An alternative Christmas – what to watch, listen and read this festive season

Photo credit: Indie Wire
Photo credit: Indie Wire

We’re not saying you have to give up ‘The Grinch’ or hang ‘Home Alone’ out to dry but now that you’ve got time to put your feet up, here’s a list of humanitarian documentaries, podcasts and books that are worth getting stuck into this festive season.

At Concern, we are huge advocators of an ‘alternative approach Christmas’ – one which includes helping others in addition to buying gifts and eating turkey. While Christmas films are great, we’ve created a list of documentaries for those that are looking for something a bit different. We have shortlisted documentaries that are linked to our main areas of work– be it emergencies, fragile countries, climate change, or refugee crises– and that are easily accessible via the main streaming platforms, like Netflix, BBC player, Amazon Prime or YouTube.

On poverty

The end of poverty?

An exploration of why poverty exists when there is so much wealth in the world. A must-see for anyone wanting to understand the foundations of today’s global economy and the impact it has on those living in poverty.

Living on One Dollar

Photo credit: doc a day
Photo credit: doc a day

Labelled as a “must-watch” by Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus. This award-winning film follows the story of four friends as they set out to live on $1 a day for two months in rural Guatemala. It is extremely entertaining and acts as a great jumping-off point to learn more about issues associated with extreme poverty.

On refugees

Exodus – Our Journey to Europe

This award-winning documentary series tells the stories of the migrants and refugees who came to Europe in 2015.  What happened to these people? How is Europe responding to the biggest refugee crisis to face its borders since World War II? All is revealed in this harrowing series.

Britain’s Refugee Children

This documentary follows six refugee children as they adapt to a new life in Britain. From facing daily challenges at home and at school, to learning a new language, ‘Britain’s Refugee Children’ gives viewers an insight into their lives, worries and fears.

Human Flow

More than 65 million people around the world have been forced from their homes to escape famine, climate change and war, the greatest displacement since World War II. In a style combination of documentary and visual essay, Ai Weiwei examines the staggering scale of the refugee crisis and its profoundly personal human impact. 

Climate refugees

This multi-award winning Sundance film took three years to make and covers forty-eight countries. Illuminating the human face of climate change, it is the first feature film to explore in-depth the global human impact of climate change and its serious destabilising effect on international politics.

You can learn more about how we’re helping Syrian refugees here

On fragile states and conflict

Goodbye Aleppo

an unfiltered view from the streets of a dying city. A team of four journalists document their final days in Aleppo as the battle rages around them.

The White Helmets

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

The film follows the daily operations of a group of volunteer rescue workers from the Syrian Civil Defence, also known as the White Helmets.

On gender

Girl Rising

A story of how nine girls in Asia, South America and Africa overcame social and cultural barriers through education. Narrated by celebrities such as Meryl Streep and Kerry Washington.

Generation Rescue

This film follows four women in Burundi who are on a journey to bring themselves out of poverty. 

On education

On the Way to School

Ultimately an inspirational tale of determination, this beautifully shot documentary follows four students in India, Morocco, Patagonia and Kenya as they make their way to school.


Concern Worldwide

At Concern we work with some of the world’s poorest people to tackle hunger and transform lives. Our podcast shares first-hand accounts from our team on the ground in countries like Bangladesh and Sierra Leone documenting the type of work we are doing to help vulnerable people.

Listen to our podcast on SoundCloud

The Guilty Feminist

If you want to learn more about refugees with a feminist twist then the Guilty Feminist Podcast has a Calais refugee special that’s full of useful information which will open your eyes to the life of refugees living in Calais.  



In this candid book former First Lady, Michelle Obama, discusses her roots, how she found her voice, and her time in the White House.

The Displaced

Pulitzer Prize–winning writer Viet Thanh Nguyen (who is also a refugee) brings together a host of key refugee writers to explore and shed light on the refugee experience.

The Boat People

This extraordinary novel by Sharon Bala is about a group of refugees who survive a treacherous voyage only to face the threat of deportation amid accusations of terrorism.

I Am Malala

Malala Yousafzai is a young female activist who stood up for education and was shot as a result of her work. Her story will make you believe in the power of one person’s voice to inspire and change the world.

Find out how we’re empowering young girls to reach their full potential here

If you’re interested in helping Syrian refugees living in Lebanon then you can donate to our appeal

If your favourites did not make it onto the list, please tweet us at @concernuk with the title and your reason why we should include it.

Help those in need across the world

  • Our mission is to permanently transform the lives of people living in extreme poverty.

  • When an emergency strikes we are among the first on the ground.

  • We go to the ends of earth to deliver aid where it's needed most.

Donate now

Get something really important in your inbox

Sign up for our monthly news briefings

We’ll never give your details away and you can unsubscribe any time
Share your concern