Your Winter Break Social Justice Netflix Binge

For me school breaks typically start with a long list of academic books I want to read “just for fun,” some kind of monthly gym subscription, and promises to reconnect with every person I’ve ever lost touch with.  They typically end with me binge watching TV shows for three weeks straight.  So this year I’m setting reasonable goals, like watching some movies that aren’t terrible.  Along those lines I put together a list of three movies that shed some light on social justice topics, mostly in an urban context. It’s not a comprehensive list, but each movie offers a chance to check in with your values and rejuvenate some of that passion that might have dwindled during the sixth straight night of paper writing.  All three are available to stream on Netflix, and the two documentaries are free on Amazon Prime if you have the student membership.

  1. The Central Park Five, Ken Burns.   This is the story of five teenagers falsely accused of raping and nearly killing a woman in Central Park in 1989.  It was one of the first really famous cases of false confession.  Ken Burns just released the film last year, and it’s definitively interesting to revisit in light of the stop and frisk debate currently going on in New York.
  2. A Place at the Table, Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush.  This documentary beautifully explains the link between poverty, hunger and obesity through the story of several individuals.  It was produced by the same company that did Food, Inc. and has the same high production value and simple narrative story telling.   The multiple families they follow offer a compelling look at poverty across America and draw attention to big holes in the safety net.
  3. Do the Right Thing, Spike Lee.  It’s a classic, so of course it comes with the baggage that develops when a film is discussed for nearly 25 years.  Still, if you’ve never seen this story of a Brooklyn community grappling with racial tensions there’s no time like the present.  Even if you’ve seen it before, it’s worth revisiting as a planning student.   Added bonus: watching the tremendous amount of sweat produced by every single character in this movie will make you feel warmer if you’re spending break somewhere chilly.

Again, not a comprehensive list, just a good starting place.  Please leave other movie suggestions, social justice or otherwise, in the comments section.

PS- did you know Netflix has a “Social Issue Drama” tag?  And that “Footloose” is included?

Image credit: IMDB

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