Revolution Cinema: 5 Films To Put On Your To-See List This July 4th Holiday Weekend

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by Tambay A. Obenson
July 3, 2013 3:28 PM
1 Comment
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In consideration of the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century, known as The American Revolution, that would lead to The Declaration of Independence, adopted on July 4, 1776, marking the formation of a new sovereign nation, which called itself the United States of America - a date we now celebrate annually, and will be honoring this long holiday weekend... 

I thought I'd have some fun and highlight a few of what I'd call "revolution films" that don't necessarily have anything to do with the American Revolution, but that I think join it in spirit, and that you might want to add to your to-see list to watch over the next 4 days - that is, assuming you can access them all.

Jean-Luc Godard, pioneer of the French New Wave (a cinema revolution, if there ever was one), is said to have once argued that "revolution cannot be put into images" because "the cinema is the art of lying."

Is it entirely?

Cinema has long been a tool used by filmmakers to provoke, educate, stir, and inspire - an idea that will continue as long as cinema lives. There are those who firmly hold onto the notion that cinema is effectively useless if it doesn't unequivocally, intentionally challenge and instruct; although some would call that brand of cinema "propaganda." Then again, there are also those who argue that all cinema is indeed propaganda.

Feel free to debate the various concepts and ideas if you'd like.

Right now, I'm going jump into highlighting a handful of films that would fall under "revolution cinema," in a nod to this week's celebration of the USA's independence, which came after the American Revolution. 

1- This one was automatic for me. The Ivan Dixon-directed political firebrand of a film, The Spook Who Sat by the Door (1973) adapted from Sam Greenlee's novel. 

I'd say that Sweet Sweetback is often the cinematic reference point for radical, subversive black cinema during one of the more contentious periods in American history. But I think the oft-forgotten The Spook Who Sat By The Door was potentially even more lethal in its crafting and message, and really had the ability to inspire a revolution at a time when black people in this country were maybe most susceptible, as well as capable. 

And I'm not sure if many actually know the story of how the film got made - notably, that its budget was financed mostly with funds raised from black investors... people not-so unlike you and I... an idea that's in itself revolutionary, and one that I'd like to see happen more often, especially today. So not only was the content of the film revolution-inspiring, the making of the film was also quite a revolutionary effort. Christine Acham's documentary, Infiltrating Hollywood: The Rise and Fall of the Spook Who sat by the Door, details the making of the film.

This shouldn't be hard to find on DVD or VOD. In fact, you might even find the entire thing online.

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1 Comment

  • James Madison | July 3, 2013 8:05 PMReply

    The Black Power Mixtape (that I found out about at S&A) is a very good film. A lot of insight. I saw it at the IFC theater and ned to pick it up.

    I have not see The Spook Who Sat By The Door since high school.

    Good picks.

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