Team Top 5: Documentary Films

Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2012)

Director: David Gelb


Gaurav Mallik
Chief Portfolio Strategist

Jiro is a documentary about the man considered to be the world’s top sushi chef, 85-year-old Jiro Ono. The movie is a beautiful encapsulation of the search for perfection, and includes some memorable and inspirational quotes – ‘I’ll keep climbing, trying to reach the top, but nobody knows where the top is!’ and ‘Even at my age, I haven’t reached perfection.’”

Icarus (2017)

Director: Bryan Fogel


Robert W. Luiso, CFA

Portfolio Manager

Icarus is a documentary film that begins with an amateur cyclist wanting to test the boundaries of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). In doing so, however, he stumbled upon a major international PED scandal involving the head of the Russian anti-doping laboratory. It’s not just an intriguing story that reveals the lengths individuals are willing to go for self-gain, but it’s also a timely one in light of the many recent corruption allegations against the Russian government.”

Blackfish (2013)

Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite


Andrew Wright, CFA
Head of Portfolio Management, UK

Blackfish documents the plight of Tilikum, an orca captured in 1983 off the coast of Iceland, held in captivity by SeaWorld and responsible for the deaths of three animal trainers. The documentary led to a public backlash against keeping orcas in enclosures and prompted US federal agency investigations. It had a major impact on SeaWorld’s bottom line and share price. Due to the impact of this very low-budget documentary, SeaWorld ultimately ended shows and breeding programs for orcas in 2016.”

Interestingly, multiple members of the AQE team chose the same documentary as their favorite – these especially popular choices are highlighted below:

Cartel Land (2015)

Director: Matthew Heineman


Alejandro E. Gaba

Head of Quantitative Research

Cartel Land is an incredible account of vigilante groups on both sides of the US/Mexico border, waging war against drug cartels. The film is eye-opening in terms of the difficult reality faced by the border-dwelling population and provides a deeper understanding of one of the key underlying drivers of the immigration debate in the US.”


Thomas Bilbé

Senior Portfolio Manager

“This was one of the most mind blowing documentaries I have ever watched. The film follows a Mexican physician as he sets up a vigilante gang to fight the drug cartels. As the group grows and becomes more successful in its fight, you can see the protagonists’ motives change. By the end, you’re left questioning whether this group is any different than the cartels it was set up to fight! The film demonstrates just how corrupting power is.”

Somm (2013)

Director: Jason Wise


Simon Roe, CFA, IIMR

Co-Head of Portfolio Management

Somm documents four trainee sommeliers trying to pass the Master Sommelier exam. What is most memorable about the film is how hard it is for these experts to identify wines – including the vintage – in blind taste tests. I was fascinated by how skilled these professionals have to be in guiding their clients to the perfect wine.”


Gaurav Mallik

Chief Portfolio Strategist

“I thought my job was tough until I saw Somm! Since the first Master Sommelier test was held almost 50 years ago, only about 230 people have managed to pass it. Makes me wonder and think more carefully about every stock and every factor we pick….”

**BONUS**  Kid-friendly part documentary, part reality TV

Churchill’s Secret Agents: The New Recruits (2018)


Gary Lowe, CFA

Senior Portfolio Manager

Churchill’s Secret Agents takes real people and puts them through the same training that Special Operations Executive agents had to complete at the beginning of World War II. The best part of the show was when my 13-year-old daughter was cheering for Lizzy – a 5-foot-tall, shy woman who ended up outpacing everyone else at nearly every task!”

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