Watch: TIME’s Best Short Documentaries of 2021

To escape the home, many people turned to film this year. With that in mind, at TIME we commissioned documentaries that took viewers on journeys—whether inside the mind of a beloved pet, along for a day at an unusual job or behind the scenes as forensic analysis is used to reunite long-lost family members. Also, we tried to highlight under-reported topics such as police misconduct and the work of mothers within the U.S. Capitol walls.

Now as the year comes to an end, we look back at some of TIME’s most powerful works of film.
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Alex Wolf Lewis, filmmaker Kaitlyn Schwalje, and Kaitlyn Schwalje made a short movie about Snowy after they spent Thanksgiving with him. Their short documentary is both an investigation into animal happiness and an intervention to improve one turtle’s life.

Milk Factory

Corinne Botz’s short film takes you inside the U.S. Capitol lactation room to see the labor that working mothers do. The title Milk FactoryUnderlines the fact that lactation can be considered a labor-intensive activity, even though federal law defines it as an interruption to work. Mathilde Cohen wrote for TIME.

Mookie is my name

Director Francesca Trianni joined with TIME’s Karl Vick and Josiah Bates to examine the story of Terrance Franklin, who was killed by Minneapolis police in 2013. Soon after Franklin’s death, the Minneapolis Police Department investigated its own officers and cleared them of any wrongdoing. But a piece of audio suggested a different story, and TIME’s reporting helped spur new movement in the case.

DNA has Identified Two Brothers 80 Years After Pearl Harbor

The DPAA, an inconspicuous unit within the Pentagon, searches the world for remains of missing service personnel who have disappeared on the ground, at sea or in flight during combat. TIME’s short documentary follows the DPAA as it uses DNA and forensic analyses to find the Trapp brothers who were presumed to have been killed at Pearl Harbor and bring them home.

The pool cleaner

Joshua Charow, a filmmaker, focused his attention on James Maroon (the critical caretaker at the 9/11 Memorial) for the 20th anniversary. He cleans all the huge reflecting pools every night.


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