1920s A small number of films were produced specifically for the African American audiences. These films used all black casts, even though the directors and film makers were usually white. The most popular company of this kind was „The Colored Players‟. They made several films including 2 particularly significant ones:1. The Scar of Shame (1929), dealing with the effects of environment and upbringing on Black people‟s aspirations.2. Ten Nights in a Barroom (1926), a story about a drunkard who reforms himself after he accidentally contributed to the death of his daughter in a barroom brawl. In rare cases were black filmmakers able to work behind the camera. Oscar Micheaux was for several decades the most successful African American producer-director. He continued to average a film a year until 1940 and then made one more in 1948. Although much of his work is now lost, Micheaux demonstrated that a black director could make films for a black audience. His film Body and Soul (1924), explores the issue of religious exploitation of poor blacks.
1930s Politically active film makers began by confronting issues of poverty and racism. Communist groups had produced a few documentaries in 1920‟s but the first regular association was formed in 1930. (Workers‟ films and photo league). By 1935 several filmmakers left to form a lose collective Nykino (Cinema now – conscious imitation of Soviet Cinema). Notable Satire on Sanctimonious promises made to the poor during the Depression; Pie in the Sky (1934). In early 1937 Nykino transformed into a Non-Profit (Frontier) which made a few longer documentaries including People of the Cumberland (1938) and its last and longest Native Land (shot in late 1930 and released in 1942). Leftist cinema began to decline in 1940‟s due to increasing anti- communist pressures. Also fearing the spread of Fascism the communists decided to support the US govt. during the war. Former members of the Film and Photo Leagues began working on government sponsored documentaries.
War Time Documentaries and Films Immediately after Pearl Harbor, the Pentagon asked the prominent Columbia director Frank Capra to make a series of propaganda films to explain to soldiers and sailors why the country had gone to war and to particularly explain Americas new alliance with the USSR, which had previously been portrayed as a threat to the American public. Capra decided that the best way to motivate the soldiers was by drawing on existing films that portrayed the enemy‟s power. He created a series consisting of 7 films called Why We Fight. Including Prelude to War (1942), The Nazis Strike (1942), Divide and Conquer (1943), The Battle of Britain (1943), The Battle of Russia (1943), The Battle of China (1944) and The War Comes to America(1945). Director, John Ford joined the Navy as Chief of the Field Photographic Branch and using 16mm cameras his crew was able to capture the attack and the American Response resulting in the film The Battle of Midway (1942) which garnered an Oscar for Best Documentary. John Huston made two especially candid films during the war; The Battle of San Pietro (1944) showing why the Allied advance through Italy was taking so long. The film was almost banned as Huston juxtaposed soldiers‟ voices with shots of their body bags. His next film Let there be Light about rehabilitation of victims of shell shock was released to the public in 1970s as he had used an unprecedented method of recording unrehearsed direct responses of off screen questions.
Soviet Cold War 1945-1991 The Bedford Incident (1965): An American destroyer skipper (Richard Widmark) remorselessly tracks a Soviet submarine in the Denmark Strait between Greenland and Iceland in a gripping film that combines elements of The Enemy Below, Fail-Safe, and (thematically), Moby Dick. Red Dawn (1984): Although somewhat improbable at times, John Milius action-adventure depiction of a Soviet-led invasion of Colorado is one of the rare Hollywood forays into a full-blown conventional war between the U.S. and Russia. Dr. Strangelove (1964): Director Stanley Kubrick teamed up with humorist/screenwriter Terry Southern and came up with this "black comedy" about Gen. Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) and his insane plan to destroy the Soviet Union in order to, among other things, maintain the "purity of our natural bodily fluids." Thirteen Days (2000): Although it was in and out of theaters in less than two weeks, Roger Donaldsons film about the Cuban Missile Crisis is one of the best "based on a true Cold War event" film.
• World War III (1982): When President Thomas McKenna (Rock Hudson) imposes a grain embargo on the Soviet Union for not withdrawing from Afghanistan, the Kremlin retaliates by sending a company of paratroopers to seize a pumping station in the Alaska Pipeline. The world is on the brink of war as McKenna tries to reason with Soviet leader Gorny (Brian Keith), and everything hinges on the ability of Col. Caffey (David Soul) to stop the Soviets with a small detachment of ill-equipped National Guardsmen.• The Package (1989): Andrew Davis directed this end-of-the-Cold War thriller about Johnny Gallagher, an Army sergeant (Gene Hackman) assigned to escort a troublesome GI (Tommy Lee Jones) from Germany back to the States. When his prisoner escapes, Gallagher is caught up in the middle of a "Manchurian Candidate" type conspiracy that, if it works, will set back U.S.-Soviet relations to pre-glasnost depths of mutual distrust and hostility.
1960s Universities were crucial to the New Left in the United States and numerous other First and Second World Countries. The international politics of the youth focused on several issues. A central was America‟s role in the Vietnam War. Other social movements shaped the politics of the period. The black-power movement emerged around 1965 ; during the same time the women‟s liberation movement reemerged influenced by the civil rights movement and reacting against sexism, while the gay and lesbian groups had become more outspoken. All these movements converged together and joined the New Left and counter culture. In late „67 students aligned with Students for a Democratic Society decided to make films that would counter the mainstream media‟s representation of protests against the Vietnam War. This group became the New York Newsreel. Soon a San Francisco Newsreel emerged. The Newsreel Logo, the flickering word synchronized with machine-gun fire, announced the militant confrontational quality of the films.
1970s The counter-culture of the time had influenced Hollywood to be freer, to take more risks and to experiment with alternative, young film makers, as old Hollywood professionals and old-style moguls died out and a new generation of film makers arose. Films that were backed by the studios reflected the tumultuous times, the discontent toward the government, lack of US credibility, and hints of conspiracy paranoia, such as in Alan J. Pakulas post-Watergate film The Parallax View (1974) with Warren Beatty as a muckraking investigator of a Senators death. The Strawberry Statement (1970), derived from James S. Kunens journal and best-selling account of the 1968 student strike at Columbia and exploited for its countercultural message by MGM, echoed support of student campus protests. Even Spielbergs Jaws (1975), could be interpreted as an allegory for the Watergate conspiracy. The Kremlin Letter (1970) is an American Noir film set in the winter of ‟69 - ‟70 at the height of the US Soviet Cold War. It was directed by John Huston and released by 20 Century Fox.
Gulf War Films Courage Under Fire (1996): In Hollywoods first Gulf War movie disillusioned war veteran Lieut Col Nathaniel Serling (Denzel Washington) is assigned to check out the late Captain Karen Walden (Meg Ryan), who has been posthumously nominated for a medal of honor. While investigating Waldens heroism when she saved her crew after a chopper crash during Operation Desert Storm, he discovers several conflicting versions of events. Director Edward Zwicks intriguing tale is an unashamed nod to Akira Kurosawas 1950 classic Rashomon where four defendants give their wildly different testimony about a murder. Three Kings (1999):The first film to emerge from Americas adventures in the Middle East was this cheeky reworking of WWII classic Kellys Heroes, featuring four Gulf War troops who discover a map that they think leads to an enormous stash of gold bullion. Jarhead (2005): Sam American Beauty Mendes directs a war movie with a difference based on the memoirs of U.S. marine Anthony Swofford (Jake Gyllenhaal). Redacted (2007): The rape and murder of a 15-year-old Iraqi girl by gung-ho American grunts is the shock incident around which director Brian De Palmas "fictional documentary" is constructed. Playing out like Casualties of War for a new generation saturated in coverage of the Middle Eastern conflict, it uses an amalgam of video diaries, CCTV footage and even Arab TV channels to ram its anti-war message home.
1990s During the 1990s major changes took place in the Film Industry such as the advent of Cineplexes, high budget films using CGI (Computer Generated Imagery), VCRs and later in the decade, DVDs. Although the audience had changed its taste in viewership from direct political films and had moved on to thrillers and action movies, Hollywood began to churn out Political Films in those genres. A few examples of Political Action and Thrillers are: Independence Day (1996), Men in Black (1997), Enemy of the State (1998) Saving Private Ryan (1998) The Pelican Brief (1993) etc. A few examples of Political Dramas are: Malcom X (1992), Forrest Gump (1994), The English Patient (1996) etc.
Post 9/11 and The War on Terror Crash (2004): Los Angeles citizens with vastly separate lives collide in interweaving stories of race, loss and redemption. Rendition (2007):Anything goes in the war on terror, as an Egyptian-born engineer‟s wife (Reese Witherspoon) discovers when he is suddenly grabbed by the CIA and sent to North Africa to be questioned under torture. But while she looks for answers in Washington, her husband‟s chief interrogator is closer to the suicide bombers than he thinks. Body Of Lies (2008): Truth and trust are blown away as CIA field agent Leonardo DiCaprio and Washington pit-bull Russell Crowe are forced to fight sneaky in the war on terror. Unable to find the Islamic mastermind behind a spate of bombings in Europe, the pair create a fake terrorist organisation to flush him out. But keeping it secret from their Middle Eastern friends is a highly dangerous ploy. Grace is Gone (2007): When Sergeant Grace Phillips is killed in Iraq, her husband Stanley (John Cusack) can‟t bring himself to break the terrible news to their young daughters. The Hurt Locker (2009): In the rubble-strewn wreckage of Iraq, a bomb- disposal team ply their dangerous daily trade against a backdrop of hostility, aggression, and a constant threat of instant death from the job at hand.
• The Messenger (2010): The devastating psychological fall-out from America‟s war on terror is tellingly examined in this debut drama from screenwriter Oren Moverman.• A Mighty Heart (2007): In January 2002, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was abducted by Muslim terrorists in Karachi. A desperate search followed but bureaucracy and an insensitive media only help to consign the journalist to the grimmest of fates.• Lions for Lambs (2007): As two soldiers fight to survive behind enemy lines, right-wing senator Tom Cruise outlines his latest military strategy to Meryl Streep‟s incredulous reporter, while Redford‟s university tutor goads a know-all student into fulfilling his potential.• Unthinkable (2010): A psychological thriller centered around a black- ops interrogator and an FBI agent who press a suspect terrorist into divulging the location of three nuclear weapons set to detonate in the U.S.
Samurai Cinema In Japan, the term chanbara is used for this genre, literally „sword fighting‟ movies. While earlier samurai period pieces were more dramatic rather than action-based, samurai movies post World War II have become more action-based, with darker and more violent characters. Post-war samurai epics tended to portray psychologically or physically scarred warriors. Akira Kurosawa stylized and exaggerated death and violence in samurai epics. His samurai, and many others portrayed in film, were solitary figures, more often concerned with concealing their martial abilities, rather than bragging of them. Historically, the genre is usually set during the Tokugawa era (1600– 1868), the samurai film focuses on the end of an entire way of life for the samurai, many of the films deal with masterless ronin, or samurai dealing with changes to their status resulting from a changing society. Samurai films were constantly made into the early 1970s, but by then, overexposure on television, the aging of the big stars of the genre, and the continued decline of the mainstream Japanese film industry put a halt to most of the production of this often startlingly original, artistic genre
Samurai Film Directors Daisuke Itō and Masahiro Makino were central to the development of samurai films in the silent and prewar eras. Akira Kurosawa is the best known to western audiences, and similarly has directed the samurai films best known in the West. He directed Seven Samurai, Rashomon, Throne of Blood, Yojimbo and many others. Two of Kurosawas samurai movies were based on the works of William Shakespeare, Throne of Blood (Macbeth) and Ran (King Lear). Masaki Kobayashi directed the films Harakiri and Samurai Rebellion, both cynical films based on flawed loyalty to the clan. Kihachi Okamoto films focus on violence in a particular fashion. In particular in his films Samurai Assassin, Kill! and Sword of Doom. The latter is particularly violent, the main character engaging in combat for a lengthy 7 minutes of film at the end of the movie. His characters are often estranged from their environments, and their violence is a flawed reaction to this.
• Hideo Gosha, and many of his films helped create the archetype of the samurai outlaw. Goshas films are as important as Kurosawas in terms of their influence, visual style and content, yet are not as well known in the West. Goshas films often portrayed the struggle between traditional and modernist thought and were decidedly anti- feudal. An excellent example of the kind of immediacy and action evident in the best genre is seen Goshas first film, the Three Outlaw Samurai, based on a television series. Three farmers kidnap the daughter of the local magistrate in order to call attention to the starvation of local peasants, a ronin appears and decides to help them. In the process, two other ronin with shifting allegiances join the drama, the conflict widens, eventually leading to betrayal, assassination and battles between armies of mercenary ronin.
Propaganda During the War The use of propaganda in World War II was extensive and far reaching. Japanese films were often meant for a far wider audience as opposed to American films of the same time. In China, Japan‟s use of propaganda films was extensive. After Japans invasion of China, movie houses were among the first establishments to be reopened Most of the materials being shown were war news reels, Japanese motion pictures, or propaganda shorts paired with traditional Chinese films. Movies were also used in other conquered Asian countries usually with the theme of Japan as Asia‟s savior against the Western tyrants or spoke of the history of friendly relations between the countries with films such as, The Japan You Dont Know. China was a favorite subject of Japanese film makers, as war had already been occurring there for several years before further expansion into other nations was attempted. Of these films most took place on the Chinese front and many had a romantic theme between a Japanese officer and a Chinese woman. This may have been a way for the Japanese to demonstrate their goodwill toward China and thus the greater realm of Asian nations being conquered.
• Several types of „national policy films‟ or propaganda pictures were used in World War II including combat films depicting fighting soldiers, spy films and costume pictures. Combat films often gave a vague depiction of the enemy, possibly because Japan had the monumental task of not only inciting support from its own people, but also those it conquered. Without the support of its conquered nations Japans war would falter.• Spy films, unlike combat films, clearly defined the enemy. The depiction of the enemy was lazy, solvent and greedy. The Western world was portrayed as overindulgent and lavished. Japanese film makers used similar techniques as American propagandists using prejudices and xenophobia as a tool. Spy films were more extensively used after all out war was declared with western nations like England and America. Costume pictures were used as national pride pieces and helped impress upon the Japanese people the importance of tradition.• Themes used within these films include self-sacrifice and honor to the emperor. Japanese films often did not shy away from the use of suffering often portraying its troops as the underdog. This had the effect of making Japan look as though it was the victim inciting greater sympathy from its audience. The propaganda pieces also often illustrated the Japanese people as pure and virtuous depicting them as superior both racially and morally. The war is portrayed as continuous and is usually not adequately explained.
• In the early stages of the war with China, a realistic film such as The Five Scouts was feasible, depicting the war without nationalism, but as the greater war approached, the Home Ministry demanded more patriotism, and with Pearl Harbor, „national polity themes‟ – or war themes.• The Most Beautiful (1944) is a propaganda drama film written and directed by Akira Kurosawa. The film is set in an optics factory during the Second World War. The film depicts the struggle for the workers at a lens factory to meet production targets during World War II. They continually drive themselves, both singly and as a group, to exceed the targets set for them by the factory directors.• Momotarō no Umiwashi (1943) and its sequel Momotarō: Umi no Shinpei (1945) were animated Propaganda films directed at children telling the story of a naval unit consisting of the human Momotarō and several animal species representing the Far Eastern races fighting together for a common goal. In a dramatization of the attack on Pearl Harbor, this force attacks the demons at the island of Onigashima (representing the Americans and British demonized in Japanese propaganda), and the films also utilizes actual footage of the Pearl Harbor attack.
Japanese War Movies Fires on the Plain is a dark, bleak anti-war movie following the remainders of a Japanese Imperial Army group left in the jungles of the Philippines. Critics gave the movie poor reviews for its bleak atmosphere, but the film has since become more respected as a realist film, earning a Criterion release in 2007. Grave of the Fireflies is an animated film released by Studios Ghibli in 1988. It tells of the life and death of a young fourteen-year old boy orphaned during World War II. The movie tells his story with flashbacks detailing the protagonist growing up and his protective relationship with his younger sister. Black Rain is a war movie examining the after effects of the bombing of Hiroshima. The movie adapts the Masuji Ibuse novel by the same name. The movie‟s title references the radiation sickness caused by the fallout. The Hidden Fortress The legacy of this war movie is being the movie George Lucas based “Star Wars” on. The movie by Akira Kurosawa tells the story of a war general that transports a princess to safety. The technique of telling the story from the point of view of the lesser characters comes directly from this movie. Kagemusha Another Akira Kurosawa movie is a based in feudal Japan concerning the civil wars in the capital city of Kyoto. The movie received an Oscar nomination and showed Japan‟s change from samurai fighting skills to the use of firearms.
• Ran (1985) Based on the Shakespeare classic King Lear, was Akira Kurosawa‟s final epic film. The movie was the most expensive Japanese film ever made. The movie tells the story of greed and lustful power that led the characters into wars that destroyed them all.• Hotaru (2001) tells the story of two Japanese kamikaze pilots who survive the war while their third comrade dies in the suicide attack. The movie received thirteen Japanese Academy Award nominations.• Sea Without Exit (2006), centers on the kamikaze submarine attacks in World War II. When a United States Battleship attacks the main characters submarine, the crew must remain silent to avoid further detection. The movie then focuses on flashbacks to the crews college days leading to their current situation.• Letters From Iwo Jima Although this is an American film, Clint Eastwood made it as a companion piece to his film „Flags of Our Fathers.’ Both movies tell the story of the Battle of Iwo Jima from differing points of view. Letters From Iwo Jima has been included in this list as it tells the story from the perspective of Japanese soldiers in the Japanese language and received an Oscar nomination.
Japanese New Wave Cinema Directors initially associated with the Japanese New Wave included Susumu Hani, Hiroshi Teshigahara, Koreyoshi Kurahara, Yasuzo Masumura, Masahiro Shinoda, Nagisa Oshima, Yoshishige Yoshida and Shohei Imamura. Working separately, they explored a number of ideas previously not often seen in more traditional Japanese cinema: social outcasts as protagonists (including criminals or delinquents), uninhibited sexuality, changing roles of women in society, racism and the position of ethnic minorities in Japan, and the critique of (or deconstruction of) social structures and assumptions. Protagonists like Tome from Imamuras The Insect Woman (1963) or the adolescent delinquents of Oshimas Cruel Story of Youth (1960) represented rebellion, but also gave domestic and international audiences a glimpse into lives that would otherwise escape cinematic attention.
Shohei Imamura Imamura had once been an assistant of Yasujiro Ozu, and had - in his youth - developed an antipathy towards Ozus (and Kenji Mizoguchis) finely crafted aestheticism, finding it to be a bit too tailored to approved senses of "Japanese" film. Imamuras preference was for people whose lives were messier and for settings less lovely: amateur pornographers, barmaids, an elderly one-time prostitute, murderers, unemployed salarymen, an obsessive-compulsive doctor, and a lecherous, alcoholic monk were a few of many of his protagonists. In integrating such a social view into a creative stance, Imamura - in an oblique fashion - does reflect the humanist formalism of earlier filmmakers - Ozu, and Kurosawa (whose Drunken Angel he cited as a primary inspiration), even when the episodic construction seems more akin to the global (and Japanese) New Wave.
Nagisa Oshima Nagisa Oshima was among the most prolific Japanese New Wave filmmakers, and - by virtue of having had several internationally successful films (notably 1960s Cruel Story of Youth, 1976s In the Realm of the Senses and 1983s Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence), became one of the most famous filmmakers associated with the movement. Certain films - in particular Oshimas Cruel Story of Youth, Night and Fog in Japan (1960), and his later Death by Hanging (1968) - did generate enormous controversy (Night and Fog in Japan was pulled from theatres one week into its release), they also provoked debate, or - in some instances - became unexpected commercial successes. Violence at Noon (1966) received a nomination for the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. Oshimas structural and political restlessness and willingness to disrupt cinematic formulas drew comparisons to Jean-Luc Godard - the two filmmakers emerged globally almost simultaneously, both were interested in altering the form and processes of cinema, both came from backgrounds as critics, both challenged definitions of cinema as entertainment by inserting their own political perspectives into their work. Oshima elaborated upon the comparison: I dont agree specifically with any of his positions, but I agree with his general attitude in confronting political themes seriously in film.
• Oshima varied his style dramatically to serve the needs of specific films - long takes in Night and Fog in Japan (1960), a blizzard of quick jump cuts in Violence at Noon (1966), nearly neo-realistic in Boy (Shonen, 1969), or a raw exploration of American b-movie sensibilities in Cruel Story of Youth.• Again and again, Oshima introduced a critical stance that would transgress social norms by exploring why certain dysfunctions are tolerated - witness the familial dysfunctions of Boy and 1971s The Ceremony or the examinations of racism in Death by Hanging and Three Resurrected Drunkards (both 1968), and why some are not, at least openly - the entanglements of sex, power and violence explicitly depicted in In the Realm of the Senses (1976), or gay undercurrents located within samurai culture (a well- documented subject in publications, but not in film) in otherwise atypically serene Taboo (Gohatto) 1999.