Political Film Society - Newsletter #304 - April 1, 2008

April 1, 2008


Stop LossTitles at the end of Stop-Loss inform filmviewers that 81,000 of the 650,000 American soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq have been given “stop-loss” orders. In the movie, squad leader Brandon King (played by Ryan Philippe) receives such an order after 150 combat missions that he thought was the limit of his time served. Directed by Kimberly Peirce, the film has four themes--an ambush in Iraq where three of his buddies die, homecoming to family and friends in a small town in Texas, a depiction of post-traumatic stress and physical injuries acquired by several Iraq vets, and Brandon’s attempt to flee the country. The ambush shows that Brandon had poor judgment in pursuing machinegunners into a trap, accounting for his evident guilt. The homecoming is short but is clearly a façade for the benefit of the homefront. One PTSD victim digs a hole in his front yard to be ready for the enemy with a weapon in his hand, another has become an alcoholic and commits suicide, and others get into brawls. Brandon tours a medical facility to observe severe wounds, including amputees. He has had enough fighting for one lifetime, goes AWOL and even pays someone $1,000 to obtain a fake passport identity with the intention of joining other defectors in Canada. The noir ending caps an anti-war film that has won a Political Film Society nomination for best film raising the consciousness of filmviewers to the tragedy of war. MH

The International Political Science Association has placed a link to the website of the Political Film Society. In so doing, IPSA recognizes the website as one of the 100 top information sources in the world of utility for professional political scientists. The IPSA website is www.ipsaportal.net. Once inside, select Thematic Sites → Thematic Networks → The Political Film Society.


Time’s March 17 issue concludes, “Movies make advocates out of supporters.” As evidence of the impact of films on politics, the article cites the following results from feature films: (1) many film websites with links to social action, (2) 8,000 emails to Congress due to Syriana (2005), (3) engaged couples insisted on seeing certificates of origin of diamonds and de Beers ads extolling conflict-free diamonds after Blood Diamond (2006), (3) a man released from prison because of The Thin Blue Line (1988), (4) box office proceeds of The Kite Runner (2007) used to build 70 rural libraries in Afghanistan, and (5) increased church attendance after The Passion of the Christ (2004). Documentaries, which often speak to those who are already committed to a cause, nevertheless produced the following effects: (1) Super Size Me (2004) inspired McDonalds to add salads and end the Big Mac, (2) An Inconvenient Truth (2006), which has entered school curricula, was screened gratis by an author of California legislation to limit greenhouse gasses, (3) Sicko (2007) prompted at least one HMO to change hospital-discharge rules and Democrats to make universal health care an issue in the 2008 election. In a Time poll, 30% said that a film changed their mind about an issue, almost 20% donated money to a relevant charity, and 10% voted differently.