It’s difficult to talk about the news with those who don’t understand or care. These movies might help them understand.
As we become more aware of the injustice that exists in our country and in the world, it’s very easy to become frustrated with the people around us, especially as it becomes evident that some people not only don’t understand what is happening to refugees, immigrants, women and racial minorities — they don’t care.
This lack of empathy is often just a result of ignorance: people who have never been exposed to the stories of those different from them will find it extremely hard to identify with those people. And stubbornness can stop them from seeking out new sources of information. Situations like this between friends or family can seem hopeless, as we’re stuck in a cycle of pointless conversations. But that’s where movies and TV shows come in.
Film and television are able to awaken people’s empathy in a way that few other things can. What initially seems like casual entertainment can quickly become an important conversation. So to help you have those conversations, here are five things to watch that will touch their hearts and bring a historical perspective to injustices happening today.
(Note: I’ve purposefully avoided World War II movies — not because they aren’t important, but because it seems that many people purposefully blind themselves to seeing parallels between current times and the Holocaust.)
Say it features Lockhart from Harry Potter, neglect to tell them that he’s the villain, and watch Rabbit-Proof Fence with your friends and family. It’s an Australian movie based on a true story from the 1930s about young Aboriginal girls escaping state institutions that sought to erase their indigenous culture and whitewash the country — the “Stolen Generations.”
It’s an important movie that everyone should see, whether or not they’re from Australia, because the same style of “assimilation” has been carried out in other countries, and in many ways persists today; not only with indigenous populations, but with other discriminated minorities as well. The film’s scenes of family separation, in particular, will have a powerful effect on viewers.
‘My Name is Khan’
Say it’s a feel-good movie about a family in San Francisco, or even that it’s a Bollywood film, and end up following the story of Rizwan Khan, an Indian man with autism who makes a life for himself to America, and marries the girl of his dreams.
Of course, there’s a lot more to this movie: Rizwan is Muslim, and he and his family experience post 9-11 prejudice in a very personal way, to the point that his life is changed forever. As he embarks on a journey to get his life back, the film does a wonderful job of exploring many different themes from the point of view of a Muslim man, but also in a way that is relatable to an outsider.
My Name is Khan not only portrays racism in America, but also ableism, religious prejudice, and bullying — and still manages to normalize Islam by harnessing the happy-go-lucky style of our favorite Hollywood and Bollywood films.
‘The Good Lie’
Say it’s a Reese Witherspoon movie and invite your friends to watch a movie that explores the moving story of Sudanese refugees — part of the generation of “Lost Boys”, survivors of the Second Sudanese Civil War — arriving in America and adapting to how different it is. It’s a very well-executed exploration of American attitudes towards refugees, does a good job of depicting the challenges refugees face before and after they come to America, and the incredibly valuable attitudes and mindset different cultures have to share with the world.
Whether or not they live in America, this movie will help anyone identify with the refugees and root for them in their search for a better life.
And if you want a documentary version of this movie, which might be more hard-hitting because of its realism, God Grew Tired of Us also follows a small group of Sudanese “Lost Boys” as they relocate to America and face its challenges.
‘The Handmaid’s Tale’
Okay, yes, The Handmaid’s Tale is a TV show, not a movie, but it might be easier to draw in your intended audience by talking about a dystopian America. Everyone enjoys fictional dystopian Americas, whether or not they see signs of one developing in the real world. The Handmaid’s Tale, currently in its second season, deals with the extremes to which totalitarianism and sexism can go in a country that was once familiar.
As the show has aired and real-life situations have started to look more and more similar to what happens in the show, The Handmaid’s Tale has become less of a fictional story and more of a warning about what can happen if we continue to allow our rights to be violated. What starts out as a fun show to watch with your friends can be an excellent starting point when drawing parallels between the story and real-life policies.
13th might be one of the hardest films to get people to watch, since it’s a documentary… but if you can pull it off, it’s extremely powerful. 13th explores the horrible practice of mass incarceration in America, especially as it relates to African Americans ever since slavery was abolished. It poses that mass incarceration is a modern form of slavery, and its collection of footage, interviews and powerful historical proof is indisputable.
For people who are not aware of the levels of institutionalized racism African American people deal with every day (which, let’s face it, is most of us), 13th can be a real eye-opener and put all recent instances of police brutality and institutionalized racism into a more accurate context.
And coming up soon, The Hate U Give, a film based on a YA novel about police brutality will definitely be a movie to watch and rewatch with everyone.