Bertolt Brecht said “the worst illiterate is the political illiterate”. Something like this might also apply to those who shy away from political films – “Oh no, I don’t want to see that, it’s about politics!” But political films come in all shapes and sizes and provide many of us with perhaps our only views of how things work in society, reminding us, as Brecht also said, that “the cost of living, the price of beans, of our, of rent, of medicines all depend on political decisions.” Here is Peter Wix with a brief selection of films to explore (more on the A&M web site at

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The Man in the White Suit

Alexander Mackendrick (1951)

A satire so brilliantly tailored and confected that it exposes the tricky weave of the social fabric under capitalism while exploiting the work of Alec Guinness at the height of his sublime quality and width. An altruistic chemist discovers a cloth that neither soils nor tears, which is not such good news for either bosses or trade unions, which conspire to kill off the invention and its naive inventor. It’s a fun chance to learn just how the captains and corporals of industry work together to maintain wage slavery. Where is the spirit of Ealing when you need it?       9/10

Punishment Park

Peter Watkins (1971)

A rather bizarre application of cinema verité to political discourse by Peter Watkins, whose chilling 1966 BBC film The War Game was banned for 20 years, and whose skill with shock images was turned to this Running Man scenario, revealing the violence that lies behind rule of law by imagining its use in a quasi- Roman capital punishment game. Here, a US administration punishes dissidents by making them run across desert to an impossibly distant finish line while pursued by armed cops who need only the slightest excuse not to take prisoners. The past nightmares of 60s hippies or the future of the Occupy movement when the Tea Party takes over?    7/10

Salt of the Earth

Herbert J.Biberman (1954)

We remember the miners’ strike, but not this one in the zinc pits of New Mexico. Directed by the Hollywood Ten’s Herbert Biberman, it was buried by US distributors fearful of being un- American (i.e. Communist). Nicely acted by volunteers, it is full of tense and genuinely moving moments, all within an intelligent screenplay that makes us see a little of the complexity of the issues facing unionists and bosses. Never dull, often didactic, this is one of the great lost movies of American cinema. It should be recovered and put on general release.    9/10


Lars Von Trier (1991)

A noir, intriguingly original, dream- like musing on the reshaping of Europe at the bitter end of WWII, with Dietrich, Godard’s Alphaville and Tarkovsky all spun in to an original and disarmingly deep piece of cinema full of challenging political observations. It’s beautiful to watch and worth going back a few times just for the dialogue. The music is great, too.     9./10

Buongiorno, Notte

Marco Belloccio (2003)

Despite the moral nudging towards a Catholic fudge on the issue, Bellochio’s film attempts to explore issues of conscience pertaining to the Red Brigades’ 1978 kidnapping and killing of the former Italian Prime Minister, Aldo Moro. While Maya Sansa holds our attention as the most ‘human’ member of the group, her male colleagues are unconvincingly portrayed as Spartist types. Technically well managed, this gets us into a physical space but not into minds.    5/10

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