My friend Katie is inspired by the rich storytelling and social impact of great documentary films. But after watching them, she felt lost about how to make meaningful changes in her life. So she’s created an in-person and online club to explore documentaries and enact life changes (or social actions). She explains how it all got started, what they’ve watched so far, and how anyone can get involved or create their own chapter.
By Katie Scarlett Brandt
The first time I tried to watch the documentary Food, Inc., I made it 20 minutes before I had to turn it off. If I kept watching, I wouldn’t be able to sleep unless I first built my own mini-farm in the backyard, hunted down non-genetically modified seeds, and vowed never to shop at a grocery store again. But it was 10 p.m. So instead, I turned off the documentary, and lulled myself to sleep with Seinfeld reruns.
Almost a decade later, I still haven’t gone back to Food, Inc. But I deeply believe that documentaries matter. They showcase real people and unique voices. Some delve into topics that you’d never think to explore on your own. Others make complicated issues digestible.
However, documentaries also can be intensely overwhelming if you’re someone who wants to see changes in the world. So a few months ago, I made a plan with my friend Sam, who also loves documentaries. We didn’t want to skip seeing important films out of fear of feeling too overwhelmed or depressed, and we wanted to talk about and process what we watched. Not only that, but given the political climate, we wanted to find ways to take action based on what these documentaries would show us.
We formed a club, We’ve Got Issues Doc Society, which meets every other month. Our goals: Watch a documentary. Discuss. Take action. To facilitate the post-screening discussions, we invite people who work in whatever area that month’s documentary focuses on. Our February screening was an environmental film; the discussion leaders we invited work in biodiesel, environmental activism, and composting.
As a complement to those talks, we develop a resource list of books and articles to read, podcasts to listen to, other films to watch, thought leaders to follow, and actions to take to affect change.
Our group is based in Chicago, but we share each month’s movie and resource list with people who have started chapters in other places: California, Colorado, and Virginia. For access to our screening list and resource guides, join our Facebook group or email me. We’ll also share the guides here on The Smart Domestic.
Here’s what we’ve watched so far:
- 13th—Filmmaker Ava DuVernay looks at the history of racial inequality in the United States and how that history continues to play out in the form of mass incarceration. (See the resource and action list.)
- Before the Flood—Leonardo DiCaprio takes us on a trip around the world to see how climate change and the fossil fuel industry are devastating the planet (See the resource and action list.)
If you’ve got suggestions for documentaries, resources, or action items, reach out via comment or on Facebook. The next screening will be in April.