Many a film — no, not just Michael Moore's fiery docs — have left us moved by what we've seen on screen and eager to make a difference in the world. Here's to taking that initiative past the two–hour viewing experience and doing some actual good, here, at Penn. Let us connect the dots for you.
Freedom Writers (2007)
In one of her better performances (think somewhere in between Karate Kid and Million Dollar Baby), Hilary Swank plays a young teacher struggling to connect with her students at an at–risk high school. Fighting her own emotional turmoil and the prejudices placed against her, Swank’s character finds ways to unite her racially and socio–economically divided classroom. As it turns out, writing crosses all prejudice lines. Problem solved.
Are you touched by Hilary’s warm heart and guidance? West Philly Tutoring Project is an easy way to connect with children from at–risk schools and help them succeed. Urban education is a national problem and one that is particularly prevalent in Philadelphia.
Sleeping With The Enemy (1991)
It’s a common misconception that all Julia Roberts films are sappy and romantic. Sleeping With The Enemy sends quite the opposite message about love. Roberts plays a woman whose marriage looks ideal from the outside, but in reality she is threatened daily by her abusive and obsessive husband. Driven to desperation, Roberts’ character fakes her own death and flees her captive situation.
Are your eyes opened by the domestic violence on screen? ASAP (Abuse and Sexual Assault Prevention) is a group for both men and women that works to spread awareness about domestic violence and sexual abuse. Stationed in the Women’s Center, they plan such grassroots events as “Take Back the Night.”
City of God (2002)
Following two Brazilian men with very different Rio experiences, City of God addresses issues of drug culture, glorified violence and public health. While one works the streets, trafficking drugs and taking on rival gangs, the other is a photographer who judges his impact by the images he takes. The result is a shocking display of cultural toxicity and inefficient government regulation.
Does the display of rough Brazilian culture make you want to take action? The Global Medical Brigade takes students of all majors into consideration when they run medical missions to in–need areas, such as Honduras. Like Doctors Without Borders, the organization spreads awareness of the harms of drugs and administers basic medical care.
Sean Penn brings the story of Harvey Milk, a gay San Franciscan politician and activist, to the screen in a presentation of a domestic social justice battle. The biopic tells the true story of a national figure whose influence is needed in our political system today just as much as it was in the ‘70s. Fun fact: the activist–cum–screenwriter made famous for this gem, Dustin Lance Black, also penned J. Edgar.
Does Milk make you want to pick up Harvey’s battle for equality? Penn’s Queer Student Alliance opens the conversation about gay rights and the importance of forging a united front about persecution. Who knows, maybe you could be the next Milk — or his cute boyfriend, appropriately played by James Franco.