Our Voices

How social impact campaigns use the power of storytelling to drive change

  • By
  • Bonnie Abaunza

Moviegoers of every generation can name films that have left an indelible mark on them, and many of these films tackled human rights and social justice issues that resonated with global audiences.

In the early 2000s, Amnesty International began working with the entertainment industry to support films that focused on human rights as a means of educating audiences and mobilizing them to take action specifically designed to address issues raised in the films. Amnesty realized that using the power of storytelling can inspire public action and drive significant social change.

Social impact campaigns developed for films, documentaries, and series raise awareness of social justice issues. These campaigns complement the marketing, with a goal of targeting wider audiences. By harnessing and leveraging the emotional power of storytelling, films and their impact campaigns can serve as catalysts for social change by empowering audiences to become agents of positive transformation through awareness, advocacy and action.

Impact producers understand that, to develop and execute effective impact campaigns, they must work with organizations and thought leaders who are issue experts to determine specific calls to action to engage and mobilize audiences.

Films that have had impact and affected systemic change:

  • Blood Diamond, set during the civil war in Sierra Leone, brought the issue of conflict diamonds into the public’s consciousness. Conscious consumers started asking whether diamonds had been ethically sourced and demanding transparency from jewelers about whether the diamonds they sold were certified conflict-free. The term blood diamond is now part of the modern parlance.

  • Blackfish brought global attention to the mistreatment of marine animals held in captivity in theme parks.

  • Moonlight offered nuanced portrayals of LGBTQ+ individuals, which helped to challenge societal prejudices.

  • Food Inc. exposed how our nation’s food supply is controlled by a small number of corporations that put profit ahead of consumer health and worker safety, as well as the long-term negative impact of factory farming on animals, farmers’ livelihoods, damage to the environment, and health implications for generations.

  • An Inconvenient Truth played a pivotal role in raising awareness about climate change.

  • 13th shined a spotlight on the broken American criminal justice system, the racial inequalities at the root of mass incarcerations, and the urgent need for reform.

  • Roma raised awareness of the need to ratify legal protections for domestic workers in Mexico.

  • With This Light is the story of Sister Maria Rosa Leggol from Honduras, who saved more than 87,000 orphans. The film highlights how one person can make a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable children. The film was shown to Pope Francis, who has authorized the cause for canonization to begin.

With more filmmakers, studios, streamers, and distributors partnering with social impact producers, their films, documentaries, and series will continue to be catalysts for driving social change – and transforming society for the better.

For more information on social impact campaigns, visit