The Best Shows And Documentaries Of 2021 You Haven’t Heard Of

In the age of peak TV, it’s impossible to keep track of every streaming release and even harder to prioritize the ones you should watch. If you’re looking out for shows or documentaries that slipped under your radar this year, or just looking for that final push to move them to your watchlist, here’s what we recommend:

Reservation Dogs 

Streaming on: Disney+ Hotstar 

Like many films and TV series, the show is a celebration of life in small town America except we are in an Indian reserve, inhabited largely by Native American people. At its centre are four rebel teenagers looking to escape this hellhole of a place – in their books – for greener pastures in LA and Reservation Dogs takes us around town with these characters. Co-created by Taika Waititi and Sterling Harjo, who has also directed it, the best thing about this FX on Hulu series is how it remains a light comedy while also being rough, goofy, fun, and poignant.

Sweet Tooth 

Streaming on: Netflix

Sweet Tooth, on Netflix, is surprisingly mature for its plot — about a child afflicted by a virus that converts human babies into animal-human hybrids. The series presents a delightful adventure across a post-apocalyptic, ravaged-in-a-childish-way world. You do wonder if it is trying to soften the blow of the pandemic by making it more palatable for children who may watch it, but its optimism about post-pandemic normalcy will endear it to adults too. 

Found 

Streaming on: Netflix

Amanda Lipitz’s disarming under-the-radar Netflix documentary continues the modern legacy of examining the human aftermath of China’s controversial one-child policy. Most documentaries would be satisfied with turning the first ten minutes of this film into an entire story – where three US-based adopted Chinese teens discover they’re blood cousins – but Found reaches for so much more. The film follows the teens on their journey to trace their roots and biological parents in distant China, with a local researcher serving as both enabler and consequence of a culture learning to confront the pieces of its past. The result is a poignant and oddly tender portrait of the value of being seen before being found. 

14 Peaks 

Streaming on: Netflix

This should’ve been a whole series, but the sharp documentary simply thrives on the sheer daring of its miraculous subject, Nepali mountaineer Nimsdai Purja, who sets out to achieve not just an impossible climbing record but also reclaim the lost legacy of Nepal’s mountaineering dominance. Watching the journey of a man attempting to scale 14 of the world’s highest peaks in less than 7 months is, to put it simply, a goosebump-inducing experience: not for the filmmaking so much as the recording of a historical moment. 

The Velvet Underground

Streaming on: Apple TV+

In a style befitting the iconoclastic band, Todd Haynes makes use of underground film imagery to chronicle its journey, and influence, in this trippy, hypnotic documentary. In certain segments, the film starts resembling a Velvet Underground concert.

(Written by Ruhaan Shah, Rahul Desai and Sankhayan Ghosh)

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