Ms. Lee's Movie List
7th grade Social Studies
       All movies are a documentary, or rated "G" or "PG" per HCPS guidelines.       

 A summary of movies to be possibly viewed in this class...


A Far Off Place (PG, 1993)

        In this 1993 Disney adventure, actors Reese Witherspoon and Ethan Embry are two young survivors of an African massacre. She is the daughter of a game warden; he is a sulky teen visiting his dad. When poachers do in the adults, the kids “hotfoot” it across the Kalahari Desert, aided by Witherspoon's young bushman pal (Sarel Bok). They have to cross about 1,000 miles of forbidding territory, all the while chased by nogoodnik Jack Thompson.
The kids face down danger, have a few escapades, and learn about their capacity for survival –
and goodness. The highlights of the film are the lush cinematography and exotic locales of Zimbabwe and Namibia. Based on the books A Story Like the Wind and A Far Off Place, by Laurens Van der Post.

Cry Freedom (PG, 1987) – SOUTH AFRICA

        The true story of the friendship that shook South Africa and awakened the world.  The tension and terror that is present-day South Africa is powerfully portrayed in director Richard Attenborough's sweeping story of black activist Stephen Biko and a liberal white newspaper editor who risks his own life to bring Biko's message to the world.
        Donald Woods (Kevin Kline) is chief editor at the liberal newspaper Daily Dispatch in South Africa. He has written several editorials critical of the views of Steve Biko (Denzel Washington). But after having met him for the first time, he changes his views. They meet several times, and this means that Woods and his family get attention from the security police.  After learning of apartheid's true horrors through Biko's eyes, Donald discovers that his friend has been silenced by the police.
When Steve Biko dies in police custody, he writes a book about Biko. The only way to get it published is for Woods himself to illegally escape the country.   Determined not to let Biko's message go unheard, Woods undertakes a perilous quest to escape South Africa and bring Biko's remarkable tale of courage to the world. The riveting, true story offers a stirring account of man at his most evil and most heroic.

Sometimes in April (NR: Not Rated – documentary, 2005) – RWANDA

This HBO docu-drama focuses on the horrifying 1994 Rwandan massacre in which Hutu nationalists slaughtered nearly a million of their Tutsi countrymen. At the center of the story are two Hutu brothers torn apart by the conflict: reluctant soldier Augustin desperately tries to get his wife, a Tutsi, and their family to safety, while his brother Honoré espouses Hutu propaganda via the radio waves.

God Grew Tired of Us (PG, 2007) – SUDAN

God Grew Tired of Us is as much about America as it is about Africa. The moving documentary begins in war-torn Sudan with the mid-1980s exodus of 27,000 Christian boys, most between five and ten. After their arrival in Kenya, the UN steps in with aid. Directors Christopher Quinn and Tommy Walker pick up the story a decade later, narrowing their focus to Panther, John, and Daniel, three of 3,800 given the opportunity to resettle in the US. Quinn and Walker are with them when they land in the States, where everything is new and exciting--electricity, running water, pre-packaged foodstuffs--all the things Americans take for granted.
Through the assistance of various relief organizations, their expenses are covered for the next few months. After that, the trio is expected to provide for themselves. Divided between Pittsburgh, PA and Syracuse, NY, the young men are thrilled with their suburban lives. Over the next year, however, joy turns to sorrow. They miss their families and have trouble making connections beyond their social group. The directors document another two years, by which point things are finally starting to look up.
Produced by Brad Pitt, God Grew Tired of Us won the Documentary Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at Sundance. Nicole Kidman provides a little narration, but for the most part, the Lost Boys speak for themselves, which is exactly as it should be.

The Gods Must Be Crazy (PG, 1980)

        For five thousand years, things have stayed pretty much the same for Xi and his fellow Bushmen. Then one day, an empty Coke bottle drops magically from the sky, and life goes topsy-turvy in the face of this generous "gift of the Gods."  This coke bottle disrupts the quiet life of a family of African Bushmen (the San people) living in the deep isolation of the Kalahari Desert. Xi, the head of the family, takes the evil thing and embarks on a journey to the end of the world to return it to the gods.
        At the same time a white teacher is fed up with city life and takes a job in Botswana. She meets a shy and bumbling scientist. Their hilarious adventures and misadventures are intertwined with Xi's journey. In the meantime we learn much about Africa and are treated to beautiful photography of its landscape, its skies and its animals.
        The viewer is allowed to see himself from the Bushman's point of view and is introduced to their culture. The movie will provide an opportunity to discuss the Bushman society and societies like it, as well as the Kalahari Desert.


Gandhi (PG, 1982) – INDIA

        Sir Richard Attenborough's 1982 multiple-Oscar winner (including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor for Ben Kingsley) is an engrossing, reverential look at the life of Mohandas K. Gandhi, who introduced the doctrine of nonviolent resistance to the colonized people of India and who ultimately gained the nation its independence.
Kingsley is magnificent as Gandhi as he changes over the course of the three-hour film from an insignificant lawyer to an international leader and symbol. Strong on history (the historic division between India and Pakistan, still a huge problem today, can be seen in its formative stages here) as well as character and ideas, this is a fine film.

Mulan (G, 1998) – CHINA 

        The story source is a Chinese fable about a young girl who disguises herself as a man to help her family and her country. When the Huns attack China, a call to arms goes out to every village, and Mulan's father, being the only man in the family, accepts the call. Mulan (voiced by Ming-Na Wen, sung by Lea Salonga) has just made a disastrous appearance at the Matchmaker and decides to challenge society's expectations (being a bride). She steals her father's conscription notice, cuts her hair, and impersonates a man to join the army. She goes to boot camp, learning to fit in with the other soldiers with some help from her sidekick, Mushu, a wise-cracking dragon (voiced by Eddie Murphy). She trains, and soon faces the Huns eye-to-eye to protect her Emperor.

The Way Home (PG, 2002) – KOREA

        This subtle and bucolic Korean film is "dedicated to all grandmas" by its director Jeong-hyang Lee. The story concerns bratty, selfish seven-year-old Sang-Woo (Seung-Ho Yoo) who is sent out into the mountains to live with his ancient, mute, partially deaf grandmother (Eul-Boon Kim) while his stressed-out single mom looks for work back in the city. Angry and resentful, the boy is bored with his new life of simple food, sleeping on the floor in a one-room hut, and having nowhere to buy batteries for his dying handheld video game. Eventually Grandma's humble patience and unconditional love get through to him, and there's plenty of space for comic vignettes and moving moments of stillness along the way. The boy's hyper world of candy and toys contrasts with grandma's slow, natural environment and allows for contemplation on our rapidly changing culture.

The Story of the Weeping Camel (PG, 2005) – MONGOLIA

This breathtaking blend of documentary and fiction filmmaking provides an unobtrusive glimpse into the relationships, rituals, and livelihood of a four-generation family of nomadic shepherds in the Gobi desert of South Mongolia. It is birthing season for the family’s herd of camels and after several healthy foals are born, the last birth is difficult. With quiet perseverance, the family helps to deliver a rare white colt, which the mother camel quickly rejects and refuses to nurse.
With growing concern for the colt’s survival, the family decides to employ a nomadic singing ritual to coax the mother into nurturing her young. They send the two eldest sons on a journey to the nearest village to fetch a musician for the "hoos ritual."
The story unfolds gently, sensitive to the rhythms of desert life while honoring its real-life actors. This modest yet magnificent film is the graduation project of film students Byambasuren Davaa and Luigi Falorni, extending beyond the tale of a camel and colt to explore the fragility and beauty of an ancient way of life.

ASIA – Middle East

Offside (PG, 2006) – IRAN

Director Jafar Panahi continues his exploration of the difficulties of a woman's place in contemporary Iran. The ingenious concept of Offside puts most of the action at a large soccer stadium in Tehran, where a group of young women--banned from the game on the sole basis of their sex--have been captured by stadium guards after sneaking inside. Not only are they in a kind of holding pen awaiting arrest, the girls can't even glimpse the World Cup qualifying match between Iran and Bahrain, although they can hear the sounds of the crowd. (They've made themselves up to look like boys, thus risking serious consequences for the sake of their fandom, but the no-women-allowed rule is in place to "protect" them from the rough habits of men.) Panahi actually withholds the game itself, focusing on the interactions between the girls and their guards--a group of disaffected guys who would rather be watching the game themselves. At every turn Panahi illuminates some subtle point about the limits put on women, yet the film is full of humor. The viewer is left not with a political tract but with rich human comedy, and with the idea that the spectacle of a white ball pushed across a green field might bring people together in a way that transcends sex, class, or the oppressive rules of a regime.

Children of Heaven (PG, 1999) – IRAN

Majid Majidi celebrates the immediacy and essence of childhood in this delightful tale of a brother and sister who share a pair of shoes when the boy (though no fault of his own) loses his sister's only pair. Since their parents are too poor to afford a new pair, they keep it a secret, trading them off every day in a mad rush, jumping gutters and navigating the twisting lanes to their schools and back. Then the boy hatches a plan: the third-place prize in a student footrace is a new pair of shoes, and he's determined to take it.
The family scenes are delicately observed, and Majidi captures the spirit of the children perfectly: proud, emotional, petulant, sweet, and disarmingly sincere. The film has a Western-friendly framework without losing the naturalistic eye and lolling rhythm that gives the best Iranian films their richness. Even as he builds to the climactic footrace (quite unexpectedly turned into a nail-biting contest) the film continues to reveal a wealth of discreet surprises, culminating in a conclusion all the more resonant for its sublime delicacy. His efforts earned the film the honor of becoming the first Iranian feature to earn an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film.

9/11 (NR: Not Rated, documentary – 2002)

        Originally broadcast on CBS in March 2002, 9/11 is an extraordinary record of that fateful day in New York City. This one-of-a-kind documentary was originally conceived as a portrait of 21-year-old Tony Benetatos, a firefighter trainee at Manhattan's Duane Street firehouse, located seven blocks from the World Trade Center. By the time filming was finished, brothers Jules and Gedeon Naudet had captured history in the making, including the only image of the first jetliner striking Tower 1, and the only footage from within the tower as it collapsed. This is not, however, a film about the murderous nightmare of terrorism. It's the ultimate rite-of-passage drama, more immediate and meaningful than any fiction film could be, with Benetatos and his supportive colleagues emerging as heroes of the first order. Sensitively narrated by codirector and fellow firefighter James Hanlon, 9/11 will endure forever as a tribute to those, living and dead who on that sunny Tuesday morning.


Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002, PG) – AUSTRALIA

        In 1931, three aboriginal girls escape after being plucked from their homes to be trained as domestic staff and set off on a trek across the Outback.  
This is the true story of Molly Craig, a young black Australian girl who leads her younger sister and cousin in an escape from an official government camp, set up as part of an official government policy to train them as domestic workers and integrate them into white society.
With grit and determination Molly guides the girls on an epic journey, one step ahead of the authorities, over 1,500 miles of Australia's outback in search of the rabbit-proof fence that bisects the continent and will lead them home. These three girls are part of what is referred to today as the 'Stolen Generations.'

Following HCPS guidelines,
all movies listed above are rated G, PG or are a documentary.

Websites for further information:

Click on the icon above to e-mail Ms. Lee