Though there are many concerns among groups in the US regarding hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), the opinions of some groups are quite polarized and more glaring than others. This article suggests consideration for perspectives not often heard in the ads and news items—those of local landowners and others most affected by the decisions to keep or curtail gas drilling operations. The most publicized are the perspectives of celebrities and others who have the wealth to support media advertising and film production. Continue reading Celebrity protest: Gasland or La La Land?
If you’ve ever had any doubt that movies influence, look no further than to consider the effects of this month’s movie, Gasland (Fox, 2010). It is difficult to imagine how a propaganda film that presents such a complex technical topic to a public audience could garner much interest, let alone stir so many in our nation toward irrational fears. However, as we have noted in our past commentaries, fearmongering is a great way to attract attention and to create public unrest.
When settling down to watch a documentary film, I remind myself of two important things:
- Rarely does a documentary film tell the whole story.
- People believe what they want to believe.1
It was with this mindset that I watched Gasland (Fox, 2010), not just with an open mind, but also with an inquisitive one. Gasland presents an up-and-close narrative on the surmised ramifications of hydraulic fracturing, “fracking,” and how this well-stimulation technology negatively affects America’s habitat. Lauded by film critics, Gasland received a nomination in 2011 for Best Documentary Feature by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. That recognition along with its 97% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes must please the film’s writer/director, Josh Fox, and those who support him.
However, before I enthusiastically jump on the anti-fracking bandwagon, my above-mentioned personal documentary-viewing guidelines require me to pause Continue reading Gasland: Russia and Others Promote the Runaway Bandwagon
When presented with the original script of Charlie Wilson’s War (Nichols, 2007), Texas bon vivant Joanne King Herring (played by Julia Roberts in the movie) keeled over and nearly choked, for the last scene was a video clip of the Pentagon burning on September 11, 2001. What was the cause of her extreme reaction? Outrage over potential misleading propaganda? Continue reading Charlie Wilson’s War: Main Characters and Misleading Propaganda
Ordinary people are capable of the extraordinary. British author Lissa Evans believed that with her heart and soul and set out to prove it by creating her own piece of greatness. The road to achievement is often paved with books; and Lissa, an avid reader, navigated her own course.
Evan’s book, The Finest Hour and a Half, from which this month’s movie is adapted, puts the reader in London as the winds of war are howling from Germany. All cinemas are closed in 1939 as Londoners brace themselves for an onslaught of attacks from across the Channel. Continue reading Their Finest: Lissa Evans Celebrates Ealing Studios’ Propaganda Filmmaker
Leni Riefenstahl. Never heard of her. A crash course was necessary indeed. Fortunately, I work at MoviesonChatham, a research and writing group for film groups, critics and fans. This eclectic group provides ample opportunities for learning curves. The eye-opening quest to learn about this obscure woman left me feeling concerned about the fact that I, a college educated woman who is never without a book, had never, not once, heard of Leni Riefenstahl.
Then again, where would I have crossed paths with Riefenstahl, or her legacy? Continue reading Leni Riefenstahl: Extraordinary Talent Tainted by Heinous Objectives
Regarded by cinema historians as ‘the best propaganda film of all time,’ and a film that continues to inspire violent debate, Triumph of the Will linked Riefenstahl forevermore in the public record with fascism and Hitler.
—Felicia Feaster, Turner Classic Movies
Neither is there anything to be gained by ignoring her skill as a filmmaker, her place in film history, or her influence. Rather, we hope that this retrospective . . . will contribute to a discussion of the unsettling power of cinema and the relationship between documentary and propaganda, as well as the complex but crucial interplay of aesthetics and ideology.
—Leni Riefenstahl • UCLA Retrospective, UCLA Film and Television Archive
Throughout this year as we examine the theme of propaganda, it is useful to introduce a few simple concepts along the way that can help us to see why a film may fit into this theme, and if it does, to decide whether or not its communication succeeds in its intended influence given its design. Defining propaganda can help us with the first task, so that is where we will begin. Continue reading Propaganda: Activating Flawed Ideologies
Let’s say, just for fun, that the history of film is one big party. Each guest brings a gift to the guest of honor—film in this instance—and helps it to grow in technology and influence. Among the earlier “guests” who had arrived in the 1920’s was Sergei Eisenstein, who contributed Montage. If you remember from our articles on Eisenstein, montage is a film editing technique in which a series of images are edited into a sequence that employs the Kuleshov effect. Continue reading Leni Riefenstahl: Major Contributor to Film History–Can We Forgive Her?
The trouble with this tale, like so many others from Riefenstahl, is that it’s almost certainly rubbish.
—Farran Smith Nehme, The Guardian
Leni Riefenstahl has been the subject of, or associated with, a great amount of literary effort over the 101 years of her life—remembered today as an accomplished but controversial contributor to the history and advancement of film as a cultural form. The above quote likely reflects the author’s frustration in sifting through the literature.
Disparagingly called the “Nazi pin-up girl,”1 Helene Bertha Amalie Riefenstahl, “Leni,” is best known for her role as director of documentary films portraying the power of the Nazi movement (“Leni Riefenstahl”, 1973; “Leni Riefenstahl”, 2017). Continue reading Leni Riefenstahl: A Life Well-Lived–Or Not?