Finally, independent filmmakers are getting political. Like many U.S. citizens, it has taken the current ultra-right-wing, insanely narrow-minded American presidency to galvanize artists and force them to grapple with the cover-ups, corporate evils and complete destruction that the Bush II reign of power has helped to foster.
In the Village Voice last week, I wrote an article "Docs Populi: Raging against the Republican Machine" about the recent wave of activist documentaries, from Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9-11 to Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me, that could turn the tide of right-wing hegemony.
Though it's always been the role of nonfiction, in part, to inform us about the sorry state of the world, there's also a couple of fiction filmmakers who will be joining the anti-Bush fray this summer and fall. (And I'm not talking about The Day After Tomorrow, although Al Gore and the environmentalist movement are latching onto the disaster movie as evidence of the dangers of global warming.)
Rather, I'm writing here about Spike Lee and John Sayles, who it's fair to say have never shied away from politics, but their new movies She Hate Me, slated for release in July, and Silver City, opening in the fall, should also help to stir up some healthy leftist views. (The opening credits of Lee's She Hate Me directly attack Bush's corporate ties, and a deviation from the main plotline reintroduces the right wing's sorriest days with the Watergate scandal -- it's a good time to remind the public what these people are capable of doing.)
I spoke briefly with Sayles for my Village Voice story (alas, his quotes were cut), but he told me that the film, which stars Oscar-winner Chris Cooper as a bumbling, born-again political scion, focuses on two primary targets: "the most recent assault on democracy," says Sayles, "and the mainstream media that has gotten lazier and unwilling to find the facts."
Sayles says Silver City does not deal with international politics, like the war in Iraq, but rather, the notion that "shit happens," he says, and most of us are willing to accept it, as a fait accompli. "But an awful lot of shit happens because somebody campaigned for it to happen," he explains.
Sayles hopes that the film will stir up some debate to get voters out to the polls. "I think anything that gets more people to vote and gets more people involved in politics," he says, "is bad for Bush or any other politician who depends on people being apathetic."