Sudeep Sharma explains in his chapter, that Netflix acts as a sort of “newsstand” as compared to a library with its choice in documentaries. The newsstand metaphor means that Netflix’s content is on a “rotating basis” where content is supposedly pushing Netflix’s commercial needs on to the viewers as the content is available, rather than the viewers choosing what they want with content that is perpetually available. Sharma also suggests that watching a documentary is more meaningful that watching fiction, which I would agree with, as I think that documentaries offer the viewer more than just entertainment.
Netflix’s documentary, Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower, does support what Sharma argues, that the documentaries that Netflix chooses are relatively “traditional” as it was a documentary about a social issue in Hong Kong. The film style was typical of most other documentaries, where there is footage of actual events occurring and interviews. Another characteristic I noticed of the film are the short sentences that pop up intermittently to explain what is going on. Sharma also explains that Netflix has a tendency to choose “edgy” films, which is not far off from what was seen in the Joshua documentary.
The film was about a teen-aged boy in Hong Kong who stands up against the Communist regime, fighting for an education curriculum that does not include brainwashing to be obedient to the Chinese government. The students in Hong Kong were successful in this battle and they then got involved in another movement that was fighting for true democracy in Hong Kong. The documentary was very enriching in my opinion. It did bring about greater understanding about the issues in China. Particularly the one country two systems aspect of the government. Through the film, it really showed what the one country two systems thing was, and how the greater government of China, especially the president, has been trying to undermine Hong Kong’s system and make it join the rest of China.
It was very inspiring to see such a young group of people standing up for what they want from their government and to see how they grew in their understanding of how to make change happen. The majority of the film showed the people of Hong Kong protesting, but at the end, the students involved with the movement decided to end their protesting and instead place themselves inside the government to have greater influence on the direction their country takes.
In comparison to Joshua, a multi-episode documentary series Netflix currently has available is The Keepers, a story about a murdered nun in Baltimore. The initial question that the producers ask is “Who killed Sister Cathy?” The story then delves into the complex issues inside the Catholic school that Sister Cathy taught at. The multi-episode style that this documentary has allows more information to be presented on the murder and it introduces more individuals who were involved. I think that having a longer story through the multi-episode style does encourage the emotional investment of the audience. After the first episode they leave the audience on a cliff hanger where you are interested in knowing who killed Sister Cathy, but curious about Jane Doe. In the second episode, Jane Doe is introduced and she tells her emotional story of abuse she experienced by the school counselor. As the story progresses, it seems to move away from the initial question of who killed Sister Cathy, and presents a story about the students and the suggested perpetrator. The documentary most definitely has more of a narrative than Joshua did, which made the audience participate more in the documentary. In The Keepers, I felt like I was investigating the murder just as much as Gemma and Abbie were, as opposed to Joshua, where it felt like I was just given information.