And the Social Issue Goes To…

January 15, 2016  |  Film

Filmmakers tout their craft of storytelling both as art and as an agent for awareness and change.

At the Golden Globes ceremony this past Sunday night, Hollywood Foreign Press Association President Lorenzo Soria reminded everyone to, “use our influence to shine a spotlight on violence, injustice, intolerance.” Now that the 2016 Oscar nominations have been announced, social issue themes are in that spotlight. Here are a few from the nominees.

It’s not always an overt storyline or character’s struggle that represents an issue. Two of the films nominated for Best Production Design portray the environment in extremes that wreak havoc on the characters. The Sierra Club’s interview with “Mad Max” director George Miller explains his vision for the post-apocalyptic deserts.The icy tundras of “The Revenant” show a brutal winter, but as Leonardo DiCaprio explained to talk show host Charlie Rose, the crew had to chase winter locations around the globe due to erratic seasonal weather caused by climate change.


Filmmakers not only excel in creating emotionally rich characters living with mental health challenges, but also in structuring documentary films into narratives that treat real people and their stories with care.

Fictional characters such as the animated emotions in Best Animated Feature nominee, “Inside Out” normalize talking about depression and can help explain what autism looks like from the perspective of a parent. Best Short Film (Live Action) “Stutterer” humanizes speech impediments through a romance story. Best Documentary Feature nominee “Amy” documents the life of singer Amy Winehouse through struggles with depression, drug addiction, and abuse.  Best Original Song nominees Lady Gaga and Diane Warren give voice through song for victims dealing with the  pains of sexual assault  in the documentary “The Hunting Ground.”


Although Best Picture nominee “Spotlight” is about the Boston Globe’s uncovering of the Catholic church sexual abuse scandal, it is a freedom of the press, First Amendment story through and through. The film has been lauded by journalists for its accurate representation of the profession. An equally complex current event story – the cause of the 2008 Great Recession – that ultimately explains the issue of America’s income inequality problem, is handled with deft humor in Best Director nominee Adam McKay’s “The Big Short.”

There are so many more nominated films and issues to discuss! Stay tuned in the coming weeks for a closer look at the social themes woven into theAcademy Award nominees.