2020. This is the year that will go down in history because it has witnessed a pandemic. This is the year that several people learned terms such as ‘pandemic’, ‘quarantine’, ‘social distancing’ and so on. It has also been the year where we have seen other deadly incidents such as wildfires and floods, and also the time when Black Lives Matter became a global movement. Countries across the world have tackled different problems in 2020 and, in some cases, movies have managed to foresee a few of these issues while others proved how history may be repeating itself.
After the COVID-19 spread hit the headlines earlier this year, many of us suddenly realised how Contagion turned out to be non-fictional after all. It is also the year that we dug deeper into the problem of systemic racism as the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in the US sent shockwaves globally and brought attention to the issues of diversity, racism and black history like never before. The year also unfortunately witnessed the untimely passing of some great personalities, including NBA legend Kobe Bryant. If we had to take a look at all the major happenings of 2020, these films would be apt, as they represent, reflect on and remind of all that has happened in the year.
Tomorrow’s On Fire
Australia witnessed one of its deadliest case of bushfires in January this year. The World Wide Fund for Nature estimated that at that time, 1.25 billion animals had been killed whereas up to 19 million hectares were burnt. Australian director Darcy Prendergast’s short film Tomorrow’s On Fire is poignant and comes as a cautionary tale, calling for introspection and awareness when it comes to bushfires and their devastating effects.
The tragic death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter in a helicopter crash in January 2020 was an unfathomable loss for sports fans the world over. As tributes poured in for the legendary basketball player from across the globe, fans of Mamba, as a token of remembrance, celebrated his work by streaming Bryant’s Oscar-winning animated short film, Dear Basketball, in which he reflected on his passion for the game and his journey as he announced his retirement.
The South Korean film directed by Bong Joon-Ho carved its name into history at the 2020 Academy Awards as it won four awards: for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best International Feature Film. Not just this, it also became the first South Korean film to receive Academy Award recognition, as well as the first non-English-language film to win Best Picture.
Earlier this year, if there was any movie that was hitting the headlines, it was Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 film Contagion. The film became a talking point amid the coronavirus pandemic considering our reality merged with the film’s fictional tale. COVID-19 defined the year as it brought everything to a standstill. The novel virus in the film’s spread seemed eerily similar to the one faced by us. The scenes of empty airports and isolation wards from the film particularly echoed the current situation.
Systemic racism in the US became a major talking point this year as the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis due to police action shocked the world. Floyd’s last words, ‘I can’t breathe’, became the call for action as several citizens across the US took to the streets to protest against racism. In the light of Floyd’s death, the Black Lives Matter movement received global support. And in the wake of the BLM movement becoming a global phenomenon, Ava DuVernay’s 2016 film, 13th, which explores the history of racial inequality in the US, received a wider audience. The film, available to stream on Netflix, managed to become one of the key suggestions in a special category that promoted films raising awareness about BLM.
Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput‘s death by suicide sent shockwaves through India as the star was found hanging in his Mumbai residence on June 14, 2020. Rajput’s last work, Dil Bechara, received a massive digital viewing as it was released on Disney+ Hotstar. The film drew close to 95 million viewers within 24 hours of its release. The actor’s death also became national news for months as India’s top agencies including CBI, Enforcement Directorate and Narcotics Control Bureau got involved. From nepotism to drugs, the narrative of Rajput’s death changed drastically.
2020 hasn’t been a kind year given that, among many other things, we have also lost some of our most talented actors including Marvel’s Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman. The actor, who was widely loved for his portrayal of the Marvel superhero, passed away on August 28, 2020 after battling cancer. The actor’s sudden death left fans across the globe in immense grief. Boseman’s finest works, such as Black Panther, 42 and Get On Up, were streamed widely by fans as they celebrated his cinematic legacy and cherished his work in remembrance.
The Trial Of The Chicago 7
The crackdown on dissent has been on the rise globally as countries such as India, China and Russia have been criminalising dissenting voices. Be it the anti-CAA protests in India, the Hong Kong protests, or the steps taken by Egypt and Turkey to expel journalists or detain those who speak out against their government’s response to the pandemic, free speech and the right to dissent have been under threat. Aaron Sorkin’s latest film reflects on this as it mirrors present-day realities of the suppression of critical voices. For a year that has seen incidents of police brutality and arrests of dissenting voices in India amid the Delhi riots, the film seems particularly timely.
The films listed above have in ways of their own related themselves to some of the major happenings of the year. Be it representing and honouring the ones we lost or serving the purpose of awareness, they each have a connection to the year that is undeniable.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.