As a third World War seems to loom on the horizon, and when our public debates have reached new bitter lows where the American election results risk to join them, we can’t help wishing to distract ourselves from upcoming disasters at any cost. But rather than being content with forms of entertainment that only support various systems of oppression, and even enforce them with heavy use of oversimplifications, deplorable discourses and objectionable behaviors… what if we could find in some movies what our current reality sorely lacks: honorable politicians and winning battles, worthy of rekindling our motivation and spirit? Here’s a selection that might restore the urge and rage of activism in you.
Pride, 2014, Matthew Warchus
In 1980’s Britain, mineworkers and LGBT communities seemed to share “being oppressed by Thatcher’s government” as their only common ground. Yet, when the former went on strike in 1984, the latter gave them unhoped-for support by raising funds and taking part in their action, ending up forming a united movement. The true story of this unexpected solidarity, happening to the surprise of everyone involved and defying their mutual prejudices, restores your faith in the possibility of friendship in spite of any cultural differences – thanks to a lot of humor, empathy, questioning of previous views and disco music.
No, 2013, Pablo Larraín
In 1988, for the first time in fifteen years, dissenting voices and parties of Chile get the right to express themselves in a referendum that could possibly end the Pinochet regime, usually more prone to silencing them with kidnappings, imprisonments and summary executions. An ad campaign, yes, but for the destitution of a dictator and the triumph of democracy: that’s what is asked of René Saavedra, an advertising man whose questionable motivations (the challenge and the glory) evolve into a real commitment when he becomes aware of the importance of his job. It is indeed about giving his fellow Chileans hope rather than to sell a product, and that is precisely the strategy he opts for in irresistibly tacky TV spots. It echoes the director’s ambition of proving that sometimes, optimism and good intentions are not doomed to fail and do get results…
Suffragettes, 2015, Sarah Gavron
Their name and organization have been largely underestimated and sometimes even ridiculed in pop culture and history books. Yet their fight to obtain the right to vote for women in the United Kingdom was far from a piece of cake, and because they were faced with the increasing repression from a conservative government, suffragettes had no choice but to engage body and soul in an ever more desperate battle that required violent action. Thus this movie is not exempt from drama, but it finally does justice to a movement that has been far too often and for far too long displayed as lenient and harmless in front of a cruel social reality; and even if its costs have been immeasurable, it’s above all the tale of a beautiful and necessary empowerment.
Selma, 2015, Ava du Vernay
The Selma to Mongtomery marches are a crucial point of the United States Civil Rights Movement. Segregation was still happening in 1965, especially in the Southeast, and the pacific protests that took place on the roads of Alabama were put to a severe test by the hostile opposition of local politicians on the one hand, and by the intolerable violence of the population and police of the towns they were crossing on the other. Only the brave persistence of the activists and the attention of the media allowed the action to be pursued, even when Ku Klux Klan members killed a protester during the first walk. When you add to these dramatic circumstances the awareness that Martin Luther King, one of the leaders of that fight, would be assassinated three years later, and that unequalities and racism are still raging today, watching this movie turns out to be quite a distressing experience. But people from all around the United States came to join the movement, which helped getting the Voting Rights Act enacted, a bill that prohibited racial discrimination in voting. The procession ended up arriving in Mongtomery triumphant, united despite all opposition and inner conflicts. And when the war sometimes seems to be a losing one, it’s a good thing to be reminded of battles won even when they seemed impossible.