High Five Southeast Asian Documentaries on Netflix

by Matthew Escosia
SEA Wave - Southeast Asian Documentaries Netflix
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By: Monique Espino


The pandemic has got us binge-watching almost everything on Netflix. If you’ve exhausted all options on series and movies on the platform, then why not take a break from fictional works and learn something new about real-life people and cultures? Here are SEA Wave’s High Five Southeast Asian documentaries you can watch on Netflix.

“Hope Frozen: A Quest to Live Twice” (Thailand)

First on the lineup is a film that’s bound to tug on the heartstrings and leave you thinking. Hope Frozen: A Quest to Live Twice is a heartfelt documentary about a Thai family who cryonically froze their two-year old daughter after she passed away, hoping for the possibility of their precious girl getting a second chance at life in the future. The film asks whether it’s better to keep holding on to hope or if it’s better to let go. While tackling this difficult subject, it shows us how the grief of one family has raised questions about science, faith and ethics in Thailand, and how hope can persist despite the odds.

“Islands of Faith” (Indonesia)

If you’re an advocate for climate action and are curious about new perspectives on the subject, then you’ll find this film very interesting. Islands of Faith addresses the environment’s current condition in a new light, through the eyes of seven people from different provinces and cultures in Indonesia. The documentary explores the intersection of religion and environmental conservation, and how being a conservationist can bring you closer to your faith.

“Sunday Beauty Queen” (Philippines)

Migrant workers have often been painted as the subject of praise and adoration for being the breadwinners of their families, yet we rarely see what it’s really like for them to live outside the comforts of their homeland. Sunday Beauty Queen follows the lives of five Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong over a four-year period, showing us their daily struggles and how they come together to find fulfillment in organizing and joining beauty pageants. This unique subculture came from the solidarity and common interests of Filipino domestic workers, showing us through their hard work and passion that beauty is not merely skin-deep.

“The Skin We Wear” (Singapore and Vietnam)

Have you heard of the rare skin condition called Harlequin Ichthyosis? It’s a rare genetic disorder that causes thick and scaly skin prone to cracking and constant infections. The Skin We Wear follows four people – two toddlers, a teenager and an adult – coping with Harlequin Ichthyosis in Singapore, Hong Kong and Vietnam. The documentary shows us a glimpse into the daily lives and struggles of these four individuals and how they continue to find strength and hope to fight on.

Street Food: Asia (Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines, Vietnam)

People say that “the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach”; Street Food: Asia shows us that the best way to experience a culture is through its food. And where else can you experience local cuisine if not on the streets? Street food preserves culinary tradition and captures what a location and its people are all about. These are the kinds of food that people have been looking for and ordering on the streets for decades, if not centuries. Get to know more about the different cultures of Southeast Asia through this mouth-watering documentary.

Time to grab a snack and get back to Netflix and chilling. If you know other interesting Southeast Asian documentaries that didn’t make the list, share them with us in the comments below. Happy binge watching!

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