5 socially relevant films to explore on streaming

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

With England’s second lockdown now spawning a sense of boredom among people stuck at home, there’s no better way to escape this ennui than with some entertainment by watching a film on a streaming service, right from the comfort of your home.

Following our review of Steve McQueen’s Mangrove – that is now streaming on BBC One and Amazon Prime – Voice of London has decided to follow accordingly with a list of socially relevant films. This will provide entertainment to escape the boredom of lockdown whilst balancing that out with educative material to keep audiences stimulated and informed about relevant topics.

Here is our list of informatively enjoyable films to catch on streaming:

1. The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVb6EdKDBfU&w=560&h=315]

Similar to Mangrove, Aaron Sorkin’s courtroom drama follows a group of protestors, the Chicago Seven, and explores their charges of intentionally inciting riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Featuring an expansive cast – Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (HBO’s Watchmen), Jeremy Strong (Succession), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception), and Michael Keaton (Batman) – the film features a strong ensemble of performances, including a standout performance from Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat) as Abbie Hoffman.

The film is a fascinating look at the courtroom trial of the Chicago 7, exploring each characters’ motives and backgrounds into whether they were guilty of the accused crime, providing a thorough look at the night of the incident. However, it is also a pivotal critique of the powers that be, in looking at the biased motive against the seven protestors and the unfair extents taken to convict them of their accused crimes.

Where to watch: Netflix

2. Lover’s Rock (2020)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrj8HQ6auqs&w=560&h=315]

The second film in Steve McQueen’s Small Axe anthology series – after MangroveLover’s Rock is a far cry from the politically-driven, solemn atmosphere of its predecessor. Instead, it is a beautiful, soulful and authentic celebration of Black culture in 1980s London; a recital of young love and fervent music at a blues house party.

Debutant Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn and 2020 BAFTA Rising Star winner, Michael Ward (Blue Story) lead this passionate story of young love among the stirring, upbeat night of a blues dance party, turning music into remedy and love into comfort, diverting from the hostility of the world outside of this – the perfect distraction for audiences through the second lockdown.

Where to watch: BBC One (22 November 2020)/Amazon Prime Video (27 November 2020)

3. Blackkklansman (2018)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pFc6I0rgmgY&w=560&h=315]

Believe it or not, Blackkklansman’s insane plot is based on the true story of Ron Stallworth and his 2014 memoir, Black Klansman. Receiving six nominations at the 91st Academy Awards – including Best Picture and Spike Lee’s first-ever Best director nomination – this biographical black comedy crime drama was also the film to finally win the director his first non-competitive Oscar, as he snatched Best Adapted screenplay.

Premiering at Cannes Film Festival in May 2018 – where it won the Grand Prix – Blackkklansman tells the peculiarly amusing story of the first African American detective in the Colorado Springs police department (in the 1970s), as he attempts to uncover the local Ku Klux Klan members. On the surface, an absurd, comical work, Spike Lee’s drama is further a pertinent critique and terrifying reminder of the prejudiced times we continue to live in.

Where to watch: Netflix

4. Widows (2018)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nN2yBBSRC78&w=560&h=315]

Another Steve McQueen film, Widows – based upon the 1983 British television series of the same name – opened the BFI London Film Festival in 2018. Set in Chicago – a city faced with great disparities of racial and wealth inequality – McQueen’s heist thriller tells the story of four women as they attempt to steal a sum of money from the home of an eminent local politician to pay back a crime boss. This comes after the women’s husbands were killed in a getaway attempt after stealing money from the crime boss their wives now owe.

What’s so topically brilliant about Widows is the diverse range of perspectives through which we explore Chicago, from the four wives in their attempt to make amends, to the corrupt, prominent white politician they attempt to steal from, to the crime boss they try to pay who wants to make a legitimate name for himself amongst an impoverished neighbourhood. Widows, in its entirety, is a subtly rigorous study of Chicago’s politics and class systems, especially with how that plays into the city’s racial and class divides.

Where to watch: Now TV – Sky Cinema

5. When They See Us (2019)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YyoSErErnCE&w=560&h=315]

A glaring depart from the other films on this list, When They See Us is quite different in the fact that it is not a film – it is a four-part limited series; yet, it is still applicable as it is just as important, educative and relevant as the other entries on this list that precede it. Created, co-written, and directed by Ava DuVernay, it recounts the events of the 1989 Central Park jogger case, also referred to as the Central Park Five case.

The limited series looks into the lives of the five Black male suspects who were falsely accused and prosecuted in the case. Receiving 11 Primetime Emmy Award nominations, including an Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie win for Jharrel Jerome’s highly-praised performance as Korey Wise, When They See Us is an essential, educative watch. It explores the haunting racial prejudices that continue to plague our present-day with injustice, as it did in the past.

Where to watch: Netflix


Words: Ashvin Sivakumar | Subbing: Sara Varga

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