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Ten films that shook the world

First it was Disney films and Robert Louis Stevenson adaptations (Kidnapped!), the Bond films (Roger Moore period), then the adolescent stuff – Jaws, The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle (couldn’t get in, it was an “18”-rater!), and then … well, The Unbearable Lightness Of Being! Blimey. A three-hour art house epic, but it changed my life. Kind of.

After that you couldn’t stop me: gobbling up a BBC2 Louis Malle season (I recorded them all onto VHS!), Peter Greenaway, Polanski, Coppola, Scorcese, The 400 Blows, anything “foreign”. And “human rights” films like The Killings Fields or Loach’s Hidden Agenda.

Actually, if I’m honest, I also remember liking Rambo: First Blood around this time, but hey …

Films make a mark, and they can even change the world. The really powerful ones – Lilya 4-ever, Shooting Dogs, Lord Of War – are so incendiary that they get shown to parliamentarians and policy-makers in special screenings. After its release Lilya 4-ever was being widely screened in countries like Moldova to try to stem the flow of girls and young women being duped into the horrible and ultra-violent world of sex trafficking. Arms trade campaigners could probably make a convincing case for how Lord Of War helped win extra support for a – now-hanging-in-the-balance – international arms trade treaty. Loach’s famous Cathy Come Home raised public awareness of homelessness in Britain, etc etc.

Which is why it’s great that the National Schools Film Week, which starts today, includes a series of human rights film screenings – Slumdog Millionaire, Milk, Good and (the excellent) Persepolis. Old Danny Boy(le) himself kicked it all off today at central London event and there are going to be 2,000 screenings for schoolchildren all over the country – all for free! (God, when I was at school we never got out the school gates).

To tie in with this, me and my Amnesty web colleagues were recently asking for your suggestions as to best human rights film ever made. Well the votes are in and here are the findings of our – strictly non-scientific – online poll:

1: Cry Freedom2: Hotel Rwanda3: Persepolis4: Shooting Dogs 5: Blood Diamond6: The Killing Fields7: The Last King Of Scotland8: Milk(Equal 9th): The Constant Gardener / Rabbit-Proof Fence

My media team colleague Eulette (Yule E) said this just now when she found out:

"I’m delighted that Cry Freedom has been voted the greatest human rights film of all time. It is definitely my favourite one. I was about 11 when I first saw that film. My parents took me to see it and it was my first exposure to the brutality of South Africa's apartheid system.  Needless to say I cried for hours after watching it and I remember that the horrors it unfolded played on my mind for weeks to come.  An extremely powerful film.  Definitely one to watch!" 

What do you think? Which film changed your life….?

About Amnesty UK Blogs
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.
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