same struggle. They are fighting against elected leaders who trample on human rights, minorities, and their political opponents.

Get Access to These Films – and More – with a Trial of Academic Video Online

Curated for the educational experience, Academic Video Online is the most comprehensive video subscription available to libraries. In one predictable subscription, you’ll get more than 68,000 titles spanning a wide range of subject areas including anthropology, business, counseling, film, health, history, music, and more.

In addition to documentaries from renowned providers like Sony Pictures Classics**, PBS and hundreds more, Academic Video Online includes a wealth of feature films and training videos.

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*"June 21, 2019 (Page C3 EZ RE K)." The Washington Post (2008 - Recent), Jun 21, 2019, pp. 1. ProQuest, https://www.proquest.com/docview/2267090648

**For U.S. colleges and universities only