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The Weekly 5: Inspirational Documentaries

In Balanced Achievement’s ‘The Weekly 5’ series, we aim to present you with five ideas, products, or tools that you can utilize to enhance the quality of your life. We will look at a wide variety of topics with information that can assist you on the road toward fulfillment. This week, we look at five of our favorite Inspirational Documentaries.


Thanks to the captivating world of cinematography, each one of us has the unique freedom to safely experience the full spectrum of human emotions whenever we choose. By sitting down in the comfort of our own homes or taking a trip to the local theater, we can forget about our own struggles and be enchanted by stories and characters on the screen.

Just as these various fictional movie genres let us experience a range of different emotions, the genre of the documentaries gives us a chance to do the same. In particular, documentaries offer us the chance to find inspiration in the real-life stories of others.

The Most Inspiring Documentaries:

A DVD cover is shown for the movie God Grew Tired of Us, which is one of the films we chose as one of our five inspirational documentaries.Unlike any other type of movie, inspirational documentaries can give us the extra bit of motivation we often need while pursuing challenging goals. When we take the time to lose ourselves in the story of a person pushing the limits or a group of people spearheading social change, we should expect that the inspirational tale will drive us towards becoming more.

While we’ve decided to add a bit of international flair to our list of the top five inspirational documentaries, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t films about real-life inspirations taking place in America. In actuality, there is a boundless variety of films, both international and in the States, that can help us grow in different ways. For this reason, we have included 12 additional inspirational documentaries, across six different categories, which you will find at the bottom of this article. But for now, let’s move on to examining our list of the top five inspirational documentaries:

1.) The Eagle Huntress:

In this highly acclaimed 2016 documentary, viewers follow along as a 13-year-old Mongolian girl named Aisholpan aims to break down gender barriers by becoming the first-ever female eagle hunter amongst a distinguished nomadic tribe. For Aisholpan, her family, and the rest of the Kazakh people who live in the Altai Mountains of western Mongolia, training and hunting with golden eagles are not only done for sport but also as a way to ensure survival. For many generations, the tradition of eagle hunting has been left to Kazakh men, who paradoxically rely on only female eagles to hunt.

In The Eagle Huntress, filmmaker Otto Bell takes you along for Aisholpan’s inspirational story of determination in the breathtaking landscapes of the Mongolian steppe. Not only does this decorated documentary succeed in showing what’s possible by believing in one’s self, but the film also presents the heartening relationship between Aisholpan and her supportive father Nurgaiv.

2.) Jiro Dreams of Sushi:

Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a 2011 documentary that focuses on the life of 85-year-old Jiro Ono, the man many consider to be the greatest sushi chef in the world. In this heartwarming film, director David Gelb illuminates Jiro’s story not only as a renowned sushi chef but also as a loving father. Much of the film is shot at Sukiabashi Jiro, Ono’s ominous 10-seat sushi restaurant nestled inside a Tokyo subway station. Thanks to the quality of food, and Jiro’s unsurpassed passion for his craft, the restaurant is the only of its kind to be awarded a prestigious three-star rating from the Michelin Guide.

Inspiration can be found on a number of different levels in Jiro Dreams of Sushi. On the surface, it will become easy to see how Jiro’s dedication and passion for his craft are the components that allow him to overwhelm his customers with the highest quality sushi in the world. At a deeper level, you will get a firsthand account of how an individual, who is the best in their given field, finds the time to balance the important things in life.

3.) God Grew Tired of Us:

It was in the 1980s when over 20,000 Sudanese boys were forced to flee from their homes during the Second Sudanese Civil War and search for safety. For many of theLost Boys of Sudan who were fortunate enough to survive the unthinkable ordeal, their search would last upwards of five years. In God Grew Tired of Us, the stories of three Lost Boys from Sudan, who are now young adults, are illuminated after they are given the life-changing opportunity to live in the United States. Over the course of four years, filmmaker Christopher Dillon Quinn follows along as the three young men leave behind thousands of Sudanese brothers and sisters in Kenya’s Kakuma Refugee Camp with hopes of a better life in America.

The extraordinary film that is God Grew Tired of Us shows us what humans are capable of, even when facing the most trying circumstances possible. There is no doubting the fact that this award-winning film comes with as many disheartening downs as inspiring ups, but the tale of consummate perseverance will assuredly push us to strive for more.

4.) Virunga:

The central African nation of the Democratic Republic of Congo is home to one of the most bio-diverse forests on earth. Virunga National Park, as it is called, is also home to the world’s last remaining mountain gorillas. Unfortunately, the park and the mountain gorillas are located in the middle of a country that has been ravished by war and corruption for over 25 years. In the award-winning documentary Virunga, viewers get to see what the brave individuals trying to save the majestic engendered species go through. While Virunga was initially supposed to be a featured documentary that illuminated the progress that’s been made to save the gentle giants, the film crews arrived just as a rebel group inside the Congo declared war.

Virunga offers viewers a unique opportunity to see what is possible when a group of people puts something bigger than themselves over their own self-interests. Even with poachers and various militia groups making every day a life-or-death situation, the inspiring heroes of Virunga are willing to risk their lives to protect the last Gorillas on earth.

5.) Happy People: A Year in The Taiga:

Deep in the Siberian forest known as the Tiaga, there is a village that has changed little with time. For the Bakhtia people, a simpler way of living off the land has endured for centuries, and in Happy People: A Year in The Taiga, celebrated filmmaker Werner Herzog illuminates the work and happiness that has similarly endured. Herzog and co-director Dmitry Vasyukov, whose film is used in the documentary, specifically zone in on the hunters of the Bakhtia village who are responsible for supplying their families with the food needed to survive.

While one may assume that living off the grid and away from the civilized lifestyle that permeates our cultures would be a bad thing, Happy People: A Year in the Taiga shows the advantages of a simpler and unconnected lifestyle. As the hunters of the Bakhita show, true freedom and happiness can never be determined by the external things in one’s life.

Other Inspirational Documentaries Worth a Watch:

The cover for the 2013 documentary Maidentrip is shown. This film takes viewers along for the ride as 13-year-old Laura Dekker becomes the youngest person to sail around the world.If these five documentaries aren’t what you are looking for, don’t worry, because there is a wealth-spring of inspiration that can be found in other documentaries. Using particular films to motivate you while pursuing a particular goal can especially be useful. By watching documentaries that push you towards a desired outcome, you can greatly increase your chances of succeeding in nearly any way. Here, we have compiled a list of 12 additional documentaries, across six different categories, that you may be interested in exploring:

Feel Good Documentaries:

  • Life in a Day: This feel-good documentary is an arranged series of video clips that were selected from over 80,000 YouTube videos submitted from around the globe on a single day. Life in a Day shows the wonderful things that are happening, in every corner of the world, every single day of the year.
  • My Love, Don’t Cross That River: This 2013 documentary illuminates the relationship between an elderly married couple from South Korea. For Jo Byeong-man and Kang Kye-yeol, whose marriage lasts 76 years, nothing is as important as each other and their true love shines through in this film.

Biographical Documentaries:

  • Maidentrip: Laura Dekker made history in 2012 by becoming the youngest person to ever sail around the world at just 14 years old. In Maidentrip, viewers can go along for the ride and be inspired by Dekker’s amazing levels of perseverance and determination.
  • Man on Wire: This highly decorated 2008 film chronicles the 1974 story of Phillippe Petit, the man who famously walked across a high wire connected from one World Trade Center skyscraper to the other. Although what Petit did was illegal, this film shows what’s possible when someone wholly throws themselves at a goal.

Spiritual & Philosophical Documentaries:

  • Samsara: Samsara illuminates the unimaginable aspects of human spirituality and presents itself as a nonverbal guided meditation. To make the stunning spiritual documentary, film crews worked for five years in 25 countries capturing sights that will leave you in awe.

Food & Diet Documentaries:

  • Fed Up: This 2014 documentary is another must-watch film for individuals trying to lose or keep off weight. In Fed Up, you’ll be exposed to additional health secrets that are kept under wraps. The film specifically focuses on the role sugar is playing in America’s obesity crisis.

Sports Documentaries:

  • Dark Horse: The story of a champion racehorse from a small poor South Wales town is illuminated in this 2014 film. Dark Horse is one of those thrilling sports stories that remind us of what we are capable of even when facing mountainous odds.
  • Senna: In this 2010 documentary, the life of Brazilian Formula One race car driver Ayrton Senna is explored. The three-time F1 champion shows us why men shouldn’t be judged based on their professional accolades or sports accomplishments alone.

Financial & Career Documentaries:

  • Freakonomics: This is a 2010 documentary based on the popular 2005 book that was published under the same name. By watching Freakonomics, you can vastly increase your understanding of the things that motivate consumers, employees, and employers alike.
  • One Week Job: The story of Sean Aiken, a recent college graduate who is unsure about what he wants to do with his life, is the focus of this 2010 documentary. While Aiken’s uncertainty about his future is typical for someone his age, his plan to figure everything out is not. Over the course of the 52 weeks in a year, Aiken works at 52 jobs trying to determine his passion.

While we have touched base on 17 different documentaries in this article, we are certain that we are only scratching the surface of documentaries that can inspire us to be more. If there are additional titles that you think should’ve made the list, please let us and your fellow readers know in the comments section below.

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