YouTube users will best remember 2012 as the Year Of The Dancing Korean Man, but while Psy bucked his way to a billion views, many channels were able to use the power of online video for less frivolous pursuits. Video aggregation channel The I Files has compiled a list of the ten best YouTube documentaries released within the past year.
Half of the videos come from the I Files channel itself, which is affiliated with the Center for Investigative Reporting. Some of the Center’s entries feel like tradition film documentaries, such as a 4 minute short called Where Soldiers Come From that follows a group of Michigander soldiers in Afghanistan using nothing more than a POV stream. Others, such as the environmentally slanted The Hidden Cost Of Beef, take full advantage of the medium; that particular documentary mixes a short-form style (it is eight minutes long) with the sort of kinetic visuals frequently applied to text-based videos. Both of those picks have accrued more than 160,000 views, and they are the two most popular videos on the I Files channel.
The top 10 list also includes offerings from several top YouTube channels, speaking to The I Files’ nature as both a home for original content and an aggregator of fantastic investigative journalism. Entries from VICE, The Guardian, The New York Times, NPR, and The Pulitzer Center rounded out the top ten, with the Pulitzer documentary on child brides serving as the most viewed video on the list. In my mind, The I Files erred by including VICE’s documentary on Hezbollah’s use of propaganda ahead of photojournalist Robert King’s recent work from Syria, but that’s why they’re the investigative journalism experts and I’m just a guy on the Internet.
If you’ve got some time to kill before the ball drops, the excellent inclusions on this list are worth a look. Be warned, however, that you may never want to eat beef again.