A Quick Look at 4 Films that Address Systems Change

Nora Bateson
9 min readJan 2, 2022

What does system change look like?

Does it look like highly trained systems professionals making presentations in an organization or government offices using an array of brightly colored post-its and half a dozen models? Does it look like activism? Is it closer to advertising? Is it about getting the right meme to go viral? Is it “a change of narrative” or a shift of conditions? Is it getting the ear of existing system? Is it a bet, or a story? Is it a hit song?

I spend my days working with complex systems like families, societies and forests… one thing is clear, the whole issue of change is centered on how the participants of a system are in relationship. Relationships are made in communication.

For me, ultimately the question of system change is a communication question.

Films are communication. So let’s compare the cinematic illustration of system change, or system stuckness in a few different films. These films are a few of my favorites. But they are just a few of many, they are all big Hollywood productions. I have no idea if the directors intended to contribute to the systems sciences, and I have never actually heard others speak of these films in this light. Perhaps they have.

The films are:

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Nora Bateson

Filmmaker, writer, educator, lecturer, President of the International Bateson Institute. Books: Small Arcs of Larger Circles 2016, Warm Data *upcoming 2019