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Migrants, Japan & extreme traditions: RTD’s most popular films of 2018

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With New Year just around the corner it’s time to look back at the documentary films that have premiered during this passing year. Triumphs of the human spirit, personal struggles, unusual hobbies, shocking traditions, the chronicles of unfolding tragedy – dozens of powerful stories from all over the world that inspire, stun and make us think. These are the top ten films that garnered the most views on our YouTube channel.

10. Green Citadels

Imagine living in a house built entirely of recycled materials that can recycle water and sewage while producing its own electricity and food. Aleksey Brazhnikov visited the Greater World Community in New Mexico in the US to meet the off-grid dwellers of houses designed by Michael Reynolds, a prophet of the “radical sustainability” movement.

9. Hunting Boko Haram

Nikita Sutyrin’s film takes you to Nigeria where traditional hunters no longer track game for food but now take on Boko Haram terrorist insurgents. Fed up with the atrocities carried out by militants, these Nigerian hunters and their female commander use local knowledge and keen hunting skills to help government forces combat Islamic extremists.

8. I Want My Sex Back

Three American men underwent sex reassignment surgery only to regret it later. Billy Burleigh, Rene Jax and Walt Heyer describe how they took the plunge to become women and how they soon realized that changing gender wasn't the solution they'd hoped for.

7. Substitutes 

Another film from Japan, this time examining a world of silicone love as we meet Japanese people who have given up on real relationship in favour of romance with silicone sex dolls. 'Substitutes' brings together the stories of different owners, smitten with their silicone surrogates, manufacturers and vendors in search of an underlying cause behind this perplexing phenomenon.

6. Football Beasts

Why do some football fans engage in violent brawls with rival fans? Why is love for a fight more important to them than love for the game? RTD’s Artyom Vorobey delved into the dark world of European football hooliganism in a bid to understand what makes the men behave the way they do.

5. Sex, Drugs & Refugees 

This hit documentary explores the bitter reality facing teenage refugees from the Middle East when they arrive in Greece. To make ends meet, some 16-year-olds resort to prostitution, drug pedalling and petty theft. RTD meets boys who sell their bodies for as little as 10 euros so that they can eat.

4. Enslaved by the Cult

Oleg Nekishev’s documentary exposes Indonesia’s ancient tradition in which adults, known as Waroks, rent young boys to serve their every need. The men, who are believed to possess spiritual powers, are forbidden to have relationships with women and turn instead to teenage boys. The young servants, known as Gemblaks, are expected to do everything their Warok asks.

3. Hikikomori: Loveless 

In Japan, the word Hikikomori is used to describe socially reclusive young people, mostly males, who choose to confine themselves to solitude in their bedrooms. They hide away from society and spend months, even years, in splendid isolation. RTD visited Japan to find out why so many of the country's young keep away from the outside world.

2. Beauty and the Bleach 

This film delves into the growing demand for skin-whitening in Senegal, where women are going to extreme lengths to achieve a lighter skin tone. Whitening soaps, creams, pills and other chemical products are in high demand among Senegalese women desperate to achieve the desired ‘café au lait’ shade. However, they risk serious health complications as many skin-bleaching products are unregulated and contain dangerous chemical ingredients. RTD asks local women why skin-lightening remains popular in spite of the danger.

1. Testing Tolerance

In 2015, an influx of migrants flooding into Europe heralded the worst refugee crisis since WWII. Since then, immigration has dominated European politics and put public tolerance to the test. Sweden offered safe haven to more asylum seekers than its neighbours at the height of the crisis and saw rising violent crime and the emergence of 'no-go' zones followed by a resurgence of nationalist sentiment. Anti-migrant groups like the ‘Soldiers of Odin’ have appeared across the country with members patrolling the streets in defence against “immigrant violence”. RTD’s Marina Kosareva travelled to Sweden to ask Soldiers of Odin members how they saw on their mission.