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5 inspiring films on social change

  • Published at 05:46 pm August 9th, 2018

In light of current events, read on to learn about five inspiring movies on social uprising and protest that you must see

A tragic traffic accident triggered mass protests by students who took to the streets of Bangladesh to demand that authorities improve road safety. The demonstrations were sparked by the deaths of two students who were reportedly killed by a speeding bus in Dhaka on July 29. 

In light of current events, read on to learn about five inspiring movies on social uprising and protest that you must see:

Battleship Potemkin (1925)

Originally titled Bronenosets Potemkin and directed by Sergei M Eisenstein, this film is considered one of the most important films in the history of silent pictures. 

The film tells the story of the mutiny on the Russian ship, Prince Potemkin, during the 1905 uprising. Sailors aboard the Russian battleship, which is anchored in Odessa harbour, feel restless and oppressed. They have lost confidence in their leaders. When served rancid meat, the sailors refuse to eat - this is considered mutinous, and they are punished. The sailors rebel and capture control of the ship. A priest assigned to the ship is portrayed as demented, totally in league with the evil officers. In reprisal for the killing of a sailor, the mutinous crew shells the town of Odessa. A squadron loyal to the government is then sent to regain the battleship. 

Battleship Potemkin is one of those rare silent films that can not only be appreciated for the important role it played in the revolution of cinema, but it also happens to be very entertaining on its own. The action scenes were beautifully shot and edited together to stir an even greater emotional impact. 

Viva Zapata! (1952)

Produced by Darryl F Zanuck and directed by Elia Kazan, this film follows the life of Mexican revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata (Marlon Brando) from his peasant upbringing, through his rise to power in the early 1900s, to his death. 

The movie presents an interesting but fictionalized picture of Zapata. Zapata, the child of tenant-farmers, was joined by Pancho Villa in his rebellion against tyrannical President Porfirio Diaz. He becomes a revolutionary when corrupt President Porfirio Diaz ignores the needs of his people. Zapata, his brother Eufemio (Anthony Quinn) and Pancho Villa (Alan Reed) band together behind Diaz's political opponent, Francisco Madero (Harold Gordon). But when Madero's administration, particularly General Victoriano Huerta (Frank Silvera), proves just as corrupt as the one it replaced, Zapata is spurred to further action.

Marlon Brando won an Academy Award nomination for his work, as did Anthony Quinn, who took home the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his headstrong, hard-fighting, hard-drinking, intensely romantic character who does not hesitate to die for love. 

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (1975)

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is the first film to win Academy Awards for best picture, director, actor, actress and screenplay since It Happened One Night in 1934. 

Directed by Milos Forman, the movie is set in 1963 and depicts the story of Randall Patrick McMurphy (Jack Nicholson), who is a new patient in a mental ward. He has been sent there from a prison work farm because he is a nonconformist, and so the authorities want to evaluate him and determine if he is mentally ill. McMurphy's "problem" is that he is a logical individual in a society ruled by bureaucratic illogic who dares to think for himself, and question authority. He resists taking his medication, rebels against the oppressive nurse and rallies up the scared patients. 

The mental ward in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest serves as a metaphor for American society, the point being that citizens are inmates of that society. They are expected to conform, by fitting in as members of a status quo. 

The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)

The film is a dramatization of a motorcycle road trip Che Guevara went on in his youth that showed him his life's calling. Originally titled Diarios de motocicleta in Spanish, it is a biopic about the journey and written memoir of the 23-year-old Ernesto Guevara, who would several years later become known as the iconic revolutionary Che Guevara.

Directed by Walter Salles and written by Jose Rivera, the movie traces an 8000-mile journey of two close friends - Ernesto Guevara de la Serna and Alberto Granado. On the journey, Che and Granado see poverty and oppression constantly haunting all across Latin America and lend a helping hand to the oppressed. They realize that the injustice and suffering of poor and powerless Latin Americans are not confined by frontiers, but that they almost characterize the continent as a whole.

The Motorcycle Diaries tells a very personal tale with a central theme we can all relate to - the loss of innocence. We may not all become revolutionaries like Guevara, but nearly everyone can recall that moment when he or she realizes that the world can be an unpleasant place. 

Uprising (2012)

The last one is a documentary directed and written by Fredrik Stanton that traces the origins of the Egyptian Revolution that began in January 2011. It provides a first hand account of the early stages of revolution and follows various leaders and organizers of the movement.

The documentary depicts the spontaneous marches against the 30 year oppressive military rule of president Hosni Mubarak. For the first time in history, organizers and activists turned to social media to voice their opinions and organize protests in Tahrir Square. Although the demonstration was a peaceful one when it first began, the violence of the police charged with putting down the revolution inspired further violence on both sides as protesters continued to demand that Hosni Mubarak step down from the presidency. When the appointment of the former head of the Egyptian General Intelligence Directorate, Omar Suleiman, as Vice-President was not enough to end protests, Mubarak agreed to step down on February 11, 2011. It was decided that the military would rule for six months until elections could be held. 

While the film only covers the events leading up to and shortly following the end of the Mubarak regime, the revolution in Egypt continues to this day as new challenges are faced.