Past Event

Café Society: Moving Pictures: Can Movies Inspire Activism and Social Change?

Hollywood producer Samuel Goldwyn once famously said, “If you want to send a message, call Western Union.” Yet from “Grapes of Wrath” to “Hotel Rwanda” movies have told stories that illuminate social problems and sometimes call for action or change.Documentary films that seek to motivate individual, social and political change are seeing a surge in popularity, as evidenced by the success of films such as “Fahrenheit 911” and “An Inconvenient Truth.”

Fall generally marks Hollywood’s “serious” movie season and it is often during this time when films dealing with social and political issues are rolled out. This fall will see the release of at least two films that call attention to social problems and that may have the potential to inform audiences and to inspire change. “Fast Food Nation,” a fictional story based on Eric Schlosser’s non-fiction bestseller, explores the dark side of the fast food industry. “Blood Diamond,” sets its story against the back drop of the diamond trade that has fueled and funded civil wars and human rights abuses in Africa.

While movies with a social change focus may be moving and compelling, will they inspire people to take action, to change their behavior? Will “Fast Food Nation” encourage us to decrease our consumption of fast food or to demand changes in how the food is produced? Will “Blood Diamond” change the diamond-buying (and diamond-desiring) behavior of the American public? Has “An Inconvenient Truth” inspired changes in individual behavior that could reduce the emissions that fuel global warming? What exactly does it take for a movie to foster change? And even if a movie does not motivate people to action, can it still have an impact? Might the images and stories shape the way we think?

Have there been films that have in recent or past history that have led to significant social change by strengthening movements, changing policies, or fostering change in individual behavior among a significant percentage of the population? What are some examples? What movies have moved you to do take action on the issues they raised?

Join us at Café Society to discuss how movies move you.

Suggested Readings:

For more informaiton, please contact Kristin Millikan at 312.422.5580.