A selection of four documentaries that have birthed and supported some of the biggest social justice movements of late, from #MeToo to ethical social media use. Read, share, stream these films, and be inspired.

  • The Social Dilemma, directed by Jeff Orlowski, USA: The film is an American docudrama film that examines how the design of social media can nurture addiction, manipulate politics and spread conspiracy theories, and its effects on mental health especially in adolescents. The Social Dilemma uses scripted dramatizations about a family affected by social media, and interviews with former executives and professionals from top tech companies and social media platforms like Facebook and Google sharing first-hand experiences of working in the industry, many of whom have left due to ethical concerns. By addressing concepts such as data mining, technology addiction, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and surveillance capitalism, the film explores how a relatively small number of engineers make decisions that impact billions of people. The Social Dilemma premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for Best Documentary at the BAFTAs. It was released on Netflix in September 2020 and went on to be viewed in 38 million homes within the first 28 days of release. More on the movement behind the film here, watch the film trailer here and watch it on Netflix here.
  • On the Record, directed by Kirby Dick & Amy Ziering, USA: One of a number of documentaries released in the wake of the #MeToo movement, On the Record chronicles the allegations of sexual harassment and abuse against American hip-hop mogul and co-founder of Def Jam Records, Russell Simmons. Through the story of former Def Jam executive Drew Dixon, who was the first to publicly levy these accusations against Simmons, as well as interviews with some of the over 20 women who have accused him, the film explores the entrenched sexism of the music industry, as well as the erasure of Black women’s voices from the #MeToo movement. Watch the film trailer here and stream it on HBO Max here.
  • Athlete A, directed by Bonni Cohen & Jon Shenk, USA: This documentary follows The Indianapolis Star investigative journalists – Mark Alesia, Tim Evans, and Marisa Kwiatkowski – who broke the story of USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar who sexually assaulted hundreds of young athletes at the USAG team. The film highlights the systemic abuse and institutionalized corruption in the world of gymnastics, exposing how the USAG protected predatory coaches and did not report abuse allegations to authorities. It tells the stories of survivors Maggie Nichols, Rachael Denhollander, Jessica Howard and Jamie Dantzcher, who all came forward with allegations against Nassar and together with other determined women like police detective Lt. Andrea Munford and prosecuting attorney Angela Povilaitis, saw that justice was served. More on the movement behind the film here, watch the film trailer here and stream it on Netflix here.
  • The Fight, directed by Eli Despres, Josh Kriegman & Elyse Steinberg, USA: This documentary follows five legal battles faced by lawyers at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) against policies by the Trump administration. The lawsuits involve opposition to the Trump travel ban, ensuring abortion access for immigrants in ICE custody, a challenge to the proposed citizenship question on the census, rejection of the Trump order banning transgender personnel in the military, and an attempt to reunite families separated at the border. The film is an inspiring insight into how these legal battles are fought and a celebration of the unsung legal gladiators who are fighting them. More on the movement behind the film here, watch the film trailer here and stream it on Netflix here.

About Parminder Vir OBE

Parminder Vir OBE has dedicated herself to positively impacting and transforming lives through a professional career spanning 40 years in philanthropy, entrepreneurship, film and television production, arts and culture, and investment funding. She is the co-founder of the Support4AfricaSMEs campaign and The African Farmers Stories, launched in 2020. She served as the CEO of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, based in Lagos, Nigeria from April 2014 to April 2019. Prior to joining the Foundation, Parminder has enjoyed a distinguished career as an awarding winning film and television producer and private equity investor in film and media.

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