Guide to political cinema – II



A selection of films about the great revolutions, with an indication of the platforms on which they are available

Russian revolution

The Battleship Potemkin (1925) – director: Sergei M. Eisenstein. In the Revolution of 1905, Kronstadt sailors rebelled against the mistreatment to which they were subjected. Spectacular massacre of innocents on the Odessa steps. YOUTUBE

October (1927) – dir.: Eisenstein. Conceived to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the 1917 Revolution, with an almost documentary reconstitution of its events, the great tactical and strategic discussions, the sudden leaps in events. TELECINE, YOUTUBE (October)

Reds – Ten Days That Shook the World (1981) - Direct: Warren Beatty. Biographical drama based on the life of John Reed, American socialist journalist and writer who reported on on-site visit depicting the Russian Revolution, in his classic book Ten days that shook the world (Penguin). He is buried under the Kremlin walls as a hero of the people, a rare distinction awarded to a foreigner.FILMESDETV, YOUTUBE

French Revolution

Danton (Poland, 1982) – director: Andrej Wajda. The clashes between different conceptions of what the revolution should be, fought between two strong men in the leadership: Danton, incarnated by Gerard Depardieu, and Robespierre, by the great Polish actor Przoniak; NOW, YOUTUBE

Casanova and the Revolution (Italy, 1982) – director: Ettore Scola. It focuses on Louis XVI's attempt to escape, which, failing, marks the radicalization of the French Revolution and its path of no return, which would culminate in the execution of the king by guillotine. DVD

The Revolution in Paris (France, 2018) – director: Pierre Schoeller. In 1789, the people rose up and demanded freedom, equality and fraternity. The revolution swelled, dragging destinies, making the Old Regime obsolete and giving birth to the Republic. TELECINEPLAY, NOW

 mexican revolution

Que Viva Mexico! (1931) – dir.: Eisenstein. Although somewhat spurious because it was completed by someone else's hands, it's still better than so many others. There is the plastic beauty of this director's films, the montage on which he theorized, the eye for the unusual episode – like the cult of the dead, the skeletons that dance, the skulls everywhere. YOUTUBE

Reed, Mexico Insurgent (1973) - Dir.: Paul Leduc. The Mexican director goes after the passage through Mexico of journalist John Reed, an American reporter who was the author of the unique feat of covering the Russian Revolution for history. YOUTUBE

When Vengeance Explodes (1971) – director: Sergio Leone. inventor of spaghetti western director Sergio Leone, always a libertarian, brings together foreign revolutionaries and native marginals in order to expropriate a Mexican bank. TELECINEPLAY, YOUTUBE

Long live Zapata! (1952) – dir.: Elia Kazan, with a screenplay by novelist John Steinbeck. Fictional biography of peasant revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata. He would die assassinated, betrayed, and have his ideals squandered today claimed by the Zapatistas of Chiapas. YOUTUBE

the violin (2005) – director: Francisco Vargas Quevedo. The clashes between rebels and soldiers aimed at recovering a stock of weapons that the guerrillas hid. We see violinist grandfather, father and grandson in resistance. Discreet, reserved, it is a film of dignity, silence and waiting. YOUTUBE (The Violin)

Love (1946) – dir.: Emílio “El Indio” Fernández. Filmed by Gabriel Figueroa, one of the greatest cameramen in the history of cinema and favorite of Luis BuñuelThe beauty, daughter of the richest man in the place, despises the courtship she receives from the revolutionary commander, with the right to a serenade from mariachis singing Malagueña. She is Maria Félix, then considered one of the most beautiful women in the world. YOUTUBE

 Spanish Civil War

Espoir: Sierra de Teruel (1939) - director: André Malraux. The French writer was one of many left-wing intellectuals who fought in that war. Malraux created and led a squadron of planes that played a unique role in the hostilities. The film was part of the propaganda effort but turned out to be a requiem for the vanquished. YOUTUBE

Moor to Madrid (1963) – director: Frédéric Rossif. Documentary dedicated to a very complete history of the war, examining the main events and the different political lines that were manifested there. YOUTUBE (die in madrid).

land and liberty (1995) - Direct: Ken Loach. In tribute to the vanquished, it tells the story of an unemployed English worker who goes to fight in the International Brigades, made up of sympathizers from all over the world who rushed to defend the Republic, threatened by the reactionary coup of General Franco. YOUTUBE

The Massacre at Guernica (2015) – director: Koldo Serra. The day an atrocity of modern times was invented: the aerial saturation bombing of a civilian target, carried out by planes sent by Hitler to support General Franco. Picasso's monumental canvas entitled Guernica it pays homage to the small Basque town razed to the ground in a few hours, and the painter stipulated that this work would remain outside Spain until Franco's death. NOW, YOUTUBE

 chinese revolution

China (1972) - dir.: Michelangelo Antonioni. 6-hour documentary, or three films of 2 hours each, shown in sequence, in a restored and remastered version. Irreplaceable testimony about China at the time, it was denied by the Chinese, unhappy with the result. But it is a wonderful and unique document, conducted by a great filmmaker. It penetrates into factories, into fields, into kindergartens, into schools for adults, into homes. We witness a cesarean section in which the woman in labor is anesthetized only by acupuncture… And so on. YOUTUBE (Chung Kuo – China)

Farewell, My Concubine (China, 1991) – director: Chen Kaige. An overview of the Cultural Revolution, focusing on two childhood friends who are actors in the Peking Opera, one of them specialized in female roles. One of the many films that analyze this phase of the history of the Chinese Revolution, trying to assess the damage it wrought and of which there are traces to this day. FILMESDETV

The Horizon is Red (1960/1970). Work of the Cultural Revolution: a history of the Chinese revolution synthesized in half a dozen strongly symbolic and allegorical paintings, of an incomparable plastic beauty. YOUTUBE (The East is Red)

 Cuban Revolution

I am cuba (1964) – director: Kalatozov. Fiction, with four stories. A super production filmed a few years after the revolution, with propaganda purposes. The Soviet-Cuban co-production, object of controversy

In both the Soviet Union and Cuba, it was ostracized for decades, but today it is an epic. cult. Restored by Martin Scorsese. YOUTUBE

I am Cuba – The Siberian Mammoth (2004) – director: Vicente Ferraz. Obsessed with the enigmatic film that nobody had seen and had disappeared, the director documents his search, interviewing actors and technicians who had participated in the co-production. The film intersperses excerpts from the original, which gives a good idea. FILMESDETV

That (2008) - director: Steven Soderbergh. A reconstruction of Guevara's life and deeds, going from his beginnings, with his participation in the Cuban Revolution, to his death in Bolivia when he was trying to apply revolutionary principles outside the walls. FILMESDETV

Carnation Revolution

Captains of April (Portugal, 2000) – director: Maria Medeiros. On April 25, 1974, the revolution broke out: twenty-year-old captains, in all their goodwill and modesty, were making history. We see the candid, improvised and even clumsy nature of the movement, which had nothing of an efficiency war machine allied to the pomp and glory of a mythologized heroic past. They are heroes, but unassuming and immune to the seduction of power. YOUTUBE

*Walnice Nogueira Galvão is professor emeritus at FFLCH at USP. Author, among other books, of reading and rereading (Senac/Gold over blue).

Originally published in the magazine Theory and Debate,

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