Opinion: Filmmakers’ reaction to political and social conflict may help shape history


Cilley is the founder and chairman of the San Diego Film Consortium and an assistant professor at San Diego City College. She lives in Tijuana. Acosta is a filmmaker and YouTuber. He lives in the college district.

As producers of the San Diego Film Awards, in 2020 we faced an unprecedented challenge: producing a live awards show at a time when the entire event industry was shut down. A global health crisis, sweeping social justice movements and tough economic times have left some of us wondering when – or if – the entertainment industry will fully recover. It quickly became clear to us that the theme of our show had to be one thing: how art responds to disaster.

In early 2021, after months of delay, we knew we had to find a way to adapt or risk being canceled altogether. We have chosen to “go virtual” and film the entire award ceremony at THE LOT in La Jolla. Through a partnership with KPBS, we launched the TV show on May 14th.

The live experience was replaced with an intimate ceremony broadcast directly to the homes of nominees and local moviegoers. The program made the feel of being in a movie theater, something many viewers had been waiting for, and was met with great praise from those who listened to it. Somehow, the production team walked away from the experience with a belt despite the overwhelming challenges.

It quickly became clear to us that the theme of our show had to be one thing: how art responds to disaster.

As history shows us, huge disasters can in fact be really healthy for the entertainment industry. In fact, some of the most significant film movements of the past 100 years were born out of stock market crashes, military conflicts, social justice movements and more. The artist’s reaction to these events often shapes the course of their iconic works of art.

Just 100 years ago, when the film industry was still in its infancy, the world was recovering from World War I and the influenza pandemic of 1918. People needed to escape their daily problems. , and it’s the movies that gave it to them. Public demand for popular entertainment was skyrocketing, and in response, Hollywood – a cultural institution that changed the world forever – emerged.

As films grew in popularity around the world, film movements within local communities began to erupt.

Inspired by the intense experiences of World War I, German filmmakers of the 1920s began to experiment with expressionism on the movie screen. Instead of representing reality, they began to delve into visual aesthetics so powerful and eerie that they still haunt us today. Expressionists constructed impossible sets with high angles, deep shadows, and extreme camera tilt, and the style of films of this era like “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” (1920) and “Metropolis” (1927) resonate today. ‘hui in the work of directors such as Ridley Scott and Tim Burton.

Two decades later, in the aftermath of World War II, Italian neorealist directors had to produce films of a country in ruins. With their cities and studios destroyed and their economy in deep recession, these mostly veteran directors have radically changed their approach to cinema, filming in the streets, bringing in non-professional actors and telling unfiltered stories of filmmaking. real people in the post-war years. Italy. This put Italian filmmakers on the map, making them known for their true guerrilla cinema, and their films inspired one of the greatest cinematic movements of all time: the French New Wave.

American cinema had been banned in France during the Nazi occupation, and at the end of the war, these films flooded French cinemas. From this, a new generation of French filmmakers, many of whom are film critics, rejected what they saw as unimaginative films produced in France at the time. Their response was to make often low-budget films that portray imperfect characters, tell extremely personal stories, and have unhappy or ironic endings. Arguably their greatest contribution was the concept of the director as an author, the idea that the director was the artist whose vision came to life.

There is an active ecosystem in this world of cinematic movements where one movement will influence another which, in turn, will influence the original. It is not only Western cinema that responds to these events.

Iconic and influential films, filmmakers and cinematic movements have emerged from political and social conflicts around the world. Akira Kurosawa, the creator of the entire action film genre, was born out of the American occupation of Japan. Arab filmmakers of postcolonial times have given birth to films that shed light on a spectrum of conflict. And colonialism across South America and Africa led to the Third Cinema, a popular film movement in the 1960s and 1970s that gave a voice to the oppressed and called worldwide attention to the struggles that were happening across continents.

Out of the dark often comes an incredible movie. Creativity survives, and in fact, thrives in the face of adversity. After struggling to come out of a daunting time, many of us find it hard to remember the last time we sat in a movie theater.

As San Diego’s film and arts community emerges and then recovers, we can look to the future with hope, if we look to the past for inspiration.


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