Movies are a unique medium. They let a viewer step into a world outside of their own for a while. For many people, they watch movies in order to escape reality, which explains why superhero movies are so popular these days. However, movies are also a powerful tool for telling the truth about the state of the world and humanity’s past, present, and future. Here are five Amazon Prime movies focused on human rights issues and important figures in human rights history:
I Am Still Here (2017)
Director: Mischa Marcus
In this film by writer/director Mischa Marcus, a 10-year old girl named Layla is abducted from an average American neighborhood. “I Am Still Here” gives viewers a glimpse into what happens next as Layla is forced into the child sex slave industry. Described by some reviewers as “reality horror,” this film is not for the faint-hearted as Layla is drugged and assaulted. Meanwhile, the police try to find her.
Johnny Rey Diaz, Ciara Jiana, and Erika Ringo star. Based on extensive research into real cases, the film exposes just how serious the issue of slavery is within the United States and how children, especially children of color like Layla, are extremely vulnerable. Mischa Marcus heard about a child sex trafficking ring broken up in the area where she lived and it shocked her, inspiring her to make the film. “I Am Still Here” screened at over 50 film festivals around the world and earned over 45 festival awards, including Best Feature at the Nice Film Festival.
My Life With Rosie (2017)
Director: Angela Salder Williamson
Dr. Angela Sadler Williamson, an author, speaker, educator, and filmmaker, directs this documentary about Rosa Parks and Parks’ cousin and caretaker Carolyn Green. Most people know about just one moment in Rosa Parks’ life – the moment when she refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man – but that’s all they know. They don’t know that at the time, she was a secretary for the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP or that she was trained as an activist. They don’t know that finding work after her act of defiance was so difficult, she had to move, or that she received death threats for years afterwards.
In “My Life With Rosie,” Dr. Williamson shows viewers a different side of the Civil Rights icon through the eyes of someone who knew her. The film won the Grand Prize for Documentary Feature at the Culver City Film Festival.
A Bridge Apart (2014)
Director: Frank Manglia Jr.
Written by Virginia Wolf and narrated by Edward James Olmos, this documentary follows the migration of Central Americans and Mexicans into the United States. On the news, we often don’t hear these stories from the people actually living them. We only hear snippets and sound bites which fail to paint a complete picture of what’s going on.
“A Bridge Apart” features photographs and first-hand accounts from people hoping for a better life in the US. The journey is hard and fraught with dangers like human trafficking and even death. Writer Virginia Wolf was inspired to start this project back in 2007 when she traveled with an international NGO in the El Salvador/Honduras/Nicaragua area. The poverty and desperation she witnessed shocked her, especially since it was all so close to the US border. In addition to humanizing the issues, “A Bridge Apart” also takes a look at how things can be improved in Central America and Mexico, so people don’t feel forced to abandon their homes.
John Lewis: Get In The Way (2015)
Director: Kathleen Dowdey
This is the first major documentary about civil rights leader and Georgia Congressman John Lewis. Lewis was one of the original 13 Freedom Riders and built his entire career around protecting civil and human rights. He’s served as a congressman since 1987 and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. Filmmaker Kathleen Dowdey tells Lewis’ story using interviews shot over the past 20 years which the public hadn’t seen before. Before getting to Amazon Prime, “John Lewis: Get In The Way” played on PBS as part of Black History Month in 2017 and 2018.
Human Flow (2017)
Director: Ai Weiwei
Ai Weiwei turns his camera on the problem of displacement, which has reached numbers not seen since World War II. More than 65 million have lost their homes because of famine, war, and climate change. Focusing on 23 countries, including Iraq, Greece, and Germany, Weiwei examines what happens over the course of a year as people try to find stability and safety.
Weiwei got the inspiration for the film while going on vacation to Greece. He filmed refugees arriving on boats using his iPhone and committed to making a film. As someone who lived in a Chinese camp during the Cultural Revolution, these issues are personal to Weiwei. “Human Flow” was shot using technology like regular cameras, iPhones, and even drones. “Human Flow’ has a 91% on Rotten Tomatoes and was shortlisted in the top 15 Oscar candidates for Best Documentary.