Artnewspress: Since its inception as an art form, cinema has played a vital role in political movements. There has been a shift in the approach to political cinema since the 1990s, however, with fragmented subjectivity under neoliberalism and the increase of networked information in no small part due to the internet.
Dr. Matthew Holtmeier, an assistant professor and coordinator of Film Studies at ETSU, traced this shift in his recent talk, “Revolution Reconsidered: The Shifting Strategies of Political Cinema”, drawing from his research of his newly published book, “Contemporary Political Cinema.” All cinema, like all other works of art, has a politics underlying its creation. Political cinema can be a deliberate attempt to unveil those political motivations.
Political cinema is not necessarily propaganda. In fact, many movies that claim to be apolitical are often the most propagandistic. Big budget movies often reflect the values of the ruling class, obscuring their class interests through the emotional claim of narrative. Many of these movies are devoid of the realities of race and class.
When they do move into the sphere of politics, it is often to justify American imperialism and foreign policy, wax poetic about patriotism and privilege hegemonic narratives as legitimate. Look no further than movies like “Captain Marvel” and “American Sniper,” who use the conventions of narrative to disguise their role as glorified military recruitment ads.
All films are political, they just require a little bit of scrutiny to show their biases. Political cinema exists to challenge the dominant narratives of society, reproduced in movies, to inspire real, revolutionary change in its audience. We need the tools to think critically about the media we consume, whether it poses as escapist entertainment or not. Political movies wear their intentions on their sleeves, but that should not be the only criteria for seeing the motives of a movie.