Guardian Docs: Personal Stories
By Argo
Individual tales of happiness, sadness, trauma, and personal journeys. From all across the world, come the voices of those telling their own stories, presenting their hopes and dreams, and telling us about lives that have not always gone as planned. Told close-up and personally, Personal Stories is like hearing a series of documentary diaries.


Childhood on Fire
When Nick Hurndon was six years old he and his two older brothers were set on fire by their stepfather in their San Francisco home. Now in his early forties, Nick is a retired Marine and is raising two sons that are about the same age he was when he was set ablaze. This is a film about childhood trauma and the effects that abuse had on his sense of self worth, and the ways in which one man is interrupting a cycle of violence so that his two sons can thrive.


Black Sheep
Black Sheep tells the story of Cornelius Walker, whose life changed on 27 November 2000 – the day Damilola Taylor was killed. Damilola was 10, the same age as Cornelius. He lived five minutes away. He had the same skin colour. Cornelius’s mother, scared for her son’s safety, moved their family out of London. Cornelius suddenly found himself living on a white estate run by racists. But rather than fight them, Cornelius decided to become more like the people who hated him.


How to Make a Pearl
For 53 years, John Kapellas enjoyed the bright sky of the western US, but one day he started to burn, blister and break out in rashes whenever he was exposed to light. Now allergic to the entire spectrum of light, Kapellas has spent the last decade living in complete darkness. When one of the side effects of the drugs John was prescribed made him ‘go nuts’, he started drawing large abstract pictures on his walls and playing the piano to calm his mind and soothe the pain. How to Make a Pearl explores Kapellas’ coping mechanisms and how he is turning the ‘grit’ of past trauma into a ‘pearl’ of reflective creativity.


Silent Sam
Sam is a 27-year-old music-teaching, sovereign ring-wearing, chanting Buddhist. He is the lead singer of an up-and-coming punk band – but he’s also mute … at least for most of the time. After two unsuccessful vocal chord operations, Sam spends most of his time in pain and on voice rest. Yet, by communicating silently through writing notes, mouthing words and blowing kisses (one for yes and two for no), he still somehow manages to be the chattiest person in the room. As he sacrifices speaking on a daily basis in order to battle through the excruciating pain of singing, Sam finds himself and his voice at a crossroads – give up on his dreams of music or continue singing and risk remaining silent forever?



The life, death and impact of Pakistan’s working-class icon Qandeel Baloch, killed in 2016 after becoming a social media celebrity. This film tells Qandeel’s story through her own videos and media appearances. A young, fearless woman who collided with Pakistan’s mainstream media, Qandeel exposed the religious right and challenged middle-class morality.


Stream Personal Stories on Argo now