Longtime lurker, but first time poster… with a favor to ask.
I teach a high school course called Film as Social Criticism. I’m developing a list of 50-100 film directors known for being political or socially conscious. Fiction, nonfiction, domestic, foreign, male, female, mainstream, marginal… everything is fair game. Obviously I’m going to include names like Spike Lee, Michael Moore, Jafar Panahi, Ken Loach, John Sayles, etc., but I don’t want to overlook any worthy names.
So, who should definitely be included on the list? Thanks in advance for any help!
Michael Haneke is a social critic.
Wang Bing documents an incredible societal breakdown in Tie Xi Qu.
Peter Watkins: Punishment Park, The War Game
Karel Kachyna with Ucho.
Chantal Ackerman with Jeanne Dielman…
Tsai Ming-liang and Vive l’Amour
Just a few.
Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
Costa-Gravas. The one-two punch of Z and Missing are political intrigue personified!…we can forgive Mad City :D
and although I’m a novice to his contributions to political filmmaking, Roberto Rosselini is HUGE in that field.
Jean-Luc Godard, Pino Solanas, Chris Marker, Glauber Rocha, Jorge Sanjinés, Patricio Guzmán, Mrinal Sen, Francisco Lombardi, Ryszard Bugajski, Francesco Rosi, Miguel Littin, Gillo Pontecorvo and Masaki Kobayashi (one could also add Krzysztof Kieslowski during a certain phase of his life)
Wajda’s Man of Iron and Man of Marble.
You may also want to look into the films of:
Vittoria De Sica
Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Jia Zhang Ke
Sergio Corbucci of Django and The Great Silence spaghetti Westerns. He also made several other lesser known spaghettis with strong leftist messages.
Wam og Vennerød
don’t forget dusan makavejev…though some of his films will get you fired if you try to show them to high schoolers!
if anyone mentions Claire Denis and Alexander Payne as political film-makers, then he / she clearly has no idea about who Angelopoulos is.
kudos to Makavejev and Akerman AND Pontecorvo references besides the obvious Watkins.
“if anyone mentions Claire Denis and Alexander Payne as political film-makers, then he / she clearly has no idea about who Angelopoulos is.”
Ok, I’ll take the bite. First of all, one can say that all films are political… :-) Then, the original poster also states that he is teaching a class called “Film as Social Criticism” which makes things even more difficult.
Have you seen, for example, Election, Citizen Ruth, Chocolat or No Fear, No Die? Do you think these films lack elements of politics and/or social criticism?
yes, all films are political. but not all films are socially-critical. so theres a big difference.
yes, having seen Chocolat and Election, i don’t really wish to criticize their individual works here, because in that case, even Wicker Man contains a touch of political liability here ;)
Denis and Payne, regardless of quality are hardly the type of political film-makers (and Gavras too although the mark on most of his films indicates his relationship to either left or central-right policies)
the OP is actually requesting for film-makers who DO have a bodywork of similar political themes in their films (Jafar Panahi, John Sayles and Ken Loach are glaring names to be honest) and for what it’s worth, Glauber Rocha, Satyajit Ray and Theodoros Angelopoulos are ten times more political than Costa-Gavras.
I hate to admit it, but Dimitris is right. :)
Ok, that is a reasonable point since one can argue that some of the films by Denis and Payne are, generally speaking, not ‘overwhelmingly political’.
“yes, all films are political. but not all films are socially-critical.”
That is a fair point too. I can argue that the characters in most narrative films are representatives of the wider society and the choices that the characters make or the situations that they are in (as well as how the filmmakers represent them) do involve a certain amount of commentary on the society. I agree that some films may concentrate on certain aspects that resonate with us more than the others and thus deemed to be ‘socially critical’ than the others. Still, under the context of the OP, I won’t disagree with you…
With respect, Dimitris, I don’t follow that comment at all – not regarding Angelopoulos (I’ve only seen one film, ahich was very moderately politically engaged, but probably wasn’t typical) but if anyone dismisses teh idea of Claire Denis as a political film-maker, then I think they have no idea who Denis is – or have maybe only seen one film, too?
On the other hand the mention of Antonioni does baffle me, and I’m a thorough partisan of the ‘all is political’ school
To the OP, rather randomly
Jean-Marie Straub/Danièle Huillet (but probably not for high school, it’s hard work)
Philippe Lioret’s ‘Welcome’ (if only it had been released with sub-titles)
Pier Paolo Pasolini, yes, but Salò is not appropriate, for heaven’s sake! Well, that’s obvious. Why not Accatone?
Giuliano Montaldo (‘Sacco e Vanzetti’ is not bad at all)
‘Salt of the Earth’ (Biberman, I think)
Derek Jarman – though could be tricky in the circumstances
Stephen Frears, during the eighties
the Amber Collective (British TV showed ‘Seacoal’ last year, if you can get hold of it use it use it use it)
Ali, Antonioni made a little film called Chung Kuo, which pretty much defines the word “political”, but yeah the majority of his output didn’t really go beyond social commentary IMO.
i’ve also seen Trouble Every Day and Friday Night and as i said above, notwithstanding the talent of both Payne and Denis and any other misfire (Antonioni a bit too), one Angelopoulos or Rocha work is far more political in terms of analysis and debate surrounding the respective country than all 3 Denis works i’ve seen (or Payne’s 3 films to equally measure the dude)
this is where the term of socio-critique, as Bobby Wise mentioned it, takes a stance over the political aspect of a filmography or any film and auteur in general.
oh dear…. trying to recover from those images… shite.
so I’ll mention a couple of Classic Hollywood MCCartyist era guys..
Robert Rossen and Abraham Polonsky…. and throw in Jules Dassin and Martin Ritt for good measure.
Thanks for all the ideas! Many were already on my mind, but quite a few will help.
The course is for high school kids, so the entire concept of social criticism in film is fairly new for them. To provide context: For them, discussing the political underpinnings of AVATAR was revelatory. And they were most interested in discussing the ethical questions raised by films about 9/11.
So far they have been receptive to more unusual fare—for example, we had an engaging discussion about subtext in Scorsese’s THE BIG SHAVE—but the furthest I might try to go is Haneke, the neo-realists, and perhaps a few of the old Soviets like Vertov. I also have to be somewhat careful about content… although I’ve been given permission to show mature material (last week I showed bits from BAMBOOZLED and also stills from Noe’s IRREVERSIBLE), I don’t think I could get away with SALO!
This particular list, though, is for a research project, and each student will have a different director to examine. I’m willing to put people like Jia, Wiseman, and Sembene on the list—all three were on my preliminary draw-up—but right now I’m leaning towards emphasizing gateway filmmakers like Loach, Sayles, Stone, Kazan, Pontecorvo, etc.
Any more thoughts would be appreciated!
Eric, I wish I were taking your course. ):
Well, there’s room for another to audit… :)
By the way, thanks for suggesting Fassbinder—he should definitely be on the list. (Ali: Fear Eats the Soul is actually one of my all-time favorite films, so I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t remember to include him!)
Do the students have to watch a film and do the project based on that film?
It’s not completely fleshed-out, but the main idea is to conduct research to “prove” that the filmmaker has a tradition of social criticism in their work. The research will largely consist of reading interviews with the filmmaker, and reading scholarly film criticism. Like I said, most of these students have never thought about movies having underlying political or social themes, and I want them to realize that there is a very real human intelligence and intention behind these films. Watching the films will be encouraged, of course, but the vagaries of access make it difficult to require. (There will be some independent screenings for other projects, but not for this project.)
Well I think these are some interesting directors to research on, though their films are sort of hard to find:
Joris Ivens (Indonesia Calling, A Valparaiso)
Chris Marker (Grin Without a Cat, Le Joli Mai, The Last Bolshevik)
Dardenne brothers (Rosetta)
Guy Debord (Society of the Spectacle)
Yasujiro Ozu (There Was a Father, I Was Born, But…)
Alain Resnais (Hiroshima Mon Amour, Statues Also Die, Night and Fog)
Jia Zhang-ke (24 City, Still Life)
Alain Tanner (Jonah Will Be 25 in Year 2000, La Salamandre)
Hou Hsiao Hsien (A City of Sadness, Good Men, Good Women)
Carlos Saura (Peppermint Frappe, Cria Cuervos)
Victor Erice (Spirit of the Beehive, El Sur).
Please stop, and don’t pollute the minds of any young kids with your humanist crap.
Yes, be an anti-humanist today!