Recommendations for a film on a social movement?
November 24, 2008 6:32 PM   Subscribe

What film / documentary on a social movement(s) left a deep impression on you?

I get to write a paper analysing a film / documentary on a social movement, for a class on, well, social movements (analysed using political and social theory). So I've been trying to recall / look for interesting films/documentaries that I'll be able to feel for and think about. I have a basic list of recommended films, but I'd love to know about all the other good films out there that I should consider writing about (or at least watch someday)!

So far, the list I have consists of:

Eyes on the Prize I
Another World is Possible
The White Rose
Rosa Luxemburg
The war at home
Berkeley in the sixties
One Woman, one vote
Freedom on my mind
Making Sense of the Sixties
A force more powerful
10,000 Black Men Named George


I've written about 'Gandhi' and 'Battle of Algiers' already. I know there are many many more great films out there that I don't know about! Do you have any recommendations?
posted by aielen to Media & Arts (28 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
PBS's Zoot Suit Riots movie was good.
posted by johngoren at 6:39 PM on November 24, 2008

The Weather Underground was good and I've been told that there's a good six part series about the British Women's Sufferage movement out there.
posted by youcancallmeal at 6:44 PM on November 24, 2008

The Weather Underground might not be what you're looking for, because its more about a small group of people than a social movement, but it's a good film and its interesting to see how the SDS (which was a movement) splintered into a smaller, more militant faction. Also, its politically relevant now that Bill Ayers has become the new Whitewater.
posted by Kiablokirk at 6:45 PM on November 24, 2008

posted by peewinkle at 6:48 PM on November 24, 2008

I took it as the Social Movement Theory definition of Social Movement and SDS --> WU definitely qualifies.

posted by youcancallmeal at 6:51 PM on November 24, 2008

Harlan County, USA .
posted by cushie at 6:53 PM on November 24, 2008

The Celluloid Closet.

Also highly recommend Eyes On the Prize. Both I and II are good.
posted by Melismata at 6:54 PM on November 24, 2008

Ah, union movies. To add to Cushie's suggestion:
Norma Rae.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 7:07 PM on November 24, 2008

Seconding the recommendation for The Weather Underground (trailer here). It's a great documentary.

Also, this doesn't really qualify as a "social movement", but Kundun, a documentary about the fall of Tibet and the flight of the Dalai Lama in the 1950s, left a very deep impression on me.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 7:22 PM on November 24, 2008

Word to Matewan and Weather Underground. Also, I can't vouch for them personally as I haven't seen them, but Sir! No Sir! and The Battle of Algiers both come recommended.
posted by mistikle at 7:25 PM on November 24, 2008

The film on the British Suffrage Movement is Shoulder to Shoulder.
posted by youcancallmeal at 7:30 PM on November 24, 2008

oops. missed that part of your OP.
posted by mistikle at 7:31 PM on November 24, 2008

The Wave. Yes it's an after school special. But it's a good look at how they can get started.
posted by theichibun at 7:55 PM on November 24, 2008

Life & Debt.
posted by orbit at 8:48 PM on November 24, 2008

The Times of Harvey Milk
posted by np312 at 8:59 PM on November 24, 2008

Documentary is Never Neutral, a political documentary site, has a good list. If you explore the site you can find essays and interviews with documentary makers, book recommendations, etc.

[It is not my site but I did design its layout]
posted by chelseagirl at 9:24 PM on November 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Hearts and Minds?
posted by quatsch at 9:28 PM on November 24, 2008

I saw The Times of Harvey Milk yesterday, for about the fifth time. It was both encouraging for how far we've come as a social movement, and discouraging at how little has changed. The recent Prop 8 struggle had so many echoes of the Briggs Initiative (an earlier anti-gay proposition). It's both an excellent documentary (won an Oscar) and oddly relevant to today: this Friday is the 30th anniversary of the assassinations of Milk and Moscone, and the new movie Milk, with Sean Penn, is just out.
posted by gingerbeer at 11:03 PM on November 24, 2008

Style Wars! (About graffiti.)
posted by hpliferaft at 11:04 PM on November 24, 2008

It's not a documentary, but Iron Jawed Angels is based on the women's suffrage movement.
posted by lullaby at 11:50 PM on November 24, 2008

Paris Is Burning, baby! I think that qualifies!

The Battle of Chile also has a metavalue, since it exemplifies the Third Cinema movement!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:36 AM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

This PP presentaion about the National Film Board of Canada's social impact lists a number of documentaries that you might be interested in. In fact, check out the NFB, they have lots more.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 5:50 AM on November 25, 2008

Not a documentary, but Peter Watkins' Punishment Park is well worth watching if you can get hold of a copy. Filmed as a mock documentary that is supposedly the work of a European documentary crew following two groups of activists/hippies rounded up under an State of Emergency ordered by Nixon based on the McCarran Internal Security Act which authorized arbitrary detention.

The first, pre-sentencing, face an emergency tribunal/kangaroo court and try to defend their opposition to the Vietnam War. The second have already been sentenced—they faced a choice between 15 years in Federal prison and Punishment Park -- a gruelling 3 day hike across the desert, without water, to get to an American Flag in the center of the park. They told that if they succeed they will be set free, if they fail by being 'arrested' they will face their full sentence and are given a two hour head start. In reality they face a manhunt/live firing exercise and the whole thing is rigged.

It's an extraordinary film, notable, among other things, for its tiny budget ($25, 000) and its use of amateur actors cast according to their political beliefs with real activists playing many of the activists, some of whom had been arrested and imprisoned for their opposition to the war in real life, and police officers played by people who had worked for law enforcement. This lends a veracity to the whole film, and though the situation is clearly fictional, you get a sense that the attitudes and belief portrayed are not (the actors largely improvised their own dialogue). It also lead to the actors feeling a real sense of identity with their parts -- at one point real unscripted violence broke out during filming : rocks were thrown at the pursuers and one of them returned fire. The panic of the film crew as they respond, unable to tell if someone had been shot for real, or not, is caputered on film.
posted by tallus at 6:59 AM on November 25, 2008

Bloody Sunday is a really chilling and amazing film.
posted by sully75 at 7:04 AM on November 25, 2008

Seconding The Battle of Chile.
posted by lukemeister at 7:27 AM on November 25, 2008

The Singing Revolution is one of the best films I've ever seen.

Also, nthing Weather Underground.
posted by Cygnet at 11:19 AM on November 25, 2008

American Hardcore, a "tribal history" of the punk scene in the early eighties.
posted by premortem at 7:05 PM on November 25, 2008

the laramie project

on the matthew shepard story
posted by lifeonholidae at 8:36 PM on November 25, 2008

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