A Call to Action: Read More Books. Watch More Movies
Meg Brown camel riding in Wadi Rum, Jordan.
I’m a history nerd. I pretty much always have been. Ever since I picked up my first American Girl book at age six (Felicity Saves The Day--I still have the dog-eared copy in a box around here somewhere), I was hooked. For my 9th birthday party, I dragged my friends along with me to the visiting Titanic exhibit--I lured them in with talk of Leonardo DiCaprio, but I was far more interested in the 100-year old silverware, antique jewelry, and the slab of the ship’s hull resting in a giant tank of saltwater.
I read books about the Cuban Revolution, biographies of Fidel Castro, saw Evita, and wrote adventure stories set cruising down the Amazon River. Then I visited Guatemala on a school volunteer trip. Though we did little of any consequence during our week-long stay, it had a transformative effect on me. The common theme of my childhood history phases were the inspirations: media. Through reading books and watching movies, my imagination jumped from one historical time period to the next. Guatemala brought that history into my present and made it real. It was the first time that my love for historical films and books had led me to an experience that made me want to act instead of just read the next metaphorical chapter.
The call to action stayed with me (even if it was a little dormant in my admittedly self-centered teen brain). When I discovered The Kite Runner, I had no idea I had found a long-lasting focus. Following this novel, I read dozens of books about the Middle East, watched film after film. I studied Arabic, studied abroad in Jordan--the safest place to visit in the the tragic war zone that is the Middle East right now (between a rock and a hard place a friend of mine calls it. If you know your geography, you’ll get the joke)--and volunteered with a Palestinian-centered non-profit.
Books and movies have a powerful capacity to inspire young people. I would know. Yet, more and more it seems to me, kids aren’t shown films like 5 Broken Cameras in class, they’re not reading books about Che Guevara. Which is why I’m so excited to be doing work with Brave New Films. It’s a film company that understands the potential power a film can have over an audience. Its films are so accessible to a teenage audience. War on Whistleblowers provides insight into the government and the history of freedom of the press--why isn’t it being shown in high school Government or Journalism classes? Unmanned totally flips the debate about drones on its head--it’s a great film for history and current events classes. A great case study for a debate team. Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices is an angsty film, relevant to students with low-paying jobs or from low-income families--what better film is there to show in an Economics class?
I spent my teen years saturated by books and films, and now I’m making a go of a non-profit career because of these childhood “phases.” I want more kids to have that, to have the opportunity to feel inspired into action by great media, in order to do good in the world. I want more kids to watch lesser known, challenging films like Brave New Films’ productions, and others like them.
Meg Brown is a Beloit College graduate and currently lives in Madison, WI. Her avid reading as a kid caused her to become passionate about human rights and the world around her, leading to a BA in International Relations and Religious Studies. She's hoping to bring all of these passions together one day in the form of a sustainable career!