Sunday, November 28, 2010

Superman, Dumbledore, and Community Action: The Motivating Power of Film

Say what you will about critic’s darling “Waiting for Superman,” a film about the state of public education in our country.  One thing is for certain: it has got people talking, and it’s even got some people motivated to act. This is no secret to the makers of the film – their website includes a “Take Action” section which encourage the film’s fans to write their local school board and join efforts to create policy change.

Savvy social change agents have taken advantage of the powerful potential of documentary film, sometimes with the help of community psychology practitioners.
In 2008, PBS launched “Unnatural Causes", a highly praised 7-part documentary series exploring inequities in health. (See excerpts from each episode at their website).  Like “Waiting for Superman,” the website for this series comes complete with its own action center which offers a variety of options for viewers to get involved, from linking to their website to using “Unnatural Causes” in community work. For those interested in the latter, the site offers a detailed “Action Toolkit,” which was created with resources from the CPP-run Community Tool Box.

Unnatural Causes Website

Documentaries can be particularly powerful tools for change, but the power of fiction can also be harnessed for public good. Combining fantasy with real-world action, 31-year old Andrew Slack has motivated 100,000 would-be members of Dumbledore’s Army  to join the Harry Potter Alliance. On their site, they ask “Did you ever wish Harry Potter was real?” and answer “Well, it kind of is.” 
What are some of the inspiring films that you've seen and how do you think they can be leveraged to improve our communities? Please post answers in the comments below. 
Post by Gina Cardazone, University of Hawaii 

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