Movies help generate empathy

June 2, 2020

“The movies are like a machine that generates empathy.” A quote from Roger Ebert

“We are all born with a certain package. We are who we are. Where we were born, who we were born as, how we were raised. We are kind of stuck inside that person, and the purpose of civilization and growth is to be able to reach out and empathize a little bit with other people, find out what makes them tick, what they care about. For me, the movies are like a machine that generates empathy. If it’s a great movie, it lets you understand a little bit more about what it’s like to be a different gender, a different race, a different age, a different economic class, a different nationality, a different profession, different hopes, aspirations, dreams and fears. It helps us to identify with the people who are sharing this journey with us. And that, to me, is the most noble thing that good movies can do and it’s a reason to encourage them and to support them and to go to them.”

Roger Ebert

Now is the time to expand our empathy, understanding, and compassion. BMFI stands in solidarity with our colleagues, our audiences, and artists in condemning the systemic racism and injustice experienced by the Black community. We say this knowing that BMFI has serious internal work to do around diversity, equity, and inclusion. We are committed to the work, and acknowledge that we will not always get it right.

Cinema has a special capacity to convey perspectives, share experiences, and tell important stories. We have compiled a list of films worth seeing that discuss racism and injustice in black communities. Some of these films have been shown at BMFI before. Some have not. This list is not exhaustive, but it is a place to start. If you would like to use film as a tool for talking about racism and injustice with your children or students, you can find age-based reviews for these and other films at

There is work to be done. We invite our patrons, storytellers, and community to share your thoughts and suggestions on how we can start a constructive dialogue addressing these important issues together by emailing This is not political work. This is human work.