In the Chapter of our book called “Netflix and the Documentary Boom” written by Sudeep Sharma, Sharma states “The Problem with the library metaphor for Netflix, however, is that it assumes the services has some larger interest beyond commercial needs. Netflix provides access to various materials, but purely on the basis that access to the material in some way improve profits for the company.” (Sharma, Loc. 3683) This may seem unethical to some viewers, but when it all comes down to it, Netflix is running a business and it has to make its money in order for the “doors to remain open”. Yes, Netflix is allowed to pick and choose which documentaries it will boast over others, but I feel like by Netflix hosting these shows, their chance of success is quite a bit higher than if they had decided to stick with Cable television or remained independent. Also, if these shows are fairly specific and in their own niche, their viewers will find the shows on their own. Whether it is from word to mouth or from it being shared on social media. In niche genres, there are not a large amount of material so eventually the documentary will have stumbled upon. I feel Sharma’s analogy is accurate, but I do not see a problem with it. As I stated earlier, these small companies are much more well off by partnering with Netflix than they would be if they were on their own.
For my feature length documentary, I watched the Academy Award Winning Documentary, Icarus. This film was about the recent Russia Doping scandal that shook the world. This film shines light on the state sponsored program which forced Russia to forfeit many medals, athletes, and records that were thought to have been brought up through the doping program. As Sharma claims in his book, “Netflix’s Original documentary acquisitions are very traditional in terms of film style and format – they conform to what an average filmgoer would expect from a documentary. Specifically, these films are often about social issues or biographies of famous people that deploy behind the scenes footage” (Sharma, Loc. 3793) Going along with what Sharma is saying, Icarus does not deviate from the normal standards Netflix uses. Netflix has numerous documentaries about social issues and Icarus is right there next to them. But, I do find Icarus to be different from your average Netflix documentary. Icarus is a film that shines light on the Soviet Union’s scandals like others have tried, but Icarus does this by recruiting the head of the state sponsored program. This is something that has never done before for many reasons as seen in the documentary. After Grigory Rodchenkov shared all the information he did in the documentary, his family’s and his own life were all at stake. This is not something a country would take likely, especially one that is notorious for killing off individuals that are essentially traitors to their own country. It did an astounding job enabling the audience to see right inside of what actually happened inside of the Russian doping scandal and it was a documentary like I had never seen before. It truly set itself apart from other documentaries in the past. I also enjoyed the aspect of the biking and how they showed us first hand on what can be done to cheat the system and we got to see how Bryans performance changed throughout his testing.
For my long-from documentary series, since I have already viewed the other four series, I decided to watch Flint Town. Flint town is a documentary series that spotlights the lives of the Flint Police Department in Michigan which is one of the most understaffed Police Departments in the nation. Flint has one of the highest crime rates and one of the lowest median incomes in the country and we get a glimpse into the lives of these officers both on and off duty. Comparing the two series, I found it much easier to become invested into Flint Town. Flint Town seemed to have quite a bit more emotional ties to me personally. You get to see these police officers on duty, being extremely tough and having to put up these tough fronts, but then you also get to see into their personal lives and how much their job affects their family members. The families are always worried for their lives and getting the opportunity to see their side of things is different and built a connection with me. I was able to connect to Icarus, but it seemed to hit closer to home whenever I was watching Flint Town just because of my respect for Police and the jobs they are tasked with.
Personally, I can see why watching a documentary seems for meaningful with one’s time than watching some fictional show but I also see the other side of that argument. Watching a documentary gives you the opportunity to catch up on facts and allows you to absorb real life material. When you are watching a fictional scripted show though, it allows your imagination to run wild and that should never be taken for granted. Feeding your imagination is necessary in life for you to grow. So, for me, there is a happy medium for both and I do not feel like one is more important than the other.