1 Fair Game
I almost did not see this film. I told my friend about Fair Game, which tells the story about Valerie Plame Wilson, a spy who was outed by the White House in retaliation for her husband speaking out against the Iraq War. My friend was worried that the film would simply make her angry about the Iraq War all over again. I understood her reluctance, but I was thrilled when she agreed.
I am very glad that she agreed. Fair Game is an enjoyable thriller that recounts the days leading up to, and immediately following, the Iraq war. When her husband realizes that the White House has twisted his report to justify the invasion of Iraq, he writes an editorial in the New York Times called “What I Did Not Find In Africa.” Shortly after that, his wife’s identity as a spy is leaked to the papers. It was retaliation. It was also a shot across the bow. Naomi Watts is an amazing actress and captures the desperation of a woman discovering her breaking point, a point she did not previously think existed.
2 To Kill A Mockingbird
Many people may be surprised to see this film on my list. After all, when most people think of To Kill a Mockingbird, they think of Gregory Pecks’ Oscar winning performance as Atticus Finch. And yet, the film’s central character is Scout, the little girl living in the center of a Southern town in which a black man is on trial for the rape of a white woman.
To Kill a Mockingbird is based on the classic novel that most of us had to read in school. (My friend did not; she is reading the book now. She has texted me and expressed her fury that she did not get to read it in high school.) Scout is the perfect narrator for the drama. She is young and innocent, and only beginning to understand the horror of racism in the United States. One scene that has stayed with me is the scene when Scout’s simplicity is able to stop a mob from lynching the defendant. It perfectly captures her innocence against the backdrop of social evil.
3 Freedom Writers
There are numerous films about teachers, especially ones based on true stories. However, I like this one. Hillary Swank plays a young, idealistic teacher who chooses to take a job at a high school in South Central Los Angeles. Her school year begins just after the Rodney King riots and the racial tension among the various ethnic groups is downright dangerous. The teacher takes it upon herself to teach her students how to live together, in addition to teaching them reading.
To me, one of the most compelling parts of this film is the depiction of the students. The film draws upon the actual writings of her students to create these characters. The students in the film are not her real students, their names were changed, but they speak the words of her students and undergo the same trials. Hillary Swank reads her students’ diaries and becomes intimately aware with the horrific circumstances which her students face. One student tells his teacher that he would be lucky to live to be eighteen; he feels that for a good reason. For those who have spent their whole lives in the suburbs, it is worth considering how radically different life is for many teenagers.