San Francisco-based streaming service curates 'powerful' social justice films focused on diversity, inclusion

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- As more people become attuned to issues of social justice, interest in historic and current films and documentaries has grown.

A streaming service aimed at libraries and universities has curated a collection that has assembled some of the best. Race and social justice are pillars of Building A Better Bay Area.

The streaming service Kanopy is available widely at public libraries and universities. The collection has hundreds of titles that are timely and provocative.

A clip from the film "I Am Not Your Negro, courtesy of Kino Lober, Inc.: "The story of the Negro in America is the story of America. It is not a pretty story."

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Kanopy has been working with filmmakers and rights holders to expand the collection as the appetite for and interest in diversity, inclusion and social justice expand.

"This is a really great opportunity from a platform perspective in terms of getting this information out, educating people, sparking the kind of conversations that we really want to be having with each other to connect in a meaningful way," said Kanopy CEO Kevin Sayar.

At the Berkeley Public Library, it only takes a library card for access. Deputy director of library services Elliot Warren says its digital strategy is to offer more films and documentaries. The special collection of social justice titles has resonated with its patrons.

"A number of films by people of color, by Black filmmakers, have been very, very, very much of interest to our community, issues of social justice, of police accountability, of access to housing have actually resonated with Berkeley residents," Warren said.

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Another clip from "I Am Not Your Negro": "There are days when you wonder what your role is in this country and what your future is in it."

The subject matter can make viewers uncomfortable. The 2018 Oscar winning short film "Skin" by director Guy Nattiv is an example. It focuses on the interaction between a Black man and a White boy.

"They just make eye contact, and he smiles at him," Kanopy's Sayar said in describing a key scene. "And what ensues after that is some gang wars, and it ends kind of in a tragic way. But it's so powerful."

There are many other films that put a lens on stereotypes and how they can hurt.

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A clip from the film "Latinos Beyond Reel," directed by Miguel Picker and Chyng Sun and courtesy of Media Education Foundation: "We are in a new millennium, and these characters keep popping up."

Kanopy is helping libraries to fill the need for more diverse collections.

Find resources to help with equality, justice and race issues here.

See more stories and videos about Building a Better Bay Area here.
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