Documentary Ideas

What would be a good topic for a documentary?

My group is trying to decide on a topic for an English class project. It's supposed to be a documentary over a controversial issue and it's supposed to convince the viewers to accept our stand on the issue. We're having a little trouble with this, since we didn't want to do anything political. 

Do you guys have any suggestions? We want to do something where the group members can actually be involved in (so nothing about endangered animals or anything like that), more about the social and human interactions. 

There was an idea by another group, where they're going to discuss homeless people and film themselves sleeping inside a car for two days with limited amounts of money. I really like that idea, but I can't really come up with one that's similar and not copying theirs. 

We have an idea about how birth order might affect personality, but I'm not really sure how we're supposed to do that. We really want this to be an interesting documentary.

Please give me some ideas, and maybe directions I should take.

Thank you!


Expert Answers
mizzwillie eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I live in Minnesota where, in the largest school district, there is a controversy over a policy for teachers to remain neutral in any discussion involving gay students or gay anything.  What has happened in that district is a rising number of suicides due to bullying.  Since bullying is a hot topic, is there a way you can use this bulllying in schools or cyber bullying as your idea?  Also, two high school hockey players in the last month have suffered severe spinal cord injuries due to checking from behind.  Would violence in sports be a topic you could use? I think we will see new regulations about checking from behind even though it is already against the rules.  The last idea I have for you is that there is a new pilot project to protect women and children from being victims of domestic violence.  Using a new questionnaire called the Lethality Assessment Program developed by Dr.  J. Campbell at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, the questions are asked when police are called to a domestic violence situation. The answers are put on a scale to determine if the women are at high risk of being killed.  The answers are often persuasive to get women and children moved out of the house, the shelter is notified and judges expedite orders to keep the women safe.  There is a website for assessing someone's situation or  Since I have had two students killed in domestic violence, one by her boyfriend and one by her stepfather, this topic is important to me.  If any of these ideas help you, good luck!

vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

How about a documentary about the need to treat animals well, such as making sure they get spayed and neutered?  You could show what it's like to be a dog or a cat in a pound, facing the prospect of death partly because some people are irresponsible owners and allow their animals to overbreed. Or you could focus on abandoned animals. Our dog -- the friendliest dog you could imagine -- was abandoned and was living in a parking lot for a month; he could easily have been killed by a car on the nearby road. Instead, we happened to find him, and he is one of the best things that has ever happened to us.  Anything involving the need to treat animals better than they are often treated is bound to be appealing to most people.  Plus, most people will enjoy watching lovable animals. :-)  Good luck!  Let us know what you decide to do and how it turns out.  If you post it on youtube, please share the link.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Another topic that may prove worthwhile regards the controversy over illegal immigrants in this country.  There are any number of resources that can be tapped; for instance, The Caudill Foundation reports statistics such as 95% of the all outstanding warrants for homicide in Los Angeles are for illegal aliens, one-third of all the federal prisoners in the U.S. are illegal immigrants.  Thes prisoners cost the federal government 1.5 Billion a year.  The vicious illegal immigrant MS-13 gang from El Salvador now operates in 28 American cities. 

These statistics are on the negative side, so you will want to look for positive positions, as well, and maintain an objectivity in your documentary for it to be viable. Sticking to facts and statistics is the best way to maintain objectivity, of course. 


lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You could explore a topic that relates to your education or school experience. Maybe you could look into college athletes and their experiences. Do these athletes deserve to be paid in exchange for the money that is generated by their playing for the school? Think about the big schools and the lucrative television contracts that these schools have. You could also look at how athletes do on the academic side of things. Are they given extra help to pass classes? Are they excused from work because they are athletes? What is the pass rate and graduation rate of student athletes? What happens to athletes who don't have the credits to graduate but who are no longer eligible to play on the school's teams? What happens if they have career ending injuries? There are a lot of controversial aspects to this topic.

stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

How can you not think that examining the plight of the homeless is not political?

I think you're going to have great difficulty finding a controversial topic that does not have political overtones. Therefore, the question becomes what are the members of your group interested in arguing for or against, since you're supposed to try to convince your audience to adopt your point of view. The best topic for your group will be the topic that you are most committed to researching and presenting.

If you're looking for a topic that might be particularly relevant to tenth graders, maybe you could consider licensing requirements for new drivers, restrictions on hours or activities for teen-aged workers, the advantages or disadvantages of school uniforms,...

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You might like to think of recent successful documentaries and consider what ideas these topics provoke. For example, I know he has a mixed reception in the States, but Michael Moore's documentaries have been recognised as highlighting various shortcomings in American society, such as the gun culture and the health system. Secondly, a famous documentary in recent years was Supersize Me, where a man decided to eat nothing but McDonalds for a month and recorded the results. These are good examples of successful documentaries, but more importantly, what are issues that you are passionate about and have strong beliefs about?

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I know that you said you and your group members want to stay away from school issues, but who better than to speak to them than high school students themselves. I would suggest that you look at the issues your own school is facing. Bullying has taken a front seat in the media, as well as childhood obesity. While issues may seem cliche, they are the ones you know the most about.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The best topic for a documentary is a topic you are interested in.  If you are interested in the topic, you will get much more out of it.  Documentaries are a great way to get a lot of information in an easy to understand and interesting form.

fzk10624 | Student

litteacher8: Yes, this is why we want to get more ideas. Everyone in my group is interested in different things.

fzk10624 | Student

vangoghfan: I will definitely talk to my group about the topic! I love animals, and I'm glald to hear about your dog (: Thanks!

accessteacher: It's just hard to decide on what we want to be because there are six people in the group, and we have different views about things. We want something we can take part and participate in. I've watched Super Size Me and I feel so bad for that guy ): Thanks for your ideas!

mizzwillie: Thanks for all those good ideas! I will ask my group how they feel about these topics. I'm sorry to hear about your students ):

mwestwood: We thought about doing the documentary over illegal immigration, but we didn't know how we'd get the right resources and people to talk to. Thank you!

literaturenerd: Someone in my group did suggest cyber-bullying and just bullying in general, but this girl seems really against the topic. Thanks for the thought!

lmetcalf: That sounds interesting! I never liked how atheletes are treated differently from all the other kids. They think they get special privileges just because they're on certain sports team. Thanks!

fzk10624 | Student

@stolperia: We think of it as more of a social thing, and by political we meant government related things. I'm sorry if that was confusing.

That's the thing, we don't have a place to start. We're juniors, and people in our group doesn't want to do school related things either because it seems too cliche.