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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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A World Apart - Based on a true story, Barbara Hershey is arrested for her anti-apartheid activities, leaving her troubled teenage daughter to cope with the tumult. (112 min.)

Alien Nation - Aliens land in L.A. and take the place of blacks and Latinos in the underclass. An alien cop and a human cop team up against alien drug pushers exploiting the alien ghetto.

Bad Day at Black Rock (John Sturges,1955) Set just after WW II. Spencer Tracy plays a one-armed man who arrives in a small western town to deliver a medal to the father of a Japanese-American solder who served with him and was killed in Europe. He is met by an extremely hostile populace, led by Robert Ryan, and hiding a racially based murder of the father. (Steve Press)

Bread and Chocolate - An Italian film, protraying the discrimination, partly based on skin color, of the Swiss against their imported Italian laborers.

Boyz N the Hood (1991, John Singleton) "Boyz N the Hood let people into a world they didn't want to know existed." Review by John Sayles, in Mother Jones, 1996 "A first film of astonishing power and insight, showing how the fates of inner-city black youths can be decided by the social environment. As the hero's father (Larry Fishburne) tries to focus his son (Cuba Gooding Jr.) on the future, the danger of guns and gangs is always present. The best of an extraordinary group of debut films, including Menace II Society, Straight Out of Brooklyn, and Fresh." Review by Roger Ebert, in Mother Jones, 1996"

Brother From Another Planet - An alien slave, who bears a striking resemblance to an African, hides from alien cops, who look like whites, in the ghetto.

Bulworth (1998) - A mix of hip-hop and politics, after putting a hit out on himself Senator Bulworth becomes a rapping politician that isn't afraid to say anything he wants and offend anyone he wants to. (108 min) Summary written by Guy Johns

Burn, starring Marlon Brando is a fictionalization of the Haitian Revolution and the freedom fighter Toussaint L'Ouverture's struggle to free his people from the yoke of colonial imperialism. One of Brando's favorite films. - terrill

Countdown to Freeedom A documentary chronicle of campaigns and days leading up to first post-apartheid elections in South Africa. Directed by Danny Schechter.

Chocalat - A highly charged relationship between a French family and their African servants in Africa.

Cry Freedom - Stirring drama by Richard Attenborough that follows the friendship between white South African journalist Donald Woods (Kevin Kline) and black activist Stephen Biko (Denzel Washington) through the violent struggle against their country's racist regime. (157 min.)

Cry the Beloved Country - A Black South African priest travels to the city in search of his son, only to learn that the boy has been sentenced to death for murder. (105 min.)

Dances with Wolves (1990) Lt. John Dunbar is dubbed a hero after he accidentally leads Union troops to a victory during the Civil War. He requests a position on the western frontier, but finds it deserted. He soon finds out he is not alone, but meets a wolf he dubs "Two-socks" and a curious Indian tribe. Dunbar quickly makes friends with the tribe, and discovers a white woman who was raised by the Indians. He gradually earns the respect these native people, and sheds his white-man's ways.

Dead Presidents - a young black Vietnam vet sees the system for what it is, gets exposed to radical politics, and decides to rob a bank. An amazing film with an even more amazing soundtrack.

Do the Right Thing (1989, Spike Lee) This record of one hot summer day in Bedford-Stuyvesant is the most important and moving film about race in America. What empowers the film is its fairness; watching it, you can identify with most of the characters, black and white. As a series of trivial incidents and misunderstandings escalate into the death of a man at the hands of police, and then the destruction of a pizzeria, Lee shows that the divide of racism, more than any particular event, has led to the film's disturbing conclusion." Review by Roger Ebert, in Mother Jones, 1996"

Dry White Season - Donald Sutherland awakening to the horror of S. African apartheid in the 1970s.

The Glass Shield (Charles Burnett, 1995) Racism and corruption at a Southern Calif. sheriff's station as seen through the eyes of an ethically compromised black rookie. - Steve Press

Great White Hope, The - James Earl Jones is Jack Johnson, the first Black Heavyweight World Boxing Champion. Even when stripped of his title by whites, Johnson triumphs over his persecutors. Jane Alexander gives a remarkable performance as Johnson's girlfriend, who is torn apart by her ordeal and the boxer's unfocused hostility. (103 min.)

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967) - Sidney Poiter stars as the young black UN diplomat who surprises middle class liberals on the Upper West Side, Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn, by proposing marriage to their daughter.

Hate (French with subtitles) - excellent french film that deals with racism, and classism by following three immigrant youth in france over the course of a day under the backdrop of social unrest. this movie kicks ass in its stark and gritty realism of life for working class immigrant youth in france.

Homicide (David Mamet,1991) Joe Montegna as a Jewish policeman, who identifies as a cop, not a Jew, is assigned, against his will, to investigate the murder of an elderly Jewish woman, in what appears at first to be a racially motivated killing (Black on white/Jewish). (Steve Press)

Hoop Dreams (1994, Steve James) Not really about basketball at all, but the most powerful American documentary of modern times. It's a story, told over five years, of two inner-city Chicago boys who dream that their basketball skills will provide them a college education, and perhaps a ticket to the NBA. How could the filmmakers have guessed, as they filmed their subjects in eighth grade, that their stories would encompass so many aspects of big-city African-American life? " Review by Roger Ebert, in Mother Jones, 1996"

House Made of Dawn - based on N. Scott Momaday's book about the condition of American Indians has been made into a poetically beautiful film. More convinving and authentic than any Hollywood effort to understand the Indian, it is clearly the definitive statement on the plight of Native Americans. (91 min.)

KKK - B-grade melodrama about Southern racism.

Last Wave, The (1977) - An Australian lawyer defends an aborigine on trial for murder, while having premonitions that white Australia will be destroyed for its genocide against native people.

Liberation of L.B. Jones - Story of Southern racism. (102m)

Little Big Man - Dustin Hoffman as a white boy kidnapped and raised by Indians, then taken back to "civilization" in adolescence, and then returning to "the human beings" as an Indian scout for General Custer. A lot funnier than Dances with Wolves, and just as radical.

The Long Days of Summer - A small town in the 1930's New England is the focus for this look at prejudice, as seen through the eyes of a young Jewish boy whose lawyer father comes under attack from the townspeople. (78 min.)

Malcolm X (1992, Spike Lee) Lee maintains what Alex Haley's Autobiography of Malcolm X captured the incredible evolution of Malcolm X's thought."Review by John Sayles, in Mother Jones, 1996"

Mandela - The courage and self-sacrifice of South African freedom fighters Nelson and Winnie Mandela is the subject of this critically acclaimed production, starring Danny Glover and Alfre Woodard. Their enduring love and dignity despite three decades of imprisonment and oppression symbolize the determination of an entire people. (135 min.)

Mississippi Burning - A supposed dramatization of the investigation of the Cheney et al. murders during Freedom Summer. A total whitewash of the FBI's role in ignoring Klan activity.

Mississippi Masala - Indian girl and black man start affair that scandalizes both communities.

Native Son - [1951] The first filming of Richard Wright's controversial novel. Wright stars as the young black chauffer who is befriended by his employer's daughter and her beau...with tragic consequences.(90 min.) [also a 1987 version with Oprah Winfrey, Matt Dillon and Victor Love, 112 min.]

No Way Out (Joseph L. Mankiewicz,1950) Richard Widmark as a racist hoodlum who blames E.R. physician Sidney Poitier for the death of his brother after he and his brother had been wounded while committing a robbery. (Steve Press)

Nothing But a Man (Michael Roehmer,1964) Racism from outside as well as class conflict within the Black community in Alabama. (Steve Press)

Odds Against Tomorrow (Robert Wise,1959) Mutual racial hatred between Robert Ryan and Harry Belafonte, both participants in a bank robbery. (Although Robert Ryan often played bigots, he was an active member of the ACLU and SANE.) (Steve Press)

Once Were Warriors - The title is ironic as this recent  New Zealand film deals with the collapsing Maori {native NZ} family. Quite shocking and a welcome antidote to the conservative "family values" bull-shit, which is set in another world from that of oppressed peoples. Includes youth suicide, child rape, and several feminist themes.

Open Secret (John Reinhardt, 1948) With the help of an Italian-American policeman, a young couple on their honeymoon busts a gang of white-supremacist, anti-Semitic thugs. - Steve Press

Panther -Its about the Black Panthers. Though not completely historically accurate it is still a neat film.

Planet of the Apes (1967-1973) - These five movies are, in part, an exploration of racism and slavery transposed to speciesism, culminating in the 1973 Battle for the Planet of the Apes in which our enslaved simian servants revolt.

Prisoners of Hope A documentary chronicle of the reunion in 1995 of 1500 political prisoners formerly held captive on Robben Island, South Africa, where President Nelson Mandela was also imprisoned.

Sarafina (1992) - The film version, with Whoopi Goldberg, of the hit musical from South Africa about a township heroine.

Smoke Signals is the first full length all-Native American film. A wonderful film -- coming out of 'rez humour' and poverty. - Steve Press

Sounder - Black sharecroppers in the 1930s. (105m)

A Time to Kill (1996) - A black man is tried for killing the white men who raped his daughter. Two young white lawyers defending him experience anti-racist redemption.

To Kill a Mockingbird - Black man gets framed for rape of white girl, town goes into racist lynch frenzy, and he gets defended by courageous white man.

Voices of Sarafina - The beautiful musical, performed by kids from Soweto, about a courageous girl "comrade" in the township.

The Well (Leo Popkin, Russell Rouse,1951) A young black girl falls down a well, but before that is discovered as the reason for her disappearance, a white stranger in town is accused of kidnapping her. (Steve Press)

White Man's Burden (1995) - John Travolta and Harry Belafonte in an America in which whites are the poor underclass and blacks are the ruling class.