Lights, Camera, Censorship

Censorship and Propaganda in Film

“Olympia”

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COPYRIGHT © UNITED STATES HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL MUSEUM, WASHINGTON, D.C.

The 1930’s  film “Olympia” is an artfully shot film full of fantastic imagery, beautiful scenery and propaganda… Yes, propaganda.

The movie is set at the Olympic games in Germany prior to the Second World War. The film opens with images of ancient Greek athletes statues as they  participate in their chosen sport. These “first generation Olympians” are revered as superior athletes of both body and mind. As the film’s opening scenes progresses we see the statues of these ancient athletes transform into living statues of the German athletes of the 1936 Olympic games. While these images are romantic in a sense they are also widely propagandistic images. The imagery in the early portions of this film lead viewers to see the German athletes as superior and perhaps almost of the status equivalent of a Greek god  rather than simply the status of a simple athlete.

As the film progresses the propaganda of the superiority of Germany and its athletes does not stop with the opening sequences. As the opening ceremonies to the 1936 Olympics begin we see numerous countries saluting Hitler while other countries [the USA] do not.

To me, it is clear to see the governmental undertones within the opening ceremony sequence early in the film.

This film was created by a writer who was close to Adolf Hitler and the film almost reveals foreshadowing of things to come in that part of the world. It deems German people as superior to all others and  hides many of the things that were taking place behind the scenes in Nazi Germany during the 1936 Olympic Games.

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Written by julianarobbins2011

May 16, 2010 at 10:55 pm

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“The Battleship Potemkin”

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When it comes to propaganda in film some propaganda is subtle with hints of underlying messages while some is so in your face it makes you feel as though propaganda was actually the theme of the film.
The Battleship Potemkin certainly would not have won the award for Inspirational film of the Year it might have instead won the award for most propaganda of the year. This film is indeed a key example of governments and political groups using motion pictures to affect the public’s opinion of an issue.
In this film we see sailors who are forced to eat what appears to be rotten meat while their superiors look on. As the sailors stand up for themselves problems arise upon the ship and a brawl breaks out on deck. While this seems to be a harmless story as the film continues to unfold the public’s opinion slowly sides with the sailors. Following the death on a sailor as a result on the brawl aboard the battleship sailors deliver his body to the dock of a small town which then causes the anger toward the superiors to grow on land as it builds on sea. As the anger grows on the land the film produces one of the most painful scenes for the viewer, that of the massacre of many innocent civilians by the superiors who are ruling the land. This series of scenes shows women, children, cripples, and many innocent victims maliciously murdered and their bodies trampled upon as the film draws to a close.
The Battleship Potemkin does what propaganda does best, targets the viewer’s emotions causing the viewer to sympathize with the chosen cause, in this case the sailor. Is this is appropriate or not? That decision is left up to the viewer to decide.

Written by julianarobbins2011

May 16, 2010 at 10:22 pm

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“This Film Not Yet Rated”

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“To censor or not to censor?” This seems to be the question that film makers, film critics, and film goers have been asking since the beginning of motion pictures.

After the Production Code was dispanned there was still a huge need for some form of regulation within the motion picture industry. The Motion Picture Association of America stepped forward and took on the responsibility of regulating films. However rather than branding a film as “good” or “bad” the MPAA developed a rating system. The rating system was developed in 1968 and has undergone some minor changes since then.

The ratings currently used by the MPAA include:

  • Rated G: General Audiences – all ages are admitted
  • Rated PG: Parental Guidance Suggested – some material may not be suitable for children
  • Rated PG-13:  Parents Strongly Cautioned- some material may be inappropriate for children under 13
  • Rated R: Restricted- Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
  • Rated NC-17: No-children under 17 admitted.

These ratings have become part of our culture and our daily lives. But who decides upon these ratings? The cheeky film titled “This Film Not Yet Rated” addresses this question any many more.

According to the MPAA’s Website it is a small group of parents who rate these films. “Ratings are assigned by an independent Board of parents with no past affiliation to the movie business. Their job is to rate each film as they believe a majority of American parents would rate it, considering relevant themes and content.”

However, this film seeks to answer some of the questions left unanswered by the MPAA and the secret board of “parents with no past affiliation to the movie business.” The film reveals who some of the parents are on this board as well as the system they use when rating movies submitted to the MPAA.

As an American who was raised with the MPAA rating system I had never questioned the ratings or where they came from. I have always trusted the system and trusted the ratings. However “This Film Not Yet Rated” gave me some perspective of the MPAA rating system.

When the movie revealed who some of the raters are and their family backgrounds I began to wonder just how reliable the board is when it comes to rating movies. According to the MPAA the independent board consists of parents with school aged children however the film revealed otherwise. This caused me to question the reasoning for the MPAA to keep the rating board so secretive and I have also began to wonder why the MPAA will not allow filmmakers to know why a film receives the rating it receives.

There is a need for rating in the film industry in America in order for parents to better protect their children from inappropriate materials however “This Film Not Yet Rated” revealed some of the flaws found within the MPAA’s rating system.


Written by julianarobbins2011

April 25, 2010 at 10:56 pm

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A Review “The Public Enemy”

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The 1930’s film “The Public Enemy” presents the audience with a violent and realistic look into a gangster’s life during that era. While most of the violence takes place off-screen this film offers realistic, and at times disturbing, look into the life of a gangster. Because the film was released prior to the strict enforcement of the Production Code it pushes many the boundaries that traditional films during this era had not attempted to challenge. It was perhaps this reason that following “The Public Enemy” Hollywood began stricter enforcement of the production code and began doing a better job of censoring films in order to keep crimes and sex off the screens of drive-ins all across America in order to avoid the demoralization of the American public.

“The Public Enemy” closely examines the forces and roots of crimes and criminals in a very serious way. We see the lead character as a mischievous boy in the beginning of the film who has an abusive and harsh father. We see Tom as he fights to keep his “tough guy” attitude as he is punished by his father and later as he begins to turn to stealing and other serious crimes as an adult. The film implies that Tom’s environment contributes to his criminal lifestyle as an adult. I believe this film presents a very interesting idea that many times criminals are merely a product of their environment.

The movie does not try to make excuses for the criminal behavior of the main characters nor does it justify their sins as in the end of the film we see that there is no good outcome that may come of this and Tom is inevitably cruelly killed in the final scenes of the movie.

I think the writers were not trying to shock the American public with images of shootings, theft and death but they were rather trying to make Americans aware of the happenings around them during this time. The film actually offers a disclaimer following the opening credits saying the “ambition of the authors of ‘The Public Enemy’” was to “depict an environment that exist today in certain strata of American life, rather than glorify the hoodlum or the criminal.” I think that is exactly what this film accomplishes. “The Public Enemy” addresses the problems of crimes and criminal rings within the United States and made it clear that no good could come of someone who chose to take part in such behavior.

Written by julianarobbins2011

March 7, 2010 at 5:16 pm

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Baby Face

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In the 1930’s movie Baby Face we see many instances of what was considered questionable behavior during this time. This movie has become known as “A classic pre-code Hollywood movie” because of the many sexual instances and crimes found in this movie.

The main character, Lily Powers, plays what is known as “The fallen woman” because she often uses sex to get ahead. This is perhaps the reason the film was so greatly criticized during this time. Sexual innuendos and sin were often censored and cut out of movies. Scenes containing sexual references and other sins were only allowed to remain in the film as long as they did not go unpunished however within this film such actions seem to go unpunished. Lily uses sex to climb the ladder of success, sleeping with men to get what she wants then throws them aside. While we do not see any explicit sex scenes in the movie even the reference of sexual activities were frowned upon during this era.

In my opinion, Lily’s sins do not go unpunished in the end. Lily, who is a hardened individual who was seemingly incapable of love, finally began to soften and fell in love with a man whom she was using. However as a result of Lily’s many sins she loses the one person she learned to love, I believe this was the movie maker’s subliminal way of making this movie “appropriate” and compensating the values.

Much of the criticism of this movie was perhaps based on the use of sex and crime within this movie however one aspect I found most interesting was the idea of feminism. This film was made during the time many women were seeking equal rights, Baby Face presents many underlying themes of a woman’s role in the workplace and I believe it also presented American women that the best way they could get what they wanted was by using sex. I think this is, perhaps, an interesting example of propaganda within film. I personally think that many movies Hollywood has produced throughout the years have contained schemes and ideas that influence the opinion of the viewers.

Overall I think Baby Face was a monumental movie because it pushed the limits from almost every angle and mostly remained uncensored.

Written by julianarobbins2011

February 28, 2010 at 8:59 pm

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