Changing the World, One Documentary at a Time
One of the largest barriers to service is people feeling unqualified to work for a cause. This “impostor syndrome” prevents people with a lot to offer, whether it’s their time, money, or skills, from helping to affect change in their communities and the world at large. Documentaries are an effective, engaging way to learn about issues and become inspired to take action. The three documentaries listed below are particularly impactful and are accompanied by organizations related to the film’s subject.
1. Not My Life is a documentary about the reality of human trafficking. This documentary does an excellent job of showing that there is hope - people can be freed and rehabilitated - but it is largely dependent on advocates and those who can recognize “we can no longer flee, no longer hide, no longer separate ourselves” from the issue.
If, after watching this film, you want to be one of the people who refuse to stay silent about modern slavery, there are several organizations that you can seek out.
Made in a Free World, an organization that “empowers individuals, groups, and businesses with innovative solutions to end the system of slavery together” through actions like educating consumers, engaging with risky corporations that participate in the system, and disrupting illicit markets.
Love146 is an international organization that works to “end child trafficking and exploitation through survivor care and prevention,” helping individuals escape from the system and re-enter the world, while also advocating for the end of the system as a whole.
Polaris, “named after the North Star that guided slaves to freedom in the U.S., disrupts the conditions that allow human trafficking to thrive in our society.” By working with policy-makers and government leaders, and building partnerships, Polaris manages to make a long-term change while maintaining an essential core focus on the victims themselves.
2. Flow examines the privatization of water and its devastating effects on human rights and the environment. Through interviews with both activists and scientists, director Irena Salina examines the question of who really owns water, and whether or not anyone can really own water.
After watching this film, you may want to look into these organizations that address the current water crisis in a multitude of ways.
The Water Project has a two-fold positive effect: it provides sustainable water projects to communities in sub-Saharan Africa, empowering people to help themselves by instructing them on building and maintaining wells, and access sanitary water.
Water is Life operates based on a simple equation: clean water + sanitation & hygiene = transformation. Through its community-based work, the organization provides both short-term fixes, such as life-saving filtration straws, and long-term solutions with community-based initiatives.
Water.org, co-founded by Matt Damon and Gary White, works for “safe water and the dignity of a toilet for all, in our lifetime.” Through solutions like new financing models, pushing for transparency, and creating partnerships, water.org seeks to make a lasting change in terms of the accessibility and safety of water worldwide.
3. Two Million Minutes examines the ways in which China, India, and the United States prepare their students for the future. The documentary follows two students from each country - one boy and one girl - as they go through high school. They each fit and break stereotypes in unique ways and when combined, their stories create a global snapshot of education and its importance.
Room to Read strives to create “a world in which all children can pursue a quality education, reach their full potential, and contribute to the community and the world,” primarily focusing on literacy and gender equality in the educational realm. The organization collaborates with communities throughout Asia and Africa in order to make those goals a reality.
The School Fund connects students with individuals who can afford to help sponsor their education. Those with the ability to help sort through student profiles, select one to support, and then are able to keep in touch with them and receive updates about their academic progress. This simple model has aided in the education of over 1,000 students across the globe. This organization puts faces and names to the often faceless and nameless children facing barriers to education.
Child Empowerment International (CEI) focuses on bringing education and healthcare to war-torn regions, particularly in refugee camps and displaced peoples camps. Because the children they work with have usually experienced great degrees of trauma, CEI also addresses the mental health of the children and issues like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The organization empowers children, helping them to eventually reach their full potential as self-reliant, stable adults.
Documentaries like the ones listed above demonstrate the power of media, not only to connect and inspire individuals but to translate into real measurable change. The ability to share stories and perspectives, informing people about important issues in engaging ways, is invaluable in the ways it can push people to learn more about issues or use their time and resources to change the world. For more documentaries, check out Films For Action.