There’s perhaps nothing more depressing than 24-hour cable news, and if the protracted flamewar between MSNBC and Fox News — with more-neutral-than-thou CNN caught in the middle — has taught us anything, it’s that they’re all full of it. Yet as these channels gained influence, American television seemingly devolved into a cacophony of spitting and grunting over sensationalistic news tickers, with only Jon Stewart to remind us that there was still a slice of sanity in the world.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, came Al Jazeera. And despite questionable links with the slightly shady Qatari monarchy, it was kind of dope. The reporting seemed to be more or less down with the struggle of oppressed peoples across the globe, and their coverage of world events offered a thoughtful alternative to the navel-gazing echo chamber of U.S. broadcast media. Recently, they’ve even ramped up their coverage of Latin America through a series of progressive-minded documentaries that has managed to make Al Jazeera that much cooler. Plus, you can watch them online.
Viewfinder is a series of locally-produced documentaries, funded in part by Al Jazeera, that explore the impact of global events on local communities. This season’s Latin America focus will feature docs from filmmakers in Argentina, Mexico, Bolivia, and Brazil, and will explore the transformative power of art and self-expression in diverse communities of the region. Be sure to check out the Viewfinder website to see all the docs, and remind yourself that there is a way to do thoughtful, socially responsible news after all.
Here are 15 short documentaries on Latin America you can stream for free.
Chess, Private Lessons
One former inmate hopes to use chess to gain employment in the outside world, and to give something back in Uruguay.
Just over Haiti’s frontier stands the Dominican Republic and the bright promise of education for their next generation. Fifteen-year-old Evens is one of the hundreds of young people who yearn to seize that opportunity. But it is the first step each day that is the most challenging.
Ingrid Vaca Diez is on a mission to build better homes for the poor. With few funds and little support, she uses the only resource she can find in abundance – empty plastic bottles.
Ticket to Paradise
To meet the deluge of its economic growth, Brazil has opened its doors to all immigrants – with unintended consequences.
Liberating a prison
Honduras is a nation gripped by violence and insecurity. In the midst of this chaos there are those seeking peace and working toward stability. Many of them, like Denis Berrios, are artists. He sets out, along with other artists from Colectivo Hormiga, to try and counter the onslaught of violence by creating places that are domains of security and free expression. To raise a weary public’s interest they have decided to symbolically “liberate” an abandoned prison.
Change is slowly coming to Cuba. For one remote community and on one woman’s front porch, it is just a phone call away.
Message for my daughter
In Argentina, one woman works to revive the history of the Mapuche people in a society that has eroded their identity.
Can the power of star-gazing be an effective counter to the threat of marginalisation in parts of Latin America? A pair of young amateur astronomers use the power of star-gazing to re-awaken a Mexican community’s cultural past.
Rio's Red Card
Altair Guimarães has been displaced from Rio’s favelas before, but today he is leading the protests in the Vila Autódromo favela which stands in the path of the 2016 Olympic Park site.
My Dancing Heart
A group of elderly dancers meet on Saturday nights in the public plazas of Mexico City to explore the sensuality of Danzon, enjoy romance and seek out the possibility of love in their last chapter of life.
Travelling from village to village in northern Argentina, one man works to find lasting solutions to endemic problems.
Thousands turn to the illegal occupation of Sao Paulo’s abandoned high rises as an alternative to life on the streets.
Over the Wheel
In the past 20 years there has been an explosion of growth in Guadalajara and today it is Mexico’s second-largest city. Though heavy industry accounts for a significant part of the pollution, the majority comes from car and truck congestion.
Maria has been living on the streets of Bolivia since she was a young teen. She entered into the dark, dangerous world of sex trafficking after being raped as a 12-year-old. Now a young mother, she is determined to try and get off the streets and raise her young son.
For the mothers who are incarcerated in Argentina’s Los Hornos Prison being separated from their children is often the most difficult part of their life behind bars.