FILM - The director as dictator

Cinematic propaganda is in the eye of the beholder.

The term ‘propaganda’ in the Anglo- Saxon world has a strongly negative connotation, especially in modern times. It is the biased and lying communication of enemies, like Cold War “Russian propaganda.” Obviously, there is a point of view problem here.

If one talks in particular about movies and propaganda, many cinephiles will invoke the name of Leni Riefenstahl, the legendary German director whose Triumph of the Will of 1935, about a Nazi party rally in Nuremberg the year before, was meant to celebrate and further consolidate the Nazi regime - and was also a triumph of filmmaking technique, giving it a unique place in cinema history as a work that is “great but evil,” as the late US critic Roger Ebert put it in a review. He then went on in his piece to try to provide a corrective to the view that it is an instance of great filmmaking at all.

Wanting to play the devil’s advocate, it could also be argued that every good film ever made is a form of propaganda, since the term can be loosely defined as “material used to promote a particular point of view, often of a biased or subjective nature.”

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