Best human rights film ever made? Gandhi. Or maybe not
At the weekend my partner was watching Gandhi, one of our DVD rentals from (the excellent) Sofa Cinema.
“I’m not that interested”, I said. “Seen it”. “Not that good.” “Ben Kingsley as Gandhi? Hmm, not sure.” I was stubborn, adamant. I preferred to stay glued to the computer screen as she watched the film behind me. Yeah, just check my Facebook, do a couple of Blips, anything happening on my Tweetdeck? Except …
Yep, I started getting distracted. First there’s the stuff about the young Gandhi standing up to raw racism as a young immigrant lawyer in South Africa (“there are NO coloured lawyers in South Africa”, he’s told, so, ipso facto, he’s not a lawyer).
Then there was the fleeting sight of (a very young) Daniel Day-Lewis as a racist South African “street thug”. Later, we see Gandhi’s tumultuous reception in British-ruled India as he returns a national hero. Then – and most powerfully – the scene where a British general (played by the impeccably stiff-upper-lipped Edward Fox) orders his troops to open fire on hundreds of Indians – men, women and children – who’d assembled for a religious celebration. They’re mown down in a horrifying bloodbath – the Amritsar Massacre/Jallianwala Bagh Massacre – with hundreds killed. The stuff keeps coming. There’s non-violent protest, vegetarianism, frugal living, women’s rights, the Untouchables/Dalits … Gandhi was certainly an amazing figure.
In other words … there are some films that, despite yourself, you just can’t resist. They’re too damned powerful!
As I mentioned yesterday, Amnesty’s putting together a list of the Best Human Rights Films Ever Made. (Actually, Gandhi wouldn't get my vote – too ponderously earnest in places.)
But there are plenty of possibilities. Staying with Ben Kingsley (!), there’s Death And The Maiden – a tense psycho-drama about torture in South America. And also in this region, what about William Hurt’s great role (his finest moment surely?) in Kiss Of The Spiderwoman? Or the fantastic Missing (on Chile under Pinochet) with Sissy Spacek and Jack Lemmon? Or, over in Europe, what about Kusterica’s demented take on Yugoslav history under Tito and then ethnic cleansing during the Bosnian war in his (underrated?) Underground. Torture? – it’s got be Haneke’s superb Funny Games. Totalitarianism? – Nineteen Eighty-Four. (Or is this a so-so-film about a great book?).
Right – you decide! Please make a comment on this post with your suggestion as to which is Best Human Rights Film Ever Made. Choose any film you really rate – feature film or documentary. The deadline is 10am on Monday (12 October), so please be fast.
We’re compiling all suggestions into a list for a news story next week. We’ll post again on the results next Thursday.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.