Social Justice Films
Here are some of my top picks in the categories of social justice, all available on Netflix. You can see my pick for Christian films here.
A Powerful Noise
Three women fight poverty, discrimination and deeply entrenched sexism in this documentary that shows how even the most powerless people can demand change. HIV-positive Hanh created a Vietnamese support group for other victims of the disease. Nada, a working mother and war refugee, formed a women’s association to promote peace and economic development in Bosnia, and Jacqueline rallies against labor abuses and exploitation in Mali.
Set in civil war-ravaged Northern Uganda, this Best Documentary Oscar nominee follows the lives of three youngsters who attend school in a refugee camp and find hope through a rich tradition of song and dance. Coming from a world in which children are abducted from their families and forced to fight in the rebel army, these kids give it their all when they travel to the capital city to take part in the prestigious Kampala Music Festival.
In this poignant drama, Holly, a young Vietnamese girl sold into prostitution by her family, tries to escape her dismal life by beginning a platonic relationship with a 40-year-old American named Patrick, a stolen-artifacts dealer. Twelve-year-old Holly has been smuggled into Cambodia, becoming one of countless children exploited in the sex trade; Patrick, who has his own troubles, may be her only hope. This film, while fictionalized, takes a hard and realistic look at the life many girls are actually living.
Stoning of Soryaa M
Set in 1986 Iran at the start of Khomeini’s reign, director Cyrus Nowrasteh’s drama tells the true story of Soraya, whose husband plots to have her falsely accused of adultery so he can divorce her and marry a young girl. French journalist Freidoune (Jim Caviezel) is pulled into Soraya’s tragic story when he meets Soroya’s aunt. A truly heartbreaking film, but this story is happening in real life to many women living under oppression today.
Lost Boys of Sudan
As orphans living in the midst of civil war, Peter and Santino dealt with dangers like lion attacks and gunfire from militia. But even more daunting are the challenges they face in suburbia after they’re chosen to start a new life in America. Megan Mylan and Jon Shenk direct this award-winning documentary that follows two Sudanese refugees throughout their intense journey from their native Africa to the United States.
God Grew Tired of Us
After raising themselves in the desert along with thousands of other “lost boys,” Sudanese refugees John, Daniel and Panther have found their way to America, where they experience electricity, running water and supermarkets for the first time. Capturing their wonder at things Westerners take for granted, this documentary, an award winner at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, paints an intimate portrait of strangers in a strange land.
Struggling to raise her daughter in a poor African village, Yesterday (Leleti Khumalo) finds the odds stacked against her when she learns that she’s HIV positive. But with her husband in denial, Yesterday must somehow find the strength to go on. She’s also determined to live long enough to see her daughter go to school. Darrell James Roodt directs this heartfelt drama, the first Zulu-language film to be released internationally.
Pray the Devil Back to Hell
This powerful documentary tells the story of the thousands of Liberian women, both Christian and Muslim, who helped end the bloody civil war in 2003 that killed over 200,000 people. Through nonviolent protests, these brave women forced a resolution in the peace talks, and their efforts led to the election of Africa’s first female head of state, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. This is truly an amazing picture of the power of common vision to unite and make change.
The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo
This movie is painful and difficult to watch, but also shows glimmers of hope brought by caring people. In the midst of a brutal war that has claimed millions of lives in the Congo, unfathomable atrocities have taken place against thousands of women and girls, who have suffered kidnapping, rape, torture and murder at the hands of soldiers. Traveling to remote war zones, this documentary captures incredible interviews with activists, physicians, victims and even rapists to bring this untold story to the rest of the world.
This Oscar-nominated documentary profiles the courageous efforts of a renegade band of Burmese reporters who call themselves the Democratic Voice of Burma (aka the Burma VJs). These “video warriors” place themselves in peril as they smuggle footage documenting their government’s abuses across the border and to the world at large.