Luke Graham with four Christmas comedown movies…
The holidays are a magic time of year, with snowflakes, miracles and family cheer. For many people, the Christmas and New Year period are the highlights of their year.
Well, enough of that. Now that it’s January, it’s time to get back to real world. Here are four films that will help remind you about some of the horrible things going on in the world.
4. The Impossible (2012)
The Impossible is about a family trying to survive the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The tsunami affected around 11 countries, killed at least 150,000 and destroyed millions of homes. It also occurred on Boxing Day, which is quite apt for an article about holiday come-downs.
On the one side, The Impossible is a great movie. It’s moving and well-acted (Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts play the parents) and has oodles of dramatic tension as we see the family torn apart by the natural disaster and attempting to get back together. In many ways, it’s a hopeful movie, as people set aside petty differences and personal concerns to help one another out.
On the other hand, it’s a painful film, reminding the audience that, at any moment, a natural disaster could totally screw up their life. Not only that, but the tsunami had huge economic and psychological impacts on the inhabitants, due to the loss of tourism, trade and their homes, and who lived in countries that were not rich to begin with. Destructive events like this can happen at almost any time, all around the world.
3. Sister (2012)
Filmed against the magnificent Alps, this is another film set around Christmas. A young boy has to steal from the wealthy skiers at a resort in order to pay rent and buy food for himself and his useless sister. She can’t hold down a job and it’s implied she may be working as a prostitute. Both are denying a painful, explosive truth.
While on the surface, it seems like just another kitchen sink drama, it’s also a film about rampant poverty even in the developed western world and the various manifestations of child abuse.
2. The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
Roland Emmerich’s rollercoaster vision of an ecological disaster is at times corny and overblown, and the CG hasn’t aged well, but it’s a great movie to remind you that climate change is a thing.
While some still try to deny climate change is even a thing, the UN is pretty sure it’s a thing and that humans are to blame. The impact of climate change is more debatable, as computer models are unreliable due to the vast number of calculations required, but consensus is growing that it’s gonna be really, really bad y’all. So as you read this on your electricity guzzling device of choice, it’s worth thinking about all those icecaps you’ve melted.
Not only does the film show a potential (though pretty over-the-top) version of future events, it also does a good job of depicting the political gridlock that has prevented anything meaningful being done about climate change; the Vice-president, played by Kenneth Welsh, basically tells the main character “dude, short-term economics and tax dollars yo!”
1. Blood Diamond (2006)
This one’s a real whopper. It’s set during the Sierra Leone civil war, when the country was being basically torn apart, and depicts the experiences of a fisherman (played by Djimon Hounsou), who had his village ravaged, was enslaved to harvest diamonds for the local warlord and had his son turned into a child soldier.
The film sort of has a happy ending. The character gets his kid back, and the ending of the film depicts the establishment of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme in 2003, which aims to prevent blood diamonds being bought and therefore prevent the financing of rebel movements and militias.
On the other hand, swathes of Africa are still torn by conflict and child soldiers are still a thing.
You may be thinking to yourself, “I don’t buy diamonds, it’s not like I’m contributing to this in any way.” But here’s the twist.
If this film was remade, it would be called Conflict Minerals. Did you get a games console, laptop, fancy tablet or Smartphone for Christmas? It probably contains Columbite-tantalite or Cassiterite, which are on the conflict minerals list, and may have been sourced from mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where rebel militias run mines or heavily extort and tax miners. Children are often used as miners and are forced to work in dangerous conditions.
While laws have been passed to try and get companies to admit where their minerals are from or label their products “DRC Conflict free,” some companies aren’t playing ball at all: in 2012, Nintendo basically turned a blind-eye to the problem.
For more information on Conflict Minerals, read this.
Luke Graham is a writer and works in newspaper production. If you enjoyed this review, follow him @LukeWGraham and check out his blog here.