China! Siberia! Fiji! Penguins! Great Controversial Travel Documentaries!

China controversial documentary

There is a saying:

Confucius: “By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience, which is the bitterest.”

Confucius may have been referring to these three travel documentaries, which each take a fascinating look at unique, spiritual and controversial parts of our world!

Up The Yangtze

Up The Yangtze!

I haven’t been to China, but films like this make me want to board a plane right now! This terrific documentary looks at China’s Yangtze river, and the Government’s decision to flood it – and the catastrophic impact it has on the residents there…

Yangtze river dam impact

The film introduces you to the young men and women who live along the river, and how they must take jobs on the cruise ships that glide along the ever-rising water, which will soon flood their homes…here is the trailer:

Yangtze River China dam

You meet these people and see how their lives are radically changed by the dam – in fact, this farm you see below no lingers exists – you actually see it flood in the movie…

Yangtze river flooding

These life-changing moments are shared, and it’s a sobering thing to see…while this look at a changing China is fascinating and sad, the next documentary is a celebration of a lifestyle that hasn’t changed in generations!

best documentaries ever

Welcome To Siberia!

Ever imagine living in Siberia? Sure, this looks like a nice day on the river…

happy_people documentary

But that’s just a small part of what Siberia is. Ever wonder what it’s like to trap sable in -50 degree weather? Oh, and you have to travel to each trap through one of the most heavily forested places in the world…

best documentaries ever

Imagine having so many questions about life in one of the most extreme parts of the world. Well, thanks to visionary Director Werner Herzog, you now have the answers!


Welcome To The Siberian Wilderness!

You have to check out “Happy People: A Year In The Taiga”! First, take a look at the trailer:

Meet These “Happy People!”

“Happy People: A Year In The Taiga” is a terrific documentary that spends a year in the life of the indigenous people living in Bakhtia, the heart of the Siberian Taiga; a small knit community of 300+ villagers whose daily lives haven’t changed over the last century – it’s a fascinating look at their lives, and their cultural traditions.


And yes, that is a frozen fish that sits most of the year outside – since the entire outdoors is a freezer! This was originally a TV documentary series for Russian TV. Acclaimed Director Werner Herzog came upon it and turned it into a feature-length documentary which is now out on DVD!

Cue The Dogs!

There are amazing parts to the lives that these people lead, including a fascinating look at the dogs who literally keep these trappers alive during the winter…their only companions for months on end…

Happy People documentary

You get to meet these solitary trappers, who spend months in the wilderness hunting sable, living alone in snowed-in log cabins in the middle of the wilderness…

Director Werner Herzog

Director Herzog oversaw the cut down of the material, and he does all of the voice over work as well…and the DVD includes an introduction to the film he did in front of an audience, in which he explains how he got involved in the project….

best documentary ever

Also included on the DVD is an excerpt from the original TV series – called “Chasing Spring In West Siberia”…if you like documentaries that uncover a completely unique way of life, this is the one for you!

Werner’s Penguins!

Werner Herzog has a number of terrific documentaries, each one narrated by the Director…including one that takes a fascinating look at the people who live at the end of the earth!


Life Among Penguins!

If you want to check out more Werner Herzog, click HERE to read about his great Antarctica documentary, “Encounters At The End Of The World”!

It’s also a great travel film! Now, let’s get away from the ice and head to a “reel paradise!”

Fiji travel information

I love documentaries that explore unique cultures, and also show how cultures can sometimes clash…here is one amazing example:


Reel Paradise

This is the fascinating story of Independent film executive John Pierson…Pierson is a passionate cinema enthusiast who has written books on maverick filmmakers – including the bestseller “Spike, Mike, Slackers & Dykes”.

spike mike slackers and dykes

Pierson also helped produce a number of independent films, including early works by Spike Lee, Michael Moore, and Richard Linklater. In 2003, he got fed up with life and moved his entire family to Fiji!

reel paradise

Pierson and his family took over an abandoned movie theater, and began showing free movies at the 288-seat 180 Meridian Cinema, in remote Natokalan Village on the island of Taveuni.

reel paradise documentary

During the final month of their year-long stay in Fiji, indie-film gurus John and Janet Pierson and their two children host a documentary film crew. Here is the trailer to this fascinating documentary:

John Pierson

Sounds idyllic, right? Well, in fact, NO.

Reality intrudes in paradise: their home is burgled, the local Catholic priest criticizes John’s project, their daughter’s behavior may be threatening the reputation of her friend, and John’s prickly personality is captured on film…

reel paradise

Check out “Reel Paradise” – the family bravely put themselves in the spotlight in this film, and without a doubt they got burned a bit by that…but their love of film, and eagerness to explore a new culture comes through as well – and perhaps had they been filmed in the first month of their stay – rather than the last – it might come across differently…

reel paradise theater

And while the family bravely put themselves in front of the cameras, it’s also a bit off-putting as well, because they come across as a bit angry that they weren’t able to “educate the locals…” watch it and tell me what you think!

fiji documentary

Sp, whether you head to Fiji for a movie, China for a river cruise, or Siberia to go ice fishing, you have some fascinating travels ahead! Let me know what you think!

Happy People documentary

Categories: Academy Awards, Action Films, Awards, Books / Media, China, Cult Movies, documentary films, Exotic Travel, Great Films, Hollywood, Independent Cinema, Movies, Movies About Movies, Obscure Movies, Politics, Talent/Celebrities, Travel, Travel Adventures, Travel Memoir, TV Show, Uncategorized

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1 reply


  1. China’s Amazing Mega-Bridges! Amazingly $$$ Expensive! And A Glass Bridge Cracked! – johnrieber

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