Guide to political cinema – III



A selection of films on the anatomy of power, with an indication of the platform on which they are available


Trumbo: Blacklist (2016) – director: Jay Roach. The witch hunt that reigned in the United States at the start of the Cold War, in the 1950s, when vague suspicions of leftism and the demand to inform others destroyed careers and provoked suicides. Dalton Trumbo was one of the most important screenwriters in Hollywood. GLOBOPLAY, TELECINEPLAY

Good night and good luck (2006) – director: George Clooney. The story of a TV anchor who, with rare courage, faced the rightists, denouncing the dishonest and illegal antics of Senator McCarthy, who began to pursue him. YOUTUBE

the servant (1963) The accident (1967) and The messenger (1970) – director: Joseph Losey. Three classics by a great director, made in England where he took refuge to escape McCarthyism. With the greatest English playwright of the time, Harold Pinter, as screenwriter, the three films dissect the power relations that exist in the most commonplace situations.

Intolerance (1916) – director: DW Griffith. Epic and monumental film shows episodes of intolerance since antiquity. In it, the director seeks to respond to criticism of his previous film,The Birth of a Nation, regarded as the foundation of American cinema. But, taking place in the Civil War, there is the black soldier raping the white one… TELECINEPLAY, YOUTUBE

Edward Scissor Hands (1990) - director: Tim Burton. Fable about the intolerance with which the other, the different, the bizarre is treated: the rejection they provoke and which lead to their exclusion. Criticism of conformism, expressed in the prosperous neighborhood of identical houses and parallel streets. YOUTUBE

The destiny (1997) – director: Youssef Chahine. Arab philosopher and scientist Averróes in 17th century Córdoba, one of the most civilized cities on the planet and a focus of science. Target of fundamentalist persecution, culminating when the caliph orders the burning of his books.

Guns and arms race

Dr. Fantastic (1964) - Direct: Stanley Kubrick. In the midst of the Cold War, the American contenders who presented themselves as defenders of the free world are shown in their murderous rage and flirtation with the nuclear hecatomb. Tremendous satire. LOOKE, YOUTUBE

The Lord of the guns (2005) – director: Andrew Niccols. Fiction that examines step by step the rise of an arms merchant and the international scope of his transactions, with the connivance of powers and governments. NOW, TELECINEPLAY, PRIME

Power Games (2007) – director: Mike Nichols. The collusion between a Texan congressman, the CIA and a millionaire resulted in the clandestine and illegal purchase of Stinger missiles, delivered to Afghan rebels during Afghanistan's war with Russia - which, as everyone knows, retreated in an apparently inexplicable way. NOW, LOOKE

Columbine Shootings (2002) – director: Michael Moore. An early documentary about the wave, then just beginning to spread, of school shootings. The most awarded of this filmmaker's films. YOUTUBE

Weapons on the Table (2016) – director: John Madden. A lobbyist has the task of imposing on Congress and the US government, which sells weapons to other countries in exchange for “loans” or “humanitarian aid”, even greater benefits for the already billionaire arms industry. Good didactic to understand how this shady game works. YOUTUBE

capitalism and crisis

The big bet (2015) – director: Adam McKay. The owner of an investment company decides to bet against the system, in an illegal operation, earning billions and generating the crisis. NETFLIX, GOOGLEPLAY, YOUTUBE

The capital (2012) – dir.: Costa-Gavras. It was not just in the United States, in the European Union as well. In France, the ascension of an executive to the direction of a bank and his entry into a universe of collusion, illegality, contempt for ethics. At one point, he tells investors that his job is to steal from the poor to give to the rich… VIMEO

roger and me (1989) – director: Michael Moore. The documentary investigates unemployment and rising crime in Flint, Michigan, following the relocation of General Motors, the city's main employer, to Mexico. The flight of industries abroad would destroy the working class at home. YOUTUBE

Too Big to Break (2011) – director: Curtis Hanson. The 2008 crisis and the “bubbles”, starting with the real estate bubble and other scams. The bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers and the ensuing panic in the other banks and in the government, resulting in the injection of billions of dollars of public money. Victims of the housing bubble lost their homes and didn't get a dime. YOUTUBE

Internal Work (2010) – dir.: charles ferguson. It analyzes the crisis since the beginning of the “deregulation” of financial capital, promoted by the conservative administrations of Reagan and the two Bushes. It shows the collusion between directors of finance, Legislative and Executive. The finance companies received billions from the government, not a single one lost money or was sued, all in the end coming out richer than before. NOW, YOUTUBE

world of work

Mimi the Steelworker (1972) – director: Lina Wertmüller. A worker from Sicily goes north in search of work, leaving his wife and children. There, he is torn between the syndicate and the mafia, while he takes on another woman. The film shows how the entrenched patriarchy in which he was raised prevents his politicization. YOUTUBE

stanley & iris (1990) – director: Martin Ritt. American cinema rarely shows a worker, but this film brings the unbelievable story of one of them who wants to learn to read, as his life as a poor goes from disaster to disaster because of illiteracy. Another worker takes him on as a student and a tender relationship develops between them. Such a portentous story would even require two monsters to live it: Jane Fonda and Robert De Niro. YOUTUBE

The Working Class Goes to Paradise (1971) - direct.: Elio Petri. A sympathetic but unforgiving critique of the illusions sold to Italy's proletariat in post-war prosperity. Lulu Massa is the standard worker who believes in what he does, refusing to go on strike with his colleagues until he loses a finger on the machine and is abandoned by the bosses. The protagonist is lived by the great politically engaged actor Gian-Maria Volonté, who starred in practically all the films of this brilliant Italian vintage: The Mattei Case, Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion, Saco and Vanzetti, Giordano Bruno, The Aldo Moro Case, between others. YOUTUBE

The Companions (1963) - director: Mario Monicelli. Wonderful film about a strike of textile workers in the 19th century in Turin, Italy. A socialist professor arrives by train to help them organize the movement and define their demands. YOUTUBE

Norm Era (1979) - Direct: Martin Ritt. A textile worker in the South of the United States decides to protest against terrible working conditions and ends up becoming the leader of the movement. TELECINEPLAY

bread and roses (2000) - Direct: Ken Loach. An American experiment by the English director devoted to the poor. It examines living conditions and the mechanisms that affect a Chicana cleaning women's strike in Los Angeles. YOUTUBE

The Man Who Turned Juice (1979) – director: João Batista de Andrade. Another standard worker, this time in the ABC region of São Paulo. A popular northeastern poet who survives in São Paulo selling cordel leaflets is mistaken for a look-alike, this one the standard worker who at the awards party kills the boss of the multinational. LOOKE, YOUTUBE

Either All or Nothing (1997) – director: Peter Cattaneo. One of the first films to deal with unemployment brought about by the end of industrial society. In Sheffield, England, which was once the capital of steel and a large manufacturing center, a group of unemployed people with no prospects decides to pioneer a show of striptease masculine. How to face misfortune with good humour. NOW, GOOGLEPLAY, YOUTUBE

Me, Daniel Blake (2016) – director: Ken Loach. A Way of the Cross of an elderly man who, after a heart attack, goes after his rights, discovering that having worked his whole life is worthless, paying his contribution to retirement without fail. Among other pitfalls, the system only accepts forms filled out online, something he, who doesn't have the money to buy a computer, doesn't know how to do. It has the friendship of a single mother who lives on the streets, who also goes from bad to worse. NOW, GOOGLEPLAY, NETFLIX, YOUTUBE

You were not here (2019) – director: Ken Loach. The director, as always at the last minute, dissects the precariousness of work. The protagonist, in difficulties, falls for the lure of “entrepreneurship”, becoming a delivery man, and is crushed by the system. The fallacy of the uberization of work, which is taking place on a global scale. NOW, TELECINEPLAY

The powerful

Citizen Kane (1941) - director: Orson Welles. Power concentrated in the hands of a media baron and from there to politics. In the future we would see the owner of a media business complex become president of Italy and a TV presenter president of the United States. In the chapter of the powerful, his films also stand out Macbeth e Othello. LOOK, GOOGLEPLAY, YOUTUBE

Vice (2018) – director: Adam McKay. How Dick Cheney, George W. Bush's vice president, manipulated the president with his right-wing, self-serving agenda. His Halliburton company was the one that most profited from the invasion of Iraq, of which he was the creator and enthusiastic supporter. Author of the lie about “weapons of mass destruction”. NOW, GOOGLEPLAY, LOOKE, YOUTUBE

St. Bernard (1972) – director: Leon Hirszman. Based on the novel by Graciliano Ramos. The trajectory of a sertanejo from Alagoas, driven by the obsession of gain. He rises in life, becoming a great farmer and growing richer and more powerful, at the cost of sacrificing everything he humanizes. This trajectory is examined step by step. LOOKE, YOUTUBE

The Mattei Case (1972) – director: Elio Petri. The film belongs to the great tradition of political film within post-war Italian neorealism. A left-wing industrialist mysteriously dies in an unexplained attack on his plane, on a trip. YOUTUBE

Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (1970) – director: Elio Petri. Another film from this vintage. The criminal who gets away with it and enjoys it is the only one no one would suspect, namely the chief of police. It shows what power is and how it manipulates citizens. YOUTUBE

The Godfather (1972 / 1974 / 1990) - Dir.: Francis Ford Coppola. Trilogy about the rise of the Italian mafia in the process of taking power in the United States, and especially in New York City. Its dilemmas, its family problems and its inexorable trajectory. NOW, TELECINEPLAY, GOOGLEPLAY, NETFLIX, YOUTUBE

Black Blood (2007) – director: Paul Thomas Anderson. Based on the novel Petroleum, by Upton Sinclair, representative of the famous generation of the American novel of social denouncement that turned to the evils that plagued the country in the 1920s and 1930s. himself to become a tycoon, when new energy sources were not yet explored. NOW, TELECINEPLAY, LOOKE

Bloodstained Throne (1957) – director: Akira Kurosawa. Adaptation of Macbeth of Shakespeare, showing that anatomies of the ambition for power combine well with samurai sagas. The graphic refinement explores the contrasts between black and white. Unforgettable Macbeth all in black, with the silver crescent on his helmet. YOUTUBE

red lanterns (1991) – director: Zhang Yimou. The discretionary power of life and death that a man wields over his four wives, whom he oppresses and manipulates. Between suicide and madness, just see what's left of them until the end of the film. Everything takes place in the inner courtyard of the house and the husband is never seen, only the disastrous results of his absolute power over women. YOUTUBE

The Emperor and the Assassin (1998) - Direct: Chen Kaige. Fiction about the first emperor to unify China, ending the so-called “Warring States” period. Fierce and cruel, without the slightest qualms, nothing stands in his way, not even the worst crimes and the greatest abjection. His unfettered ambition is aimed at the throne of first emperor, when he adopts the name of Qin Shi Huangdi (221-206 BC). YOUTUBE

American Psychopath (2000) – director: Mary Harron. An investment banker, who operates on Wall Street and the Stock Exchange, a millionaire, can satisfy his secret homicidal rage thanks to his position and money. He leads the standard life of his social layer and his time, between the gym, stressful work, women, cocaine and bloody crimes. The film analyzes the psychopathology of this type of work and career. GOOGLEPLAY, LOOKE, YOUTUBE

The Assistant (2020) – director: Kitty Green. Fiction based on testimonies of women abused by Harvey Weinstein, the film didactically explains the “culture of covering up harassment” that prevails from top to bottom in Hollywood and not only at Miramax, its production company. A tycoon like him has a whole system in place that has been able to guarantee satisfaction and impunity for forty years. There are several documentaries about him and the approximately 80 women, among the biggest movie stars, who denounced him, leading to the trial and sentence of 23 years in prison.

Ivan the Terrible . - right: Serguei Eisenstein. Two movies with the same title. The second, banned by Stalin, was only distributed after the dictator's death. It is impossible not to see that it is Stalin who is portrayed in that psychopathic, Machiavellian, ruthless, bloodthirsty and paranoid despot, plagued by imaginary persecutors in every corner, who does not stop anything in the path towards power and in its consolidation. It is a remarkable study of this type of leader – which is again in evidence in the highest rulers of our day – and a milestone in film history. 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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