Sixties Political Films: An Annotated Bibliography
Eric Roberts and Lauren Rusk
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GLORY, Edward Zwick, TriStar Pictures, 1990, 2:02. Historical drama about the Black 54th Regiment of Massachusetts and their service in the Civil War. Starring Matthew Broderick, Cary Elwes, Morgan Freeman, and Denzel Washington, who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
THE GOOD FIGHT, Noel Buckner, Mary Dore, and Sam Sills, 1984. In 1936, the Spanish army, led by General Franco and supported by Hitler and Mussolini, rose up to overthrow the Spanish Republic. Over the next two years, American volunteers of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade went to Spain to fight the first battles in the war against fascism (only to be labeled during the McCarthy era as "premature anti-fascists"). The Good Fight tells the story of the Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War.
THE GRAPES OF WRATH, John Ford, 1940, 2:09. This film is a brilliant adaptation of John Steinbeck's classic, which portrays the physical and spiritual realities of migrant workers struggling to survive in the 1930s.
GUAZAPA, Don North, North Star Productions, 1988. In this film subtitled "The Face of War in El Salvador," veteran war correspondent Don North takes us behind rebel lines just twenty miles from San Salvador. In These Times says that "Guazapa may be the most effective introduction to this `issue' for Americans who are taking their first steps beyond news reports."
HAIR, Milos Forman, 1979, 2:01. This is a 1979 movie remake of the musical Hair. The plot is completely different (there is one) and the spirit seems a little less free, but the music is as powerful as ever.
MICHAEL HARRINGTON: THE NEW AMERICAN POVERTY, Institute for Democratic Socialism, 1988, 1:00. A presentation by the late Michael Harrington, the founding chair of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and a leader in both the U.S. and international socialist movements.
MICHAEL HARRINGTON: THE NEXT LEFT, Institute for Democratic Socialism, 1989, 1:00. Filmed shortly before his death, Michael Harrington records his thoughts for the future of the left in the United States.
HARLAN COUNTY, U.S.A., Barbara Kopple, Cabin Creek Films, 1976, 1:43. Barbara Kopple's Harlan County, U.S.A. chronicles four years in the lives of 180 coal-mining families struggling to win a United Mine Workers contract at the Brookside mine in Harlan County, Kentucky. The film illustrates the strength of those families during their confrontations with strikebreakers and police, and concentrates on the growing political awareness of the women, many of whom become active and militant for the first time in their lives. Harlan County, U.S.A. won the Academy Award for Best Documentary of 1976.
HAROLD AND MAUDE, Hal Ashby, 1972, 1:30. Brilliant comedy starring Bud Cort the late Ruth Gordon, with music by Cat Stevens. The love that grows between the 18-year-old Harold and the 80-year-old Maude is more than simply heartwarming -- it also challenges our stereotypes about age and makes a profoundly liberating statement about the beauty that one can find in life.
HEARTS AND MINDS, Peter Davis, 1974, 1:50. "Hearts and Minds is an emotionally-charged journey that every American should take. It explores not only the events of the Vietnam War, but also the attitudes that led us there and kept us in the longest and most controversial war in American history. Clark Clifford, General William Westmoreland, Daniel Ellsberg and other U.S. policy-makers are interviewed, as are American Vietnam veterans and Vietnamese leaders." Hearts and Minds won the Academy Award for Best Documentary of 1974.
HIGH CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS, Bill Moyers, 1990, 1:00. In this documentary, produced for the PBS Frontline series, Bill Moyers extends his investigation into the Iran-Contra scandal and its cover-up, building on the earlier documentary The Secret Government: The Constitution in Crisis. I believe that the first documentary is the better piece, but the follow-up is also compelling and delivers a much more serious indictment of the Reagan/Bush administration.
HIROSHIMA, MON AMOUR, Alain Resnais, 1959, 1:28. A love story between a French actress in Japan doing an antiwar film and a Japanese architect, interspersed with scenes of war. "A poetic evocation of love and a passionate plea for world peace."
HOMECOMING, Tatyana Chubakova, The Glasnost Film Festival, 1987, 0:17. Veterans of the Soviet involvement in Afghanistan returned home with unresolved feelings about a demoralizing and unpopular war. `Nobody asked my generation whether we should have this war or not,' one veteran remarks bitterly in this film, the first to document the human impact of the Afghan war."
IN THE NUCLEAR SHADOW, Vivienne Verdon-Roe, 1984. "Children of varied races and backgrounds talk about their responses to the threat of nuclear war. In this deeply moving documentary they express their fear, anger, and feelings of helplessness as well as their hope that the nuclear dilemma can and will be solved." Nominated for the Best Short Documentary Academy Award in 1984.
INCIDENT AT OGLALA, Michael Apted, 1992, 1:30. This documentary examines the case of American Indian Movement activist Leonard Peltier, who was convicted of killing two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1975, despite the lack of any evidence tying him to the crime. The film paints a compelling picture of a deliberate abuse of power by government officials and a tragic miscarriage of justice.
INSIDE THE CIA, Allan Francovich, 1987. An analysis of the CIA, broken down into three parts: "The History," "Assassination," and "Subversion." Includes interviews with former high-level CIA employees David Atlee Phillips and John Stockwell.
IPHIGENIA, Michael Cacoyannis, 1979, 2:07. Iphigenia is based on the Euripides tragedy Iphigenia at Aulis, which tells the story of the sacrifice of Iphigenia by her father Agamemnon at the beginning of the Trojan War. This film focuses on the contrast between a group of warlike men, driven by greed and ambition, and two women, Iphigenia and Clytemnestra, whose strength and courage are brilliantly portrayed. In the process, Cacoyannis has produced what one of my friends described as "the most powerful feminist film" she had ever seen.
IRAN/CONTRA: THE STORY BEHIND THE SCANDAL, Christic Institute, 1987, 2:00. An interview with Daniel Sheehan at Forum West in Los Angeles about the Christic Institute lawsuit against the "secret team."
JUMPING JACK FLASH, Penny Marshall, 20th Century Fox, 1986, 1:38. Whoopi Goldberg stars as a computer operator in a bank who becomes embroiled in a web of international intrigue when a British agent trapped in Eastern Europe connects to her computer.
THE KILLING FIELDS, Roland Joffe, 1984, 2:22. Adapted from the story "The Death and Life of Dith Pran" by Sydney Schanberg in the New York Times Magazine, The Killing Fields details the horror of war in Cambodia. The film focuses on the dramatic escape of Dith Pran, Schanberg's Cambodian advisor, who disappeared and was believed killed by the Khmer Rouge. Haing Ngor won an academy award for his portrayal of Pran.
A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN, Penny Marshall, 1992, 2:07. During World War II, when so many men were away at the front, many new jobs opened up for women. Rosie the Riveter, for example, tells the story of women working in factories. A League of Their Own follows those women to the baseball field, at a time when women's leagues started to have a significant, if short-lived, public following. Given that it stars Geena Davis, Tom Hanks, and Madonna, this film could hardly avoid being tainted by the Hollywood style, but it does feature some strong women's roles.
A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN, THE DOCUMENTARY, Mary Wallace, 1986, 0:27. This film is a short documentary about the same women's teams depicted in a A League of the Own. The documentary was produced six years earlier before its Hollywood counterpart, where it received little attention until the mainstream film appeared.
LES MISERABLES, Richard Boleslawski, 1935, 1:44. This 1935 production is regarded by many critics as the best film adaptation of Les Miserables, Victor Hugo's 1862 novel about one man's struggle to escape the injustice of a legal system that does not take human suffering into account. It features good performances by Fredric March as Jean Valjean and Charles Laughton as police inspector Javert, but often seems somewhat overly romantic by modern viewers.
LETTER TO THE NEXT GENERATION, James Klein, 1990, 1:30. A retrospective look at the Kent State tragedy that includes interviews both with activists from that time and with today's students. Included in the PBS P.O.V. series in 1990.
LILY SOLD OUT!, Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner, 1992, 0:50. In this satirical review of show business, Lily Tomlin takes a performing job in Las Vegas and quickly sells out to the glitter and banality of the city and its culture.
LINES IN THE SAND, Griffin-Wirth Associates, 1993, 0:12. This film is one of the first documentaries to appear about the Gulf War and focuses on how the media created the political consensus for U.S. policy.
THE LONG WALK HOME, Richard Pearce, 1990, 1:38. In 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Her arrest led to a massive protest movement against segregation led by a young pastor newly arrived in Montgomery, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. For month after month, black people throughout Montgomery refused to ride on public transportation in what was to become one of the important early victories in the struggle for civil rights. The Long Walk Home brings to life the human dimensions of the bus boycott. With Whoopi Goldberg as Sissy Spacek's housekeeper, the film explores how the boycott affects their lives, their sense of themselves, and their relationship. Spacek and Goldberg's finely drawn portrayals make the film a memorable experience.
THE LORAX, Dr. Seuss, 1989. "I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees." So we are introduced to the Lorax in Dr. Seuss's story of the fight for the environment over the ravages of capitalism. A bit longer than the original book, with new words and songs, but still fun.
LOSING CONTROL?, Gary Krane, Ideal Communications, 1989, 0:55. This film dramatically illustrates the risks of accidental nuclear war by proceeding step by step through a completely believable scenario.