Films That Made An Impact in 2016 & Increased Examination of American Society.
Without a doubt, 2016 has sparked social justice awareness, grassroots involvement, and an increased examination of American society. Some even call the time we’re living in the second Civil Rights Movement. Given that, cinema has a long history of exposing injustice and being a vehicle for social change. It is no coincidence that five of the most critically acclaimed movies this year have strong social justice messages. In no particular order…
1) Moonlight: The Golden Globe winner for Best Drama follows the life of Chiron as a child, teenager, and adult growing up in the midst of the drug war in Miami. Throughout various relationships and experiences, Chiron comes to realize his identity and struggle in the world as a gay, African-American, male. This movie will challenge you to re-examine societal structures, identities and isms. Moonlight portrays the experience of being a person of color in a divided America in a beautiful, flawless, revolutionary way.
2) Hidden Figures: Want to learn more about our country’s ugly history of racism and cultural appropriation? Then go watch Hidden Figures today. This movie shares the story of the three African-American female engineers who performed the equations, calculations, and measurements that sent famed astronaut John Glenn into space and around Earth in full orbit. They overcame segregation within NASA and the broader society to launch the world’s exploration of space and beyond and are finally being acknowledged and recognized for the incredible contributions to space exploration.
3) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story- Who knew that the latest installment of one of the most popular, successful film franchises in history would have such a strong social justice message?! The Rebel Alliance, a diverse group of people from different planets, led by Jyn Erso, the female protagonist, are fighting against an occupying Empire made up of predominately white men that seek to seize complete control of the galaxy.
4) The 13th: This Netflix Documentary on mass incarceration is simply a must watch. Laying out statistic after statistic, and example after example, the film shows how this country was built on the backs of slaves, and how our current private prison system looks to uphold that system. Moreover, it shows how racism in this country has evolved from slavery to Jim Crow to mass incarceration. Politicians, activists, and survivors of the criminal justice system all appear in the film, which is nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary.
5) I Am Not Your Negro: If anyone wants to draw parallels between the Civil Rights Movement and what is going on today in America, this is the movie to watch. As Samuel L. Jackson narrates Baldwin’s lost manuscript of “Remember this House,” we listen to James Baldwin’s analysis on race in America by examining three figures: Martin Luther King Jr., Malcom X, and Medgar Evans, accompanied by photos and videos from Birmingham to Stonewall to Ferguson. Perhaps most importantly, we learn about different perspectives and attitudes towards racial liberation from these leaders, and how we can apply it to the current struggle for justice.
For those of us committed to rebuilding America, these are essential films to see. At the very least, you will learn one or two imperative lessons that we can take with us moving forward with our everyday lives. If you’re anything like me, these movies will inspire you to get actively involved in the fight for racial and social justice.
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Ryan Polsky for Revolve Impact 2017