Social Justice Films

Social Justice Films #

The modern moral guardrails are presented by the visual media today. Due to the dramatic fall in church attendance, people get their ethical guidance through social media.

Movies have the power to make us laugh, cry and feel a large range of emotions. While there have been numerous good films that have contributed to the betterment of society, there have been a few bad apples in the lot as well.

Prima Facie #

Suzie Miller is a contemporary international playwright and screenwriter drawn to complex human stories often exploring injustice. In 2020 her drama PRIMA FACIE (premiered 2019, Griffin Theatre) won the 2020 AWGIE for Drama; the 2020 David Williamson Award for Outstanding Theatre Writing; and the 2020 prestigious Major AWGIE across all categories of theatre, film and television.

Turning our courts of law into a different kind of stage, human rights lawyer-turned-playwright Suzie Miller’s taut, rapid-fire and gripping one-woman show exposes the shortcomings of a patriarchal legal system where it’s her word against his.

Groundhog Day #

Common advice is to deal with issues and move on emotionally – don’t dwell on the past. This is a favourite politician’s argument when faced with a scandal. Its adverse effect is to make us like Phil, a weatherman from Groundhog daycondemned to repeat each day by “moving on” –everyday is a brand new day, no one ever remembers what happened the day before or the day before that, knowledge and wisdom do not accumulate, and we repeat our mistakes without learning anything.

Aboriginal #

Film sites: streaming sites to see what is currently available.

Here I Am by Beck Cole We Don’t Need a Map by Warwick Thornton Blue Water Empire Lousy Little Sixpence
First Australians They Have Come to Stay
Her Will To Survive
Freedom For Our Lifetime
There is No Other Law
Unhealthy Government Experiment.
A Fair Deal For A Dark Race
We Are No Longer Shadows

Leviathan #

Russian writer/director Andrey Zvyagintsev’s social satire wallows in the mire of Soviet bureaucracy, following one man’s desperate attempt to retain ownership of his home in a small seaside town. Leviathan is a stinging critique of Putin-era politics, though the story would translate equally well in a capitalist setting.

In fact it is based on a legal dispute in Colorado in the 1980’s. A muffler repair business sold off the front of his large block of land to a large company who then denied him access to his business. Efforts through the legal system failed to resolve the conflict, so in desperation he resorted to buying a large bulldozer, built a bullet proof cab on it, going on a destructive rampage on the court house, the local government offices, causing about $7 million. When his bulldozer fell into a basement, he simply shot himself.

The Russian government funded the film believing it would shed a poor light on American Justice, and were furious when Zvyagintsev applied it by transposing it to Russian situations.

Production values are buoyed by a beautiful Top of the Lake -like coldness dictated by the coastal setting, the water infusing the drama with a vaguely existential aura – as if acknowledging everybody’s troubles will one day be washed away. Angry, mournful and bitter, Leviathan is a vodka-dowsed David versus Goliath story told with tremendous control.

An Ordinary Woman #

A Netflix serial gives us another vista to see how Putin’s Russia has become so corrupt, citizens do not trust the Justice system and revert to their own survival instincts to make their way through vigilante tactics.

Spotlight #

Spotlight (2015, directed by Tom McCarthy) Tom McCarthy’s Best Picture–winning journalism drama is about the drudgery that often comes with important work, and the procedural labor required to make the kinds of stories put out by The Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” team. The film is a true ensemble piece that gives equal weight to the work of all the team’s reporters (played by Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, and Brian d’Arcy James), editors, and brave sources. Spotlight takes care to show just how methodically the group’s groundbreaking investigation of the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston came together.

Spotlight is the true story of a team of Boston Globe reporters who launch a fearless investigation into child abuse allegations against the Catholic Church. What they eventually uncover is a shocking citywide scandal; almost ninety priests, guilty, but never convicted, legal settlements done in private, and a systematic cover-up of the abuse by church leadership.

Most worrying is the prevailing clerical justification; “because of our sacrifices we are entitled to some perks”.

Truth #

Controversy surrounds CBS anchor Dan Rather (Robert Redford) and “60 Minutes” producer Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchett) after the network broadcasts a report about President George W. Bush and his military service. Release date: 2015 (USA) . Director: James Vanderbilt

Newsroom drama detailing the 2004 CBS 60 Minutes report investigating then-President George W. Bush’s military service, and the subsequent firestorm of criticism that cost anchor Dan Rather and producer Mary Mapes their careers.

The entire Justice system was rigged against any possible fair consideration of their case.

I, Daniel Blake #

Winner of the Palme d’Or at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, the latest from legendary director Ken Loach is a gripping, human tale about the impact one man can make. Gruff but goodhearted, Daniel Blake (Dave Johns) is a man out of time: a widowed woodworker who’s never owned a computer, he lives according to his own common sense moral code. But after a heart attack leaves him unable to work and the state welfare system fails him, the stubbornly self-reliant Daniel must stand up and fight for his dignity, leading a one-man crusade for compassion that will transform the lives of a struggling single mother (Hayley Squires) and her two children. Graced with humor and heart, I, Daniel Blake is a moving, much-needed reminder of the power of bureaucrats lacking empathy or compassion from one of the world’s greatest living filmmakers.

Over the course of the film, Daniel’s life becomes intertwined with that of a young woman and her two children. The family is also struggling to get financial assistance from the government. As a result of poverty and hunger, the young mother is driven to prostitution.

In a scene from I, Daniel Blake, Blake’s young friend responds to his efforts to seek assistance from the state by saying:

“Dan, they’ll fuck you around – I’m warning you. Make it as miserable as possible. No accident, that’s the plan.”

Blake answers:

Well, they’ve picked the wrong one if they think I’m gonna give up. I’m like a dog with a bone me, son.”

The greater the truth, the greater the libel. The greater the libel, the greater the liability.

William Murray, Earl of Mansfield, a British lawyer and orator; born at Perth, Scotland, 1704; educated at Oxford; called to the bar, 1731; solicitor-general, 1743, and entered Parliament; attorney-general, 1754; chief-justice of the King’s Bench for more than thirty years from 1756; raised to the peerage in that year; died 1793.

“The air of England has long been too pure for a slave, and every man is free who breathes it.”

In the case of James Somersett, a negro, who was carried from Africa to Jamaica, and sold there. Being brought by his master to England, he claimed his freedom by a writ of habeas corpus; and, after a hearing before the lord chief justice, was discharged. “Every man,” said Mansfield, “who comes into England, is entitled to the protection of English law, whatever oppression he may heretofore have suffered, and whatever may be the color of his skin:—

Cowper versified the decision:—

“Slaves cannot breathe in England; if their lungs Receive our air, that moment they are free; They touch our country, and their shackles fall.”

Chief-Justice Taney, of the Supreme Court of the United States, giving the opinion of the court adverse to the petition of Dred Scott, a slave who had been carried by his master from Missouri into Illinois, thence to the Territory of Wisconsin, and back to Missouri, asserted that:

for more than a century before the Declaration of Independence, the negroes had been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”

Sorry I Missed You #

Dignity amid tragedy … Sorry We Missed You.

Director Ken Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty have come storming back to Cannes with another tactlessly passionate bulletin from the heart of modern Britain, the land of zero-hours vassalage and service-economy serfdom – a film in the tradition of Loach’s previous work and reaching back to Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves. It’s fierce, open and angry, unironised and unadorned, about a vital contemporary issue whose implications you somehow don’t hear on the news.

Like their previous movie, I, Daniel Blake, it depicts the human cost of an economic development that we are encouraged to accept as a fact of life. Like I, Daniel Blake, it is substantially researched through many off-the-record interviews, and rich in detail. But I think this film is better: it is more dramatically varied and digested, with more light and shade in its narrative progress and more for the cast to do collectively. I was hit in the solar plexus by this movie, wiped out by the simple honesty and integrity of the performances. Yet my emotions were clouded by my feelings about a certain toxic political issue. Peter Bradshaw - The Guardian

The main issues regard how to run a fair society - what counts - running an efficient economy - company, or human values of caring for each other? Does good governance require rigorous regulatory oversight or should we just let the market of supply and demand sort out the winners and losers? History demonstrates repeatedly, that countries with sound enforceable laws that curb the callous exploitation of the weak by the strong are more productive and last longer.

Vice #

Some issues

The Republicans appeal to the working class by promising to restore the forlorn American Dream of rags to riches.

Fox News is the most watched of all opinionated News Media in America. Surveys indicate Fox viewers are the least informed of all Americans.

Cheney the most powerful of all VP’s and used it to get oversight of Military, and cut regulations (Red Tape) for big companies. With his $26 Million pay out from Halliburton and its massive contracts for the Iraq War, he made sure its overbloated accounts were approved without scrutiny. This outsourcing was one of the greatest transfers of public money into private hands in the history of the world.

His advocacy of the Unitary Executive Theory was a ruse to concentrate absolute power and authority into the office of the President during any war, and as he explains the George Bush, *“People love a wartime President”. *It is the duty of the President to protect the nation at all costs, justifying extreme measures. The President does not share power.

The open stacking of the Supreme Court is reinforced by the subliminal messages lingering on the ironic logo of its motto: “where the law ends; tyranny begins”.

Cheney’s distrust of democratic exposure was an ineradicable trait. It showed already in the congressional minority report he wrote in 1987 to defend President Reagan’s extralegal actions in the Iran–Contra deal: Cheney looked on the covert channeling of money as a legitimate exercise of prerogative by the executive branch.

The wildest ideas were normalised by reasoned, temperate and measured language: Prisoners of war became enemy combatants to avoid the Geneva Convention, torture became “enhanced interrogation, or extraordinary rendition, breaching privacy laws justified by surveillance needs to combat terrorists, Estate Taxes became demonized as “death taxes”………. Conversely to intimidate and cower people, he had no qualms about vulgar language telling one critic to go get fucked, while others are derogated as assholes.

Peterloo #

An epic portrayal of the events surrounding the infamous 1819 Peterloo Massacre, where a peaceful pro-democracy rally at St Peter’s Field in Manchester turned into one of the bloodiest and most notorious episodes in British history. The massacre saw British government forces charge into a crowd of over 60,000 that had gathered to demand political reform and protest against rising levels of poverty. Many protestors were killed and hundreds more injured, sparking a nationwide outcry but also further government suppression. The Peterloo Massacre was a defining moment in British democracy which also played a significant role in the founding of The Guardian newspaper.

In 1832 The Reform Bills broadened the franchise to all regions of England to land owning males. Universal franchise took a lot longer with many more protests. “The tree of liberty needs to be fertilised by blood” of both protesters and officials”.


Significant expansion in human rights became evident during Victoria’s reign, no doubt stimulated by the French Revolution, the 1848 revolutions and the threat posed by the rise of Marxism and several other “isms” in its aftermath.

99Homes #

Acclaimed indie filmmaker Ramin Bahrani, who regularly and bravely focuses on heartbreaking trials of life while keeping his stories rooted in humanity

99 Homes is a powerful, thought-provoking indie drama that weaves the recent financial crisis with the classic Faust legend. The underlying issues led to the Global Financial Crises.

A Florida real-estate vulture, Rick Carver, makes his living evicting families from their homes. When Rick does just that to Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield), an unemployed construction worker and single dad with a preteen son (Noah Lomax) and a mother (a superb Laura Dern) in his care, Dennis wants revenge. At first. Later, he joins the bastard in capitalizing on poverty for easy profit. Maybe not so easy. Dennis still has a working conscience. But for how long?

In the script Bahrani wrote with Iranian partner Amir Naderi, the American dream has passed from nightmare to living hell. The vicious cycle can be seen on Dennis’ tortured face.

Rick Carver pragmatically realises life is a dog eat dog world, and that the American Dream is hollow, rigged to bail out the winners, not the losers.

Set in the Bush/Cheney years where the courts supported shonky real estate agents and rapacious banks lending out money to people who had no means of keeping up the payments and then profiting by ruthlessly foreclosing on houses, re-possessing them and re-selling them. The Courts unconditionally backed the real estate companies over the personal needs of families. The court system appears a rigged system of privilege, by the privileged, for the privileged. Carver, in his cynicism, questions whether America gives a “rat’s ass” about its people. American business was built by bailing out winners; not losers. It’s everybody for themselves, and bugger everybody else, - no compassion, no principles.

Neo-liberal ideology was pretty simple: deregulate financial markets, lower taxes, privatise state-owned industry, let companies and individuals get as rich as they possibly can, and all will be well. Yes it will lead to inequality, but it will also increase wealth; and wealth will “drag up the poor people”. America lived by Wall Street protagonist Gordon Gekko’s memorable mantra: “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.”

The film asks, “Is there a bailout for moral bankruptcy?” It’s not a pretty answer.