Weekend Playlist: Change Agents

We are saluting MLK Day with a collection of films that highlight agents of change. Martin Luther King is and will forever be an inspiration in his work for social equality and justice for civil rights. In commemorating his life, we present exemplary movies to encourage movie lovers to actualize change. From the epic story of Benazir Bhutto, the first woman in history elected Prime Minister of Pakistan, to revolutionary Black Power activist Grace Lee Boggs, to the work of the Dalai Lama, and LGBT activist Vito Russo, among others, this weekend playlist is here to rally the troops and expose how even one person can incite a movement.

Top 5 from the Playlist

1. American Revolutionary

“If you mobilize a class action, you can change the world. If a movement can achieve that, that is what I want to do with my life”- Grace Lee Boggs

Featuring interviews with Angela Davis, Bill Moyers, Bill Ayers, Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, and Danny Glover here is a biography on Grace Lee Boggs, a Chinese-American woman who was part of the African American community in Detroit for 75 years. Boggs was a revolutionary, a philosopher, a Black Power activist, and an icon. She was involved with the civil rights, labour, and Black Power movements, and was one of the organizers of the 1963 march down Woodward Avenue in Detroit for Martin Luther King, while also being recognized as a supporter of Malcolm X. Boggs believed strongly that we must change ourselves to change the world. Her FBI file is something to be proud of.

2. Vito

Celebrated queer rights activist and author of The Celluloid Closet, which explores the portrayal of queer characters in Hollywood film, Vito Russo is a beloved figure. In this documentary by Jeffrey Schwartz, Vito’s activism is discussed by family and pioneering figures from the gay movement, from Stonewall to the AIDS epidemic and beyond. Weaving history, archival footage, voiceover and television interviews, Vito’s personal and political life is explored, depicting a biography of a man who rallied for liberation. The energy of this film inspires its viewers to recognize both the immensely admirable work of Vito and so many heroes in the LGBTQIQA+ community, and the work still left to do.

3. Marcus Garvey: A Giant of Black Politics

Founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League UNIA-ACL, Marcus Garvey was a Black Nationalist pioneer in Jamaica and the United States. His story and work are presented like never before in this documentary by Howard Johnson. Family, historians, and activists are interviewed on Garvey, a titan of Black Pride, whose UNIA-ACL economic and political policies would rightfully become known as Garveyism.

4. Black Roots

Directed by Independent filmmaker Lionel Rogosin, Black Roots is the director’s fourth feature film, following the award-winning documentaries: On the Bowery, Come Back to Africa, and the feature-drama Good Times, Wonderful Times (all available to stream now!). Black Roots interviews black activists and musicians as they share stories of their experiences in America. Shot in 1970, Reverend Frederick Douglass Kirkpatrick, attorney and feminist activist Florynce “Flo” Kennedy, musicians Jim Collier, Wende Smith, Larry Johnson and Reverend Gary Davis recall the adversity and oppression they faced as well as that of their parents and grandparents before the civil rights movement. Between interviews, blues and jazz and rock ’n’ roll are played live by musicians, juxtaposed with expressive images of black men, women, and children.

5. Bhutto

Benazir Bhutto was the first woman elected as Prime Minister of Pakistan and the first woman to ever be elected to lead a Muslim nation. She served two terms and was assassinated in 2007 while campaigning, after having been in exile from Pakistan for eight years. In this compelling and well-executed documentary, Benazir Bhutto’s life is chronicled from her childhood to her time at Harvard fighting for women’s rights, though when her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto passed Benazir the mantle after he was overthrown and executed. Interviews mixed with stock footage and home videos create a holistic view of a woman who has left an incredible legacy.

Interested in more? Watch: Change Agents

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