Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Indiewire logo

Do Smarter Politics Make for Better Films?

ReelPolitik By Anthony Kaufman | ReelPolitik December 2, 2011 at 10:16AM

In one of my first blog posts, in 2004, titled "Not My Passion," I took the somewhat controversial position that independent films should be evaluated by their politics. "When a movie caters to the tastes and prejudices of that [mainstream]," I wrote, "it just can't be considered 'independent.'" I recalled the argument after reading some recent remarks made to the Yale Political Union by ThinkProgress.org culture reporter and TheAtlantic.com correspondent Alyssa Rosenberg, who argues art shouldn't merely be judged on aesthetic grounds, but on political ones, as well.
0

In one of my first blog posts, in 2004, titled "Not My Passion," I took the somewhat controversial position that independent films should be evaluated by their politics. "When a movie caters to the tastes and prejudices of that [mainstream]," I wrote, "it just can't be considered 'independent.'" I recalled the argument after reading some recent remarks made to the Yale Political Union by ThinkProgress.org culture reporter and TheAtlantic.com correspondent Alyssa Rosenberg, who argues art shouldn't merely be judged on aesthetic grounds, but on political ones, as well.

She outlines a handful of reasons why this makes sense:

1) Given that we spend so much of our time consuming art and popular culture, it would be unwise to ignore the political subtext of those cultural products.

2) If our goal is to give art full credit for the power it’s capable of exerting, we should hold artists responsibile for how they express those ideas.

3)  When political and policy debates have become hyperbolic and unproductive, politically engaged art can be a particularly important forum for thinking about our values, and future.

"We do a disservice to art when we evaluate it only on aesthetic terms," she writes, "reducing it to a sensual experience and denying its power to influence us long after we’re finished consuming it."

"Part of what makes art compelling, and what lifts it over other forms of communication, is that it can intervene in multiple forums and on multiple levels. We can best show our respect for compelling art by engaging with its ideas as well as its beauty, and by holding artists at least somewhat responsible for their civic roles and impact on public debate."

Rosenberg goes on to cite many examples, from "Triumph of the Will" and "The Ides of March" to "Primary Colors" and "Avatar"  ("a useful spur to more timid studios and more timid filmmakers, a constant reminder that nudging your audience can be as profitable as soothing it").

"Demanding that our art be more politically incisive, diverse, and forward-thinking is a way of saying that we hope our art better fulfills [an] ideal," she concludes. "As Ray Bradbury wrote, “we have our arts so we won’t die of truth…Milton does more than drunk God can / To justify Man’s way toward Man.” Those justifications will be incomplete and imperfect, and they should be. With art, as with politics, we should be skeptical of the status quo and of promised utopias, and eager for imperfections, for pivotal moments, for the insight that makes possible growth and change. “There is a crack in everything,” Leonard Cohen sings. “That’s how the light gets in.”

Follow us

E-Mail Updates



Recent Comments

By Bob Connors: The thing to remember is the video has some actual data but it's conclusions are far fetched and inaccurate. This is a Progressive propaghand…

Who is "Politizane" and What's Next for the Income Inequality Viral Video

Mar 21th, 2015 8:47am

By Ostlee: This makes very sad reading - i feel for the people of Maldives. Everyone should boycott the island as a holiday destination until Nasheed…

Documentary Filmmakers and Activists Call for Release of "Island President" Nasheed

Mar 13th, 2015 5:35pm

By Ahmed Shahid: Release the first democratically elected president. The only president of Maldives who has reached the people of Maldives, heard them and…

Documentary Filmmakers and Activists Call for Release of "Island President" Nasheed

Mar 12th, 2015 9:37am

By Hanne Neve: Please take care of your country and the climate by freeing your real selektet president.

Documentary Filmmakers and Activists Call for Release of "Island President" Nasheed

Mar 11th, 2015 9:09am

By Iqbal: Please release President Nasheed

Documentary Filmmakers and Activists Call for Release of "Island President" Nasheed

Mar 10th, 2015 10:27pm

By Martha Robertson: I strongly urge the immediate release of Nasheed!

Documentary Filmmakers and Activists Call for Release of "Island President" Nasheed

Mar 10th, 2015 9:37pm

By Ned Rollins: Bad business, going to bite you.

Documentary Filmmakers and Activists Call for Release of "Island President" Nasheed

Mar 10th, 2015 3:47pm

By John Painter: The guy isnt a terrorist.

Documentary Filmmakers and Activists Call for Release of "Island President" Nasheed

Mar 10th, 2015 12:00pm

By Sofia Vera: I support Presdient Nasheed and add my name to this letter of support for his release.

Documentary Filmmakers and Activists Call for Release of "Island President" Nasheed

Mar 10th, 2015 11:14am

By Margarett R Mulkey: A civilized society is required of the current government of the Maldives. The world is watching injustice and crimes, and many realized thes…

Documentary Filmmakers and Activists Call for Release of "Island President" Nasheed

Mar 10th, 2015 10:53am