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The JUST Entertainment section examines the multitude of ways in which entertainment media track, catalyze and incite social change – we comb through diverse forms of Entertainment to illuminate existing social attitudes and identifying opportunities to drive positive change.

Kris SlavaJack Stern



Entertainers Using Their Influence to Inspire and Promote Social Change

Nadia Walker
September, 2013

We are bombarded with sensationalistic images in entertainment media.  The storylines or images are highly exaggerated for the express purpose of selling a product to a consumer. We encounter these types of imagery whenever we read a newspaper or magazine on a grocery store shelf with a celebrity headline. However, more and more celebrities are using the paprazzi's attention as a way to inspire and promote social change.

When actor Benedict Cumberbatch was being photographed on the set of a film shoot, he used the moment as an opportunity to shed light on the crisis in Egypt.  He is not alone in bringing awareness to social issues–when Ashton Kutcher won a Teen Choice award he went out of his way to tell the individuals, “I feel like a fraud. My name is not even Ashton its Chris, my middle name is Ashton”, he told the audience not to be fooled by the images they see within entertainment media.

Entertainers aren’t only using their influence to draw attention to an issue or at award shows. Liam Neeson has partnered with UNICEF to shed light on violence on children.  And musical artists, such as Amanda Palmer, have made it a point to speak out about sexism in the industry through their music.


An Awful Tabloid Decided To Review Her Lady Parts Instead Of Her Music. So She Responded Awesomely.

Adam Mordecai
Upworthy, July, 29 2013

Amanda Palmer, rock star and all-around awesome person, decided to have a little fun at the Daily Mail's expense —in song — after they wrote an unflattering article about a wardrobe malfunction instead of reviewing the concert she performed.

dear daily mail,

it has come to my recent attention
that me recent appearance at glastonbury festivals kindly received a mention
i was doing a number of things on that stage up to and including singing songs (like you do…)
but you chose to ignore that and instead you published a feature review of my boob

Read more…


Benedict Cumberbatch Goes to War: Celebrity and Diplomacy

Casey N. Cep 
Pacific Standard, August 22, 2013

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch made headlines over the weekend by obscuring his face. Celebrities hide from photographers all the time, but Cumberbatch’s efforts while filming the final episodes of the third season of the BBC series Sherlock on location in Cardiff, Wales, were significant.

Captured exiting his trailer, the star wore dark glasses and covered his head with the hood of a jacket—stock for the celebrity trade—but also hid his face behind a handwritten signed that read: “Go photograph Egypt and show the world something important.”

Cumberbatch’s message was both misdirected and misguided. Photojournalists from Egypt and around the world have faced and continue facing hardship and risk daily to capture images of the Egyptian protests. There is no shortage of remarkable photographs coming out of Egypt and, more troublingly, the actor’s stunt suggests a misplaced faith in photography. Read more…


Music, Film, TV: How Social Media Changed the Entertainment Experience, May 10, 2012

Social media is more than a digital water cooler for TV and movies. The global conversation that takes place around events and the experiences people share based on what they watch teaches us about consumer preferences. More importantly, their activity influences behavior. Behavior counts for everything. Studying it is just the beginning of course. In order to understand and eventually steer behavior, we must translate activity into insights and in turn, translate insights into actionable strategies and programs.

The Hollywood Reporter recently published an exclusive poll about social media led by market research firm Penn Schoen Berland. As the report opens, THR notes, “There’s a sea change afoot in how Americans discover and consume entertainment.”

According to the study, 88% of respondents view social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook as a new form of entertainment. Read more…


Entertainment: The Bridge That Leads To Social Change

Nadia Walker
August, 2013

One trend within entertainment is its use to educate, inspire and create social change. This can be traced to the art of storytelling. “In countries where a rich oral tradition still persists, folktales with moral messages are an integral part of people's informal education” (Brown and Singhal).  With the rapid advancement of technology and the creation of social media communicating messages relevant to social issues within entertainment media has grown significantly. Why? Well, because “it’s everywhere, is cost effective, and there are more conversations going on in school corridors and dinner tables based on what one watched on television last night”(Kramer, Amy).

Our behavior is influenced by the images and content we see in entertainment media and further influenced by the entertainment media content we share and discuss amongst our peers using social media. It influences whether or not we will make the choice to get involved in social issues or movements that bring social change. When a Venezuelan soap operas storyline had the main character Crystal find out she had breast cancer, the storyline influenced a total of 75,000 women to go have mammograms. ABC’s One Life To Live did a similar storyline and it had a similar effect on women in the US. Entertainment media is not only a source of entertainment, but has the potential to bring together the diversity of  individuls, cultures, and societies to promote and create global social change in various areas such as health, education, and justice.


Film: Entertainment Has The Power To Bring Humanity Together


Chime For Change: An Entertainment-Education Communication Strategy To Create Social Change



Iranian Filmmakers In Jeopardy

Kris Slava
April, 2012 

Government persecution of Iranian filmmakers is nothing new, but the stakes have ratcheted up in the last year. Jafar Panahi’s un-documentary This Is Not A Film premiered in September at Toronto.  The acclaimed Panahi, is under house arrest and forbidden to make a film for 20 years. 

After filmmakers rallied behind an group of arrested British documentarians, the Ministry of Culture  declared the independent and influential House of Cinema guild illegal in November. Meanwhile A Separation, which would ultimately win both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award was being criticized as anti-Islamic. 

Ironically, the state itself is responsible for the flowering of what many believe is the most vibrant national cinema in the world today. In the wake of the great Islamic revolution of 1979, the new theocratic republic banned American films. 

Although the number of Iranian films produced plummeted immediately after the revolution and established filmmakers fled, the lack of American product caused the Iranian film industry to rebound within a few years.  The rapid growth of domestic cinema gave rise to a new generation of directors, both male and female, and in the 1990’s this new generation began winning widespread international acclaim. 

The truth is, few of the feted Iranian films of the last 20 years are anything near anti-government or anti-Islamic. (Panahi’s current non-film being a notable exception.)  But the government seems uninterested in the truth, and as long as officials continue to prefer their own paranoid perceptions to reality, Iranian filmmakers are in jeopardy.   


Hollywood Voices Support for Imprisoned Iranian Filmmaker Jafar Panahi

Alex Ben Block
The Hollywood Reporter, October 19, 2011 

AMPAS, SAG and ACE are among the groups decrying the director's six-year jail sentence, which was recently upheld by an appeals court.

In the wake of news Wednesday that an Iranian appeals court has upheld a six-year jail sentence and 20-year filmmaking and travel ban against acclaimed film director Jafar Panahi, a number of top U.S. entertainment industry organizations and guilds have come out strongly in his support.

They are also decrying the fate of other filmmakers in Iran who have been imprisoned, harassed or who face government barriers to their freedom of expression. Read more… 


Iranian Cinema Under Seige


22nd Annual Festival of Films from Iran - Cancels Films

Final Whistle - Cancelled

From the Gene Siskal Film Festival Website:

Substitutions in our programming for the Festival of Films from Iran have been necessitated by Iranian government bans on two of our scheduled titles, FINAL WHISTLE and ABSOLUTELY TAME IS A HORSE. A third film, HERE WITHOUT ME, has withdrawn from the festival.  Festival site


Mojtaba Mirtahmasb One of Filmmakers Arrested in Iran

Julian Buckeridge, September 21, 2011

Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, the co-director of Jafar Pahahi’s This is Not A Film, is among the six filmmakers who were arrested by Iranian authorities on September 17th.

…The imprisoned filmmakers are Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, Katayoun Shahabi, Hadi Afarideh, Naser Safarian, Shahnam Bazdar and Mohsen Shahrnazdar.

Earlier this month, Iran barred Mojtaba Mirtahmasb from accompanying This Is Not a Film, which he and Panahi shot secretly on an iPhone and smuggled into France for its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, to the Toronto International Film Festival. Read more…


Women Standouts in Film

Kris Slava
March, 2012 

In a previous issue of JUST we cited reports that the percentage of female directors in Hollywood fell drastically in 2011 from 7% to 5%.  Despite that, female directors continue to make a significant impact.  2011/12 has brought some notable, and meaningful accolades.   

This year’s Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject went to Pakistani Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and her co-director Daniel Junge, for their film Saving Face. The film is about plastic surgeons trying to help Pakistani women who have been the victims of acid attacks by spurned lovers or vindictive husbands. 

Since Obaid-Chinoy is the first Pakistani to receive an Oscar, this helps insure that the film will not be discounted inside Pakistan. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani declared that Obaid-Chinoy will get a civil award for her accomplishment. Chinoy previously won an International Emmy Award for her documentary Pakistan’s Taliban Generation.

At this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, Lebanese Director/Actor Nadine Labaki received the Cadillac People’s Choice Award for Where Do We Go Now?, a dramatic fable about the difficulties of Christians and Muslims coexisting in a small village. Labaki takes a surprising, playful approach to her serious subject matter.  The women of the village stop at nothing to defuse their men, even resorting to hashish and Ukranian strippers.

Watch for both films– Saving Face will be shown on HBO in March and Where Do We Go Now? will be screened at New York’s New Directors/New Films and be released theatrically by Sony Pictures Classics.


Nadine Labaki: The Rising Star of Lebanese Cinema

Al Arabiya News
September 30, 2011
Flush with the triumph of her latest film at the Toronto International Film Festival, Lebanese director Nadine Labaki is the toast of the town as she sits in a Beirut cafe giving interview after interview.

The movie “Where Do We Go Now?”, about a group of women determined to prevent the men in their village from getting involved in a religious war, won best picture at the festival's People’s Choice Award, seen as a bellwether for Oscar success. Read more…


Saving Face: Pakistan’s Golden Moment

The Express Tribune
February 27, 2012

For Pakistan, 2012 could not have started on a sweeter note. If Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy scoring an Academy Award nomination for her documentary Saving Face in the category of Best Documentary (Short Subject) wasn’t good enough, then her getting to take home the Oscar this Sunday night at the 84th Academy Awards presentation, definitely was. With the entire nation rejoicing at her victory, it seemed she had won the Oscar for all of Pakistan. Read more…