When Worlds Collide: Ten Documentaries on Cross-Cultural Encounters

May 15, 2023

"Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world." - Gustave Flaubert


In our increasingly interconnected world, the opportunity to learn and grow from cultural exchanges is ever-present. Documentaries and docuseries that capture the essence of these encounters provide viewers with a unique perspective into the lives of people who embark on journeys to discover new worlds, forge connections, and gain an understanding of different cultures. These films often showcase the challenges and beauty of human interaction as well as the transformative power of travel.


a set of three pyramids that are in the middle of a desert


The art of storytelling through documentaries has evolved over time, and filmmakers have used this medium to portray their personal experiences while traversing the globe. By shedding light on the many facets of cross-cultural encounters, these documentaries serve as both entertainment and education, giving viewers a glimpse into the lives of people from diverse backgrounds. From finding common ground to overcoming language barriers, these films often reveal the triumphs and struggles of bridging cultural divides.


Exploring Our Global Village Through the Lens of Intrepid Travelers


The exploration of cross-cultural encounters through films provides viewers with an intimate look at the human experience. As individuals from different backgrounds come together, they forge connections that transcend borders and challenge preconceived notions. These films serve as a testament to the power of empathy and understanding, reminding us that, despite our differences, we are all part of a global community.


Unforgettable Journeys: Ten Compelling Documentaries and Docuseries on Cross-Cultural Expeditions:



Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown

the man is in sunglasses with his arm extended in a boat

The late Anthony Bourdain takes viewers on an unforgettable journey in this renowned travel docuseries. Exploring various countries, Bourdain delves into the rich tapestry of their cultures, cuisines, and political landscapes, providing a unique and in-depth perspective on each destination.


Looking For Reiko

a young woman dancing

A curious traveler journeys to Tokyo with the hopes of interviewing Ike Reiko, a renowned singer and actress from the 1970s. As he meanders through the vibrant city, he captures the serendipitous moments and intriguing encounters that unfold before him.


Dark Tourist

a man holds an open hand in a village

In this intriguing series, journalist David Farrier ventures to offbeat and often macabre tourist spots around the world. Farrier delves into the darker side of travel, examining the fascination and allure of these unusual and sometimes unsettling destinations.


An Idiot Abroad

three men sit with their arms crossed and one wearing white paint on their faces

British comedian Ricky Gervais sends his friend Karl Pilkington on an amusing adventure to visit the Seven Wonders of the World. With a humorous take on cultural differences and a no-holds-barred approach, this show offers a refreshingly entertaining look at global travel.


Journeys with Purpose

some rhinos and two men are walking away from each other

Environmentalist and filmmaker James Levelle embarks on ambitious expeditions to remote locations across the globe. Focusing on the delicate relationship between human beings and the natural world, Levelle examines how we interact with and impact our planet.


Mothership Goes To Brazil

a woman is sitting on a chair with her legs crossed and the bags are ready

In this captivating documentary, director Josefin Arnell invites her mother, affectionately known as "Mothership," to leave her Swedish forest home and join her in a small Brazilian town, seeking the renowned healer "John of God." However, they unexpectedly discover that he has been hospitalized. As mother and daughter navigate their unpredictable coexistence, they grapple with alcoholism and the pursuit of healing in a peculiar tropical village, reminiscent of a Western film.


Studio Harmattan

several people are waiting in a room

In this mesmerizing experimental documentary, three enigmatic travelers traverse West Africa's Benin, utilizing an eclectic collection of grotesque masks, ranging from Batman to Commedia dell'arte, as a means of smuggling themselves across cultural boundaries. Studio Harmattan narrates a tale of adversity and wonder, capturing the attempted encounters between the three travelers and the Beninese photographers they visit in their studios along the way. A captivating fusion of culture, art, and travel unfolds before the viewer.


Framing The Other

a young man with many jewelry around his neck

This documentary captures the clash between a tourist's desire to photograph exotic Mursi women in Ethiopia and the impact of tourism on their lives. As posing for photos becomes their main source of income, the Mursi tribe gradually loses its authentic culture. The film highlights the contrasting views of Mursi women and Dutch tourists, revealing the destructive consequences of tourism on traditional communities.



a couple of people in a car driving down the road

Director Otavio Cury embarks on a journey to Syria, where he discovers a book written by his great-grandfather, an Arab theatre pioneer. Translating the book into Portuguese marks the beginning of a quest where past and present, East and West, and the filmmaker and the Other blend into a captivating fusion.


The Kindness Diaries

a man with a helmet sitting on an old yellow motorcycle

Former broker Leon Logothetis travels the world with a unique mission: relying solely on the kindness of strangers. This heartwarming series showcases the power of human connection and the incredible generosity that can be found in people from all walks of life.


a painting shows three people with various hair styles


In an increasingly globalized society, it is more important than ever to engage with the world around us. Documentaries and docuseries that delve into cross-cultural encounters offer a unique opportunity to learn about different perspectives and foster understanding. By immersing ourselves in these captivating stories, we can work together to build a more compassionate and interconnected world.


* Gustave Flaubert was a prominent French novelist, born in 1821, best known for his masterpiece "Madame Bovary" (1857).


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