Group D – Cinema as a powerful tool

“No wonder political documentaries are on the rise – the truth is more gripping than fiction.” This quotation comes from Guardian journalist Rebecca Nicholson, from her article You can handle the truth: why political documentaries are storming the screens. In our opinion, this statement summarises how popular documentaries are becoming due to the slight decline in engaging and unique narratives in modern feature films. With streaming sites such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, documentaries that comment on society and political issues are incredible accessible, more so than they have been before. Equally so is the ability to make a film about a particular social or political conflict or change. We are living in a participatory culture when anyone with a smart phone has the ability to share an opinion or a fact. In the current tempestuous political climate, it is more important than ever to use film to inform others of particular issues, as it is a rapid, efficient, and informative way to do so

Uneducated or simply disinterested; film has long been used as a way of educating and engaging the politically ignorant people in society. Film is not only entertainment, but a way of reaching out to millions of people and presenting a political agenda no matter how obvious or discreet. Politics in film is not used in such a style that product placement is presented, it instead stems, more often than not, from the director or screenwriters firm political ideologies and their determination to transform that vision into a visual work of art that would be deemed worthy of someones time. Although from studying the, what feels like ancient, work of Sergei Eisenstein, today, we feel that representation of politics in cinema is more prominent than ever. More people are likely to go to the cinema than watch question time, and that’s a fact. Cinema is also a way of targeting the youth, before they even develop an interest for politics. We feel that politics in cinema today is usually aimed towards a working class audience, or aimed towards working class ideologies. Filmmakers such as Danny Boyle, Guy Richie and Ken Loach have made no effort in concealing their working class backgrounds, and this can be seen, perhaps, most prominently in the work of Ken Loach. I, Daniel Blake (2016) by Ken Loach is a key tool for representing the lower income earners and those that feel cheated and unfairly treated in todays society and the way it is run. This film highlights the main protagonist, Daniel, and the struggle he has to go through as he is discarded by the British authorities who block his benefits and force him to work for a living despite his serious heart problems. The film received a mixed reception with some stating that the poverty depicted was unrealistic and exaggerated, but it also received a contrasting view from people living with the same problems as the protagonist who stated it was none other than accurate and difficult to watch due to how relatable it was. The film caused an upset in the conservative party with MP Tim Laughton tweeting: “the usual predictable drivel from Ken Loach in his own La La Land” when referring to to Ken Loach’s acceptance speech for Outstanding British film at the BAFTAs 2017, who clearly believed that the film did a disservice to the conservative run system within the UK that Ken Loach was so evidently trying to expose. Whether this film is entirely accurate or not is unfair to say, however there is no denying that this picture sparked a lot of political debate over the treatment of the working class, who are depicted in a way not so unfamiliar to how they are characterised in Eisenstein’s films. This makes it a key example of how film can engage, educate, and most importantly, possibly influence a persons decision or opinion over a political matter that they might otherwise have no affection for.

One thought on “Group D – Cinema as a powerful tool


    The use of the quotation to kick start the post works really well here, focusing the discussion. The group make a good point about how streaming services make documentary more accessible than ever before, and there is some smart translation of workshop discussion here around audiences as filmmakers and participatory culture.
    I’m not totally convinced about the idea that documentaries are popular because films are getting worse right now, however – does one thing have to decline for another to rise in popularity? How would we evidence this claim?
    The second paragraph is a bit less focused / clear than the first, and its opening statements are a little tangled. This gets stronger where the group move to I, Daniel Blake as a case study. There are some really interesting examples here of how the film was received and the debates it sparked. Could this have been linked up to the opening statements about participatory culture? Beyond its ‘official’ critical reception, it might be worth thinking about how the film was picked up / used by audiences, or through social media.
    Overall, therefore, some good original ideas – but the post as a whole needs to cohere a bit more strongly, and the group need to avoid some more generalising claims.
    Peer review comments for GROUP D

    • ‘Good structure and writing style’
    • ‘The use of example and opinions’

    • ‘Feels unfinished  round off with a conclusion’
    • ‘Contrast with historical examples’

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