Last binge-watching sesh got you craving something? Check out these socially conscious films
BY NICHOLAS JONES
Ever get to the end of your Netflix/Crave/Prime watch list and think, “now what?” Yeah, we’ve been there too. In lieu of binging your favourite series one more time (but how good is The Expanse, eh?), why not spend your streaming time broadening your perspective on how others experience the world?
In that spirit, here’s a different kind of watch list: one that just might make you a little more socially conscious.
Moonlight’s take of the male coming-of-age narrative is easily one of the most vulnerable and sympathetic portrayals that I’ve ever seen. The film follows protagonist, Chiron, through his youth, adolescence and early adult life, exploring the challenges he faces growing up: from searching for a strong male role model, to enduing physical and emotional abuse from his mother. However, the film’s strongest focus is on the nature of Black masculinity, and how this identity can be complicated for men who also identify as gay. Moonlight deserves every accolade it has ever won, and I’d argue that Mahershala Ali deserves more recognition for his deeply nuanced performance as a strong, empathic and reliable male role model who also happens to be a drug dealer.
Mustang tells the story of five young orphaned sisters living in a remote Turkish village. When their guardians come down harshly on the girls after an innocent interaction with some local boys, the sisters’ carefree existence comes into conflict with the stark, conservative values of their surrounding community. As their freedoms become more and more restricted—with the sisters being virtually imprisoned in their own house—the girls rebel: asserting their right to have agency in their own lives in the face of arranged marriages and forced housework. The directorial debut of Turkish-French director Deniz Gamze Ergüven, the film counts the Europa Cinemas Label award at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival among its accolades.
Matthew McConaughey stars in this true story of Ron Woodroof, who took to smuggling and selling illegal drugs to save lives. The film is set during the early HIV/AIDS epidemic, when little was known about the disease and stigma was at a peak. Woodroof’s evolution from prejudice and antagonism toward the LGBTQ+ community to acceptance and empathy of their shared plight serves as the perfect metaphor for how society at large has matured in its approach to HIV/AIDS. Still, despite Dallas Buyers Club’s important portrayal of the consequences of stigma around HIV and AIDS, the film was not without its own controversy. The decision to have a transgender character portrayed by Jared Leto, a CIS-gender male, met with push back from the trans community and could be a jumping-off point for a whole other discussion about the importance of accurate representation in film.
This historical drama tells the story of the 1965 protest marches from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., that were organized in response to incidents of black voter suppression in the United States. Directed by Ava Duvernay and staring David Oyelowo as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Selma’s message is powerful and resonates in our current political climate.
One of the grittier entries on this list, this film takes on the important issue of Canada’s ongoing work with Indigenous reconciliation. It takes on the multi-generational trauma of Canada’s residential schools from the perspective of a heist gone horribly wrong that lands a young Indigenous girl in a residential school. Lauded by Indigenous writers and critics like Chelsea Vowel and Jesse Wente, this is a raw, often brutal look at a history we as Canadians all must face (and warrants a trigger warning, so proceed with care).