There are many ways of changing the world. Art has always had a place amongst the revolutionaries and the society’s outliers, and has a history of providing redefining voices to those who need it most. Here are five practitioners working within the creative industries who we respect for the progress they’re making.
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Filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer’s debut feature film The Act Of Killing, released in 2012, focuses on the anti-Communist killings in 1960s Indonesia, specifically Anwar Congo, who is said to have personally murdered 1,000 people during the conflict on behalf of his government’s death squad. The film is a fascinating examination of guilt and memory, but also serves to raise awareness of a harrowing period of world history. Oppenheimer is one of this year’s recipients of the MacArthur “Genius” Award.
A 77-year-old man might not immediately spring to mind when considering today’s social media stars, but after years of prominence as the actor behind Hikaru Sulu in Star Trek, George Takei has taken a firm hold of the internet and is one of the most shared Facebook users out there. His arguments about injustice and his ceaseless campaigning for LGBT rights are punctuated by cute animal photographs – all the more likable.
As Artistic Director of the Royal Court Theatre, which the New York Times has referred to as “the most important theatre in Europe”, Vicky Featherstone takes her responsibilities seriously. 63% of the UK population saw a theatre production in 2013, and reports by Ticketmaster suggest that 16 – 19-year-olds are more likely to attend the theatre than any other age group. Featherstone’s priority is to make sure that what these young people see is diversity – casts frequently include performers of multiple ethnicities, women are as represented on stage as men, and the content of the work is socially current and instigates debate. Representatives from London’s Ukrainian community were invited and encouraged to interject during a project about Kiev’s conflicts.
The identity of the graffiti artist, first prolific in Bristol, UK, remains hotly disputed even though the Mail On Sunday claims to have revealed his alter ego several years ago. Whether revealed or otherwise, Banksy’s separation of himself from his own work allows that work to speak clearly for itself – frequently challenging, socially-conscious, and satirical, the artwork is often debated in mainstream media despite its guerrilla roots.
Angelina Jolie was the first recipient of the Citizen of the World Award, given by the United Nations Correspondents Association to those who have made a significant contribution to humanitarian work. Familiar worldwide as an actress with roles in Girl Interrupted, Gone In Sixty Seconds, and the Lara Croft franchise, the Citizen of the World Award and many such others have been in recognition of her work in raising awareness of the plight of refugees, as a goodwill ambassador for UNHCR, and for the work she does with her Jolie-Pitt Foundation which is dedicated to eradicating extreme rural poverty.
The diversity amongst our chosen five only begins to reflect the work that so many artists are doing across the world. The creative industries have always been supportive of progress and equality, and are a powerful force towards a better world.