Animated War MoviesMovies have long presented the ill effects war has on communities, but animated war movies shatter expectations. They linger between reality and imagination but play on emotional vulnerabilities while maintaining a subtle level of detachment. Here are three animated war movies that have changed the perception of war films, animation and war itself.

Waltz with Bashir (2008)

The film is a documentary that unfolds the repressed memories of its director, Ari Folman, who served in the Israeli Army during the 1982 Lebanon War. Even though Folman does not consider the Lebanese or Palestinian perspective, the film remains a harrowing journey from the anguishes of war to absolute horror.

Israel invaded Lebanon to fight the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and help establish a new order under the Lebanese Christian Phalangists. Folman’s spectacular visual journey builds up to the Sabra and Shatila massacre, which turns into disturbingly real footage. The film almost wrestles with Israel’s culpability.

Following the assassination of Phalangist leader Bashir Gemayel, with then-Defense Minister Ariel Sharon claiming there were thousands of terrorists in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, Israeli soldiers sealed off Sabra and Shatila, and Phalangists militiamen entered the camps.

“In the ensuing three-day rampage, the militia, linked to the Maronite Christian Phalange Party, raped, killed and dismembered at least 800 civilians, while Israeli flares illuminated the camps’ narrow and darkened alleyways. Nearly all of the dead were women, children and elderly men,” Seth Anziska wrote at The New York Times. Sources report the casualties as high as three thousand.

Today, Sabra and Shatila are cramped and overcrowded, with scarce electricity and a contaminated water supply. American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA) helps fund organizations that provide pre-school programs, vocational training and psychological assistance to Sabra and Shatila refugees. The prospect of refugees returning to Palestine remains bleak.

Grave of Fireflies (1988)

Originally a short story by Japanese author Akiyuki Nosaka, the film is an animated semi-autobiography about Nosaka’s experience during the firebombing of Kobe and the death of his little sister. The late historian and film critic, Roger Ebert, called the film “one of the greatest war films ever made.”

Over nine thousand tons of U.S. fire-bombs destroyed 31 square miles of Kobe, while the Tokyo air raid destroyed 20 percent of the city in one of the deadliest air raids in history – worse than Nagasaki and almost equal to Hiroshima.

According to historian Masahiko Yamabe, while earlier raids targeted military facilities, the Tokyo fire-bombing purposefully targeted areas with wood and paper homes. These areas usually exceeded 100 thousand people per square mile.

The film depicts the inferno and desecration, but survival and love make it a masterpiece portrayal of family and survivor’s guilt. Nosaka blamed himself for his sister’s death, and the apology is commemorated in the tender moments shared between the characters Seita and his sister, Setsuko.

The destruction and horror that befell these cities aren’t widely discussed in Japan. Yamabe said governments are reluctant to admit it was all the result of an outright refusal to end the war sooner. Other factors include how the atomic bombings eclipsed the attacks and how fast Japan rebuilt.

Hiroshima began rebuilding just hours after it was decimated – a communal effort, aided by volunteers. In March 1946, Kobe began a series of long-term master plans for postwar recovery. Despite the firebombs seemingly fading from memory, many survivors are determined to tell their stories.

Funan (2018)

Inspired by the director’s mother during the Khmer Rouge regime, Funan is not so much an animated war movie depicting genocidal atrocities as it is about a family struggling to survive and reunite under unimaginable duress and terror.

The Khmer Rouge came to power in 1975 and lasted for four years under the leadership of Pol Pot. The regime sought an entirely new country, one free of money, family ties, religion, education and property. As a result, an estimated two million people died from forced labor, disease, starvation or execution. Doctors, teachers and engineers were executed, and all existing infrastructure was destroyed.

Film critic Peter Debruge parallels Funan to the animated war movie Grave of the Fireflies. Both have an ability to balance emotional intimacy and distance when depicting “unwatchable” tragedy. The process of healing from the genocide only began with the establishment of The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) in 2006. The tribunal is tasked with investigating the Khmer Rouge, but its future is uncertain.

It took nine years for the first case to go to trial, and 12 years and $320 million to convict three men. In 2018, two of these men, Non Chea and Khieu Samphan, were found guilty of genocide over the attempted extermination of the Cham Muslim and Vietnamese minorities – the only genocide conviction against the Khmer Rouge.

Despite the tribunal’s faults and opposition from Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Cambodians are beginning to overcome their fears and face their wounds. One example is the television show “It’s Not A Dream,” which has reunited more than 50 Cambodian families.

Animated war movies not only depict the destruction of war, but also the human cost. Despite the hardships, humanity has been able to bounce back from war – at least to a point – but no progress is made without communal and international support.

– Emma Uk
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Global Poverty FilmsGlobal poverty is a worldwide issue that is still prevalent today. According to UNICEF, one billion children worldwide are living in poverty and 22,000 children die every day due to poverty. However, many people do not know the extent of global poverty and how big the issue really is. That is why films realistically showing global poverty are important to today’s society, as these films that can spread awareness about the issues being presented along with a compelling story. These are five top global poverty films that help shine a spotlight on social causes around the world.

Top 5 Global Poverty Films

  1. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
    Set in India, Slumdog Millionaire tells the story of Jamal Malik, an 18-year-old boy raised in the slums of Mumbai. The film depicted many hard to watch, yet realistic, scenes of poverty in India, including children being recruited to beg on the street for food, and children living in extreme poverty being forced into labor to survive. The film was widely acclaimed and became extremely popular; in 2009, it was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won eight of them, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. It also won seven BAFTA Awards, five Critics’ Choice Awards and four Golden Globes.
  2. Queen of Katwe (2016)
    Queen of Katwe is a film based on the true story of Phiona Mutesi, a Ugandan girl living in a slum in Katwe. The movie follows her journey as she learns and begins to excel at chess, with the goal of lifting her family out of poverty. Queen of Katwe was produced by Walt Disney Pictures and ESPN films, receiving praise from critics as a realistic portrayal of poverty in Africa. In a review by Angela Watercutter for WIRED, she writes, “it is a very Disney movie in that it centers around a family and has a happy ending, but it is a very un-Disney story in that it unblinkingly examines the poverty, violence and racism its protagonists face every day.” It also had a high profile cast—starring David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong’o and Madina Nalwanga, which helped to raise even more awareness for poverty in Uganda.
  3. The First Grader (2010)
    The First Grader is based on a true story about Kimani Maruge, an 84-year-old Kenyan villager and farmer who enrolls in elementary school after the Kenyan government announced free universal primary education in 2003. The film shows a realistic depiction of rural and urban Kenya, as well as many issues that those living in extreme poverty in Kenya had to face both at that time and in the present, such as lack of access to schooling, being separated from family and having to suffer in work and prison camps at the hands of the British. The film raised a lot of awareness of how big the issue of lack of schooling and access to education is in Kenya and Africa. National Geographic described its impact as “a triumphant testimony to the transforming force of education.”
  4. Neria (1993)
    Neria, made in Zimbabwe’s golden age of “Zollywood,” is a story about a rural woman who becomes a widow, and loses her farm and livelihood. Neria became the most critically-acclaimed film of the decade and highest-grossing film of all time from Zimbabwe. Part of its popularity came from the fact Zimbabwe’s biggest cultural icon, Oliver Mtukudzi, made the soundtrack. This star power gained global attention, with major U.S. newspapers reporting about it, leading to much more awareness about global poverty and poverty in Africa.
  5. Girl Rising (2013)
    Girl Rising is a documentary-style film that follows the stories of nine girls from Haiti, Nepal, Ethiopia, India, Egypt, Peru, Cambodia, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan on their journey to education. The film highlighted issues surrounding girls’ educations around the world and promoted the organization Girl Rising, which works to ensure that girls around the world are educated and empowered. Girl Rising has partnered with Michelle Obama by producing the documentary special We Will Rise: Michelle Obama’s Mission to Educate Girls Around the World, which has become one of CNN’s highest-rated documentary specials.

These five films show how film can be an amazing medium for spreading messages and garnering worldwide attention. That is why films surrounding global poverty are so important, as they are able to raise awareness for a number of prevalent issues.

– Natalie Chen
Photo: Creative Commons

Documentaries About PovertyDocumentaries are a form of film or television which take advantage of the entertainment platform to inform audiences of important issues through a more gripping means. They range in topics from technological innovation to the controversial beauty industry. Many documentaries have also focused on another major issue of today: global poverty. Below is a list of the top five documentaries about poverty as of 2019 and where to find them.

Top 5 Documentaries About Poverty and Where to Find Them

  1. The End of Poverty?: Directed by Philippe Diaz, who is well known within the genre, the documentary debuted in 2008 and became notorious for its unique historical perspective on global poverty. It highlighted the ways poverty has amassed through the years, beginning as early as the 16th century and concluding with present day. The film describes how poverty thrives in today’s world through interviews with historians, economists and impoverished families from around the world. This documentary can be viewed on Amazon Prime.
  2. Dilli: This 2011 documentary about the slums of Delhi focuses on the hardships of individuals in the area. Though relatively short, coming in just longer than 30 minutes, the film has a firm impact on the audience. Through interviews with citizens, ranging from old to young, directors Sushmit Ghosh and Rintu Thomas depict these daily trials. The film received critical acclaim, winning 1st place in the Short Documentary category of the Los Angeles Movie Awards. This documentary about poverty can be viewed now on Youtube.
  3. Poor No More: This 2010 documentary focuses on the poverty of Canada’s working-class by following the journey of native citizens. It puts Canada under a lens in comparison with Ireland and Sweden in terms of their respective job markets. The documentary takes a moment to focus on poverty within a different context—within the context of a country which is generally presumed as wealthy and well structured. The documentary can be viewed on Youtube.
  4. Hauling: This documentary, which premiered in 2010, follows the daily life of the Claudine family, a household of 27 children, whose income is dependent on the recycling system of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Every day, they collect the leftover wood, plastic and cardboard of the city in exchange for meager payment from the local recycling plant. The film brings forth the discussion of poverty in Brazil and the ways which their citizens persevere. The film can be viewed on Amazon Prime.
  5. The True Cost: This 2015 documentary focuses on the fashion industry and the way it uses impoverished nations to obtain cheap labor and goods. The film highlights the controversy of the fashion industry and the way it abuses the environment and ignores basic human rights. This documentary about poverty can be found on Netflix.

Art and media can become a platform for the voiceless. In these five documentaries about poverty, the lives of the underprivileged are documented for the rest of the world to face. If people want to help, but they don’t quite know where to start, then they must take the first step to get informed. Any of these documentaries could be a place to start.

– Eleanora Kamerow
Photo: Flickr

Documentaries About MigrationDocumentaries are often a great resource for gaining insight on a particular topic. In recent years, various journalists, filmmakers and documentarians have played a key role in telling the stories of those suffering from socio-political unrest occurring around the world. These stories include key humanitarian issues, such as migration resulting from crises. Not only do these crises displace millions of lives, but they also create an imbalance, leading to migrants who must endure poor living conditions. As such, documentaries about migration are extremely popular. They portray global migration crises from the perspective of those most affected. Here are the top five documentaries about migration.

Top 5 Documentaries About Migration

  1. 4.1 Miles (2016)
    A story about a Hellenic coast guard captain on a small Greek island who suddenly becomes in charge of saving thousands of refugees from drowning during the European migration crisis gives the viewers hope for humanity. The film was a winner of the David L. Wolper Student Documentary Award at the 2016 IDA Documentary Awards and was an Academy Award® Short Subject nominee.
  2. Human Flow (2017)
    Human Flow takes the viewer across the globe through 23 countries. It highlights urgent stories of victims of the various refugee crisis and shows the plight of those looking for a safe space to live in. For Ai Weiwei, “the purpose of (the documentary) is to show it to people of influence, people who are in a position to help and who have a responsibility to help.”
  3. Stranger in Paradise (2016)
    Stranger in Paradise is a mixture of fiction and documentary that depicts an actor in a classroom of a detention center telling refugees about what Europeans think of them. It reflects on the powerful relation between the Europeans and refugees in a candid manner and highlights the emotion most people feel while they have to go through the turmoil of displacement.
  4. City of Ghosts (2017)
    This film is a story of brave citizen journalists who face the realities of life undercover, in exile and on the run to stand against the violence that is taking place in the city of Raqqa in Syria. This film has used the camera as a powerful weapon to show the circumstances that have shaped the lives of people in Syria and has highlighted the turmoil in Syria in a great way.
  5. The Good Postman (2016)
    This film follows Ivan, the local postman in a quiet Bulgarian community on the Turkish border, as he decides to run for mayor. He then campaigns to bring the aging village to life by welcoming refugees. Some in the community support Ivan, while others resist his campaign. The film highlights the importance of a global discussion, depicting the plight of refugees and how they are perceived around the globe.

These five documentaries about migration enable viewers to understand migrants by portraying the conflicts driving migration through a personal lens. By diving into the lives of those impacted, these films tell a larger story about humanity as a whole.

Isha Akshita Mahajan
Photo: Flickr


FilmAid, the brainchild of award-winning film and television producer Caroline Baron, began in 1999 as a kind of balm for refugees living in Macedonian camps after fleeing from their homes in Kosovo. Baron believed that there could be a relationship between FilmAid and refugees, as entertaining films have the power to bolster spirits and lift morale amid the drudgery and displacement of camp life.

She was proven right, and after witnessing the numbers of people in attendance for even an hour or two of distracting and satisfying amusement, Baron realized her screens were capable of so much more.

FilmAid Evolves

Once she’d accomplished her first goal, Baron’s next step was to produce and present videos that provided vital information to the camp’s inhabitants. FilmAid contributed films on relevant topics like HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention, health and hygiene, women’s rights and conflict resolution, reaching thousands of refugees at camps spread throughout Africa, Europe, South America, Haiti and Asia.

But the project didn’t stop there. After partnering with the United Nations, other nonprofit organizations and some high-powered industry brass, the making of FilmAid productions ended up squarely in the hands of the refugees themselves.

For Refugees, By Refugees

Since then, refugees and FilmAid volunteers have shaped the organization into a community-led creative force. An incredibly unique organization, the participatory relationship between FilmAid and refugees creates an outlet for those enduring the rigors of camp life and the trauma of displacement. In being able to creatively express themselves, many refugees can express hope as well.

All FilmAid activities now fall under one of three categories: Media Content, Community Outreach and Skills Development. Media Content projects include films that tell stories, documentaries, public service announcements containing critical health information (a documentary about landmine awareness and detection skills is of particular note) and even music videos. Activities are not restricted to film only. The Refugee Magazine is written and produced by and for inhabitants of Kakuma and Dadaab camps in Kenya. FilmAid’s official website gives full access to each issue of The Refugee Magazine.

Community Outreach projects include the mobile cinema, in which a screen is secured to the bed of a truck and rolled through camp, displaying media projects, pertinent information and the occasional Charlie Chaplin film. Workshops focused on community engagement, mass media broadcasts and online and social media utilization to share community-made content are all part of FilmAid’s scope in the refugee camps.

Finally, Skills Development brings all aspects of FilmAid together. Through education in photography, journalism, radio and digital media, FilmAid empowers people, especially young people, to tell their stories. Additionally, through its media content, FilmAid provides training to community members who want to facilitate workshops on health, protection and rights issues.

The Film Festival

In 2016, the Tenth Annual FilmAid Film Festival was held in Nairobi. The festival’s theme that year was “Where I Am: Stories of the Relationship Between Identity and the Environment.” The festival showcased young filmmakers from the Dadaab and Kakuma camps while providing a platform for other international filmmakers to share stories relevant to the theme. In addition to films screened and awards distributed, a panel discussion was held on the topic “Media, Arts and the Refugee Narrative.”  Through the festival, the creative teamwork of FilmAid and refugees is highlighted while simultaneously entertaining, informing and empowering camp inhabitants.

It’s “a different kind of aid – a skills-driven aid,” says Emmanual Jal in an interview with Vanity Fair. Jal, a former child soldier from Sudan who is nurturing a growing career as a hip-hop musician and actor, performed for a concert in the Kakuma camp in 2015. During the show, volunteers for FilmAid and refugees filmed a music video for one of his songs.

Jal credits FilmAid for being among the few investors in a “cure” for problems rather than just treating them. As the young artist says, “to actually empower somebody and let them rise and gain their dignity, that’s the difficult part.” By giving a voice to the voiceless, FilmAid is helping to improve the quality of life in refugee camps across the globe.

– Jaymie Greenway

Photo: Flickr

Movies about EbolaFew people outside the medical community had heard of Ebola before the 2014 outbreak. However, as the threat spread rapidly, so did awareness and fear. Despite few references in pop culture and public awareness prior to the epidemic, the disease has been relevant for several decades. As a result, it has inspired various movies about Ebola.

Scientists discovered the first strain of Ebola in 1976, and the disease resurged in several relatively isolated outbreaks before the 2014 epidemic. Over the course of its history, the disease’s various strains had mortality rates fluctuating between 53 and 88 percent. The most recent strain was identified in 1994 after an ethologist contracted the disease during a necropsy on a dead chimpanzee. Despite this dramatic history, relatively few fact-based movies about Ebola exist. Regardless, Ebola has influenced the industry, inspiring both similar fictional diseases and more factual references.

The following films (both fiction and nonfiction) are related to Ebola.

1. The Fictional Comparison

The 1995 film “Outbreak” documents the course of a fictional disease from Africa to the U.S. and the controversial means used to eradicate it. While the disease, Motaba, is fictional, its highly infectious nature parallels that of Ebola. Despite key differences (Motaba is airborne) the film represents the extreme fear of incredibly contagious diseases with striking mortality rates. Among the largest similarities between and Ebola are the date and means of transmission. The movie premiered one year after the 1994 outbreak of Ebola, which reached humans via chimpanzee and represents the most recent strain of the disease. Meanwhile, the movie tracks the source of the resurgence of Motaba to a monkey in 1994.

2. The Movie Which Never Was

While the fictional approach to documenting Ebola-like terror made it to the big screens, a factual retelling of the Ebola epidemic did not. The writers of “Outbreak” adapted their story from Richard Preston’s book, “The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Ebola Virus.” However, in securing the adaption, “Outbreak” superseded the never-made “Crisis in the Hot Zone.” This film would have been a nonfiction portrayal based upon Preston’s more journalistic account of events.

3. Factual Mention, Fictional Interpretation

“Ebola 21” tells the story of Ebola’s role in terrorism. In the 2015 movie, domestic terrorists kidnap 21 people. They then infect one with Ebola (without his or her knowledge) and release the hostages back into the population.

4. Honoring Those Who Aided the Crisis

The upcoming film “93 Days” tells the story of the medical personnel who risked their lives to respond to the Ebola epidemic. The Nigerian film will premiere later this year. Despite the movie’s goals, some are concerned that it will not accurately portray the lives and work of those it honors.

5. Sparking Renewed Interest

With the intense fear accompanying the Ebola outbreak came a renewed interest in Hollywood’s many disease outbreak movies. Films like “Contagion” suddenly resurfaced on TV. Other movies about Ebola captured the public’s attention with stories of people using Ebola to wreak havoc. “Formula for Death” is a made-for-TV example of this storyline.

Ebola’s emergence in pop culture over the years represents decades-long historical origins. While the 2014 outbreak has killed thousands, incidences of Ebola had taken several hundred lives since the 1970s. The fact that movies about Ebola have veered more towards fiction than fact demonstrates the emotionally-charged nature of frightening diseases and their ability to capture the imagination. However, as the crisis has subsided, upcoming portrayals of the disease may add more realism to movies about Ebola.

Charlotte Bellomy

Photo: Pixabay

There are many inspiring and thought-provoking movies about global health that highlight the very real crises faced today. The following movies about global health explore some of the most dire issues, including women’s health, AIDS, polio, the right to safe drinking water and the realities of providing medical treatment in conflict situations.

  1. Blue Gold. Water shortages are a very real concern. Access to clean drinking water is also a dire problem in many parts of the world, and the demand for water only increases as the world’s population increases. Blue Gold considers the ramifications of this as corporations, governments and militaries try to control the water supply and people fight back for the right to clean water.
  2. A Closer Walk. The film examines the devastation wrought by AIDS throughout the world. A Closer Walk is narrated by Glenn Close and Will Smith, it explores the effects of AIDS in different regions, and what it means to live with and to fight against AIDS.
  3. Grace Under Fire. This is a notable film addressing the health issues women face globally, particularly in conflict areas. Grace Under Fire focuses on the regional conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where half  a million women are reported to have been raped. Dr. Grace Kodindo, an advocate for women’s health and reproductive rights, is followed throughout this film as she talks to both medical professionals and regular people about the access to care for women in the DRC.
  4. Living in Emergency: Stories of Doctors Without Borders. Medecins Sans Frontieres, also known as Doctors Without Borders, gave film crews permission for the first time in this documentary to film the doctors as they work in conflict areas. Living in Emergency: Stories of Doctors Without Borders provides an intense look at what it is like to provide medical care in emergency situations where violence is always a threat.
  5. Last Child: The Global Race to End Polio. Although polio has long been eradicated in developed countries, the fight continues in countries such as India, Nigeria and Haiti. Last Child: The Global Race to End Polio highlights the significant strides that have been made thus far. It also addresses the obstacles health workers have faced in eradicating polio, raising the question of whether the disease could spread again.

Each of these movies about global health provides a thought-provoking look at one of the major health crises affecting our planet today.

Katherine Hamblen

Photo: Flickr

When you have enough money and food to be comfortable, it can be easy to be unaware of just how many people in the world are lacking in these basics. Sometimes an inspiring film can really drive this point home, with moving stories and imagery that make it shockingly clear that millions of people in the world struggle with poverty every day. These are a few of the documentaries and films about poverty that give an idea of what poverty is like, or attempt to explain the nature of poverty.

We Feed the World: This film examines the contrast between the overproduction and waste of food among the affluent and the scarcity among those who are hungry. Food production is also explored. The story is told via an interview with U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Jean Zigler.

Slumdog Millionaire: One of the most popular films about poverty, Slumdog Millionaire is about how an orphan growing up in poverty in Mumbai comes to be a contestant on India’s “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” The question is, how did an uneducated orphan come to have the answers to some many of the game’s trivia questions? Moving visual imagery and dramatic storytelling bring both the reality of poverty and the hope amidst it to life.

A Place at the Table: This film, featuring actor-director Jeff Bridges, examines hunger in the U.S. The staggering statistic of 50 million Americans living in household lacking food security is given and this in the “richest country in the world,” reported Bills Moyers & Company. A Place at the Table tells us not only how many Americans are going hungry, but what tax dollars are being spent on instead. It also follows the lives of Americans living with food insecurity. Often they are people who are working full-time. Despite adding many food banks in the U.S., the problem persists.

The End of Poverty: This is another film that asks why there is so much poverty existing alongside so much wealth in the world. Directed by Philippe Diaz and narrated by Martin Sheen, the film takes the view that our current economic system is not only responsible for this situation, but perpetuates it and keeps it from truly changing. A look is taken at policies that keep rich countries rich, and poor countries poor.

Poverty, Inc.: This documentary takes a hard look at how the system of giving aid is and is not working. Although the film acknowledges the good in giving, it raises the question of what happens once money or aid is given. Are there unforeseen consequences? Sometimes aid can create dependence in a community in need. It’s important to examine the most efficient strategies for helping communities to rise above poverty and learn the tools to keep themselves out of it.

These thought-provoking documentaries and films about poverty bring new perspective to how we think about giving aid to those in poverty.

Katherine Hamblen

Photo: Flickr