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Left-Wing Films

This list is by no means exhaustive, but it will give you lots of ideas for films to show at cell meetings, for public events, or as a means to brainwash conservative youth that you kidnapped from Boy Scout outings. Of course, any film can be watched and deconstructed for its lessons about race, class, gender and power, but these films make those discussions a little easier. Showing films can be a great way to have political discussions at the same time you are having fun. You can even use them as fund-raising events, since most only cost $10 to $20 a piece. (You aren't suppose to charge people to see movies you rent from a store.)

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All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) - A classic pacifist tale set in WWI.

America's Defense Monitor . Over 200 half-hour episodes on military related subjects that challenge the insanity of U.S. military policy. These programs are a staple in college classrooms and over 100 PBS and cable systems around the country. 

Apocalypse Now - Based on Conrad's Heart of Darkness, about a rogue general in Vietnam driven crazy by the war.

The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez (1982, Robert M. Young) A late skirmish in the so-called Mexican War. The oppressor's need to demonize the oppressed has seldom been better realized."Review by John Sayles, in Mother Jones, 1996"

Battle of Algiers - This 1962 film is widely considered the best radical film ever made. Directed by Pontecorvo in cinema verite , documentary style, it chronicles the Algerian war against French colonialism. French with English subtitles. There are two versions, one is about 150 min., the other about 210 min.

Billy Jack (1971) - Have your cake and eat it too: Billy Jack is a very serious pacifist, a Gandhian...until the racist jerks and ruling class push him a little too far. They he has to break out the whup-ass.  "At times a slightly cheesy story, but nonetheless powerful. Packed with themes that are little dated. Seems to take on almost every single issue that Left Wing folks care about. Followed by 2 sequels: The Trial of Billy Jack and Billy Jack Goes to Washington. The latter of these two sequels is supposed to have been suppressed by the powers that be, since it was supposed to have really exposed the system of corporate contribution to government. A very difficult film to find - it's never had a mainstream video release and the original 35MM master may be lost forever - leaving only 16MM black and white prints of dubious quality." - Jherek Carnelian

Braveheart (1995) - Award-winning story of the medieval Scottish struggle against British imperialism.

Breaker Morant - Edward Woodward plays a soldier commanding a squad of Australian fighting for Britain during South Africa's Boer War. Explores the brutality and corruption of the British colonial struggle.

Camp de Thiaroye - Senegalese film about African soldiers forced by the French to fight on front lines in Europe against Hitler. Takes place mostly in a holding camp following the Allied Victory. Also, see Sembene's "Black Girl," about a Senegalese woman who leaves Dakar to be a nanny for her French employers, is exploited and learns the true nature of black-white neo-imperialist relations.

Coming Home (1978) - Jane Fonda and Jon Voight in one of the first post-Vietnam films about Vietnam vets.

Dades Kaden - by Akira Kurosawa, shows the devastation left by WWII in Japanese town.

Dear America: Letters Home From Vietnam (1987, Bill Couturie) Couturie takes a simple idea--matching letters from soldiers in Vietnam with images of the war--and creates a powerful yet surprisingly subtle film. Couturie screened the entire archive of NBC News war footage, and in many cases matches letter writers with TV, film, home movies, and photographs of them at play, in action, wounded, and dead."Review by Roger Ebert, in Mother Jones, 1996"

Dr. Strangelove - The Kennedy-era classic that spoofs the Cold War in a story about a mad American general who blows up the world. Brilliant performances by Peter Sellers in three or four roles.

El Norte - (1983, Gregory Nava and Anna Thomas) Beginning in the remote mountain jungles of Guatemala, this extraordinary odyssey focuses on two young people seeking a better life as their world begins to crumble. When their mother is abducted by soldiers and their father killed, Enrique and Rosa are forced to set out for the "promised land" of the north- "el norte"-The U.S. They must travel dangerous roads and cross heavily patrolled boarders. Once in America, they are "illegals" and must live in constant fear of discovery. But they do have each other and the faith and fortitude of their native land. Spanish with English subtitles. (141 min.) 

Fat Man and Little Boy Paul Newman stars in this movie about the development and deployment of the atomic bomb.

For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943) - Hemingway's tale of the Spanish Civil War.

Gandhi - Ben Kingsley won an Oscar for this portrayal. (188 min.)

Good Morning Vietnam - Based on a true story, Robin Williams plays a very funny disk jockey who got very popular in Vietnam and then got booted out.

Hidden Agenda (1990, Ken Loach) Loach's films are always, in one way or another, political. This one is based on the Stalker Affair, a scandal involving a senior British police official (Brian Cox) who is investigating a shooting by security forces and gets reassigned after he discovers the killing was unjustified. Set in Northern Ireland, Hidden Agenda argues that a right-wing cabal successfully plotted a "dirty tricks" campaign against Prime Minister Harold Wilson."Review by Roger Ebert, in Mother Jones, 1996"

I Am Cuba, made by Russian filmmakers in the early '60s and explores the communist uprising in Cuba. The cinematography is mind boggling and the film is extremely moving.

Killing Fields, The - Based on a true story of friendship between an American and Cambodian covering the fall of Cambodia at the end of the Vietnam War. The Cambodian was captured by the Khmer Rouge and then escapes to freedom. (135 min.)

Land and Freedom by Ken Loach about an unemployed man in Liverpool who goes to fight in the spanish civil War against Franco.

La Hora de los Hornos (The Hour of the Furnaces) This semi-documentary was made by Argentinian revolutionaries Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino in 1968. Designed specifically to make the audience participants instead of just spectators, this film not only called for political revolution in the name of Marx, Che, and others, it also called for a cinematic revolution. The two co-wrote "Towards a Third Cinema," a manifesto criticizing the American "first cinema" approach to filmmaking. Not just revolutionary propaganda (although it contains a great deal of that), the film examines the American/European imperialism and neocolonialism which caused widespread poverty and class distinctions across Argentina and the whole continent of South America.

Missing - (1982, Constantin Costa-Gavras) Based on the true story of the disappearance of an American writer, Charles Horman, after the Pinochet coup in Chile. Focuses on the political transformation of Charles's father Ed Horman, a New York businessman who arrives in Chile to try to find his son. Initially trusting his advice from the U.S. embassy, Ed Harman comes to recognize the complicity of the United States in the coup.

Like Reds, it reinforces the idea that if an American wasn't present it didn't really happen, but explores sharp implications about U.S. imperialism. Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek get to the point."Review by John Sayles, in Mother Jones, 1996"

Mission, The - Based on a true story, about Jesuits in Amazon in the 1600s who solidarize with their converts and lead an unsuccessful Indian revolt against the conquistadors.

Moses (1994) - Ben Kingsley leads the people of Israel out of bondage.

My Brilliant Career Movie about an Australian woman discovering herself in the outback.

On the Beach A chillingly depressing depiction of the final survivors of a nuclear war, waiting for the end.

The Panama Deception, "a somewhat stilted but nonetheless informative
documentary by leftist producers about the events leading up to the US
invasion of Panama.  An indictment of press control and neo-imperialism." - Ronald Brackett

Paths of Glory (1957) Directed by Stanley Kubrick. When soldiers are sent on a suicide mission and fail, their ambitious General chooses from the survivors at random to face court-martial. Kirk Douglas is the soldier-lawyer defending his comrades.

Platoon (1986, Oliver Stone). Platoon helped vets feel acknowledged, which The Deer Hunter, Apocalypse Now, or The Green Berets never did. 

Red Sorghum Traditional Chinese class and sex relations, and the struggle against the Japanese Imperialist agression against China.

Salvador - James Woods brilliantly portrays the outspoken American photojournalist Richard Boyle in 1980 during the civil war in El Salvador. The real life Boyle collaborated with director Oliver Stone to create a movie which is thrilling, terrifying, suspenseful and impossible to forget. This is an exceptionally powerful film which will promote intense discussion. (123 min.)

Sugarcane Alley, "takes place in Martinique during the 1930's, is
an excellent portrayal of French imperial possessions.  A black boy is
so smart that he gets into a white school.  The movie talks about
racism, mistreatment of workers and, of course colonialism." - Ronald Brackett

Swimming to Cambodia - Brilliant one-man performance art piece by Spalding Gray about his participation in the making of The Killing Fields, and dissects American foreign policy along the way.

Ten Commandments The - Charlton Heston leads the chosen people out of slavery to the land of milk and honey.

Testament (1983, Lynne Littman) Many films have portrayed life after a nuclear war, but none were so shattering as this. Jane Alexander stars as a suburban mother trying to hold her family together in the aftermath of the Bomb. We never see a mushroom cloud or know who started the war. What we see is even more affecting: A speculation about how communities of survivors might organize after the devastation."Review by Roger Ebert, in Mother Jones, 1996"

Under Fire with Nick Nolte, Joanna Cassady and Gene Hackman, on the U.S. presence in the war in Nicaragua.

Utu (1983)...Anti-imperialist film. The colonial British army pillages Maori villages. A Maori corporal who quits the army to fight against it seeks revenge.  Simplistic, but the film does not try to gloss over the anger of Maori by arming them with Western values.

War Games (Matthew Broderick , Ally Sheedy, Dabney Coleman - 1983) High school computer wizard David Lightman (Broderick) breaks into computer not knowing it belongs to the United States Air Force. Lightman sets a Soviet suprise nuclear attack simulation as a joke. It backfired. Lightman escapes from Federal custody to find Dr. Stephen Falken, an elusive and enigmatic computer expert, for he alone knows what Joshua (USAF's computer) can do.

Year of Living Dangerously - Follows a journalist in the midst of Suharto's bloody coup to overthrow the democratically elected, leftist Indonesian government of Sukarno.