December 09 only
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It’s Not Just America at Risk: Classic Cautionary Tales Still in Play Today
Midcentury Production’s AGITPROP! events present work that explore the social and political filmmaking of the past. These three films deal with the tendency of the modern state to undermine the freedoms of its citizens. While this is currently front and center in the USA, it’s also an ongoing problem around the world.
Cinema history should not be divorced from actual history: we need not only to revere great works of art, but also those past creative efforts that point us to historical lessons that we need to remember and apply to the present. The three films in AGITPROP! 2 are exceptional films made in exceptional times—just like ours.
FORCE OF EVIL
Blacklisted director (USA, 1948, Abraham Polonsky, 78m, B&W)
FORCE OF EVIL (1948) has particular resonance to our current American malaise. John Garfield stars in this blistering “autopsy of capitalism.” written and directed by Abraham Polonsky. It lays out the lingering danger that a system of so-called “free enterprise” can become predatory and corrupt, in a film that pits brother against brother. It’s a film that’s needed to be shown ever since the tragic election results of November 8, 2016.
THE EAR aka UCHO
Film banned for 20 years (Czechoslovakia, 1970, Karel Kachyna, 94m, B&W)
Banned in Czechoslovakia for more than twenty years, UCHO, or THE EAR, was made in 1970 but not released until the advent of perestroika. It is a tale of paranoia and relentless surveillance in a totalitarian state, and the shattering effect it has on the lives of a couple in the middle ranges of a thoroughly corrupt government bureaucracy. UCHO has been described as a cross between Francis Ford Coppola’s THE CONVERSATION and Mike Nichols’ WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? It is a cautionary tale about what can happen to humanity if it fails to safeguard democratic principles.
Most incendiary “mockumentary” ever (UK/USA, 1971, Peter Watkins, 91m, color)
PUNISHMENT PARK is remarkably prescient in showing how the state can manipulate perception and undermine dissent. Dissident British filmmaker Peter Watkins created this cinema verité style “mockumentary” in 1971, during the final phase of the protest over the Vietnam War: the result is a chilling template for how the state could subvert and suppress protest. Forty-five years later, it is a fascinating historical artifact that needs to be seen by those who wish to be effective in resisting the increasingly worrisome statements that are being issued from the current occupant of the White House.
→ Further info about the films are at the MidCentury Productions site
Agitprop 2: Upcoming Showtimes