curated with love
I love a lot of things, including lists! Lists help me organize my love so it doesn't overwhelm me. I also love sharing my lists with others, hence Love Lists. I hope these curated lists bring you some joy!
New Day New Cafe
I am willing to bet no one has been to more coffee shops than I have. Here's a list of my all-time favourites from around the world.
NYC to Me
There are millions of reasons to love New York. Here is my best attempt to capture my favourite things about New York.
10 Most Creative Non-Fiction Films
I love documentaries that feel like a trip to an art gallery. Here is a list of my all-time favourite artistic documentaries that are both genre-bending and inspiring.
A collection of words that speak to me
A collection of my all-time favourite books, from a range of genres.
Obsessions & Inspirations
A small peek at the people & things that keep me up at night.
Favourite Movies & Shows
A collection of 10/10s.
Top 5 Gut-Wrenching Documentaries
Must-see documentaries if you enjoy experiencing some extreme emotions
Top 10 Most Inspiring Documentaries
These films will give you hope that people can change and the world can be healed
Have an idea for a love list? I'd love to hear from you! Get in touch
The Five Most Gut-Wrenching Documentaries I’ve Ever Seen
I am not one to shy away from films or documentaries that are going to make me feel something. In fact, I love when movies, no matter the genre, take me on an emotional rollercoaster. The scarier, sadder, weirder, or sicker, the better.Of all the documentaries I’ve ever seen (and I like to think I’ve seen far more than the average person), these were by far the ones that affected me the most on an emotional level.1. The Act of Killing
Probably my all time favourite documentary. This is the only documentary I’ve ever watched that made me feel like throwing up my popcorn. But I couldn’t turn away. The Act of Killing somehow balances being funny, wildly creative, and fascinating, with being gruesome and terrifying. In a strange way, it gave me hope for humanity by providing the most convincing evidence I’ve seen yet that even people who we write off as evil (or lost causes) still seem to know, however deep down, right from wrong — especially when it comes to taking a human life.Where to watch: free with Amazon Prime2. What He Did
I don’t know a single other person who has watched this documentary—it only has 23 ratings on IMDB— which I think is such a shame. This is the only screening I’ve been to in which many people walked out of the theatre—presumably because they, like me, felt like the emotional weight of the film was too much to bear. For the first time in my life, I actually understood what it was like to want to self-harm. I remained in the theatre though, and coped by digging my nails as hard as I could into my palms to distract from the psychological pain with some physical. This is an extraordinary story of what it is like to live with deep remorse.Where to watch: rent or purchase on Vimeo3. 32 Pills: My Sister’s Suicide
This film was exquisitely made and, in many ways, a touching tribute to a very talented artist (dare I say, one of my favourites now?) who committed suicide before she received appropriate recognition for her work. It helped me see how frustratingly hopeless it is to search for answers when sometimes there are none. It’s enough to drive someone mad, and as you watch that very truth unfold, your sorrow compounds.Where to watch: free with HBO subscription4. Tell Me Who I Am
Warning: this one deals with such grotesque subject matter, that I actually tend to advise against watching it. It’s genuinely haunting, chilling, sickening. It’s literally an unbelievably improbable story, yet it’s true. I was worried I’d have twisted dreams after watching it— thankfully I didn’t. Still, it introduced me to a concept that had never before crossed my mind and I wish never did. If you’re an empath, watch at your own risk.Where to watch: free with Netflix subscription5. Prison in Twelve Landscapes
This documentary, while being troubling and infuriating, did an incredible job exposing the deep and widespread injustices of America’s prison industrial complex. We’re reminded that inmates aren’t the only ones affected and that injustices are seemingly never ending. It’s hard to see a good reason for jailing anyone after you watch this.Where to watch: rent or purchase through AppleNote: I generally smoke some weed before watching a documentary, so my feelings end up being extra amplified, and I empathize more deeply with the characters, for better or worse. If you don’t want to feel such extreme emotions as the ones I describe above, I’d recommend not consuming any illicit substances beforehand!
Top 10 Most Inspiring Documentaries
If you find yourself feeling down, uninspired, bored, or even downright pessimistic about the future of our world (who could blame you in these times!), I believe watching any of the ten documentaries below can help you feel more optimistic about humanity and hopeful for the planet!1. Accidental Courtesy
I think about this award winning documentary allllll the time. It is about an accomplished black musician who has dedicated years of his life to befriending members of the Ku Klux Klan. In a time of extreme division in America and heightened racial tensions, Accidental Courtesy, more than any other documentary, not only gives me hope that even the most vociferous white supremacists can be reformed, it shows the way.Where to watch: Amazon Prime2. Jiro Dreams of Sushi
This award winning documentary is my go-to source of inspiration any time I feel bored by a task or think I already know something inside and out. It tells the story of a world-renowned sushi chef who, at 85, continues to strive to master his craft. I think it’s perspective-shifting to watch someone dedicate themselves to perfecting seemingly simple actions like cooking rice or slicing fish.Where to watch: Netflix3. The Interrupters
This award winning documentary follows a group of activists in Chicago who aim to curb violence by intervening in street fights before they escalate and helping youth resolve their conflicts in a more productive way. As someone who has seen first hand how small “hurt people hurt people,” this film does a tremendous job exemplifying the role we can all play to help heal our communities.Where to watch: PBS Frontline4. Won’t You Be My Neighbor
How could I not include this tear-jerker film about Mr. Rogers’ legacy, which became not only the top-grossing biographical documentary, but also the 12th largest-grossing documentary ever? Won’t You Be My Neighbor explores the profound and lasting effect his unique approach had on millions of children. This documentary makes me wonder what problems can’t be solved with a little kindness, empathy, love, and patience?Where to watch: Amazon Prime & HBO5. Fantastic Fungi
There are so many climate change documentaries out there (some of my favourites include: David Attenborough’s latest A Life On Our Planet, Last Ice, and Chasing Coral) to make us fear for the future of our planet, but Fantastic Fungi is the first I’ve seen that makes me feel truly optimistic, like we already have all the answers we need, right under our feet. As the New York Times put it “Louie Schwartzberg’s informative and kooky documentary offers nothing less than a model for planetary survival.”Where to watch: available for purchase on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, and Google Play6. Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry & Human Flow
This Sundance winning documentary tells the story of a Chinese dissident who blurs the boundaries of art and politics. Ai Wei Wei has become one of my favourite artists and activists, especially with his latest documentary and work of art—Human Flow—about the global refugee crisis. If you ever doubted you alone can make a difference in the world — watch one of these films.Where to watch: Netflix7. Knock Down the House
Probably the best known political documentary online (it at least was the most successful documentary financially, famously selling to Netflix for $10m) follows four relatively unknown progressive female candidates (including AOC) running for Congress in 2018 following the election of Donald Trump. It is inspiring to witness women, who otherwise never would have entered politics, tackle the issues their communities are facing head on by running for office. It reminds us we all have it in us to fight for what is right.Where to watch: Netflix8. On Her Shoulders
This Sundance award winning documentary follows the tireless, albeit reluctant, Nobel Peace Prize nominee and human rights activist Nadia Murad on her quest to raise awareness of the ISIS-led genocide of the Yazidis in Northern Iraq. As inspiring as Nadia is, the weight of this crisis is quite literally ‘on her shoulders’, and this film asks us all to take on some of this burden.Where to watch: Amazon Prime9. Citizen Four
This award winning documentary follows the journey of Edward Snowden as he hands over classified documents providing evidence of mass indiscriminate and illegal invasions of privacy by the National Security Agency (NSA). This film exposes the risks and realities of governmental surveillance while positioning Snowden as a hero fighting on behalf of an unsuspecting public.Where to watch: Amazon Prime10. The Infiltrators
This documentary combines live footage with re-enactments to tell the story of American immigration activists who get willingly arrested by Border Patrol, to save detained undocumented immigrants from deportation. The bravery of these young undocumented immigrants is astounding and will make you wonder what cause you’d be willing to get arrested for.Where to watch: PBS POV
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Top 10 Most Creative Non-Fiction Films
This is one of the most beautiful movies of all time!
From watchdocumentaries.com, Samsara explores "the marvels of the world and the richness of the human experience…mesmerizing visuals and music capture both the tedious and the miraculous and the greatest depths of human spirituality. Combining scenes of both destruction and renaissance, the film illustrates the ties between mankind and nature and how our lifecycle is in tune with the rhythm of the earth."9. Exit Through the Gift Shop
This documentary is so clever and has a great unexpected ending. It tells the story of how British graffiti street artist Banksy comes into contact with an L.A.-based "Mr. Brainwash" who videotapes various underground art escapades, and "the line between what is real and what might be fake blurs, as modern art and celebrity are put under the microscope." It's a must see if you haven't seen it yet!8. Microcosmos
This movie, which zooms in on the lives of insects is already 24 years old, but still I have no idea why it isn't more popular. It gave me a child-like feeling of awe at this whole new macro world that there is to discover. "It may appear tiny to the human eye, but there is no denying that the insect kingdom - as captured by the filmmakers behind this documentary - is as dramatic, action-packed and beautiful as any other."7. Letter to the Editor
This is film is pure craftsmanship, obsession at its finest. The film's director and editor has meticulously selected his favourite photos among the thousands he has compulsively clipped from The New York Times over the last 40 years, to create a "profound and playful reflecting on photojournalism and what will be lost if print newspapers go away." After watching Letter to the Editor, I was inspired to start my own collection and reminded of the pure intrinsic value that can be derived from creating art for the sake of art.6. Camera Person
I recently rewatched this documentary, and it reminded me a bit of Letter to the Editor because like Alan Berliner, cinematographer Kristen Johnson pulls her favourite clips from her 25 years as a documentary filmmaker and expertly edits them into a montage that will take you on a visual journey. I found the collection of clips so intriguing, always wishing I could know more, but reveling in the idea that life is full of mysteries we'll never solve, stories we'll never know.5. 20,000 Days on Earth
A documentary filmmaker I know and respect recommended this movie to me and never have I had to pause something I was watching so often to let parts of the dialogue really sink in and even write down a few quotes. Some of my favourites:
- to act on a bad idea is better than to not act at all, because the worth of an idea never becomes apparent until you do it
- in the end, I am not interested in that which I fully understand
- memory is what we are, your soul and very reason to be alive are tied up in memory.4. Waste Land
I love that this movie brings dignity and beauty to what others see as waste. Waste Land follows renowned artist Vik Muniz as he journeys from his home base in Brooklyn to his native Brazil and the world's largest garbage dump, Jardim Gramacho, located on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. "There he photographs an eclectic band of garbage pickers who display remarkably good spirits and camaraderie in the face of their lot in life, forming friendships and, in the case of the elderly Valter, declaring the crucial and meaningful role they play in remediating the results of the modern culture of overconsumption and careless disposal."3. Time
This is the newest film in this list, released in 2020 and was a 2021 Oscar nominee for Best Documentary. This documentary is about more than the failings of the criminal justice system, it's a true love story. "The final scenes of “Time” are incredibly moving as Bradley’s film comes together as not so much a look at the pain of the Rich story but their overwhelming endurance."2. Stories We Tell
I love that my top three artistic documentaries are by female filmmakers :) In Stories We Tell, director Sarah Polley's subject is her own family, and the veracity of their stories. "A powerful and thoughtful film, it is also not what it at first seems, which is part of the point Polley appears to be interested in making. Can the truth ever actually be known about anything?"1. The Hottest August
The Hottest August bills itself as a film about climate change, disguised as a portrait of collective anxiety. It is artistically shot and brilliantly edited to leave you feeling like you've just opened your eyes for the first time to what is really happening all around you. According to the film's website: "The film pivots on the question of futurity: what does the future look like from where we are standing? And what if we are not all standing in the same place? The Hottest August offers a mirror onto a society on the verge of catastrophe, registering the anxieties, distractions, and survival strategies that preoccupy ordinary lives."
- Injustice of wrongful convictions
- How culture shapes behaviour, beliefs, and experiences
- Documentaries that explore authentic expressions of uniqueness
- How little things can change us/our trajectories
- Multitudes within all of us