8 Documentaries to Inspire Minimalism
I love documentaries, but especially the ones on minimalism or simple living topics. My affinity for the genre probably stems from the fact that the topic of minimalism is almost always tied to the subject of happiness and contentment - two states of being that almost everyone has an interest in. Infact, I’ve spent the last 7 or so years watching and researching the subject and today I’d like to share with you some of my favorites!
You’ll be interested in these films if you’re looking to:
- to live with less or declutter
- Make lifestyle changes that are positive for the environment
- Eat wholesome or clean foods
- Consume less and save more
- Learn about the effects of mindfulness
Not all of the films listed are explicitly “minimalist living” documentaries, but they all carry undertones or subject matter that is directly linked to the movement. So whether you’re new to minimalism or are simply looking for some inspiration to get to the next step of your minimalist journey, these 8 documentaries have got you covered!
If you’re considering adopting a minimalist lifestyle Happy is the perfect documentary to start with. The documentary made it’s debut in 2011 and I was immediately transformed. Right off the bat, we are shown a man from the slums of India and told the inconceivable - he considers himself as happy as the average American. The movie only gets more awe inspiring from there. It looks at everything from social life to eating habits, as well as the role the government can play in it’s society’s overall sense of contentment. Even if you are skeptical of living with less, Happy is a fun movie showing new perspectives on approaching life.
Colin Beavan was one of the first people to take mainstream the concept of living with only the essential. However, he goes another step further and eliminates all of the products and devices known to negatively impact our environment. His experiment meant no electricity, refrigeration, or even toilet paper for his family of three living on 5th Ave. in NYC. My favorite part of the movie was watching his wife give up her daily Starbucks fix and trying to imagine if I could be so strong (I love coffee!!)
Where do I start with this one? First off, it’s one of the first documentaries I’ve seen which tackles the subject of minimalism head on. Secondly, while I do have my reservations about the creators of the film (I’m not sure how I feel about their making a “brand” out of the minimalist movement) I do believe that they do a great job of making accessible a lifestyle which could help so many people find fulfillment and contentment in their lives.
This one’s for all the mamas out there. While The Business of Being Born isn’t explicitly a film about minimalism, a large premise of the movie - less interventions in healthy births - supports a lot of similar ideals. In essence, it’s about eliminating what you don’t need (epidurals, pitocin, elected cesarean) and being confident with what you already have (a healthy body capable of delivering a baby). My one issue with this movie is it does give the impression that if you have a cesarean your ability to truly bond with your baby is somehow broken. Personally speaking from experience (I had an emergency cesarean) this is not true at all!! Regardless, the movie is insightful and definitely inspires a more minimalist approach to birth.
If you want to be inspired on your minimalist journey in regards to food, go no further. Michael Pollan has got your covered in this Netflix mini-series on the origins and evolution of how humans cook and eat food. Focusing on four natural elements of cooking - fire, water, air, earth - Pollan does a great job explaining how the simplest ingredients can be transformed into substances that support human life and development. Furthermore, he also illuminates the influence industrialization and fast food has had on the development of conditions such as gluten intolerance and leaky gut syndrome. His less is more approach to food is refreshing and you’ll leave each episode feeling inspired to cook - and eat!
If you’ve ever wondered where your trash ends up once you’ve thrown it out, Wasteland will show you. Directors Lucy and Karen give viewers a glimpse of one of the world’s largest landfills in Rio de Janerio, as well as the lives of the people who survive by sifting through the mass of unwanted objects. The movie is both heartbreaking and beautiful. After watching this documentary, you’ll think twice about the things you throw away.
Yes, this is a movie about dumpster diving, but in case you are tempted to pass on the premise of “that’s gross” let me just say: “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” I think on some level we all know there is a problem with how much waste we create, whether it’s from food, unwanted products, or clothes we no longer desire. However, watching this movie will definitely bring that sneaking suspicion to the forefront of your mind and force you to face it.
There are scenes where people find an ENTIRE carton of eggs thrown out simply because one egg was broken, or entire bags of meat, cheese, and produce that is still edible, but was discarded because of the “sell by date” (which is very different than the “use by” label). I think the most telling thing about this movie is that it asks the question “why is the amount of food being thrown out equal to the amount we consume - and why is there still an issue of hunger in America if this is happening?”
Last, but not least we have Happy People. If you are into nature, primitive survival methods, and harsh, but beautiful landscapes, then this documentary is right up your alley. Herzog does a great job of capturing the simple, but hard life in the remote region of Siberia known as the Tiaga. For the subjects of the film, it doesn’t matter that living requires demanding physical labor, because they are happy. They are living with true purpose. Through viewing the life of this self reliant town, one is left with the question: “Do we really need certain amenities, or have we lost touch with the old natural rhythms of life and ways of living.”
So there you have it! These are 8 documentaries to inspire minimalism. I hope you watch and enjoy. Also, let me know in the comments if there are any films I missed.