Throughout history, powerful people have used the power of film to help achieve their goals. Leaders like Hitler and Stalin used movies as propaganda and did so very successfully. Cinema can easily change people’s opinions and their outlooks on life. Good films almost always impact the viewer. The degree of impact depends on the movie and person viewing it. Individually, people are bound to get affected by movies given that the main goal the cinematic art form has is exactly to impact and send a message. There are also many ways in which movies affect society and the modern world we live in. Films have become a big part of our lives and documentary filmmaking is gaining popularity.
In today’s world, filmmakers are using documentaries to educate people and promote social change. For example, One Child Nation is a 2019 American documentary film directed by Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang about the fallout of China’s one-child policy that lasted from 1979 to 2015. This powerful documentary reveals the cruel and tragic experiment in big-government meddling, a colossal and yet intimate abuse of the family by the state whose after-effects have still to be reckoned with. The film-makers were both products of this policy and Nanfu reveals that her own family benefited from an early softening of the approach for rural communities, allowing a second child if the first was a girl. This institutionalised sexism naturally bred generations of women who saw themselves as inferior and created state-sanctioned market forces for infanticide and child-trafficking. Baby girls were routinely abandoned or sold to “orphanages” that would sell them on to customers in the west. This controversial policy was later replaced by the ‘two-child maximum’ policy.
Sabrina Chammas, an undergraduate in the Communication Studies program at Northeastern University, wants to use this power of documentary filmmaking to encourage the viewer to get off the couch and act. She hopes that her work could one day be featured in big film festivals like Sundance and Cannes.