7 Ways Documentaries Can Help Students Learn About Social Issues

Jun 7, 2023 | Art, Articles

There is nothing quite like a good documentary. We enter real worlds filled with enthralling stories, almost as if having genuinely lived through others’ life journeys. We feel a deep emotional bond with people, places, and fates. The peculiarities of reality take center stage to teach us that truth is often stranger than fiction.

Documentaries also play a vital role in education by helping students better understand complex social issues. We take a deep dive into the world of documentaries to see how they can ignite students’ curiosity, foster critical thinking, and inspire action.

1.   Fostering A Deep Sense Of Reality

Documentaries transport us to extraordinary real-life tales that often defy logic and seem too surreal to be true. We explore strange tribal customs and astounding acts of human ingenuity only to guess that magic is not far away somewhere but imbued in the very fabric of existence.

Developing a deep sense of reality and embracing its inherently complex nature is important for any imaginable aspect of life. Ever wondered why write my essay academic writing professionals come up with stellar essays, easily impressing even the most stony-eyed professor? It’s precisely because their content brims with the complexity of thought, never banal. Whether you want to produce top-notch essays or become a world-known speaker, documentaries can help you nurture a more profound outlook on real life, grasping its peculiarities on a deeper level.


2.   Mirrors and Mirages

Documentaries act as mirrors, reflecting the subtleties of our complex and elusive minds. They offer an unprejudiced view of the worst and the best in us. Think of the much-cherished film The Act of Killing, which examines the 1960s Indonesian genocide from the viewpoint of its participants. We peep into the killers’ minds to ponder the strange forces that compel them to kill. The movie delivers a terrifying and thought-provoking analysis of the nature of evil, as well as the complexity of human morality.

Similar films can encourage students to reassess their views and ideals, face painful facts about human nature, explore psychological triggers for societal injustices, and so much more.


3.   Challenging Stereotypes

Documentaries have a unique capacity to alter students’ perceptions and encourage them to look at reality from a fresh perspective. They challenge our preconceptions and help us harness a more nuanced understanding of the world. In a world awash with stereotypical thinking and banalities, fostering an inclusive mindset is vital. Documentaries open our eyes to lives, cultures, and experiences that may not be similar to our own.

Away with biases and limited worldviews. Documentaries help us appreciate the diversity and richness of our shared experiences, compelling us to disregard the barriers that divide us on a surface level. They close the gap between geographical and cultural boundaries, bridging the gap between “us” and “them.”


4.   Harnessing Empathy

Today, much of what passes for factual television or entertainment movies feels disappointingly two-dimensional. The demands of the market often favor formulaic stories over realistic portrayals. While such films may provide fleeting entertainment, they often fall short of capturing the true essence of life. More often than not, documentaries are more potent for helping us feel compassion toward characters.

One of the most charming qualities of documentary filmmakers is their unwavering dedication to authenticity. Their movies portray real emotions and real stories. They fully enthrall the viewer and help foster a deep sense of empathy toward people who have struggled a lot. Students can learn about social issues by experiencing the troubles and victories of real people, instantly feeling motivated to help build a more just and safe society.

Developing empathy does not only make you a better individual but also helps in all other aspects of life. Whether you’re looking to write a novel or build heartfelt relationships, your deep understanding of the human condition is vital. Without it, your writing will be dry and communication superficial.


5.   Raising Historical Consciousness

Watching documentaries can help students transcend regional barriers and embrace global issues in diverse cultures. This exposure deepens their comprehension of how interrelated the world is and that people face the same challenges even if far apart. What’s more, documentaries help students analyze the historical patterns of societal injustice to learn from our collective mistakes.

Great documentary films help students gain a broader view of historical events by exposing lesser-known stories, unseen voices, and hidden facts. Students get a chance to confront historical prejudices, challenge dominant narratives, and have in-depth discussions. Documentaries help students develop into knowledgeable, caring, and internationally conscious adults, ready to become ardent supporters of the planet we all share.


6.   Voices Unheard

Documentaries highlight the voices of oppressed groups and shine a light on their challenges, aspirations, and resilience.  Students embrace the real-world struggles of people who are politically, economically, or socially marginalized. Great documentary films offer a powerful counterbalance to the narratives promoted by mainstream media, which frequently fall short of capturing the true essence of human suffering. They dive deep into the difficulties communities face instead of just giving a cursory overview.

Students gain valuable insights into the real-life struggles of those whose voices are frequently silenced. This helps them be more prepared to challenge the underlying injustices and power structures that cause inequality worldwide.


7.   Inspiring Positive Action

Very importantly, documentaries can inspire students to challenge the status quo and use their skills to spark positive social change. Powerful films can instantly urge people to relate to personal stories and speak out for their beliefs. They act as catalysts, igniting a flame that inspires people to think beyond themselves. More and more powerful documentaries pop up that shed light on urgent social issues like climate change or human rights violations, calling on people to act.

Let’s consider the example of an insightful film Eating Our Way to Extinction. This thought-provoking documentary portrays the catastrophic global effects of our food choices on ecology, animal welfare, and human health. It effectively explores the urgent need for sustainable and ethical practices and stresses the importance of the power of individuals to initiate change on a global level.

The film has been eye-opening to students worldwide, challenging their preconceptions and urging them to reevaluate their dietary habits. Millions felt inspired to lower their consumption of animal products that have a devastating impact on our planet and health. What’s more, it’s powerful imagery and narrative style encourage people to become social advocates for urgent change.


Summing Up

Documentaries transcend the limits of classrooms, textbooks, and lectures, engaging students in a complex tapestry of human experience and societal concerns. They provide a unique lens through which students grasp the underlying complexities of human nature. A great documentary film is a gift that keeps on giving, urging people to broaden their perspectives and act for the betterment of society.



Diane Sherron is a student psychologist and blogger. Every day, she helps students battle stress and find inner harmony. Dianne also writes educational blogs, offering practical guidance, unique insights, and actionable techniques for personal development.

Read On – Our Latest Top Documentaries Lists

Thomas B.