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Films

Powerful Netflix films that talk about human rights

“A right delayed is a right denied.”– Martin Luther King Jr. 

South African civil rights activist Desmond Tutu once said, “It means a great deal to those who are oppressed to know that they are not alone. Never let anyone tell you that what you are doing is insignificant.” What Tutu said goes way beyond our simple understanding of what human rights are. 

In 1948, the United Nations declared December 10th as Human Rights Day. Human rights refer to the “inalienable rights” that every human being is entitled to, irrespective of their race, sex, colour, religion, language, nationality, birth, status, political, or other opinions. The UN drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights contained many such promises that would actively work towards reducing inequalities and removing hatred. 

However, as Eleanor Roosevelt said, human rights mean nothing if these rights do not apply to the small places “that cannot be seen on the map”. She said, “Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”

While a lot of us- sitting in the comfort of our homes- remain unaware of the fight that is still going on in various countries, where terrorism, violence and crimes run rampant, books and films serve as our sole source of information. Netflix has a collection of war films and human rights films that might help us have a deeper understanding of the subject. 

Here are four such powerful Netflix films that talk about human rights:   

The best Netflix films that talk about human rights 

E-Team – Kate Chevigny, Ross Kauffman (2014)

When the world is ridden by atrocities meted out to certain communities in specific countries, the Human Rights Watch dispatches the Emergencies team or the eponymous E-Team to document the war crime reports and make the rest of the world aware of the situation.

Via the brilliant and searing lens of the creators, we see the frontlines of Syria and Libya being ravaged by uncoordinated attacks while the countries abound in rampant violence and crime that stays mostly hidden from media coverage. 

Audacious and scathing, the film sheds light on how the Human Rights Watch functions. The team of reporters are fierce and intelligent and even the most violent dangers cannot deter them. Amidst powerful and shocking scenes of gruesome madness and despair, there is an iota of hope that keeps humanity going. 

First They Killed My Father – Angelina Jolie (2017)

Set in Cambodia during the violent Vietnam War, which led to the ensuing Cambodian Civil War, young Loung Ung is forced into hiding with her family as they might all be slaughtered if her father, Pa’s identity as a government official is revealed. As her family keeps getting decimated by the soldiers and her father gets taken away to meet his fated ending, she flees with her two siblings on being urged by her mother and lives as an orphan. Under the pretext of this identity, she is enrolled as a child soldier which leads her to set bombs and other traps to attack enemy lines.  

Ridden with violence and war, the film is a direct and realistic commentary on how wars ravage the lives of innocent civilians. The film’s compassionate and empathetic tone laments the predicament of the families torn apart by war, as well as the innumerable lives lost. A heartfelt exploration of subsequent trauma and devastation, Angelina Jolie is successful in bringing out the correct magnitude of emotions that help the audience connect more with the characters. 

Adu – Salvador Calvo (2020)

This Spanish and French drama documents the tragedy of the African refugee crisis in Europe when a six-year-old, separated from his mother, journeys from Cameroon to Spain. He crosses paths with two other  African immigrants who are struggling with their personal demons. The heartwrenching film won four Goya Awards for the film, including Best Director for Calvo. 

Adu is a difficult watch due to the terrific portrayal of the desperation for survival. With phenomenal performances, it is a poignant commentary on the idea of displacement. With violent imagery and grainy footage and an overall, pervasive sense of fear and frenzy, the film not only touches on themes of refugee crises and racism but also trophy hunting and poaching. Moustapha Oumarou, who plays the titular Adu, deserves special mention for his heartbreaking and compelling performance! 

Beasts of No Nation – Cary Joji Fukunaga (2015)

This violent and tragic film chronicles the untimely loss of innocence amidst an African civil war. Agu is a young boy who is separated from his family and forced and manipulated into joining as a child-soldier for a guerrilla army where he is trained by a ruthless warlord.

Subject to the violent abuse, humiliation and degradation, Agu transforms from an innocent boy to a destructive, maniacal beast where he is constantly torn between the family values instilled in him versus the aggression of his new self.

Starring Abraham Attah and Idris Elba, the film paints the realistic and poignant picture of the kind of life these child soldiers are subjected to amidst the atrocities of war where rape, abuse, violence and other unthinkable acts are rampant. Powerful and moving, Fukunaga does complete justice to Uzodinma Iweala’s novel by delivering a scathing, well-crafted masterpiece that is complemented by brilliant visuals and stunning performances.