Host a Movie Night

Movie_icon It can be hard to start conversations about serious issues like ethical consumption, but we’ve found that sharing a meal and screening a movie about an issue is a good way to kick off some discussion.

The Ethical Consumer Group has a movie library where members can borrow movies. You can run a movie night as a one-off event or more regularly.

Some people bring along specific issues they’re tackling, others come to be together with people exploring similar ideas and see what others are doing. It’s an opportunity to help in unpacking issues that may appear at first be overwhelming, and also be reminded that each of us is not alone in trialing new ways of living well.

Sometimes we’ve found movies can take up the whole night leaving no time for discussion, so sometimes we’ve played specific parts of a movie, separated with times of discussion. We did this for ‘Food Inc’ recently which worked very well.

If you’re going to run your own Meal & Movie night, let us know, and we can promote it through the wider Shop Ethical network.

You’ll need:

  • Place – Someone’s home. You need eating, food prep (kitchen), and movie screening space that the hosts are comfortable with people being in.
  • Food – Food is always a good social lubricant. People bring something to share. Can be anything of their choosing. Part of our particular ritual is to go around and find out what people have brought – explore the food (in a positive rather than critical way).
  • Movies – We have a bunch of movies, broadly covering themes of food, waste, multinational control, factory farming, fraud, peak oil, climate change, fish, poverty, coffee, water, global crisis, human identity, genetic engineering, corn, and organics… to name a few. You can find out how to borrow them on our movie library page.
  • Approach – These nights aren’t hard to run, in fact they’re easy, however it does matter how the group discussion is facilitated … read on…

A constructive approach

What is important is that the evening is one where people come away inspired, encouraged and supported. Some movies present the issues but people can come away overwhelmed and so the content needs to be contextualised. My mother-in-law calls these movies the ‘misery movies’, and rightly so. They are often tackling ‘big picture’ problems, and there is a need to discuss and work through the implications and steps for constructive action with others. The emphasis is on the small yet significant actions that we can make, and ways we can join in existing campaigns and movements to encourage necessary change.

Leading an open discussion

Remember it’s as much about people having a space to articulate their thoughts and concerns as it is about finding solutions and action steps. Begin your questions by asking what do you think, why, how? To encourage a more complex consideration of the ideas, ask open-ended questions that invite more than a yes or no response. Where possible, give everyone an equal chance to participate.

Three general areas of questions to prompt thought and discussion are:

  1. Impressions. How do you feel about the movie? What are your initial responses? What were significant parts for you? What made an impact?
  2. Connections. What are the issues raised? What is the Australian situation? What are your concerns in the light of these issues? How might these issues connect with your daily living?
  3. Actions. What is the positive vision that you’ll like to see happen in the light of this issues? What positive action steps can you make to help this happen?

Another way of saying this is to ask the following questions about specific content:

  • facts: what did you notice in X?
  • emotions: what do you feel about X?
  • interpretation: what are the values, meanings, purposes expressed in X?
  • decisions: what are we going to do in response to X?


There are various resources relating to the themes that may help in guiding discussion and shape what people take from the night. You may want to do some preparation and gather additional information. Remember however that you don’t need all the answers, and that often less is more.

  • What are themes?
    • find out about the issues mentioned in the movie
    • our issues page and guide blurbs, resources page
    • wikipediagoogle
  • What is the Australian context?
    • our news page – use the menu to select a theme
  • What are possible actions?
    • home inventory – what is my current practice regarding these issues?
    • get involved in a group/ local initiative – food swaps, coops, transition towns more
    • voice your concern – our campaigns page, letter writing to companies and to government

It’s important to note that most things seems difficult when we take them on alone. It becomes easier with others.

Let us know how you go!