Incisive Political Films to Watch on the New FilmStruck Streaming Service

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We’re quickly approaching election day on November 8. Next week will be a doozy, to put it mildly. We’ve been devouring FilmStruck’s offerings, the new streaming service from TCM and Criterion — which, it turns out, has a great selection of political films for your viewing pleasure and education. Take a break from the infuriating headlines about our 2016 presidential race and dive into these contemporary and classic films.

Powwow Highway

Not much has changed since this film was released in 1989. Equal parts drama, comedy, and “meditation on the way American Indians can understand the land in terms of space, not of time.”

“Buddy Red Bow is struggling, in the face of persecution, by greedy developers and political in-fighting, to keep his nation on a Montana Cheyenne Reservation financially solvent and independent. Philbert, a simple-minded friend of Buddy’s, ardently pursues Native American/First Nation wisdom and lore wherever he can find it–even on Bonanza–in order to earn his warrior name.”

Watch it here

Primary

The primary on the road.

“A pioneering work in the documentary movement that came to be known as cinéma vérité, Primary follows the young charismatic senator from Massachusetts, John F. Kennedy, as he goes head-to-head with established Minnesota senator Hubert Humphrey to win the Wisconsin presidential primary in April 1960.”

Watch it here

God’s Country

A look at what still is.

“In 1979, Louis Malle traveled into the heart of Minnesota to capture the everyday lives of the men and women in a prosperous farming community. Six years later, during Ronald Reagan’s second term, he returned to find drastic economic decline. Free of stereotypes about America’s “heartland” God’s Country, commissioned for American public television, is a stunning work of emotional and political clarity.”

Watch it here

The War Room

Clinton 1.0

“The 1992 presidential election was a triumph not only for Bill Clinton but also for the new breed of strategists who guided him to the White House—and changed the face of politics in the process. For this thrilling, behind-closed-doors account of that campaign, renowned cinema verité filmmakers Chris Hegedus and D. A. Pennebaker captured the brainstorming and bull sessions of Clinton’s crack team of consultants—especially James Carville and George Stephanopoulos, who became media stars in their own right as they injected a savvy, youthful spirit and spontaneity into the process of campaigning.”

Watch it here

A Perfect Candidate

The original “lesser of the two evils” race?

“The 1994 U.S. Senate race in Virginia illustrates the ugliness of politics. In a ‘lesser of two evils’ vote, incumbent and adulterer Chuck Robbs contends with Oliver North–Iran-Contra Oliver North–in a muddy election.”

Watch it here

A Report on the Party and the Guests

What happens to the 1%.

“In Jan Nêmec’s surreal fable, a picnic is rudely transformed into a lesson in political hierarchy when a handful of mysterious authority figures show up. This allegory about oppression and conformity was banned in its home country but became an international success after it premiered at the New York Film Festival.”

Watch it here

Black Panthers

#BlackLivesMatter, 1968.

“Agnès Varda turns her camera on an Oakland demonstration against the imprisonment of activist and Black Panthers cofounder Huey P. Newton. In addition to evincing Varda’s fascination with her adopted surroundings and her empathy, this perceptive short is also a powerful political statement.”

Watch it here

Anytown, USA

A magnifying glass on our political climate.

“A local mayoral election gets down and dirty as mudslinging occurs between the primary candidates. Serving as a microcosm of the larger democratic process in the United States, this documentary film has our vote.”

Watch it here

Tanner ’88 – Episode 10: “The Boiler Room”

The making of a politician . . . who isn’t real.

“In 1988, renegade filmmaker Robert Altman and Pulitzer Prize-winning Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau created a presidential candidate, ran him alongside the other hopefuls during the primary season, and presented their media campaign as a cross between a soap opera and TV news. In this episode, Tanner’s team tries some ‘backroom magic’ in order to secure the Democratic nomination.”

Watch it here

Shame

When only Bergman will do.

“An isolated and politically unaware couple escape from a war ravaged European nation. Their solitude forces them to deal with their inner turmoil, jealousy and anxiety.”

Watch it here