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All Film is Political.

While the medium of film is still relatively young in the history of the world, there's no doubting just how influential it's been in shaping perceptions. This has been done across the spectrum of entertainment through to propaganda, often straddling the grey area when it comes to peddling strategic undercurrents or even reinforcing views. While it may seem like an antagonistic blanket comment for Costa-Gavras to say all film is essentially political, it's not as far from the truth as you'd think.

"There are politics in all films.
Any film that is anchored in a society,
any film that deals with humanity
is necessarily political."
~ Abbas Kiarostami (Director)

There may be some exceptions to the rule but this concept is worth challenging and investigating. Our own frame of reference speaks to our experience of the world and constitutes many facets: class, culture, gender, language, occupation, race, religion and sexual orientation. The world sees us, perceives us a certain way and our lives are shaped by these empirically-based reactions and responses. Now with talk of avatars and virtual realities, these prejudices may have a less direct impact but to some extent, even your choice of avatar gives a preconceived notion of who you are and what you're about.

All Film is Political

Every Choice has Bearing

If our handwriting and body language gives us away, it's safe to say that almost every choice we make has some kind of real-life consequence in shaping the way we're treated. People thrive on information, use it to create order out of chaos and this vein of thinking does lead to generalisations, grouping and labels in an attempt to disarm uncertainty or potential threats. As individuals living within a multi-faceted society, there's a constant flow of social currency to retain control whether on a personal or governmental level.

Whatever these notions, they have a bearing on us as people and how we in turn view others. From this unique frame of reference, we try to make sense of our situation and the world around us. Ironically, some of the social conditioning is so entrenched, we uphold and perpetuate some of the very things we abhor upon others. It's a tragic state of affairs when a damaging cycle, misconception or self-delusion is passed on from one generation to the next - even within the same group.

This continual flow of social currency and status means that power dynamics are in a state of flux. One viewpoint is challenged, interrogated and found to be fallible just as quickly as another misconception and stronghold is reinforced. Riding these troughs and crescents, it's easy for them to be harnessed in a bid to win or undermine favour for a certain viewpoint depending on your sphere of influence and the size of your loudspeaker. This constant give and take is about power - a mercurial thing that typically seeks to disenfranchise the other in an attempt to gain more to self-perpetuate.

A Fixed Perspective

The idea of cinema is starting to open to virtual realities where there's no fixed perspective. However, as it stands - the frame is essentially wielded by a screenwriter and/or director, whose vision spills into many of the choices surrounding the art of building a society or world. This means that whoever's in charge of filling that frame, decides what you see, what order you see it in, how you see it and how the story ends. This all-powerful decision-making gives auteurs god-mode power, telling stories that often leverage emotion to persuade you into living through a storyteller or ultimately character's world.

Immersing audiences into a character's situation, presents a detailed illusion, each frame representing a myriad of choices that can be boiled down to reflect political ideology. The concepts used to box people tell stories, creating meaning from representation of characters, their environments and what power they too control within their realm. Often leaning into conflict and contrast to create drama or comedy, these story elements and juxtapositions constitute power dynamics - politics.

Political Time Capsules

It's easier to see the social currency at play when you think of films as time capsules. Tending to reflect the mainstream view of the day to have the broadest appeal, their missteps are easily identified in contrast with the political landscape of the day. Think of how badly some films have aged, openly racist in their day but somehow screened at the White House as in the case of Birth of the Nation or regarded as classics as with Breakfast at Tiffany's. Even the adored Bond film series has its missteps with their treatment of women over the years moving from pure objectification to open abuse.

Serving as a representation of the ideal male, this political messaging has done untold harm by glorifying Bond, his lifestyle and his actions. Testament to his power are the massive advertising deals that are still brokered to influence consumer spending choices around alcohol, cars and watches. Sometimes these systems are self-reflective in channeling what's purely being permitted in society and in more manipulative situations, the messaging is there to redress perceptions or drive values.

Believe Everything You See?

This is what makes film so powerful and why there's a curious tension when it comes to the ethics of creating a film that purports to be an authentic representation of the past. History can be rewritten but it's so much easier to get masses to watch than to read. While its generally understood that a fictionalised account of a true story will be played up for dramatic effect, there's no disambiguation or fact check to say what can be accepted as true and what was simply made up. Documentaries are also created via frameworks and are prone to personal bias, in spite of having a closer affiliation to the truth. So it's more important than ever for audiences to refine their filters and check multiple sources in getting closer to the truth.

Powerful Media Platforms

Bones and All star Timothée Chalamet recently said, "I think it’s hard to be alive now. I think societal collapse is in the air." It's clear that having a mass media distribution channel that can be targeted as effectively as platforms like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook does present certain well-documented risks. Encouraging addictive behaviour and monitoring every click, these predictive patterns can lead to comfortable echo chambers not built to withstand robust debate, difference of opinion or create a climate of tolerance. This self-reinforcing power is amplified when they reach readers or viewers who don't have the skills or tools to disarm subversive information or distinguish credible sources.

While streaming services like Netflix are creating new business in the entertainment world, their database of subscribers and original productions have become a powerful vehicle to push agendas and messaging. Whether this is for the betterment of society or not, they hold a strong degree of political power with audience profiles and the ability to sway sentiment by way of entertainment content. Even serving up what the audience wants by essentially checking boxes may not necessarily be in the best interests of gearing a society towards positive change.

So, even in the case of a popcorn movie like Red Notice, a crime comedy caper starring Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot that's as light and buttery as it gets... there are still political constructs and messages at play with possible side effects as an echo chamber. Take any film you like... and if you start to deconstruct it, you'll find political intrigue. Whether it's serving as a low-level commentary on the family nucleus, the justice system, age, gender roles or freedom - there's bound to be something to challenge or reinforce certain political views.