Films, and in particular, documentaries have been around for nearly 100 years. The first official documentary is usually considered to be the work by Robert Flaherty. Made in 1922, Nanook of the North unveiled the difficult life of Canadian Inuits.1 These kinds of films have come a long way, and they are now available on nearly any subject one can imagine.

Humans have likely told stories since the dawn of language, and documentaries are a way to capture reality and retell it. Most are considered to be non-fiction narratives created by someone to tell a point of view or truth. They range on nearly any subject, from jovial to dark or even disturbing. Watching one is like seeing the world through someone else’s eyes.

The Importance Of Loving To Learn

Documentaries offer a voice about a new subject. If you’ve ever wanted to plant a garden, there’s a documentary (or a dozen!) out there. If you want to become a stronger person, a better leader, a nicer friend, a kinder partner...there is something for you! Watch a wide variety of documentaries to expand your knowledge, increasing your creativity and innovation.

As we age, cognitive decline often looms up as an unwelcome shadow, threatening our quality of life and independence. Neuroscience has increased our understanding of how the brain ages. Your brain, like so many other parts of the body, functions as a “use it or lose it” organ. To give your brain the work out it needs, you should expose yourself to new knowledge, ideas, and information. Ageing is inevitable, but with physical exercise, social relationships, and cognitive activities we can keep our brains healthy for as long as possible.2

So Many Options, So Little Time!

Indulging in your curiosity allows you to discover things that you may not even realise exist. Part of the art of collaboration is being able to speak with others, and if you are able to access a wide variety of knowledge, your conversation will be more interesting and inspiring.

Documentaries take you to a new place, or they showcase a different lifestyle. There are nearly 8 billion people on this Earth, and each person has something to offer. They are becoming even more mainstream, as well. In 2011, documentary films earned £11 million in British theatres.3

Doing a documentary is about discovering, being open, learning, and following curiosity.

Spike Jonze

Something On The Lighter Side

If you’re in a whimsical mood, or you want to watch something “light” without lots of drama, consider these documentaries.

  • Happy. This film takes you on a journey to discover what makes people happy, and it gives tips on things you can do to increase your own happiness.
  • Plants for a Future. You can learn to create a garden for food, for clothing, for fuel, and even for medicine. Follow Ken Ferm, a London bus driver, as he looks for new ways to grow a garden.
  • Human Planet. This is actually a series from the BBC that seeks to define and explore the connection between the natural world and the people who live here. If you’re looking for inspiration to travel, look no further!
  • Iris. If you march to your own drum, consider watching Iris, a film about a fashion icon who has never been labeled “ordinary”.
  • The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters. If you’re a gamer at heart, check out The King of Kong, and relive the past days of arcade glory.

Looking For Hope For The Future?

Some documentaries give you a joyous sensation of hope and optimism for the future. Consider these (some handle controversial subject matter) if you want to have a renewed sense of human positivity.

  • Promises. The conflict between Israel and Palestine is seen through the eyes of children in Promises. While the film delves into a difficult topic, you’ll also feel hope for the future.
  • The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls. In the story of two New Zealand sisters, these brave ladies battle homophobia, cancer, and many other hurdles of life, leaving you to laugh and cry (probably at the same time).
  • Babies. Follow the lives of four babies, from Namibia, Japan, the United States and Mongolia on their early journey of personhood in this sweet film.
  • Jiro Dreams of Sushi. More than a documentary about food, Jiro Dreams of Sushi shows how a dream never dies and what you can do with perseverance and a strong work ethic.
  • Make Me A Leader. This film sheds new light on how to develop and nurture the leaders of the future. Backed by scientific research, Make Me A Leader examines leaders as a whole person from the brain down.

Or Maybe Something That Could Change Your Life?

Some stories have the potential to make you think about life and the world around you in a different way. If you are looking for a film that might challenge your reality and views, consider these options.

  • Blindsight. A group of blind Tibetan boys defy the odds and climb the north side of the tallest mountain on Earth in Blindsight.
  • Blackfish. A controversial film about animals at Seaworld, Blackfish sparked public campaigns to raise awareness about captive killer whales.
  • Bully. This film follows five children who are bullied and shows how difficult it is for children to speak up and defend themselves. Bully also depicts the harsh reality of suicide.
  • Fambul Tok. Focusing on the aftermath of civil war in Sierra Leone, families speak about how war criminals still walk and live in their midsts.
  • Joanna. A mother with only three months to live, Joanna tries to teach her child the value of kindness and love.

Leaders today are bombarded by information. While we must read, view and process information at work, indulge your curiosity by taking some time for yourself and watching something you find interesting. All knowledge is important, even if you learn about sushi or how to plant some potatoes.

Modern workplaces often stifle and diminish our capacity to explore and figure out new information. Leaders who create the conditions for learning will create the conditions for innovation.


1. Filmsite. Documentary Films Part 1. AMC Network Entertainment, LLC. 2018. Available at:

2. Williams K, Kemper S. Exploring Interventions to Reduce Cognitive Decline in Aging. Journal of psychosocial nursing and mental health services. 2010;48(5):42-51. doi:10.3928/02793695-20100331-03.

3. Prospero, FS. The Rise of Documentary Film--The shocking truth. The Economist. 2013. Available at:

Originally posted on: 7 February 2019
Last updated on: 18 February 2024

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Silvia Damiano

Silvia Damiano

Founder & CEO
About my Brain Institute

Scientist, educator, author, speaker, coach, award-winning leadership specialist, filmmaker and creator of the i4 Neuroleader Model & Methodology.

Silvia's scientific background and curiosity about the human brain led her to a decade long journey of research into optimal brain functioning and the application of neuroscience in leadership and daily life. Her past and current roles have uniquely prepared her for the current undertaking, that of leadership activist & change agent.

Silvia Damiano founded The About my Brain Institute in 2009, with the purpose of democratising leadership & neuroscience. She has a passionately held belief, that leaders in our 21st century global economy and their organisations must radically change long-held ideas of what constitutes effective leadership

In her ground-breaking books ‘Leadership is Upside Down’, ‘Brain-Friendly Leadership’ and the 2018 documentary ‘Make Me A Leader’, Silvia provides both compelling evidence and explores the importance of leadership in our personal and professional lives and what it takes to develop the human behind the leader.

Silvia has worked in different countries, across many industries, helping teams and organisations improve business performance. Silvia’s clients have described her as a passionate, dynamic, a highly experienced speaker and master facilitator on the topics of Emotional Intelligence, Cultural Change, Neuroleadership & Engagement.

Silvia is passionate about leaving a legacy of well-rounded leaders who can act and decide in a way that better serves humanity. Her clients include Microsoft, Australian Stock Exchange, NSW Government, VISA, Fuji Xerox and Manpower amongst many other global companies.

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