Children of Heaven, 1999. PG. When Ali loses his sister Zahra’s school shoes, this young pair dreams up a plan. Since their parents are too poor to afford a new pair, Ali will share his shoes with his sister, trading them off every day to keep it a secret from their parents! When Ali finds out that the third-place prize in a student footrace is a new pair of shoes, he’s determined to win. Run time: 89 min. Farsi, English subtitles. Available from Amazon.com.
Great Souls: Mother Teresa, 2002. Not rated. Filmed on location, this film traces the dramatic story of a young Catholic girl who felt called of God to serve the poorest people of India. Mother Teresa of Calcutta inspired the world with her example of compassion for the poor and set a standard for servanthood unequaled in the twentieth century. Run time: 56 min. Available from Vision Video.
The Second Chance, 2006. PG-13. White and well-to-do Ethan (Michael W. Smith) is comfortable in his music ministry at a suburban megachurch; Jake is a street smart African-American who ministers to the gang members, teen mothers, and drug addicts of the urban Second Chance. When they are suddenly thrown together in a tough neighborhood and forced to work side by side, Ethan discovers there is no boundary between the streets and the sanctuary. But can the faith these two men share overcome the prejudices that divide them to give themselves and a struggling urban church a second chance? Run time: 103 min. Available from Vision Video or from Amazon.com.
Emmanuel’s Gift, 2006. G. Narrated by Oprah Winfrey, this movie tells the true story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, a disabled orphan in Ghana, West Africa. His father abandoned him, village dismissed him, and country thought him better off dead. With just one good leg, Emmanuel pedaled his bike 400 miles in an effort to open his countrymen’s eyes to the fact that disability does not mean inability. Run time: 80 min. Available from Amazon.com.
The Italian, 2005. PG-13. For most Russian orphans, the chance to be adopted is a dream come true. But six-year-old Vanya has other hopes. After discovering that his mother is still alive, the abandoned boy teaches himself to read so as to learn her address from his personal files. Before a wealthy Italian couple can claim him for their own, Vanya sets off on a perilous journey to find his only remaining family. Inspired by true events, this film exposes the overcrowded, impoverished conditions in Soviet state-run orphanages. Run time: 90 min. Russian, English subtitles. Available from Amazon.com.
Nobody Knows, 2005. PG-13. A young mother sneaks her four children into their new apartment as if it were a game. One of the game’s rules is that only Akira, the oldest, can go outside. Their mother leaves, first for a month, then possibly forever. As the money runs out and the utilities are shut off, Akira struggles to take care of his brother and sisters, determined that they stay safe and together. Run time: 141 min. Japanese, English subtitles. Available from Amazon.com.
Oliver!, 1968. G. This musical adaptation of Dickens’ classic tale follows the adventures of Oliver Twist, a young orphan who takes to the streets of 19th-century London in order to seek his fortune. Run time: 153 min. Available from Amazon.com.
Oliver Twist, 2005. PG-13. Abandoned at an early age, Oliver Twist is forced to live in a workhouse lorded over by the awful Mr. Bumble, who cheats the boys of their meager rations. Desperate yet determined, Oliver makes his escape to the streets of London. Penniless and alone, he is lured into a gang of pint-sized pickpockets. Oliver’s rescue by the kindly Mr. Brownlow is only the beginning of a series of adventures that lead him to the promise of a better life. Run time: 130 min. Available from Amazon.com.
Born Into Brothels, 2005. R. Oscar-winning documentary of children living in Calcutta’s red-light district where their mothers work as prostitutes. A photographer documenting life in the brothels decides to teach them photography. As the children begin to look at and record their world through new eyes, the kids awaken to their own talents and sense of worth. Run time: 83 min. Available from Amazon.com.
Central Station, 1998. R. Dora sits in the Rio de Janeiro train station selling her letter-writing skills to all comers. When a woman who’s paid Dora to write a pleading note to her son’s long-missing dad gets run over by a bus, the boy is up for grabs. A moving tale of the human spirit concerning an orphaned boy befriended by a lonely and cynical woman. Run time: 130 min. Available from Amazon.com.
The Children of Leningradsky, 2004. R. Nominated for best documentary short at the Academy Awards, this film takes an unblinking look at the reality of homeless children living in Russia — in particular the ones who call the underground Leningradsky train station in Moscow home. Contains footage of more than a dozen children who speak candidly about their lives, routines, and lost dreams. Addresses glue sniffing, police brutality, and prostitution. Run time: 35 min. Available from childrenofleningradsky.com.
City of God, 2002. R. The streets of the world’s most notorious slum, Rio de Janeiro’s “City of God,” are a place where police rarely go and residents are lucky if they live to the age of 20. In the midst of the oppressive crime and violence, a frail and scared young boy grows up to discover that he can view the harsh realities of his surroundings with a different eye: the eye of an artist. His ambition to become a professional photographer becomes a window into his world, and ultimately his way out! Run time: 130 min. Portuguese, English subtitles. Available from Amazon.com.
Lilya 4-ever, 2002. R. 16-year-old Lilya is left to fend for herself in a blighted Estonian suburb when her mother abandons her. She befriends a street boy who sells glue. Later she turns to prostitution to be able to survive. Eager to escape her grim surroundings and to seek a bright future, she falls victim to the promises of the charming Andrei, only to find a new life in Sweden worse than the one she left behind. Run time: 109 min. Available from Amazon.com.
Salaam, Bombay!, 1998. Not rated. Shot in the slums of Bombay, this wrenching drama tells the story of Krishna, an 11-year-old boy who heads to the big city to find work. Krishna lives on the streets with pimps, prostitutes, drug addicts, and other homeless children. He saves the little money he earns delivering tea so he can return home to his family. But his honest plan is foiled when his hard-earned money is stolen by his closest friend, forcing Krishna to follow in the footsteps of so many street children of Bombay—turning to a life of crime. Run time: 113 min. Hindi, English subtitles. Available from Amazon.com.
Slumdog Millionaire, 2009. R. Jamal, a teen who grew up in the slums of Mumbai becomes a contestant on the Indian version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”. He is arrested for cheating, and, while being interrogated, events from his life history are shown which explain why he knows all the answers. Run time: 120 min. Available from Amazon.com.
The Devil’s Miner, 2006. Not rated. 14-year-old Basilio works deep inside the Cerro Rico silver mines of Bolivia. Raised without a father, Basilio is the primary breadwinner for his family. Working 12-hour shifts and eating cocoa leaves to ward off hunger and drowsiness, he then walks to the city to attend a school, where he is ostracized because he is a working miner. Basilio’s dream is to earn enough money to get an education and to leave the mines for good. Run time: 82 min. Spanish, English subtitles. Available from Amazon.com.
Fields of Mudan, 2007. R. Mudan, a frightened young Asian girl, is forced into sex slavery by a brutal child brothel owner. She finds an unexpected friend in Faye, a sympathetic and compassionate brothel girl. Together Mudan and Faye courageously choose to live their lives as innocent, ordinary little girls despite their conditions and the bleak future that awaits them. Run time: 23 minutes. Available from Amazon.com.
Osama, 2003. PG-13. The first film made in a post-Taliban Afghanistan, it was inspired by a newspaper account. After the Taliban regime bans women from working and forbids them to leave their homes without a male escort, a family of women find themselves on the brink of starvation. To eke out a living, they dress their 12-year-old girl as a boy so she can work. Run time: 83 minutes. Arabic, English subtitles. Available from Amazon.com.
We Were Free, not rated. Three people freed from modern-day slavery through International Justice Mission intervention share their lives in this mini-documentary. This short film is a great way to introduce your family, colleagues, and others to the reality of slavery, sex trafficking, and IJM’s work to combat it. Run time: 13 minutes. Available from International Justice Mission.
Children of War
Blood Diamond, 2007. R. Amid the explosive civil war overtaking 1999 Sierra Leone, a smuggler and a fisherman join forces for two missions: recovering a rare pink diamond of immense value and rescuing the fisherman’s son, conscripted as a child soldier into the brutal rebel forces. Run time: 143 min. Available from Amazon.com.
God Grew Tired of Us, 2008. PG. Documentary focuses on the experiences of three boys removed from war-torn Sudan and given the opportunity to resettle in the United States. At first, everything is new and different, but then the young men begin to miss their families and have difficulty making connections with those outside their social group. Nicole Kidman provides a little narration, but for the most part, the Lost Boys speak for themselves. Run time: 90 min. Available from Amazon.com.
Invisible Children: Rough Cut, 2003. Not rated. Includes interviews with former child soldiers, but focuses mainly on the “night commuter” phenomenon—children that walk to major cities from their villages every night to escape rebels who would recruit them to fight. They sleep more safely en masses in the city centers, hospitals, and bus stations. Run time: 52 min. Available from Invisible Children or from Amazon.com.
Kandahar, 2003. Not rated. Set (and filmed) during the Taliban era, it follows an Afghani-Canadian woman as she attempts to enter Afghanistan in search of her sister. Since it is illegal for a woman to travel alone, she must rely on the kindness, or curiosity of strangers, including a scrappy boy and a mysterious American doctor. The story unveils a way of life including war refugees, land-mine victims, and girls being denied education. The portrait is one of oppression, but also of people furiously trying to get by. Run time: 85 min. Persian, English subtitles. Available from Amazon.com.
The Last of Human Freedoms, 2009. Not rated. Firsthand interviews with child soldiers in Central Africa. They explain why they joined the rebels and what life was like. They also share about their life of faith in the church, now that they have escaped the rebel groups. Run time: 5:27. Available from Concept 81 at Sermon Spice.
Turtles Can Fly, 2005. PG-13. In an Iraqi Kurdistan village, villagers await the arrival of the invading U.S. army. A young boy becomes a leader because he can install satellite dishes and translate news of the pending U.S. invasion. Nicknamed Satellite, he also organizes fellow orphans to search the surrounding fields for landmines they can sell to the U.N. As Saddam Hussein is removed from power, these innocent children must confront the harsh reality that awaits them. Run time: 98 min. Kurdish, English subtitles. Available from Amazon.com.
War Dance, 2008. PG-13. School children in a refugee camp in Northern Uganda prepare to compete in a prestigious countrywide music competition. Three children of war who have suffered horrific brutalities momentarily forget their struggles as they participate in music, song, and dance. Their historic journey is a stirring tale about the power of the human spirit to triumph against tremendous odds. Run time: 107 min. Available from Amazon.com.
Angels in the Dust, 2008. Not rated. True story of a wealthy South African family who gives up their affluent lifestyle to provide a home and an education for almost 600 orphaned children who have been impacted by HIV/AIDS. Touching portrayal of the lives of children living with the affects of HIV/AIDS without being too graphic about the horrific details. Run time: 95 min. Available from Amazon.com.
Beat the Drum, 2007. Not rated. A young, orphaned boy sets out for the big city to find his uncle after a mysterious illness strikes his village. Driven by his determination to survive and his growing social awareness, he finds a way to make an honest living and returns to his village with a truth and understanding his elders have failed to grasp. An emotional and timely drama reminding us how one small voice can be the brave start of colossal change—uniting a village, a township, and even a nation. Run time: 114 min. Available from Amazon.com.
A Closer Walk: A Film About AIDS in the World, A Story About the Way the World Is, 2003. Not rated. Narrated by Glenn Close and Will Smith, this documentary explores the intricate relationship between health, dignity, and human rights, and shows how the harsh realities of AIDS in the world are an expression of the way the world is. Stories, portraits, and vignettes of children, women, and men living with AIDS on four continents. Run time: 85 min. Available from Amazon.com.
Dear Francis, 2005. R. Swaziland is one of the world’s most HIV-infected nations. Dear Francis puts a face to the AIDS pandemic as it chronicles the personal stories of two Texas college students and the Swazis they befriend. When Lance and Kelly set out to make a difference, they discover that the causes of this plague are much more disturbing and complex than they could have ever imagined. Interspersed in the film are interviews of local and international officials working the front lines of the pandemic. The film highlights the hope of nation’s future against seemingly insurmountable odds … one life at a time. Run time: 65 min. Available from filmbaby.com.
Love, Above All, 2010. PG-13. Set in South Africa, this fictional account shows the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS through the eyes of a young girl named Chandra. As the disease ravages the area where Chandra lives, it becomes personal when her mom contracts the disease that no one will talk about, but everyone fears. This story emphasizes the stigma and isolation that families face from their own community. Run time: 100 min. Available from Amazon.com.
Miss HIV, 2007. PG-13. Follows two HIV positive contestants in the annual Miss HIV Stigma-Free pageant in Botswana while exploring the international policies on HIV/AIDS prevention. Miss HIV was filmed on location across Sub-Saharan Africa and at the International AIDS Conference in Toronto. Run time: 78 min. Available from Relevant Store.
Yesterday, 2006. R. After falling ill, Khumalo (Yesterday) learns that she is HIV positive. With her husband in denial and young daughter to tend to, Yesterday’s one goal is to live long enough to see her child go to school. Fearful neighbors in their tiny Zulu village ostracize the family. Set against the awesome, harsh landscapes of South Africa, this eloquent, unsentimental film puts a human face on a global crisis. Run time: 95 min. Available from Amazon.com.
Take a Stand!
Amazing Grace, 2007. PG. Tells the inspiring story of William Wilberforce and his passion and perseverance to pass a law ending the slave trade in England in the late 18th century. Several friends, including Wilberforce’s minister, a reformed slave ship captain who penned the beloved hymn “Amazing Grace,” urge him to see the cause through. Run time: 118 min. Available from Amazon.com.
The Gladys Aylward Story, 2008. G. With war raging about her and soldiers closing in, Gladys sets out on a 100-mile trek over mountains to keep 100 abandoned children safe. Animated. Run time: 30 min. Available from Vision Video or from Amazon.com.
Inn of the Sixth Happiness, 1958. Not rated. Gladys Aylward is a British would-be missionary with a heart for China. With no experience and no mission agency to send her, Gladys goes alone to a remote northern province. She is hated, then loved; finally she becomes both a significant political figure and the heroine of a miraculous escape in which she shepherds 100 orphans to safety across the mountains just ahead of the Japanese invasion. Run time: 158 min. Available from Amazon.com.
It Takes a Child, 1998. PG. Watch how the Free the Children movement began with this amazing story of Craig Kielburger, a youth advocate for child laborers. For grades 5-12. Run time: 56 min. Available at www.metowe.com.