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Films and docs to watch on human rights

Our top-five selection from around the world.

Around the world, many people are and have been protesting to protect human rights.Because not everyone enjoys reading long articles on this topic, we made a list of films and documentaries that you can watch to learn more about some social and cultural issues going on now. By Marta Portocarrero.

Protests in Lebanon in August 2020.

I am passionate about international affairs. I find it fascinating to understand how something that happens somewhere else in the world can impact us right here where we are.

I also find it interesting to discover the faces behind the protests and to give voice to people who dare to fight for a better life.

However I can understand that reading long pieces, usually filled with complex terms about international politics – happening in places that we sometimes don’t even know existed – can sound boring , especially if you’re not an avid fan of international affairs.

But usually films and documentaries are more engaging, that’s why I thought I could share my interest with you in the form of a list of recommendations.

So, here it is (I hope you like it):

The film is a modern-day cop thriller about the impoverished residents of Paris.

1. Les Miserables

Film, Amazon Prime, 2019

This is not another adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel and definitely not a musical. The film is a modern-day cop thriller about the impoverished residents of Paris.

Directed by Ladj Ly, a Mali-descendent French citizen, the film tells the story of a group of Black teenagers living in the working-class of Montfermeil, a place plagued by police violence, ethnic clashes and little opportunity where Ly grew up.

Filmmaker Waad al-Kateab films the war in Aleppo, Syria, for five years.

2. For Sama

Documentary, 2019

Shot by 26-year old filmmaker Waad al-Kateab, the documentary is a love letter to her daughter Sama and tells her story through five years of war in Aleppo, Syria.

It portrays her life as she falls in love, gets married and gives birth to Sama, all while the conflict is rising.

The climax sees al-Kateab debating whether or not to leave Aleppo to protect her child. But this would also mean abandoning the struggle for freedom, for which she has already sacrificed so much.

Winner of the Prix L’Œil d’Or for Best Documentary at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, it is a sad film, but a powerful one to watch.

The documentary is centred in the nightclub Teranga, Naples, Italy.

3. Teranga

Documentary, 2019

Made by three young women who flew to Naples, Italy, with a camera, a small budget, and the dream of telling a real story of immigration, Teranga is a must-watch.

Centred in the nightclub Teranga, the film focuses on the stories of two West African asylum-seekers who fled from The Gambia to look for a better life in Italy.

Teranga becomes the place where they forget about their worries and problems in their pursuit for a better future, and where the audience can see them not as victims or “invaders”, but as real humans who laugh, cry and dream.

Having been to a similar nightclub, but in Berlin, Teranga resonates with me. It manages to capture the sense of community and the mix of escapism and hope one can feel in these clubs. Here, asylum seekers find people from their home country, share experiences and dance to momentarily forget about their concerns over their immigration status. There is also a feeling of acceptance among the community and a shared hope that they’ll manage to stay in Europe.

In 2018, some 3,000 families were forcibly separated at the US-Mexico border.

4. Torn Apart: Separated At The Border

Documentary, HBO, 2019

In 2018, some 3,000 families were forcibly separated by the US government at the US-Mexico border.

Torn Apart tells the heartbreaking story of two mothers who had to be separated from their children for months. 

Most of these families have escaped life-threatening violence in Central America and the added trauma of having to stay apart from their loved ones is definitely hard to watch.

City of God was a hit film that portrayed life inside the favelas of Rio de Janeiro.

5. City of God: 10 years later

Documentary, Netflix, 2020

Ten years ago, City of God was a hit film that portrayed the cold reality of life inside one of the most dangerous favelas of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in the 1970s.

Rio’s favelas are a frequent theme on the media across the world, but in this film, the not-so-obvious connection of a well-hearted photographer and a drug dealer coupled with some unexpected plot twists make it an enjoyable watch. Most of the cast were residents of the favela themselves, which gives the whole thing a not-so-polished look.

Now, ten years on, the actors have met with the team behind the film to discuss how their lives unfolded after the success of the film. And it is surprising.

If you haven’t watched the film, this recommendation is a 2-in-1: watch the film and then the documentary.

Our top-five selection from around the world.

Have you watched any documentaries or films on human rights that you would like to recommend? Share with us on Instagram: @thismuchiknow.news