3 reasons why film is a powerful tool for work and welfare initiatives

More than entertainment, film can help raise awareness and improve understanding through different voices and experiences.

The Watermelon Woman (1996)

It’s in our nature

Storytelling has always been deeply entwined with the human experience. Yuval Noah Harari’s bestselling book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind even argues our capacity to tell stories has been crucial in our evolution, helping foster an ability to work together in groups, to communicate with each other and to understand.

Film has a rich relationship with storytelling. Through the familiar pattern of watching characters face – and sometimes overcome – conflict, we can find familiarity while exploring perspectives and worlds previously unknown to us.

An empathy machine, through the lens of film, we can raise awareness and improve understanding around complex subject matters such as inclusion and mental health. 

Imagery is persuasive

Film often surprises and sometimes even changes us. The brain can process visuals 60,000 times faster than plain text, and the vibrancy of seeing stories brought to life on film helps us to better understand each other and start conversations.

Film’s popularity is key to its potential to engage audiences around subjects such as identity. Arguably the most universal art form, it’s highly accessible because of its familiarity. Where some people would feel uncomfortable in an art gallery, most would feel at home at the cinema or watching a film with others in their living room.

It’s a conversation starter

We’ve all finished watching a film and leapt into a stimulating conversation about what we’ve just seen and how it made us feel. We might discuss the highs and lows, how we were taken outside of our comfort zone, acknowledge a different perspective or amplify, scrutinise and debate what we’ve seen.

As an example, Cheryl Dunye’s The Watermelon Woman – thought to be the first feature directed by a Black lesbian filmmaker – remains a breath of fresh air decades on. It’s both a smart, funny interracial romance between two women and a landmark of LGBTQIA+ cinema and Black filmmaking. Charting the journey of a young filmmaker re-examining her life, her semi-autobiographical observations on identity offer viewers a vital perspective. The surprising ending and blurred boundaries between fiction and documentary help to frame an absorbing discussion.

There’s no better way to understand and appreciate the richness of different perspectives than through the beauty of film.Jen Smith, Head of Inclusion, BFI

BFI Film Clubs

Our Film Clubs can help you explain and embed new work or welfare policies, simply and quickly. Designed for employers and educators, they can help raise awareness and improve understanding about complex subject matters such as inclusion and mental health.

We can offer instant access to the best in world cinema through our award-winning online platform, BFI Player. As the lead organisation for film, TV and the moving image in the UK, we can programme beyond mainstream titles and use our expertise to suggest powerful cinema tailored to the values and interests of your organisation.

Participants are given access to BFI Player to watch a film during a limited screening window which is followed by an in-person or online discussion at a later date. Working with HR and wellbeing staff, we provide toolkits to help with discussions and can draw on our network of experts, film critics and filmmakers to explore hosts or special guests for discussions.

Example topics include:

Inclusion Film Club

  • class and social inequality
  • gender
  • neurodiversity
  • unconscious bias
  • disability

Mental Health Film Club

  • psychosis
  • anxiety and depression
  • neurodevelopment
  • somatic symptoms (feeding, eating, sleeping disorders)
  • substance and sexual abuse

Our film clubs can be delivered as one-time or regular events, and can be programmed around key awareness days, such as International Women’s Day, Black History Month and Mental Health Awareness Month.


To enquire about hosting film clubs for your organisation or institution please email enterprise@bfi.org.uk.