2020 has been an eventful year thus far — there’s no argument about that.
With the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic forcing countries across the world into lockdown, a process which was unbelievably unnatural for many individuals, this year got off to a rocky start. Lockdown procedures were subject to various debates online, especially within the UK, and outrage ensued when those in power and in charge of imposing the rules were exposed for breaking them.
Just as lockdown procedures were starting to ease in the US and the UK, and the horrors of the pandemic seemed to have reduced slightly, a horrific act of police brutality in Minneapolis went viral and reached the hearts of many across the world. This acted as a catalyst for worldwide protests, urging to end racism and defund the seemingly corrupt institutions which enable it.
Human rights and social justice have therefore been at the forefront of a lot of people’s minds over the past couple of months. The protests have forced injustices to take centre stage in the media and in governmental bodies, and are part of one of the biggest civil rights movements in history.
Despite the unprecedented times we are living in, there are a number of films applicable to our situation in 2020. With some involving the horrific impacts of institutionalised racism, whilst others outline similar experiences to that of a pandemic and lockdown, the 10 films listed below should all be on your must-watch list this year.
A Quiet Place (2018)
This post-apocalyptic horror film depicts what we’re experiencing right now, but on a more dramatic, sci-fi scale. The world we are currently living in involves a deadly being which we must stay safe from, just like the Abbott family. But, rather than having to stay silent or be killed by terrifying monsters, our deadly threat is silent itself and our safety is guaranteed only by isolating. Rather than staying silent, we must stay at home. The Abbott family’s dedication to keeping themselves safe is admirable, and one which humans could take a great deal of comfort and support from.
The Lobster (2015)
This 2015 dystopian film centres around the pressures of society and the government to obey basic orders and follow a strict societal pattern. If characters fail to do this, they are forced to vacate the safe place and survive in the wilderness alone. Much like the characters in The Lobster, we are experiencing immense pressure to follow rules, both by the governmental bodies and society. The film depicts flawlessly how powerful societal pressure can be, which we have now universally learned first-hand.
When watching this film on its release, it seemed entirely unrealistic. But now that we’re experiencing the levels of social and governmental pressure to stay indoors, it’s a lot easier to imagine. With social media being a prime source of judgement from others, pictures of those at the beach, shops, or protests have circulated rapidly and consequently inspired societal and governmental pressure on us to stay inside.
It’s 2020, and the Ku Klux Klan is still not classified as a terrorist organisation. With the global Black Lives Matter protests arising everywhere, attention has been drawn to this fact. The Black community has been under threat for centuries, as this movie powerfully highlights. The themes this movie explores are still frighteningly relevant. The real Ron Stallworth infiltrated the KKK in the late 1970s, and almost 50 years later, the hate group still exists.
BlackKklansman demonstrates the power imbalances between two groups of people: the oppressed and the oppressors. This imbalance has always been evident, but only now has it entered the mainstream media again, with the KKK turning up to various BLM events in the States. Spike Lee’s direction coupled with Jordan Peele’s production makes for a poignant film that is more relevant than ever despite being set 50 years ago.
12 Monkeys (1995)
Starring Brad Pitt (and his remarkable hair) and Bruce Willis, 12 Monkeys is the most obvious relation in this list to the global pandemic we are living through currently.
James Cole (Willis) lives as a prisoner of the state in 2035 and must travel back in time to discover and prevent the causes of a deadly virus spread. Sound familiar? With 2035 only 15 years away from us now, and with 2020 being the year of a bizarre global pandemic, 12 Monkeys is more relatable than ever.
Not only is 12 Monkeys a film that’ll undoubtedly fascinate you with its complicated, intertwining plot points, but it’s one that will have you questioning everything going on currently. It is a successful, yet horrifying, prediction.
Space Jam (1996)
Despite its seemingly hilarious and childish concept, Joe Pytka’s direction of Space Jam has striking relevancy to 2020. With the COVID-19 pandemic, all sporting events were cancelled or postponed. In March, the NBA’s original plans to continue the 2019-20 season were halted and they had to adapt. Players were even secluded in Disneyland earlier this year. The rather humorous joining of Disney and the NBA parallels Space Jam’s entire concept with its ambitious amalgamation of real, NBA characters acting alongside Warner Bros’ Looney Tunes.
Also, Space Jam: A New Legacy is due for release next year. There’s no better time than now to re-watch Space Jam, revel in its meme-worthy glory, and prepare for the sequel.
If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)
Justice systems across the world are facing a lot of scrutiny right now due to the ongoing protests. Police forces are under particular inspection as there are many images and videos spreading across the internet which prove some sort of corruption. Only recently, though, has this corruption entered the attention of mainstream news outlets. The BLM protests have become impossible to avoid and therefore are extremely successful in raising awareness of systemic racism.
Barry Jenkins, also director of award-winning Moonlight, succeeded in his direction of this movie, based on James Baldwin’s 1974 novel. Set in the 1970s, it is horrifying to see the continued parallels 50 years later. Fonny (Stephan James) represents so many Black men and women who are still to this day punished unjustly. As is evident in viral videos, people are arguing against the police’s unjust brutality, which includes groundless arrests. If Beale Street Could Talk explores this issue poignantly, and it’s a must-watch this year.
Do The Right Thing (1989)
For a film that is over 30 years old, Do the Right Thing‘s parallels to 2020 are shocking.
Sal (Danny Aiello), an Italian owner of a pizzeria, faces backlash from Buggin’ Out for the lack of Black figures on his Wall of Fame. This wall becomes a symbol of racism and is ultimately the catalyst for the events that take place throughout this one extremely hot day.
A huge sense of claustrophobia prevails for the two-hour duration as the heat draws on and impacts each and every character. As tensions rise between Sal and Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn), worsened by the claustrophobic heat, the police arrive. The police brutality present here is extremely difficult to watch in any case but is especially poignant due to its horrifying similarities to George Floyd’s case.
Spike Lee has an extraordinary talent for depicting everyday scenarios whilst still maintaining cinematic excellence. This film is as educational as it is devastating.
The Purge (2013)
When The Purge was first released, the concept of lawlessness was an unfamiliar and, sometimes, humorous concept for us. But in the weeks leading up to lockdown in the UK, panic buying became a common occurrence demonstrating arguable selfishness of the population.
The film states that The Purge offers a necessary “release from all the hatred and violence that they keep up inside them”. As an annual event, it’s supposed to offer a form of catharsis. This is extremely relevant to 2020, as lockdown has evidently caused anger and frustration in many. The heightened tensions of the BLM protests combined with humans everywhere being stuck inside, our form of catharsis seems to have been delivered in the form of tearing down statues and panic buying.
From the producers of Paranormal Activity, The Purge is of course a scary one. But, it’s no longer scary for its creepy face masks. The horrifying aspect is instead its portrayal of human selfishness and the necessary need to release anger, which is arguably impossible to ignore in 2020.
With the pandemic cancelling every event for the near future, technology plays a vital role in all of our lives now. Whether it’s taking online classes, watching live-streamed gigs, or FaceTiming your loved ones, a universal reliance on technology is greater than ever. That’s why Wall-E, a film depicting what happens when humans become reliant on technology and cannot exist properly outside, is extremely relevant for this year.
The Earth in Wall-E is also poignant to our situation. With the pandemic going on, it’s easy to imagine an apocalyptic end to our world as we know it. However, to contrast this, the lockdown has allowed for the environment to recover a bit. With fewer people leaving their homes and travelling in cars, planes, and trains, the world’s fossil fuels have reduced. So, maybe humans should look at Wall-E as a film showing us what we should avoid. More focus should be taken on the environment, and less on an unnecessary need to travel.
12 Years A Slave (2012)
Slavery is taught at school as something which occurred centuries ago. However, with the recent BLM protests, much freely available education has been brought to central attention on social media which proves that it’s actually not as far away as we might think. With calls for the abolishment of police departments and consequently prisons, the central argument has focussed around the exploitation of minorities for financial gain.
12 Years A Slave is based on Solomon Northup’s 1853 slave memoir. It focusses on his horrifying unjustified kidnapping and journey as a slave. Steve McQueen’s film is a brilliant portrayal of the horrors and desperation of slavery, and it’s a film that everybody should watch this year. It perfectly captures what institutionalised racism is, and how the prejudices and horrors of slavery will live on for years and years until the systems and structures that uphold racism are abolished.
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