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11 documentaries, films, and series that can change your views


A lot of people are in lockdown and staying home, finding that they have unexpected free time. While countries are dealing with the pandemic in different ways, it’s likely that we all will have a bit more time at home in the coming weeks.

Sometimes we need to take our mind off of current events and indulge in some escapist films. At other times, we need to broaden our outlook. So we asked our Global Policy, Campaigns, and Content Teams for some documentaries, films, and series that can change your views as you spend more time at home.

1. How to Survive a Plague

Described by the New York Times as “a model for the here and now of how social change occurs,” How to Survive a Plague is about the early years of the AIDS epidemic in the US, and the efforts of activist groups ACT UP and TAG. The documentary was produced using more than 700 hours of archived footage, which includes news coverage, interviews, and film of demonstrations, meetings, and conferences taken by ACT UP members themselves.
Paul Galipeau, Campaigns Manager, Canada

2. Winnie

While Nelson Mandela served a life sentence, his wife experienced the raw violence of apartheid and fights on the front lines and underground. Winnie, by British filmmaker Pascale Lamche, focuses on the grassroots campaigner in her political heyday. Featuring testimony from Nelson and Winnie’s daughter Zindzi as well as Winnie herself, now 81, it is one of a number of films emerging in African cinema that seeks to redress a long-held status quo – whether that’s about gender, race, or politics.
Irene Chiarini, Global Campaigns Team Assistant

3. Daughters of Destiny

The Shanti Bhavan Children’s Project is a boarding school that accepts 24 children from India’s lowest socioeconomic class and provides them with free education (food and housing) from preschool through to 12th grade to break the cycle of generational poverty. This four-part documentary, filmed over seven years, follows a group of five girls from a disadvantaged area of rural India who would have traditionally been denied an education because of their caste.
Samantha Singh, Global Policy Coordinator, London

4. Naila and the Uprising

Telling the little known story of women’s role at the heart and center of the second Palestinian uprising in 1987, it’s told through a combination of archival footage, animation, and interviews. It is visually appealing even while the story is riveting.
Natasha Somji, Policy Manager

5. The White Helmets

The White Helmets are a group of incredible civilian volunteers who have remained in Syria and act as first responders following attacks and bombings. This short documentary follows a few of these volunteers capturing the lives they saved, the pressures they face, and the hope they bring to communities.
Ben Grierson-Hill, Senior Campaigns Manager

6. Fire in the Blood

This documentary highlights the international obstruction of access, faced by many people in Africa and other parts of the world, to low-cost antiretroviral drugs used to treat HIV/AIDS. The director, Dylan Mohan Gray, examines Africa’s AIDS crisis and the activists battle with pharmaceutical companies to make this life-saving treatment more affordable.
Samantha Singh, Global Policy Coordinator, London

7. 13th

This Oscar-nominated documentary takes its title from the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, adopted in 1865, which abolished slavery throughout the United States and ended involuntary servitude with the exception of involuntary servitude as a punishment for conviction of a crime. The film explores the intersection of race, justice, mass incarceration of African Americans, and present-day slavery in the United States.
Paul Galipeau, Campaigns Manager, Canada

8. When They See Us

In 1989, five teens were charged with assaulting and raping a woman in New York’s Central Park. They maintained their innocence over the years. This series goes through the period from when the teens are first arrested to their exoneration in 2002 and after. A star cast, and directed by Emmy winner Ava DuVernay.
Natasha Somji, Policy Manager

9. Remember Africville

This short film from 1991 depicts Africville, claimed as one of “the first free black communities outside of Africa.” By the 1960s, the families there were uprooted and their homes demolished in the name of urban renewal and integration. More than 20 years later, the site of the community of Africville is a stark, under-utilized park. Former residents, their descendants, and some of the decision makers speak out and, with the help of archival photographs and films, tell the story of that painful relocation.
Paul Galipeau, Campaigns Manager, Canada

10. How to Change the World

This documentary follows the origins of Greenpeace in the early 70s as a group of friends take to the seas to protest nuclear testing and later seal clubbing and whale hunting. Using powerful archive footage, it captures the amazing acts of defiance the group took — standing in front of icebreaker ships to protect seals and placing their boat between whales and whale hunters harpoons — and the origins of the whole Greenpeace movement.
Ben Grierson-Hill, Senior Campaigns Manager

11. Girl Rising

Follow nine inspiring girls around the world who seek an education no matter what the cost. This powerful feature film is part of a larger global action campaign for girls’ education and shows the barriers that girls face every day when trying to go to school.
Katy Roberts, Video Producer

This blog was updated in December 2020

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