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Movies Making A Difference

Many documentary filmmakers pour their passion into a movie, hoping to spark discussion, action, or even legislation. Filmmakers who want to make a difference are getting savvier about how they get their message out, both on screen and in promoting their films and connecting with those in power. We explore social action documentaries.

A Closer Look At Select AFI Docs

Best Kept Secret

Best Kept Secret

Graduation is a bittersweet prospect for the special education students in Janet Mino's high school classroom. Erik, Rahamid, Kareem, among others, have found an unexpected haven in a Newark, New Jersey public high school where a fiercely dedicated staff supports students with autism and learning disabilities. Looming over the students, however, is a ticking clock where at the age of 21 they will "age out" and be thrust into a world with little resources and support. – SS

Gideon's Army

Gideon's Army

In this smart, insightful documentary, filmmaker Dawn Porter sheds light on the plight of one of our country's most valuable and unsung warriors: the public defender. Following a small group of dedicated public defenders in the South, GIDEON'S ARMY highlights the daily battles they face within a flawed legal system where a defendant's very life can be on the line. Overworked and underpaid with little support, these committed individuals sacrifice a great deal in the name of justice. – AP

Lost For Life

Lost for Life

Is it right for juvenile offenders to receive lifetime prison sentences without parole? This thought-provoking film explores the complex issue with input from both the perpetrators – all charged with first degree murder – and the victims' families. As they revisit the often shocking details of their brutal crimes, it is easy to dismiss the killers as hopeless. Is it possible, however, for some of them to truly change and make a meaningful contribution to society as free men? – AP

I Learn America

I Learn America

At the International High School at Lafayette, a New York City public high school dedicated to newly arrived immigrants from all over the world, five teenagers confront adolescence, strive to master English, adapt to families they haven't seen in years and create a future of their own in a new land. Through these five vibrant young people, their stories and struggles, we "learn America." – JMD

Let The Fire Burn

Let The Fire Burn

On May 13, 1985, Philadelphia's municipal authorities battling the black liberation group MOVE dropped incendiary, military-grade explosives onto an Osage Avenue row house. The ensuing six-alarm inferno killed five children and six adults, destroying 61 homes. This absorbing yet unfathomable saga is adeptly retold without commentary, using archival footage including previously withheld materials. Filmmaker Jason Osder recreates a chilling saga of simmering fanaticism and purposeless destruction, recalling the seminal event of his suburban Philly childhood. – TM

NPR

'Zero K' Freezes At The Edge Of Immortality

In Don DeLillo's new novel, a billionaire secretly funds an enterprise aimed at preserving people through cryogenics — a technology he hopes to use to rejoin his already-frozen wife.
NPR

When It Came To Food, Neanderthals Weren't Exactly Picky Eaters

During the Ice Age, it seems Neanderthals tended to chow down on whatever was most readily available. Early humans, on the other hand, maintained a consistent diet regardless of environmental changes.
NPR

David Cameron's Former Advisor Wants To Revamp The U.S. Conservative Movement

British political operative Steve Hilton tells NPR's Scott Simon what he thinks the conservative movement needs both in the U.K. and the U.S.
NPR

'The Guardian' Launches New Series Examining Online Abuse

A video was released this week where female sports journalists were read abusive online comments to their face. It's an issue that reaches far beyond that group, and The Guardian is taking it on in a series called "The Web We Want." NPR's Audie Cornish speaks with series editor Becky Gardiner and writer Nesrine Malik, who receives a lot of online abuse.

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