You decide to spend the evening watching one of Netflix’s latest offerings, and so begins the dreaded trawl through list upon list of films, documentaries, box sets – all judged by what can only be described as a dubious and unreliable rating system. It’s an easy trap to fall into, we’ve been there. Firstly there’s all the one’s you’ve saved to your list that you’re never quite in the mood for, then you start searching by genre and before you know it you’ve wasted an hour looking, dinners burnt and the whole night’s ruined. A little melodramatic perhaps, but they are common pitfalls, and with that in mind we at The MALESTROM have compiled a little list of five documentary gems, sat right there on Netflix, unassuming and oblivious.
1) The Last Gladiators is an outstanding documentary, directed by Academy Award winner Alex Gibney, focusing on the hard men of ice hockey. We’ve all seen the clips on Youtube of mass brawls breaking out on the rink – but this film takes a closer look at the role of the ‘Enforcer’, through the eyes of those who lived it, probably some of the toughest men in sport. The men who earned a living punching opposing players in the head, helmet or no helmet. It’s all the more valuable because it requires no previous knowledge of the sport, as you slip into the murky world of the great hard men of hockey. The story is expertly knitted together through the eyes of the humble Chris Nilan and his semi-tragic story. Insightful, melancholic and on occasion dark and disturbing, it’s well worth ninety minutes of your time.
2) Palio is another tale of sporting triumph coming at a cost albeit a moral one. Centered around the world’s oldest horse race – it’s like a mental version of the grand national, where riders go bareback in a remarkably short race held at the Piazzo del Campo in Siena. Each rider represents one of the city’s seventeen districts, and rivalries are fierce. Corruption a seemingly acceptable part of the game, it’s brutal, raw and features some uncompromising Italians who go head to head in a mind-boggling spectacle. Beautifully shot with an excellent score, this is must see tv.
3) The Resurrection of Jake the Snake. Fans of early nineties WWF and beyond will remember fondly the trials and tribulations of Jake the Snake Roberts who used to terrify his most fearsome foes with a large python he carried around in his brown sack. His DDT finisher was one of the best out there, and would cause near hysteria in the baying crowds. An incredibly popular character, that was involved in some of the biggest storylines and fiercest rivalries. This film delves into his life in the years since passed, his descent into alcoholism and messy family life, like so many before him, unable to replace the thrill of his heyday. It’s a great watch, featuring some long-forgotten faces, as Jake’s recovery and biggest challenge to date unravels.
4) Beltracchi. This one’s from the left field, nothing to do with sport or anyone you’ve probably heard of, but absolutely worth its place on the list all the same. It’s a gem of a doc, the kind you want to tell all your friends about the moment it finishes. Following the present day life and times of Wolfgang Beltracchi, known as ‘the forger of the century’, who painted and then circulated hundreds of masterpieces, from such luminaries as Picasso and Monet to name just two, causing such mayhem in the art world that vast sums of money were changing hands. Like and addict Beltracchi just couldn’t help himself, but with such incredible talent, one wonders what he could have achieved in his own right?
5) Surfwise is a superb documentary – you’re never quite sure where it’s going or what you should think and feel about the main protagonist Dr. Dorian Paskowitz and his ten-strong brood. A health and sex guru Paskowitz chose to bring up his family in the back of a camper van, constantly on the move, spending their days at the beach hitting the waves and living in some sort of imagined paradise, it’s actually a cautionary tale about family life and obsessively pursuing your dreams. The consequences for his nomadic family – watch it and find out.