OPINION: Hollywood fails screen test

Lisa Harker, chair of the Daycare Trust but writes in a personal capacity

How long will it be before Hollywood portrays the third sector in a realistic light?

I long for the movie that casts Ewan McGregor as a charity worker in a gritty depiction of what it is really like to work in the sector. In my fantasy blockbuster his character would have the kinds of flaws common to the best of us. He would work in fairly ordinary surroundings with a chaotic atmosphere, being paid a reasonable (if not particularly generous) salary.

In other words, it would be the kind of film where, for once, charity workers are not synonymous with a dewy-eyed portrayal of personal self-sacrifice.

Even Calendar Girls doesn't manage to avoid the cliches. I enjoyed it for its chocolate-box escapism and, naturally, the tale of a group of Yorkshire women whose fundraising efforts capture the imagination of people across the world makes for a good storyline. But it is a shame that, once again, another film reinforces an old-fashioned view of charity work - that it is filled with well meaning, well heeled women giving their spare time to raise funds to support a local hospital. According to movie-makers the third sector comprises entirely of groups of do-gooders devoting their leisure time to worthy causes.

Granted, most charities are small, local and rely on the work of unpaid volunteers, but other parts of the sector never get a look-in when it comes to scripts. Where is the evidence of the sector's growing political, social and economic muscle? Or its significant (and rising) share of the labour market? Or its substantial contribution to the economy, generated increasingly through the sales of goods and services? The third sector continues to make its presence felt in almost every aspect of our lives.

Apart from, it seems, in the movies.

Surely it is time for a major blockbuster to include at least a subplot in which the sector is depicted warts and all? I can even imagine the cast list - Robbie Coltrane plays the part of the 'chugger', while Jude Law stars as the budding social entrepreneur. With such diversity and vibrancy in the third sector, it's about time Hollywood spotted its story-line potential.

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