SDG Movie Club Sparks Discussion and SDG Awareness

April 18, 2022
SDG Student Group Activity Grant graphic.

When Master of Development Practice (MDP) student Dalila Hussein first heard about the UMN SDG Iniative’s Student Group Activity Grant Fund she immediately knew what she wanted to do. 

“Personally, I am a visual learner,” says Hussein. “Thus, when I received the outreach email for the SDG initiatives grant, I thought of organizing a movie club that touches base on the initiative's target SDGs, creating an out-of-classroom space to engage, discuss and reflect on our personal stories and worldviews through the documentaries.”

Hussein is in the first year of her two year MDP graduate program, a joint venture between the Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change (ICGC) and the Humphrey Public School of Public Affairs, that focuses on preparing students for a career in sustainable development. As an international student from Egypt, she was familiar with the UN’s sustainable development goals but relished the idea of contextualizing them a little more for her peers. 

“I find conversations around SDGs a bit too abstract. They call for action but do not always contextualize those actions,” explains Hussein. “I found documentaries to be more grass-rooted. They provide tangible examples through which the SDGs framework could be discussed, critiqued, and practiced. There is so much that a movie can convey that a single talk might not in my opinion. The image, the sound, and the motion remain and pushed the viewer to engage in multiple ways.”

The first film, Every Three Seconds, was screened on Feb 17 and led to a robust discussion of SDG#2 (Zero Hunger) around issues of food sovereignty, community-based interventions and local inclusion, power dynamics, and the consequences of the aid industry. 

On March 24, the focus switched to SDG#3 (Health and Well-being) with a screening of Bending the Arc which tells the story of how a team of doctors and activists in Haiti in the 1980s changed global health as we know it. 

“I had previously seen the film and thought it did an excellent job of showing how our perceptions of global health have adjusted over time,” explains Hussein. “Additionally, with Dr. Farmer’s death in late February, I thought sharing his story with the campus community would be an excellent way to honor him.”

Significantly, sustainability is a key concept mentioned throughout the film, largely in relation to the need for global health efforts to be sustainable and replicable. Through his work, Dr. Paul Farmer and his colleagues highlighted how the old way of doing things was not working. Despite its critics, their community health model (notably with a focus on training local healthcare workers) is shown as ultimately being valuable not only in rural Haiti, but with the combating the worldwide AIDS epidemic and in building the public health sector in Rwanda. 

Next up for the Movie Club is a planned screening of 2040 and how it related to SDG#13 (Climate Change). Hussein plans to wrap up the semester with Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power and a broad conversation around SDG#17 and how vital it is to partner to make the goals a reality.

“One of my personal takeaways [from the project] is the power of reflexivity,” explains Hussein. “As a graduate student, my schedule is packed up and I race between deadlines. However, during those Thursday evening screenings, I get to distance myself from my laptop, ignore my phone and enjoy a movie that touches areas that interest me personally. I am allowed space and time to pause, learn, reflect, be reflexive and share my thoughts openly in a safe and friendly environment. I think we all need that space, and if the SDG movie club creates that same space for others, then it has certainly met its objectives.”

The club currently focuses on attracting students and faculty from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, but Hussein hopes to continue the project next year with a more diverse pool of topics and audience. 

“I think more initiatives and spaces like the SDG movie club are needed,” Hussein explains. “Students need to engage, stretch, express and diversify their knowledge and input and I find informal spaces like the movie club a perfect space to do so.” 

The next Movie Night showing of 2040 is planned for Thursday, April 21 and will take place in Humphrey Room 25.  

Poster for Every Three Seconds.
Poster for Bending the Arc.
Poster for 2040.
Poster for An Inconvenient Sequel.