Wendy Cohen's blog

The Power of Film and My Picks


The Power of Film

I love movies and I believe they can change the world. Seeing someone's face, hearing someone's voice brings you into a story and can inspire you in a way that no other media can. Films are transformative--you can briefly feel what is like in someone else's shoes. Films move someone from apathy to inspiration to action.

In an era of conglomerates and ownership, we have to rely on documentarians to show the stories rarely seen in the mainstream. And with the Internet, documentaries are more easily available, and we can more easily take part in this issues raised in the film.

My Film Picks

Philadelphia: This fiction film was based on a true story and it's one of the first big budget, big star movies to address AIDS and homosexuality. I was 12 years old when I saw the film in theaters with my family and remember feeling so devastated and speechless afterward. I certainly didn't know very much about AIDS, and I remember so clearly leaving the theater and not being able to describe how amazed I was--not only at the story but that a film could have such an impact. That film had such a profound impact on me and, for me, exemplifies what a film can do.

Promises: Filmmaker B.Z. Goldberg travels though the West Bank and Jerusalem to bring Israeli and Palestinian children together first through letters and phone calls and then in person. The film is such a personalized look at Middle East conflict and offers hope for resolution while showing how much hatred runs between both sides. There is remarkable scene of two soccer matches: one in a Palestinian refugee camp and one in Jerusalem. The boys are playing the same game and have the exact same excitement and emotion and then devastation when they lose. The games are cut together and it shows us how these boys are so similar but their worlds are completely disparate.

My Left Breast: This is a film about Gerry Rogers' journey as she battles breast cancer and turns to a video camera for catharsis and comfort. Gerry takes us to chemotherapy and family gatherings, and speaks to us in the middle of the night about how scared she is to lose this fight with her body. It is such an honest and intimate film and with Gerry's wit and candor it left me with the most inspiring outlook on life. It is certainly one of the films I most return to.

Murderball: This is such a mesmerizing and edge-of-your-seat sport documentary. Murderball is the non-commercial name for wheelchair rugby played by quadriplegic young men. It is a full contact, trilling game and this film shows us how the sport gives hope and meaning to the young men who have become disabled by tragic accidents. There is so much excitement and laughter throughout the film, and most amazingly, the film doesn't take the melodramatic, teary message route about living with a disability. These guys want to win medals; they are not looking for anyone's pity. And the thrill and suspense of the matches rival any fiction sport film out there.

Something Other Than Other: This experimental short film is one of the most beautiful and powerful I have seen. Filmmakers Jerry A. Henry and Andrea J. Chi made a video diary as they were pregnant with their first child and they use Super 8mm to give it the look and feel of old home movies. But they add a gorgeous and slightly unsettling, disjointed feeling throughout--much like the experience they had when their child was first born. My little cousin is biracial and this film is such moving short about what it is like to grow up biracial in America.

Some films I couldn't leave out...

Four Little Girls

Born into Brothels

Street Fight

Hotel Rwanda


A Question of Silence

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