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Hotel Rwanda, Syriana, Blood Diamond… Not only entertainment

Reading your comments about my posts: Davis, Flynn, Dietrich… They did it their way, Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned The Power Of Satire and Scarface: first and second impact showed your interest into movies addressing real issues. The movies I like the most watching are the ones with strong themes, whether they are political or about social trends, so you won’t be surprised to learn that the script I’m currently working on is about the 1930s, with a political/historical backdrop. Lately, I have watched several movies, the type which make you think about our world, what we do (or did) and what we don’t (didn’t), our unconsciousness, our blindness and our lies but also the way some people fought (and still fight) against the evil, whatever it may cost them. I won’t talk about a specific genre and this list is by no means exhaustive; if I wanted to make it complete, I should start with Birth of a Nation (1915) so I’m only going to dwell on a selection of 7 movies that came out the last 3 years.

I already mentioned Hotel Rwanda (2004) in my post about Darfur (Darfur: when History is a never ending story…), depicting the true-life story of Paul Rusesabagina who housed over a thousand Tutsis refugees in the hotel he managed during the genocide. This is the story of an ordinary man who summoned extraordinary courage and save the lives of helpless refugees. In Good Night, and Good Luck (2005), CBS reporter Edward R. Murrow helped to bring down the witch-hunting led by Senator Joseph McCarthy. A low-budget film but an excellent one (filmed in moody black and white, starring David Strathairn and excellent music) about a period in American history some may have forgotten. The Constant Gardener (2005) tells us the story of Tessa, an activist who discovered the dirty doings of a pharmaceutical company in Kenya who’s using the Africans as guinea pigs to test new drugs. She got brutally murdered for her discover. In The Lord of War (2005), Syriana (2005) and Blood Diamond (2006), we are shown how occidental people are implicated into arms deals, oil cartels and diamond trades, one way or another fueling civil warfare with no benefit for the population but poverty and insecurity. And last but not least, The Last King of Scotland (2006), a movie about Ugandan dictator Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker won Oscar for his role as Amin) and his relationship with a naive and complacent Scottish doctor.

These movies may show a truncated part of the History and are clearly aimed to occidental viewers, movie studios always scrupulously study every angle to secure their investment when producing a film, making sure that the story told fits the target audience. Nevertheless, they have an impact (even if intentions and perceptions may vary a lot) on the viewers, and if we perfectly know these movies are entertainment and not documentaries, some of them are based on true stories. Some movies want to parlay a message, other are meant to expose the injustices done in the name of Western greed and are earnestly exploring major issues. The positive part of this kind of movies is that they bring our attention to past, current and/or future issues; the negative part being that we should do everything possible to avoid what is, for many, unavoidable, long before it happens.

And when movies (and more specifically documentaries) come out, it means it’s urgent to act, it’s never too late to do the right thing so long as there is still something to do better.

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