Remember the Titans may be one of the most renowned American sports films. It is also remains one of the most significant. Similar to all sports movies, it follows the trials of the underdog and peoples’ vulnerabilities coming to a head. Sports, in this case football, have a way of speaking out against the issues plaguing the community. In this film, football was the tool to fight racism and discrimination.
Based on a true story, Remember the Titans follows a team in Alexandria, Virginia - a place where football is a way of life. In 1971, Alexandria had a recently integrated school system where Coach Boone, played by Denzel Washington, takes over the head position at the school. The white players originally refuse to play for a black coach, but former head coach and now assistant coach, Coach Yoast, played by Will Patton, drags them back to the game out of fear that missing a season will lead to no scholarships.
There is constantly the battle of race within the framework of the team, but also externally —within the town and when the team steps on the field to play opposing teams. Coach Boone teaches his players lessons beyond football, most importantly being the value of working together and respecting one another, regardless of their background.
Today the south is still deeply divisive, yet sports can continue to play a role of diplomacy within communities. Remember the Titans reminds us of the power of working together, showing and earning respect as well as the trials and benefits of hard work.
"Battle of the Sexes" is a kick-a**, girl-power film based on the true story of female American tennis player Billie Jean King. King was ranked number one in the world for five years, won six Wimbledon singles championships and four U.S. Open titles. Utilizing her prestige and talent, King during her tennis career and through today fights for equal pay for female tennis players. Because the USTA (United States Tennis Association) was discriminating against female players and not paying them equally- even when the female players sold the same number of tickets, the “original nine” women decided to form their own league, the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association).
King was challenged by Bobby Riggs - a fellow Wimbledon champion nearly twice her age and chauvinistic pig - or at least he was portrayed as such, in the film. Riggs was an addicted gambler in need of money, so he challenged the best female tennis player in the world. Hence the title, Battle of the Sexes. This event actually did take place on September 20, 1973 in Houston, Texas. King crushed Riggs “in a match the London Sunday Times called ‘the drop shot and volley heard around the world.’”
This was a win not just for King, but for all female athletes. This was no easy feat, for King feared what a loss to Riggs would mean. She was quoted saying, "I thought it would set us back 50 years if I didn't win that match.” Fortunately for womankind, BJK won. Billie Jean not only blazed a progressive trail for female athletes, but she was also an activist for the LGBTQ community as well as gender equality - both on and off the court. She was even ranked as “One of the 100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century.”
So, if you’re in the mood to watch some women ace chauvinism, this is your film.
This month, Netflix released yet another original series, this one called Rotten. Unlike all of the Marvel and DC Comics television shows, Rotten takes us through the different parts of corruption and fraud in the food industry. For each of the six episodes, the producers take on a different part of the industry - from bee and honey production, the peanut allergy problem, to the vast issues plaguing the fishery industries. For the purposes of our theme, I watched the sixth episode - “Cod is Dead.”
How we produce food is inextricably related to what the state of the environment is. Particularly in the United States, food production is intertwined with many of the issues that face the American public. Overfishing or trying to take more than the environment can give means that the food industry often takes shortcuts, such as bypassing regulations. With markets like that of the United States which consumes five billion pounds of seafood a year, there’s incentivization to take those shortcuts on a regular basis.
Due to climate change, the oceans of the world are facing higher rates of salt in the water- leading to less diversity and fewer fish. Rotten’s sixth episode focuses on the fishing industry, discussing the global fishing crisis - and how overfishing links the issue of environmental policy to food production regulation. In other words, everything is so closely interrelated that should one block change, the rest will also fall.
One aspect that the episode talked about was the issue of privatizing fish and the deep division between fishermen and scientists. Throughout the latter half of the twentieth century, the American government began to increase regulation and set a total allowable catch on the East Coast, dividing that amount among big and small boats in “catch shares” in order to protect fish populations. Iceland also implemented this measure 15 years earlier - and ended up killing their small boat industry although the cod population went up. But how does that square with fewer fishermen and jobs? Answer: For small fishery owners, it doesn’t.
Rotten is a great way to expand your own knowledge of the inner workings of the food industry while understanding the connections between climate change and what is considered “normal.” What I personally took away from the documentary was that food production is not transparent at all. Unless you go out of your way to learn about the fish industry, you will never know about the divisive history of regulation nor the crisis that spurred on what we see in our grocery stores today.
Check out the trailer below and let us know your favorite episode!
From novel to movie, Wonder strikes every spectrum of human emotion. It leaves the audience reflecting on the magnitude of individual acts of kindness and the importance of embracing the small moments.
August, who goes by Auggie, has been home-schooled through 5th grade due to his many surgeries. Auggie was born with facial deformities that have hindered and complicated his life, both physically and superficially. All of his 27 surgeries have tried to ascertain for him, a more ordinary life —from being able to see to no longer having to rely on hearing aids. Although each surgery has aided in making Auggie’s life physically easier, he still is noticeably different from his peers.
The movie follows the cliche theme - to not judge a book (or person) by its cover. With the target audience being children, it is continuously perplexing to witness the extent to which children can inappropriately treat one another. That being said, the film intricately illustrates how behaviors are passed down from parents to children, including showing kindness.
Each day Auggie is confronted with stares, comments, backstabbing, and blatant bullying. However, as the story and your tears unfold, the audience is uplifted by the impact of meaningful actions and compassionate conversations as well as the power of altruism as a guiding force.
Wonder reminds us of what truly is important in life. Humans are instinctively good in nature, yet they they are shaped society and what it deems to be valuable. A humbling and beautiful film, Wonder will leave its audience members tears and it will serve as a reminder to listen before judging, to act with benevolence, and to pass along a smile to those you meet along the way.
“If every person in this room made it a rule that wherever you are, whenever you can, you will try to act a little kinder than is necessary - the world really would be a better place. And if you do this, if you act just a little kinder than is necessary, someone else, somewhere, someday, may recognize in you, in every single one of you, the face of God.” ― R.J. Palacio, Wonder
Living in Berlin, watching “The Lives of Others” was a must. Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, it was mostly filmed in the original locations, in East Berlin. It highlights what life was like in the German Democratic Republic (GDR, for short) in East Berlin, particularly during the 1980’s.
Set from the point of view from a Stasi spy, the audience gains an inner look as to not only just the lives that he is observing, but the lives of the Stasi themselves. It addresses one of the important, dark, yet often overlooked moments in German history. The film showcases the struggle of the individual amidst a socialist regime. One’s conversations, medications, outfits, professions and more, were all dictated and observed by the GDR. Paranoia ran rampant. On the other hand, it also demonstrates that even in such a repressive state, there still exists some human decency - or at least we cling on to the hope that it does.
“The Lives of Others” is not just an impressive film, it is also a relevant one - only 28 years ago was Berlin still divided. Many of the film’s locations look exactly the same. I have also had the opportunity to speak with Berliners who lived through the GDR. One man said to me and this I will never forget, “The wall is down, but it still exists, up here (referring to his mind).”
Watch it here:
If you are at all interested in the lives of celebrity chefs, then you have heard of Anthony Bourdain. From his many books to his film and television productions, he has moved from being a chef to a producer of food media. In his most recent work, he tackles the issue of food waste. His newest movie is titled: Wasted! The Story of Food Waste. As can be gleaned from the title, the documentary follows the different aspects of how we as a society waste food. Bourdain make it a point to say he hates being an advocate, but the movie doesn’t actually focus on him all that much. Instead, it looks at each stage of food production and consumption to show just how much food we waste.
Where do you think your food waste goes? How long do you think it takes for a head of lettuce to decompose in a landfill? I can guarantee you that it’s longer than the time it takes for it to decompose in your compost.
What makes Wasted the film to watch isn’t just that it opens your eyes to how much food we waste, but positive measures that are being done to address it. Even though Bourdain (in his own words) would have preferred to guilt us all into saving food and consuming it with care - the film is very uplifting. All around the world, innovation are taking shape to solve this problem. In Japan and Korea, food waste is not only measured by household, it is put into the mouths of livestock and reused. An elementary school in New Orleans teaches children how to grow food and how not to waste it. Celebrity chefs make an appearance took, from Mario Batali to Massimo Bottura, to explain to us why we need to stop wasting food.
We don’t necessarily think about the relationship that our society has with food. After watching this film, I admittedly am driven to think about my own habits in wasting food. It’s a global problem that extends from how we make food to how we eat it. Luckily there are small ways we can all contribute. Plan your grocery shopping, use more food scraps, compost, put some thought into how you treat your food after you’ve finished eating it and read more tips here.
You might find this hard to believe if you have seen this film or have even heard about its focus, but this is a true story.
Set in the 1990’s, this film portrays the widely televised case between infamous Holocaust denier David Irving and historian and professor of Holocaust studies, Deborah Lipstadt. Irving interrupts Lipstadt’s lectures and sues her for libel in the courts of the United Kingdom. This is important to note because in the United States, the burden of proof lays with the plaintiff. But in the U.K, it is vice versa. So, Lipstadt has to prove that when she accused him of being a Holocaust denier, that she wasn’t committing libel, rather that he did in fact deny the Holocaust and in doing so, lied.
This is a gripping story - emotions and tensions run at an all time high. I found myself consistently asking the questions: 1) How could anyone deny the Holocaust? and 2) How could it even get this far?
Lipstadt and her legal team clash on how to go about handling the case. She wants to testify on behalf of herself and also have Holocaust survivors testify as well. But, her team wisely advises against it as Irving has re-traumatized survivors, in the past. They don’t want to put the Holocaust on trial. So much is at risk, for if they lose the case, it would open the door for deniers to negate such a critical, horrific period in human history. Not only that, but it would dishonour the victims and re-traumatize the survivors at the very least. Needless to say, this was a herculean task Lipstadt and her legal team face.
I won’t include any spoilers, for I strongly encourage everyone to watch this film. But I will say that it is very important, especially in today’s world with the rise of the alt-right, neo-Nazis, and other similar hate groups. Although history has many sides and the victors generally write it, one cannot simply rewrite it or deny the existence of certain events, especially ones as awful as the Holocaust. Instead, we bear the responsibility to remember in order to avoid repeating such atrocities.
Check out the film here:
The Big Sick, an Amazon movie that hit theatres this summer, addresses the the complicated dynamic that children of immigrants face while living in America. The thematic question being: How does one partake in a fast-paced society that is heavily influenced by pop-culture and capitalism while also adhering to the culture of one’s parents and their homeland?
Born in Pakistan to Pakistani parents, Kumail Nanjiani is raised in the United States. He is a comedian who loves his parents and values his cultures, but struggles with his individual identity. He no longer abides by many of the traditional Pakistani practices that he was raised with, including his beginning to question his parents’ strong conviction that he marries a Pakistani woman.
Kumail falls for a white American student named Emily, but he is not able to fully commit or allow himself to be with her completely for fear that his parents will disown him for not marrying a woman from a similar background and set of values. It isn’t until Emily falls into coma that Kumail wrestles with his own beliefs. Not abiding by his parents’ desire for him to have an arranged marriage forced him to lead two separate lives. While discovering that he wants to marry outside of his home cultural practices, he realizes what his true values are - having taken some from his home culture and others from the American culture he grew up around.
As a comedian he addresses, comically and lightly, the ins and outs of racism and xenophobia within the United States. Kumail also showcases the mixed messages that many second generation Americans confront when they are part of two cultures.
Find the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJmpSMRQhhs
What the Health, a Kip Anderson and Keegan Kuhn documentary, has exploded online primarily as a vegan propaganda documentary. However, it also addresses much more than the value of eating a plant-based diet.
What the Health does focuses on the health components of a plant-based diet; however, it chiefly focuses on the corruption of the U.S. government and the funding behind food programs within the country. Further, the documentary takes a look at both the individual and environmental consequences that a diet heavy in meat and dairy cause.
As an individual who takes my health seriously (and therefore love my veggies), I began to consider health as a human right. Within the context of the United States, healthy food is often hard to find and even if found, it is often much more expensive than the unhealthy foods. This especially affects those in impoverished and underserved neighborhoods, where there are high rates of food insecurity. The government is the body who determines healthy food portions - in terms of categorizing food groups and appropriate portions. In order to make more profits, they are falsely advertising what is healthy and in turn, they are creating a largely overweight society - one in which diabetes, cholesterol, heart disease, cancer and rates have skyrocketed.
So, is health a human right? I say, yes. People should not be misled by false information in general, but especially when its government is backed by large food and product agglomerations. Instead, people should understand what they are putting into their bodies, including knowing exactly: what each product does, where it comes from, and the process involved - for example how a steak derives from a cow. Having access to knowledge that enables us to live life to the fullest capacity is a human right. It is time for transparency in the United States food industry and ideally, the separation of companies and State.
What the Health is worth the watch - for both the mind and also the rest of the body. People need to see how interconnected and intertwined the U.S government is with the food industry. There is no shying away from this - the United States is a fat country and it is only growing moreso.. Processed foods, hidden sugar (mostly in the form of corn) in nearly everything and people not having access to the right information are driving factors behind U.S. obesity. Yes, people are entitled to live their own lives in the way that they see fit - whether it’s one of moderation or one of excess- however, the main takeaway from this documentary is: It is a human right to know what you are putting in your body and a human responsibility to consume less meat and dairy products for the future of this planet.
For an easy, plant-based recipe click here:
Hidden Figures is a stand out film of 2017. It highlighted the true hidden figures that went mostly unnoticed within American society - the African-American mathematicians who worked at NASA.
Set in the southern United States during the 1960s, this story follows the lives of three brilliant African-American female NASA mathematicians and their critical involvement in helping get American astronaut and hero, John Glenn, into space during the Space Race with Russia/Soviet Union.
They were not recognized for their tremendous efforts until much later – a sad truth revealed at the end of the film.
Nevertheless, the women – Katherine Johnson (Taraji Henson), Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae), and Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) command the screen. They never stop fighting for the country that doesn’t fully treat them as equal citizens. The small victories in the overarching victory of getting Glen in space, are when the women succeed in demanding to be recognized and treated as equals. In addition to surpassing the barrier that separates humankind from space, these human computers overcame the racial, gender, and professional hurdles that obstructed their paths.
Katherine, Mary and Dorothy’s intelligence and determination are what drives the film and consequently, John Glen into orbit. As a result of this film, they are now, no longer unrecognized, heroes.
Hidden Figures is inspiring and eye-opening. It makes the audience ponder just how many other hidden figures there still are . . .