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Political Cinema: Speaking for the oppressed

by / 1 Comment / 18/04/2017

It is not an understatement to say that the current political climate is a shambles. From the rise of far-right populism in the west, to the monstrous and frankly evil treatment of LGBT people in Russia. It is the duty of those involved in cinema to not shy away from critiquing and fighting against these issues.

 

In recent years we have seen numerous examples of pieces that can be considered ‘political cinema’. Pieces such as Ava DuVernay’s 13th, Sergey Loznitsa’s Maidan, Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake, and Raoul Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro (which is currently in cinemas). Each of these films takes a stern political stance against an oppressive regime, and each does so with dignity. However I feel that moving forwards, political cinema must adapt to the needs of its audience.

One way to do this would be to place the film somewhere online, allowing it to reach a far wider audience, and in a shorter space of time. And yes, both 13th and Maidan were placed on Netflix, but when I say somewhere online, I mean somewhere more accessible. Putting a link up for the film to coincide with its release and asking the viewer to donate whatever they can spare, may not create a massive profit for the film but it would certainly increase the amount of people that hear what it has to say. And surely that is what political cinema is about.

And for those who have difficulty accessing the internet, political cinema could take lead from the people behind Gen-RevGen-Rev is a film made by a group of Black Lives Matter supporters detailing some of the action taken by the movement. However, rather than simply releasing the film in cinemas, the makers decided to tour with the film asking attendees to donate what they could spare, allowing for an open Q&A session after the screening. This has not only made screenings accessible for those who have difficulty reaching material online, but it also provided a discourse on issues raised in the film.

Political cinema has always looked to past movements when searching for a fresh way to approach issues. And just as Jean-Luc Godard looked to the Soviet montage movement for inspiration, I believe now is the time for political cinema to draw from Solanas and Getino’s Third Cinema, and films such as The Hour of the Furnaces. In their manifesto, Towards a Third Cinema, Solanas and Getino put forward a style of cinema meant to undermine ones oppressors. These films were to be a collaborative effort, and were to be unashamedly radical. They would do away with aesthetic niceties and instead focus on the brutality of the oppression faced. Originally the movement was created so as to spark revolution in South America, and to do away with the cinematic conventions of the west. However I feel the accessibility of content online and the way in which the internet makes it easier for groups to organise and work collaboratively, creates a perfect environment for a revival of Third Cinema-inspired films.

If there is to be action against the rise of the far right then it is important that the arts take part in that fight. I believe that cinema is one of the most pertinent tools, its relationship with reality and the way in which we connect with it emotionally allows for it to be one of the most politically valuable art forms. And as Ken Loach so wonderfully said: ‘Cinema will always be on the side of the people’.

 

Aspiring filmmaker/critic from the north west of England.

  • Amir Jamal

    If I may say that I agree that political cinema needs to reach a wider audience however, I think the onus falls on us to show these films at community centres and establishments alike around the world. I believe if we show these films and discuss the relevance of such media, we communicate in an environment that doesn’t just show films but discusses the modern context of them.