Critique films that may change your values. How does a film change your view on certain important topics? Why do they do that? What methods are used to change or inform you about different viewpoints?
Media art work can serve as a catalyst for changing community or societal values. The classic example includes the films made by Leni Riefenstahl for the propaganda arm of the Nazi government in Germany in the 1930’s.
The Nazi Party’s annual rally in Nuremberg was an event drenched in Teutonic imagery and Aryan supremacy. Hitler asked Riefenstahl to make a film about it. Her first attempt, in 1933, was called Victory of Faith. It wasn’t considered a great success, but both the Führer and the filmmaker were undeterred. Hitler asked Riefenstahl to return the following year and make a new film about the rally. This time Riefenstahl went big. She had an army of crew and a cast of thousands. The result – Triumph of the Will – would become as controversial as its director.
Inside Germany, the film was very popular. It was visually impressive, with camera and editing techniques unusual for the time. However, in the United States, it was banned because the film was regarded as Nazi propaganda. It showed Hitler as a god-like figure, and the Germans as unquestioning followers. Riefenstahl would say years later that she didn’t care about politics – that she was only trying to make good art. Other critics would disagree, saying that she was a willing tool for Hitler and the Nazi propaganda machine.
Below is CBC archived video interview with Riefenstahl, thirty years later. She admits, around minute 5, that the film was propaganda. However, she insists that at the time she didn’t think it was.
If you are interested in seeing her 1934 film, Triumph of the Will, it is available for free on YouTube. It is below.
On the other end of the spectrum, documentaries are often used in advocacy roles. According to World Vision, advocacy,
is is taking action by speaking out against injustice and the abuse of rights, with and on behalf of the poor and the oppressed. It aims to influence decision makers and to challenge policies that cause inequality and suffering.
The film we are watching today is called If you Love this Planet. It is available on the NFB site for free if you would like to watch it on your own time. The film does deal with mature subject matter, so viewer discretion is advised.
According to the NFB website,
This Oscar®-winning short film is comprised of a lecture given to students by outspoken nuclear critic Dr. Helen Caldicott, president of Physicians for Social Responsibility in the USA. Her message is clear: disarmament cannot be postponed. Archival footage of the bombing of Hiroshima and images of its survivors 7 months after the attack heighten the urgency of her message.
Katerina Cizek added her point of view about the film,
Ask yourself every day: why are you doing this project? If You Love this Planet could be considered a precursor to An Inconvenient Truth. It’s based on a lecture given by physician and anti-nuclear activist Dr. Helen Caldicott. The film, directed by Terre Nash, went on to win the Oscar for short documentary after being officially designated as “foreign political propaganda” by the U.S. Department of Justice. The film was made at the NFB’s Studio D, the first permanent, state-funded women’s film unit in the world, created in 1974. Undoubtedly, the directors and producers were very clear about the question: Why are we making this film?
Here is a synopsis of the film taken from the official website.
In San Diego, a young teenage girl’s eyes stare into a compact mirror. She paints a dramatic black swirl around her eye. She never knows what her day will bring, but she knows at least it will always begin with paint.
INOCENTE is an intensely personal and vibrant coming of age documentary about a young artist’s fierce determination to never surrender to the bleakness of her surroundings.
At 15, Inocente refuses to let her dream of becoming an artist be caged by her life as an undocumented immigrant forced to live homeless for the last nine years. Color is her personal revolution and its extraordinary sweep on her canvases creates a world that looks nothing like her own dark past – – a past punctuated by a father deported for domestic abuse, an alcoholic and defeated mother of four who once took her daughter by the hand to jump off a bridge together, an endless shuffle year after year through the city’s overcrowded homeless shelters and the constant threat of deportation.
Despite this history, Inocente’s eyes envision a world transformed…where buildings drip in yellow and orange, where pink and turquoise planets twinkle with rescued dreams, and one-eyed childlike creatures play amongst loved babies and purple clouds. Inocente’s family history is slowly revealed through her paintings.
Told entirely in her own words, we come to Inocente’s story as she realizes her life is at a turning point, and for the first time, she decides to take control of her own destiny. Irreverent, flawed and funny, she’s now channeling her irrepressible personality into a future she controls. Her talent has finally been noticed, and if she can create a body of work in time, she has an opportunity to put on her first art show. Meanwhile, her family life is at a tense impasse – – if she legally emancipates herself from her mother to strike out on her own, she’ll risk placing her brothers in foster care, but to stay is unbearable.
INOCENTE is both a timeless story about the transformative power of art and a timely snapshot of the new face of homelessness in America, children. Neither sentimental nor sensational, INOCENTE will immerse you in the very real, day-to-day existence of a young girl who is battling a war that we rarely see. The challenges are staggering, but the hope in Inocente’s story proves that the hand she has been dealt does not define her, her dreams do.
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