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8 Hollywood Films That Teach Us Kindness

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By Jeremy Chew:

Since young, we have been taught altruistic values and brought up to not only respect others but to use our gifts and talents to help others. Good virtues such as compassion and empathy were instilled in us from a very tender age in hopes that we will one day continue to care and show love for people around us. Hollywood, one of the most influential streams of entertainment, has also risen to the mandate of bringing movies with themes on benevolence and humanity for decades now. Even the rest of the world thinks of kindness as one of the top qualities in people. So much so, there is a special day dedicated to this virtue – World Kindness Day.

Though World Kindness Day was November 13, it is still not too late to encourage each other to be kind. As such, I’ve put together a list of movies you can watch with your friends and family to encourage kindness and to see empathy personified in characters. Here are some of the best movies available that exemplify kindness.


Pay It Forward

Based on a book, the depiction of a small idea that went on to change the world started off with a young boy named Trevor McKinney. Played by Academy Award Winner Haley Joel Osment, Trevor was challenged by his school teacher (Kevin Spacey) to create an idea that would change the world. Coming up with the idea to help 3 people without expecting anything in return, Trevor formulated the concept of Pay It Forward. The only requirement was for the people who were helped to help another 3 people. With this exponential method of helping people, kindness was not only a thought, but put into deliberate action.

With his childlike enthusiasm, Trevor set out to accomplish this task by taking in a homeless man, feeding him and eventually asking him to do the same to others. Eventually, the little idea sparked a huge following and kindness was shown to many. The idea of helping others in everyday life has also become one of the principles that direct sales companies today hold on to. Ultimately, I recommend it as a must-watch movie.

Lord Of The Rings Trilogy

I leave the real world to enter the vast landscape of Middle Earth in the Lord Of The Rings. The story was based on J.R.R Tolkein’s books. Culminating in a three-part Hollywood blockbuster, the Lord Of The Rings (LOTR) sees the journey of a young group of Hobbits take the responsibility of bringing a cursed ring to Mordor. The ultimate responsibility falls on Frodo of the Shire (Elijah Wood), whose fate crosses paths with the One Ring to rule them all. Frodo and his Fellowship of The Ring, carry the ring through perilous landscapes ridden with evils. Directed by Peter Jackson, the 3-part trilogy is worth watching every minute of the 3 hours each.

During the entire journey, Frodo’s best buddy, Samwise Gamgee follows him through thick and thin. Often times the only form of encouragement in times of despair, Sam sacrifices his own needs for his companion, eventually bringing him to complete his mission successfully. Among other lessons to be learnt are courage and determination. Winning a whopping 17 Academy Awards, the LOTR trilogy is definitely one saga to watch.


I Am Sam

If you’ve never shed a tear while watching movies, “I Am Sam” will definitely get the feels going. The story of a mentally-challenged Sam Dawson, played by Sean Penn, in his attempt to win custody of his daughter (Dakota Fanning) in a pro-bono lawsuit will move the waterworks in your eyes. As he struggles in everyday life, he puts his daughter above everything else and makes big sacrifices for her. “I Am Sam” is testament to one of Hollywood’s greatest movies about love, sacrifice and empathy. It is definitely one of the top on our list of movies portraying kindness.

The Amazing Spiderman 2

Here’s one for the comic fans – “The Amazing Spiderman 2” (2014). Many renditions of the web-slinger have been made in the past, including Sam Raimi’s Spiderman starring Tobey Maguire. But the latest installment of the Spiderman standalone film brings in the young, talented, Andrew Garfield to the big screen. Taking over rights to the Spiderman franchise, Sony has revamped the story of Peter Parker. Bringing in elements of self-sacrifice and empathy above all, Peter Parker lets go of his desires for a normal life, ultimately resulting in the death of his girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, in a fight to save his city.

You must be wondering why I chose a comic book movie for a lesson on kindness. Combining action and heroism along with man’s inner struggle, “The Amazing Spiderman 2” shows us just how hard it is to be kind to humanity.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

Much like the LOTR trilogy, “The Chronicles of Narnia” brought in an adaptation of C.S. Lewis book: “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” to the big screen. The magical journey of 4 children who embarked on a quest to find the king of Narnia, Aslan the lion was an epic story. Along the way, we see how the children, Peter, Edmund, Susan and Lucy Pevensie experience the kindness of various characters in the world of Narnia. No element of kindness can compare to the forgiving spirit of Aslan after he was betrayed by Edmund. He graciously forgives Edmund and proceeds to rid the world of the White Witch. With multi-talented actors such as Tilda Swinton, James McAvoy and Liam Neeson behind the characters, The Chronicles of Narnia is one of the best family movies you can watch together.

12 Years A Slave

12-years-a-slaveIt is said that America was built on the backs of slaves. From the motion picture “12 Years A Slave”, we see the grim side of America’s history. With African Americans sold into slavery, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free man, is deceived by two con men and thrown into slavery. For 12 years, he lives as a slave, enduring the brutality and inhumane acts done to him and his fellow slaves. Despite the gruesome nature of slavery, we see a side of the kind nature of Solomon Northup with his friends and fellow slaves. We also see the kindness of some slave masters, trying to do the right thing to take care of the slaves entrusted them. Although there is a happy ending, I would not recommend watching the movie with your children. Some scenes are not suitable for minors. Other than that, “12 Years A Slave” is nothing short of extraordinary!

american-history-x-poster-american-history-x-38821277-1024-1200American History X

In the list of R-rated movies, we see a much talked-about movie in “American History X”. Casting the Hollywood heartthrob Edward Norton as a Neo-Nazi leader in the 1990s in rural America was simply genius. Bulking up to play his role as Derrick Vineyard, Norton’s character is sent to jail after manslaughter and endures a tough time there. From getting raped to being beaten up by those he calls brothers, Vineyard learns the hard way that violence does not solve anything.

In his incarceration, Derrick finds kindness and compassion from those whom he hated and plotted to kill. Turning to books and self-reflection, he managed to realise his wrongdoings and endeavoured to make things right when he got out. Eventually he did straighten up and vowed to show the same kindness to others.

Life Of Pi

What if you are stuck on a boat in the middle of the ocean along with a ferocious tiger? What would you do? Ang Lee answers this question with the movie “Life Of Pi”. Also based on a book, “Life Of Pi” sees the main character, Piscine Patel or Pi, stranded in the middle of the ocean after the freighter he and his family was on sunk. After witnessing the deaths of his parents and brother, he realises he’s stuck on the life boat with the Richard Parker the tiger.

Kindness sets in when he cares for the animal even though it tries to eat him at times. Risking his life to keep the animal alive, he sacrifices his food for it. At last, his kindness pays off as the tiger survives the entire ordeal. Riddled with stunning visual effects, “Life Of Pi” is a masterpiece. Watch it with friends and family.

Ultimately, we can learn thousands of educational examples of kindness from movies, but if we don’t put it into practice, all we get is entertainment. Let us together strive to do good and have compassion on others – be it other people or animals.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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