Amazon Prime Video has a vast collection of films in its virtual repository. While many of them are visibly put either on its home page or search engine, there are some that face the bane of the streaming platform’s algorithm. And those even include a few hidden gems — the films that deserve preservation and acclaim like its contemporaries. But at the system’s unfortunate mercy, those films may just go unnoticed. They range from Indian political thrillers to award-winning Bolivian documentaries. Here are some such movie recommendations that everyone must watch, all of which are streaming on Prime Video.
Cocaine Prison (2017)
The documentary, shot inside a prison secretly by director Violeta Ayala and co-writer, cinematographer Daniel Fallashaw, is an expositional piece of work around drug trade in Bolivia. It asks — why must small, low-time drug mules only be incarcerated and not the big guns? With around four years of footage clamped together, quite a lot of this documentary plays out like fiction. It is an unapologetic look at a broken judicial system and how that further perpetuates inequality and crime.
Chorus came out at a time when its director Mrinal Sen took to films as a medium for political and economic dissent — with other names like Calcutta 71 and Padatik. This left-wing, polemic film is about an organisation that just created a hundred new job openings. Seeing this lush abundance, over 30,000 people ended up applying for the jobs and then, began fighting over it. This National Award-winning social satire transcends you back to the 1970s through its black-and-white frames but a large part of its commentary continues to remain relevant. This film’s socio-Marxist syntax is, both, provocative and confrontational.
While not a hidden gem universally, on this streaming platform, it is. The assassination of John F. Kennedy had pierced the American fabric, and when all the facts and details around it had been put together, it only amounted to an unsolved jigsaw puzzle. JFK, that hinges around uncovering his assassination, has often been dismissed as a conspiratorial, fact-deaf blockbuster. But Roger Ebert, in The Great Movies, fittingly addresses that, “This is not a film about the facts of the assassination, but about the feelings.” Oliver Stone’s speedy three-and-a-half-hour movie faces the demons that came with the horrific murder with finesse.
Sound of Silence (2017)
One of the more solemn and introspective titles in this list, this film gives us a quiet and unimposing look at Buddhist philosophy. Set in the verdant valleys of the Himalayas, Sound of Silence chronicles the story of a boy who is guilted into believing that he is the cause of his mother’s death. And after the arrest of his drunkard and abusive father, the boy learns to overcome his painful loneliness with the help of a monk. This Hindi-Tibetan film was screened in over 30 festivals and received multiple awards for its direction and cinematography.
Jalpari: The Desert Mermaid (2012)
Children’s cinema has often been regarded as content specifically designed for younger viewers. But this film, that focuses on the adventures and fantasies of two adolescent siblings, doesn’t conform to that classification. It grapples with the practice of female foeticide using the lens’ of angelic innocence. When the siblings travel to their ancestral village in Haryana, they hope to find a metaphorical adventureland. However, the only get a poverty-stricken township devoid of any magic. The film’s folkloric tone often takes a backseat when the layered social messages in it are made more prominent. Despite its departure from realism, Jalpari remains grounded and in some ways, even lifelike.
Brazil, for a large chunk, reminded me of George Orwell’s and Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s works. It gives us a look at a society that has descended into dystopia, where a bureaucratic cog in the government upsets the authoritative establishment. This sci-fi cult film is peppered with a psychedelic, neon-lit dazzle that offsets but also complements the nightmarish landscape we are shown. The cautionary feel to Brazil will also make you question society’s current moral calculus.
City of God (2002)
City of God, that made the favelas of Rio de Janeiro world-known, is one of the finest films made portraying organised crime. Moving through over a decade, the film chronicles a child as he gradually goes on to become a crime lord, and another who becomes a photographer. It captures the sultriness and warmth of the slums, accentuating the sprawling drugs, poverty, and crime we see there.
The directorial debut of Nandita Das, Firaaq (which means separation and quest) is set one month after the 2002 Gujarat Riots. Political thrillers in India, that explicitly serve as an indictment of certain decisions and beliefs, are hard to come by. This is one of those rare moments. Das, in an unabashed tone, explores the lives of the survivors and victims, those that witnessed an entire city burn and crumble. This pithy and haunting film goes deep into the psychological and mental anguish the communal riots caused, and through that, makes a plea for peace and harmony.