FROM music to Nazis to art to serial killers, from big pharma and the sanctioned opiod crisis to sharks, Showmax has a diverse array of documentaries to expand your mind. All are now available to stream and binge.
THE SPARKS BROTHERS
How can one rock band be successful, underrated, hugely influential, and criminally overlooked all at the same time? With commentary from celebrity fans like Flea, Beck, Jason Schwartzman, Neil Gaiman, and more, The Sparks Brothers takes audiences on a musical odyssey through five weird and wonderful decades with brothers and bandmates Ron and Russell Mael, celebrating the inspiring legacy of Sparks: your favourite band’s favourite band.
Distilled from more than 300 interviews conducted by the late British documentary filmmaker Luke Holland, Final Account is an urgent portrait of the last living generation of everyday people to participate in Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich. In never-seen-before interviews, men and women, ranging from former SS members to civilians, reckon – in very different ways – with their memories, perceptions and personal appraisals of their own roles in one of the greatest human crimes in history.
I’LL BE GONE IN THE DARK
Based on the work of late American true crime author Michelle McNamara, the HBO documentary series I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is both a gripping examination of the crimes of the Golden State Killer who terrorised California in the 1970s and 1980s, and the moving story of one woman’s relentless pursuit of justice for his victims.
The series is executive produced by – and features – actor Patton Oswalt, McNamara’s husband, who, along with her researcher Paul Haynes, and journalist and true crime writer Billy Jensen, completed her book – I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer – and went on to witness its impact.
THE CRIME OF THE CENTURY
From Oscar- and Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side, The Inventor), The Crime of the Century is a searing indictment of big pharma and the political operatives and government regulations that enable over-production, reckless distribution and abuse of synthetic opiates.
With the help of whistleblowers, newly leaked documents, exclusive interviews, sobering testimony from victims of opioid addiction, and access to behind-the-scenes investigations, Gibney’s exposé posits that drug companies are in fact largely responsible for manufacturing the very crisis they profit from, to the tune of billions of dollars – and thousands of lives.
THE LAST CRUISE
A terrifying origin story of the pandemic, HBO’s 40-minute documentary The Last Cruise chronicles the first big outbreak of the novel coronavirus outside China: the Diamond Princess cruise liner.
As the uncontained outbreak on the luxury vessel at the start of the pandemic in January 2020 became a global spectacle and a faraway symbol of the new virus and its potential to upend any sense of normalcy, passengers aboard the ill-fated cruise ship were quarantined in their staterooms for weeks as the crew tended to the sick, delivered room service and slept and dined in cramped, shared quarters. Through never-before-seen footage from passengers and crew, we watch class divisions erupt as humanity misses its chance to contain Covid-19.
JOHN WAYNE GACY: DEVIL IN DISGUISE
John Wayne Gacy: Devil In Disguise follows the chilling story of one of the world’s most notorious serial killers, as told through the words of Gacy himself, those who were forever changed by his unspeakable deeds, and those who believe that the full truth remains concealed to this day.
This comprehensive six-part documentary series details the case that shook the world, drawing on a multi-hour death-row interview with Gacy himself, most of which has never been seen before, along with exclusive audio and video interviews. Almost 50 years since the crimes took place, new questions are emerging about what really happened, and who else may have played a part in the deaths of Gacy’s 33 victims.
BLACK ART: IN THE ABSENCE OF LIGHT
Directed by Oscar nominee and five-time Emmy winner Sam Pollard (MLK/FBI, When the Levees Broke), this HBO documentary explores the oft-neglected contributions of African American artists to both the art world and American culture at large.
Opening with the landmark exhibition “Two Centuries of Black American Art” curated by the late David Driskell at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the documentary looks at the major Black art movements of the past half-century, and speaks to contemporary luminaries like Jordan Casteel, Kara Walker, Carrie Mae Weems and Kehinde Wiley, among others.
Waitress, starring Keri Russell and Nathan Fillion, won five international awards in 2007 – the year after its writer-director, Adrienne Shelly, was brutally murdered. It went on to inspire the hit Broadway musical, penned by Grammy winner Sara Bareilles.
Directed and produced by Shelly’s husband Andy Ostroy, Adrienne is an intensely personal look at Shelly’s life, death and career, featuring the likes of Russell, Fillion, Bareilles, actor Paul Rudd, and director Hal Hartley, who gave Shelly her acting break in The Unbelievable Truth and the Sundance winner Trust.
GIRLS CAN’T SURF
It’s the 1980s and the world of professional surfing is a circus of fluro colours, peroxide hair and male egos. Girls Can’t Surf follows the journey of a band of renegade surfers who took on the male-dominated professional surfing world to achieve equality and change the sport forever.
Featuring surfing greats Jodie Cooper, Frieda Zamba, Pauline Menczer, Lisa Andersen, Pam Burridge, Wendy Botha, Layne Beachley and more, Girls Can’t Surf is a wild ride of clashing personalities, sexism, adventure and heartbreak, with each woman fighting against the odds to make their dreams of competing a reality.
A CHOICE OF WEAPONS: INSPIRED BY GORDON PARKS
“I might have turned to the gun or the knife, but by then I had chosen the camera,” says Gordon Parks in the trailer for this critically acclaimed HBO documentary. A Choice of Weapons: Inspired by Gordon Parks explores enduring legacy of the legendary photographer, whose work brought the Black community’s struggle for dignity and justice to middle America on the pages of LIFE magazine from 1948 to 1972.
BY WHATEVER MEANS NECESSARY: THE TIMES OF GODFATHER OF HARLEM
The four-episode docuseries executive produced by Godfather of Harlem star Forest Whitaker (above) and Swizz Beatz, examines the story of Harlem, its music during the 1960s and its connections to today.
The series earned director Keith McQuirter (Brick City) the 2021 Image Award for Outstanding Directing in a Documentary, and features conversations with the likes of Emmy-nominated actor Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad), music legends Herbie Hancock, Gladys Knight, Harry Belafonte and Nile Rodgers, activists Jamal Joseph, Al Sharpton and Denise Oliver-Velez, historians and residents of Harlem itself.
SHARK WITH STEVE BACKSHALL
British explorer, naturalist, and presenter Steve Backshall has dedicated his life to revealing the wonder of sharks. Shark With Steve Backshall is a three-part docuseries tracking Steve’s journey to the remotest parts of our planet, from the sun-drenched tropics to the mysterious depths of our oceans, to meet the incredible variety of sharks upon which the health of our oceans depends, and the passionate people fighting to change attitudes and save these feared and misunderstood predators.
Teaming up with leading scientists, Steve reveals stunning discoveries – glow-in-the-dark sharks, sharks that walk on land, and ancient sharks over 400 years old, with antifreeze in their blood…
He also takes viewers night-swimming with an 18-metre whale shark in the Maldives, chases the sardine run off South Africa’s coast, and finds out what’s behind the mysterious disappearance of Cape Town’s great whites.