By: Cole Henry
Film, like all art, can be used to present a specific message or theme to its viewing audience. This message can be very overt or subtle in that only the keenest of viewers will comprehend what the filmmaker is trying to say. Film, besides music, is the art form that permeates through human life most regularly thus films with political/social statements are important in keeping society in tune with the inherent plight/corruption that is found throughout all facets of contemporary society. History has shown that the best art comes out in times of great turbulence and political dissolution (see any Tarkovsky film made during the Soviet reign) and when an artist’s voice is snuffed out he/she will always find a way to make that voice heard through subliminal messaging, and smart film-making tactics.
Film, while subjective as an art form, can be objective in certain themes that a filmmaker wants to get across in his/her film, and film-making as a means of political/social revolution has become more and more prevalent during the 21st century. Climate change, Global Warming, racism, police brutality, genocide, war, and corrupt and evil politicians have torn at the very moral fiber of mankind and filmmakers are doing their part in expressing the silent majority’s pain and fear towards these topics. Everyone in the world has a voice yet not everyone has the means or power to express their voice despite having important and relevant things to say. Thus, it is a filmmaker’s job, no, obligation even, to make the snuffed out voices of the world heard. For example, John Carpenter’s 1988 classic, They Live, is a scathing hate letter to the jingoistic and tunnel-vision induced Reagan era of America. Political satire is often done subliminally in film but Carpenter threw that idea out the window. Instead, he introduced a film about an alien race invading Earth disguised as Republicans, and the only way to see them is to put on sunglasses and “see the light.” Gunshots, punches, kicks, and violence are the only way to snuff out the overwhelming threat in the film. It is catharsis for anyone who has felt that the 1% rule the world and everyone else is just conforming/subservient to their reign of ignorance and unfairness. It may not get its message across in the smartest of ways but the sheer bravery and “balls to the wall” nature of the film must be commended on some level. Subtlety is thrown out the window to create a political thriller that is equal parts hilarious and paranoid. What makes the film even scarier is just how relevant it has become in recent months thanks to the ever-shifting landscape of American politics. Our country is now run by an incompetent loon and a cabinet of cronies whom he chose to be by his side for four years of sheer lunacy. John Carpenter himself has even come out and said that They Live is a fitting representation of the America that we are currently living in. The next four years for film making will be interesting, acidic, important, and wholly vital to showing that the moral fiber of our nation is still redeemable.
While no film has yet to be made directly about Trump’s America there is one wholly important film that released in the tail end of 2016 that is in direct contradiction with Trump and what he stands for. That film is Barry Jenkin’s masterpiece, Moonlight. It is tale of a young African American man growing up in poverty with a mother who battles heroin addiction, and the young man himself battles with his own sexuality. It chronicles his life and tribulations through 3 different phases of youth. Moonlight is a film that beautifully humanizes everything Trump has spent the better part of his life dehumanizing, African Americans, poverty, and homosexuality. A quote from The Boston Globe about this very subject, Trump and Moonlight, by Renée Graham: “During his campaign, this was Donald Trump’s pitch to African-American voters: “You’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs.” He never acknowledged the people behind his dour, often made-up statistics about unemployment and crime,reducing black lives to pitiable caricatures. Trump presented African-Americans as so destitute of hope they had nothing to lose by voting for a lying racist endorsed by white supremacists.” (Graham 1). Moonlight puts a beautiful beating heart on the unjust plight of many African Americans in America thus contradicting all the dehumanization and stereotyping he did during his campaign that somehow got him elected. The main character is bullied for his homosexuality in the film and is repeatedly told to stand up for what he believes in, and a through line of this can be seen if you place Trump in the bully’s shoes and the plight of the stereotyped African American that Trump has created in the position of the victim in the bullying situation. Despite being bullied and verbally spit upon the African Americans who, like it or not, are the backbone with which this very nation was (unjustly) built upon, African Americans have always been the first to stand up against tyranny because they are always the first to be shit upon by the white Christian patriarchy. Their resilience in never backing down from what is right and just is inspiring to so many, and Moonlight captures this inspiration in a bottle and creates a visual narrative that triumphs Black culture in all of its beauty whilst also showing the plight which has underpinned African Americans since America was founded upon their callused hands which were in turned stepped on by the white patriarchy to create a nation that is always trying to put them at a disadvantage. That is why it is so scary to see America seemingly do a 180 degree turn on everyone with Trump being elected after 8 years of an African American president who never gave up despite the constant vitriol was unjustly cast at him. Moonlight is the antithesis of Trump’s America and that is why it is so important, so beautiful, and will remain relevant while true Americans continues to stand up against the unjust powers that be.
It is up to the artist to do his/her part in amplifying the voices of those who feel betrayed/unsafe in our nation, and to create inspiring and thought provoking works that will challenge the unfit patriarchy. America is rallying together in protests against Trump and his band of all too powerful idiots, and it is inspiring to see so many people come together for such a just cause. Thus, it is time for the filmmakers and artists of America to create protests of their own through whichever artistic venue in which they reside in. The metaphorical ball is in the filmmaker’s court and I cannot wait to see what political statements are made throughout the next four years of film making, and are in turn hit back into the face of Trump in a valiant home run for the people of the United States of America. Thanks for reading, and even if you do not agree with what is written I hope that you got something of importance out of what you read. And to everyone fighting the good fight and protesting, keep it up. You inspire us all. Resist but do not hate, create but do not destroy.