With the cost of seeing a first-run film now well over $10 a head, it’s reassuring that there are a number of free film programs around. One of these is Santa Monica College’s Political Film Series, which begins its second season this month.
The series is the brainchild of political science professor Alan Buckley and film professor Josh Kanin. Buckley, who holds multiple degrees in political science and international affairs, has taught at SMC since 1989. Kanin, an alumnus of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, worked in the film industry for 25 years while teaching cinema classes in the evenings.
As Buckley says, the Political Film Series came about because “[Josh Kanin] and I share an interest in films and politics. These are two things people like to talk about. So we put it together.”
Season One was, in Buckley’s opinion, “a modest success.” The series changed locations from one semester to the next, and some attendees were not happy with the spring semester location in a small classroom. Fortunately, this semester the series is back in its original venue: Room 145 of the Science building, which more closely resembles a multiplex screening room, with tiered seating.
“We’re still experimenting with different titles,” says Buckley. “Josh likes the more standard Hollywood classics, and I’m more into foreign films and more independent films. It’s always a lot of fun hammering out the schedule.”
Some of the films shown last year included The Candidate with Robert Redford, Hotel Rwanda with Don Cheadle, Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing, Stanley Kubrick’s dark comedy Dr. Strangelove and the recent satire Thank You For Smoking with Aaron Eckhart. Can the latter be considered a political film?
“The thing about Thank You For Smoking is that it’s about lobbying,” says Buckley. “It was an unusual title in the sense that it’s a good example of libertarian comedy. The guy who did it was Christopher Buckley, the son of William F. Buckley. The hero was kind of right-wing libertarian. [But] no matter what you think of the politics, it was still a funny film.”
The new season’s first offering, on September 17, is the 1997 Starship Troopers, which was not well-received when released and which was and is considered a “science fiction” film.
“It is a very funny political satire,” says Buckley. “It probably is more relevant to what’s going on in the United States today than when it was released. The whole thing is about how the State whips up war hysteria – how enemies view their adversaries as bugs.”
Other upcoming titles are Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 911 (October 1); Syriana (October 15); The People vs. Larry Flynt (October 29); All The King’s Men (November 12), the Oscar-winning original; No Man’s Land (November 26), the 2001 film about the Balkans conflict; and American History X (December 10), the 1998 study of an American Nazi. All screenings will be at 6:30 p.m. in Science Room 145 and are free.
Each screening in the Political Film Series is followed by a discussion of the film’s politics, led by Buckley and Kanin.
For more information about the Political Film Series call 310.434.4588 or 310. 434.4098 or go to smc.edu/schedules/2007/fall/events/.