Faith and Belief: Documentaries Exploring Religion Around the World

20 de desembre de 2023

In a world rich with diverse beliefs and practices, religion plays a pivotal role in shaping cultures, societies, and individual identities. Our selection of profound documentaries offers a window into the varied religious experiences and practices across the globe. These films, through their explorative narratives and insightful perspectives, provide a deeper understanding of the world's major religions, their histories, their impact on societies, and the personal stories of faith that bind communities together.


From the ancient rituals of Eastern traditions to the Abrahamic faiths that dominate much of the Western world, these documentaries explore the complexities and beauties of various religions. They navigate the nuances of belief and how different faiths confront modern challenges, offering viewers a chance to experience the world through the lens of those who practice these religions.


These films do more than just document religious practices; they invite viewers to reflect on the larger questions of life, existence, and the human condition. They challenge audiences to consider how faith shapes moral values, cultural norms, and individual worldviews. Through these documentaries, viewers can gain insights into the unifying aspects of different religions and the unique ways they address the universal search for meaning.


10 Must-Watch Documentaries on World Religions:



Into Great Silence

religious greet each other with white tunics

This film offers an intimate portrayal of life inside the Grande Chartreuse, the head monastery of the reclusive Carthusian Order in France. Director Philip Gröning spent six months living with the monks, capturing their daily routines and their commitment to silence.


Good People Go To Hell, Saved People Go To Heaven

bearded man carrying a huge cross on his shoulder

This amazing documentary offers a profound look into evangelical beliefs surrounding the End Times, particularly in the Gulf Coast region battered by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. It begins with the captivating depiction of Lance, an itinerant preacher carrying a cross and echoing the image of Jesus, as he wanders the Mississippi's back highways. The film explores the evangelical perspective that views these hurricanes as divine signals of the impending Rapture and a call for moral redemption. It provides a candid and insightful examination of the intersection between conservative evangelical Christianity, natural disasters, and American identity in the 21st century, revealing the complexities and controversies of these deeply ingrained beliefs.



domes of the city of jerusalem at sunset

Narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch, this documentary provides an immersive experience of Jerusalem, a city sacred to three major world religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It explores the city's historical significance and the diverse religious communities that coexist within its ancient walls.



an animal head painted black made of wood

In this evocative documentary, viewers are transported to the Himalayan valley of Kullu in North India, where they meet Ram Nath, a highland peasant with an extraordinary alternate life. Every few years, he leaves behind his routine existence of tending fields and buffaloes to assume a pivotal role in a mysterious and ancient purification ritual. During this sacred ceremony, Ram Nath undergoes a profound transformation, becoming the master of ceremonies and a symbolic redeemer. He performs the act of cutting chidra, metaphorical holes in the societal fabric, through which he gathers and traps the collective sins of the community, utilizing his unique cosmic abilities. "Chidra" intimately follows Ram Nath’s journey through this ritual, unraveling the intricate interplay of men, gods, and spiritual mediums in the manipulation of karma. The film offers a rare glimpse into the complex spiritual practices at the edge of the Hindu cultural sphere, showcasing a world where the tangible and intangible, the human and the divine, converge in a compelling narrative.


Among the Believers

a boy and a man with a long beard

This gripping documentary examines the rise of radical Islamic schools known as madrassas in Pakistan. It provides a chilling insight into the ideological battles shaping Pakistan and the impact of religious extremism on its youth.


Sacred Ground

religious men in golden robes and a cross, cross a park

In this poignant documentary, we witness the transformation of a once-peaceful park in Moscow into a battleground for ideological conflict. A place that used to be filled with dog walkers, playing children, and joggers is now the site of a tense stand-off between two divided groups every Sunday. One side gathers to pray by a wooden cross, seeking to establish a sacred space, while the other fiercely defend this public land, fighting to preserve it as a communal park.


Unmistaken Child

a boy with a buddhist cap

Following the death of a revered Tibetan Buddhist master, his disciple embarks on a journey to find his master's reincarnation. This film offers a rare glimpse into the mystical belief in reincarnation and the profound devotion of Tibetan Buddhists.


Faith and Fury

a man brings an offering to a virgin who rests on the rocks of the sea

In his insightful documentary, director Marcos Pimentel offers a piercing exploration into a seldom-discussed aspect of Brazilian society — the entanglement of evangelical faith with drug trafficking in the urban margins and favelas. With unprecedented access to these complex environments, Pimentel meticulously uncovers how drug gangs wield religious influence to assert control, often breeding violence and intolerance against other belief systems. Premiering at the esteemed International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), the film presents a compelling blend of sociological analysis and intimate human stories. Through Pimentel’s distinctive poetic approach, the documentary navigates the delicate intersections of faith, crime, and community, revealing a nuanced portrait of a hidden reality within Brazil’s urban landscape.


The Name of God

smiling black haired man in a white suit

This pointbreak documentary explores the complexities and conflicts within and between the world's major religions. It tackles tough questions about faith, fundamentalism, and the role of religion in a globalized world, featuring perspectives from religious leaders and believers.


A Little Wisdom

small buddhas inside a colorful monastery

In this captivating documentary, viewers are transported to the serene and spiritual setting of a temple in Lumbini, Nepal, the revered birthplace of Buddha. Here, within the hallowed monastery walls, we meet Hopakuli, an orphaned child among others, being groomed for a future as a Buddhist monk. Unlike his peers, Hopakuli stands out with his free-spirited nature and boundless imagination, traits that make him less inclined towards the strict discipline of monastic life. Instead, he finds joy and wonder in the small moments of his day-to-day life, using his creativity to infuse happiness into the monastery's regimented routine. The documentary offers a unique glimpse into life through Hopakuli's eyes, reminding viewers of the liberating and transformative power of childhood and the beauty of seeing the world with unbridled wonder and innocence.


These documentaries represent a journey into the heart of what it means to believe. They illuminate not only the distinct practices and doctrines of various faiths but also the shared human quest for understanding and connection. Through these documentaries, we gain a deeper appreciation of the rich tapestry of religious belief and practice around the world, reminding us of the words of Mahatma Gandhi: "The essence of all religions is one. Only their approaches are different."


Watch more great documentaries on Guidedoc

Join GuideDoc