3 Movies to Boost Your Knowledge of Social Issues 

Photo by:Unseen Histories

January marks a unique month for those interested in advocacy. With the recent passing and upcoming dates of various notable advocacy-related occasions like Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 16, or the International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan. 27 and January being a time of action with fresh New Year’s resolutions, it’s the perfect time to re-focus on advocacy efforts heading into the new year. Luckily, filmmakers and producers internationally have made it simple for anyone, with any knowledge background, to freshen up on their social awareness while being entertained. 

Here are three films to watch to increase your advocacy knowledge:

BlacKkKlansman

Perhaps one of the most well produced films about racism, the Ku Klux Klan and policing is BlacKkKlansman, produced by none other than Spike Lee. The film reproduces the actual events of a Black police officer, Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) in Colorado Springs, Colorado as he investigates the KKK, eventually resulting in his investigative unit infiltrating their local KKK organization. 

One of the strongest aspects of the film that increases its impactfulness is the casting: John David Washington seamlessly plays the main role, where Adam Driver convincingly delivers the lines of Stallworth’s counterpart, Flip Zimmerman. For Black advocacy-inclined individuals, the re-creation of powerful speeches by Black Panther organizer Kwame Ture and the telling of the story of Jesse Washington — a Black, intellectually disabled teen who was murdered — can act as a means of motivation for countering anti-Black racism efforts.

The combination of outstanding acting, pacing, and weaving in of powerful shots, allows it to be a heavily impactful film. By tying in recent occurrences of racism at the end of the film, it becomes clear to viewers that the mission of Ron Stallworth to dismantle the KKK and white supremacy at-large is still very much needed. 

The Hate U Give

Originally a young adult novel by Angie Thomas released in early 2017, The Hate U Give is a fictional drama film that is simple in its presentation, but speaks to complex issues of class, anti-Black racism, police brutality, social movement organizing, and the role of youth in generating change. The story of the film follows teen-aged Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg) as she deals with the murder of her bestfriend by the police, while simultaneously living in two different worlds; her lower-class neighbourhood that deals with issues of racism and violence, and the community that her expensive private school exists in. 

Ultimately, Starr goes against the social norms within the confines of the latter community to join in on protests for protecting Black lives and ending police brutality. In comparison to films like BlacKkKlansman, The Hate U Give’s production and impact is much lower, and far more simplified. However, the movie sets out to inform and motivate the general public — especially younger generations — and it achieves just that. For example, the casting features quite a few familiar names in youth-oriented productions, such as KJ Apa who plays “Chris” and is known for his role in Riverdale, the aforementioned lead Amandla Stenberg who is also known for roles in The Hunger Games and Dear Evan Hansen, and Sabrina Carpenter who plays “Hailey,” and is known for roles in films like Tall Girl, as well as having ventured into the music industry. 

Despite being less impactful than bigger-name productions like BlacKkKlansman, this film offers a good introduction to the topic of anti-Black racism being institutionalized which is accessible to anyone, no matter what knowledge level.

There’s Something in the Water

Unlike the other two films featured here, There’s Something in the Water is a Canadian-centred documentary based on social scientist Dr. Ingrid R G. Waldron’s academic book of the same name. Picked up by well-known Canadian actor Elliot Page who is most known for his role in The Umbrella Academy and film producer Ian Daniel, There’s Something in the Water explores the effects of climate change, environmental racism, and corporate land development on racialized communities. 

The documentary centres a few key topics that are becoming increasingly prominent to those living in Canada, including cancer amongst Black communities in Nova Scotia from improper waste disposal, water pollution in Pictou Landing First Nation, and Sipekneꞌkatik First Nation’s fight against Alton Gas. The intimate conversations with Black and Indigenous activists, such as a women’s group in Sipekneꞌkatik First Nation — who were ultimately successful in their tenacious fight against the harmful resource extraction development — accompanied by the shocking imagery of facts about environmental racism in Canada allow this film to be highly emotional.

There’s Something in the Water is clearly not a large-scale production, but this allows the stories told within it to be far more intimate and close, allowing a deeper impact. More than anything, this documentary is super insightful and the stories told within it will become more important as the climate crisis evolves. 

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