War in Ukraine, Black Lives Matter, the MeToo movement, and the list goes on. To celebrate Human Rights Day, I thought this was a good time to introduce this new Filmmaking for Change substack. Anchored by the power of film to make a difference in the world, this platform will share films, podcasts and changemakers, providing support and inspiration for filmmakers and impact producers to continue this important work. Thank you for joining the community.
Entertainment for Change
Movies with socially relevant themes have been made since the early days of cinema, whether it was an epic adaptation (How Green Was My Valley; The Grapes of Wrath) or a true documentary (Nanook of the North; High School). From Oscar winners (Schindler’s List; Green Book) to audience favorites (Fahrenheit 9/11; Bowling for Columbine, many have graced the silver screen. And there is no questioning the value of sharing these themes, messages, and stories with broad audiences. But the real difference makers, with specific calls to action, really came into prominence with Participant Media in 2004 (Food, Inc; An Inconvenient Truth; Spotlight).
You want to make sure that your audience walks away with a clear understanding of the steps they can take in their own lives to be part of the change you are seeking to create. — Leonardo DiCaprio
It’s one thing to share a great story, that has an impact on the viewer. But if a movie does more than engage, it can educate and inspire audiences to take action. Even better, if there is a specific call to action that can actually make a difference in the world. Together with UCLA’s Skoll Center for Social Impact, Participant Media published a comprehensive guide on the subject that should be required reading for anyone interested in this arena. The State of the SIE: Mapping the Landscape of Social Impact Entertainment. Click here to download the SIE Report.
A New Model in Storytelling
It was this growing movement of social impact movies that inspired me to write Filmmaking for Change: Make Movies That Transform The World and make a handful of documentaries. With movies like The Cove, it became clear the documentary genre was evolving, using more traditional narrative structures in storytelling. We were moving away from talking heads and pure education docs. Creative formats and structures started to emerge on a regular basis. Documentary had become the most popular genre in many film festivals, and Netflix and Hulu were on their way to expanding the audience for non fiction films. I saw a path to integrating Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey storytelling structure into the development of new social impact projects. Eventually, I would incorporate these ideas into a course and podcast, as a resource for emerging social impact filmmakers.
Human Rights Movie Collections
As mentioned above, many social impact movies have been made over the years, and. with the explosion in streaming platforms, it can be challenging to find the right film for your mood or category of interest. Whether you want to revisit a classic, or experience something new. There are many lists to consider, from Amnesty to IMDb and beyond. I also pulled together a collection in e-book form, with links to trailers and the platforms to see the films. Click here to get the Cause Cinema’s Human Rights digital download.
Picks from 2022It’s been another great year for the documentary genre, and rather than do another expansive list here, I’m going to recommend 5 for you to consider, some of which will likely earn an Oscar nomination. And while it’s true that “Awards” are not a primary goal for social impact filmmakers, we have to appreciate the awareness factor that comes with the Oscar bump. The wider the audience, the better the chances are that these films can create change.
In the pre-Roe v. Wade era, female activists calling themselves 'Jane' build an underground network for women with unwanted pregnancies and provide low-cost and free illegal abortions to an estimated 11,000 women.
A disproportionate number of Black women are failed every year by the U.S. maternal health system. Shamony Gibson and Amber Rose Isaac die due to childbirth complications. Now, their partners and families sound a rallying cry around this crisis.
When a network of Brazilian farmers seizes a protected area of the Amazon rainforest, a young Indigenous leader and his mentor must fight back in defense of the land and an uncontacted group living deep within the forest.
Detailing the 2020 assassination attempt of Russian opposition leader and former presidential candidate Alexei Navalny, in which he was poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent.
All The Beauty and the Bloodshed
From Participant Media, Directed by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Laura Poitras, All the Beauty and the Bloodshed is an epic, emotional and interconnected story about the internationally renowned artist and activist Nan Goldin told through her slideshows, intimate interviews, ground-breaking photography, and rare footage of her personal fight to hold the Sackler family accountable for the overdose crisis.
Filmmaking for Change
This Filmmaking for Change section will present the Articles written for our Substack channel.
We will cover the movies, shows and media around the subject of Cause Cinema, where we celebrate the power of entertainment for change.
Thanks for joining us!
Human Rights Archive