TCS Daily


Where Are the Anti-Communist Movies?

By David Boaz - May 2, 2007 12:00 AM

The new movie The Wind That Shakes the Barley, about the Irish struggle for independence in the early 1920s, has beautiful Irish cinematography and effectively shows us the poverty of Ireland, the commitment of the rebels, the conflicts inevitable in any political movement, and the brutality of the British occupiers. Critics complain it goes overboard on that last point. Michael Gove protested in the Times of London that it portrays the British Black and Tans as "sub-human mercenaries burning thatched cottages, torturing by using pliers to rip out toenails [actually fingernails] and committing extreme violence against women." It's not the first movie to be criticized for making the British out to be more brutal than they actually were. Mel Gibson's The Patriot depicted the British army herding all the residents of a town into a church and then setting it on fire. Never happened, historians say.

But hey, the British Empire committed plenty of crimes over the centuries, so I'm not so upset that the Australian right-winger Mel Gibson and the English left-winger Ken Loach may have overreached on the details. What I'm wondering about is, Where are the films depicting Communist atrocities?

Anti-Nazi movies keep coming out, from Confessions of a Nazi Spy and Hitler, Beast of Berlin in 1939 and on through The Great Dictator, The Mortal Storm, The Diary of Anne Frank, Sophie's Choice, Schindler's List, right up to the current Black Book. And many of these have included searing depictions of Nazi brutality, both physical and psychological.

But where are the anti-communist movies? Oh, sure, there have been some, from early Cold War propaganda films to such artistic achievements as The Red Danube, Ninotchka, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, The Killing Fields, East-West, and Before Night Falls. But considering that National Socialism lasted only 12 years in one country (and those it occupied), and Communism spanned half the globe for 75 years, you'd think there'd be lots more stories to tell about Communist rule.

No atrocities, maybe? Nazis and Brits were vicious, but Communists were just intellectually misguided? Well, that seems implausible. They murdered several times as many people. If screenwriters don't know the stories, they could start with the Black Book of Communism. It could introduce them to such episodes as Stalin's terror-famine in Ukraine, the Gulag, the deportation of the Kulaks, the Katyn Forest massacre, Mao's Cultural Revolution, the Hungarian revolution, Che Guevara's executions in Havana, the flight of the boat people from Vietnam, Pol Pot's mass slaughter—material enough for dozens of movies.

Lloyd Billingsley wrote about the great stories, the great villains, and the great books that might inspire movies about Communism:

"Though of global dimension, the conflict encompasses millions of dramatic personal stories played out on a grand tapestry of history: courageous Solidarity unionists against a Communist military junta; teenagers facing down tanks in the streets of Budapest and Prague; Cuban gays oppressed by a macho-Marxist dictatorship; writers and artists resisting the kitsch of obscurantist materialism; families fleeing brutal persecution, risking their lives to find freedom.

"Furthermore, great villains make for great drama, and communism's central casting department is crowded: Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Hönecker, Ceaucescu, Pol Pot, Col. Mengistu--all of cosmic megalomania--along with their squads of hacks, sycophants, and stooges, foreign and domestic.

"A few English-language films have drawn on this remarkable material, especially book-into-film projects based on highly publicized works, among them One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (a 1971 British-Norwegian production) and, of course, Doctor Zhivago (1965). But many other natural book-to-film projects remain untouched, from the story of Stalin's daughter Svetlana (who left Russia for the West) to works by such high-ranking defectors as Polish Ambassador Romuald Spasowski (The Liberation of One), KGB agent Arkady Schevchenko (Breaking With Moscow), and persecuted Cuban poets Armando Valladares (Against All Hope) and Heberto Padilla (Heroes Are Grazing in My Garden). In light of the most recent revelations concerning the espionage of Alger Hiss, Whittaker Chambers' Witness is another obvious candidate."

Some might say that the Soviet Union is no more, this is ancient history, and we should let bygones be bygones. But Ken Loach's new movie depicts events of the 1920s, and the Nazi regime fell in 1945. The Soviet Union continued until 1991, and communism continues in Cuba, China, and Vietnam. Besides, as the great historian Lord Acton knew, the historian must be a moral judge. The muse of the historian, he thought (in the words of his colleague John Neville Figgis), is not Clio, but Rhadamanthus, the avenger of innocent blood. The victims of communism, and its heroic resisters, deserve to have their stories remembered.

David Boaz is executive vice president of the Cato Institute and author of Libertarianism: A Primer.


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242 Comments

Peculiar timing
This seems an odd article to write at the moment, considering that an obviously "anti-Communist" film, The Lives of Others, won the foreign-language Oscar this year (deservedly so). You'd think that movie would merit a mention in the piece.

timing
You'd also think that people wouldn't read so much all the time about timing. The guys just says there havne't been too many anti-commie films; he doesn't have to mention every last one of them. Anyway 'the Lives', is actually a German film, "Das Leben der Anderen". What he might have mentioned thought is that there are WAY more anti-capitalist films(especially in Hollywood).

Atlas Shrugged
A new movie adapted from the book is supposed to be coming out next summer with Angelina Jolie as Dagny Taggart. I think this could qualify. Although, maybe hollywood will figure out a way to make it pro-communist.

re; Atlas S. and Manchurian Candidate
Good comment by mmkay76, because that's exactly what they did with Manchurian Candidate. It originally was anti-commie, but in the new version (i think 2004) left wing hollywood changed it to anti-big business; typical.

A boring subject
Dietmar, we don't have a film board in this country-- an organ of government that decides what films we need to see and tells the studios which films they should make. In our capitalist system, the film producers decide on their own, and make such films as their audience wants to pay money to see.

Communism is a big downer. No one wants to see movies about communism. Communism, in the minds of most people, is dead.

Maybe if it starred some sexy communist superhero people would come to see it. Otherwise, no. It's kind of "so last century".

Changing the bad guys.
They had to make the heavy corporate industry. Communism is no longer a credible threat. No one would have believed the premise.

Face it. Your guys won. Get over it.

Soft spot for communism
Many in Hollywood were found to be communists in the '50s.
The New York Times published stories denying Stalin was starving millions.

And one wonders why communists are not portrayed as evil?

Maybe it is in the name. Star Trek called them Borg.

Is it any wonder that films that criticize his ideology depress roy?
Why is it that everytime you see someone complaining, your mind automatically fixates on a govt solution?

You are correct that at present we don't have a govt film board. Nobody ever said there was.

In your mind, does conformity only come from governmental coercion?

the far left wing has difficulties criticizing communists.
Who da thunk it?

Art & Politics
Thanks Mr. Boaz, that was great. I recently saw When Night Falls and was moved to tears. Reinaldo Arenas endured so much suffering in his short life, yet, his persistence was mind-boggling. Doubtful that a film such as Dr. Zhivago could win a major award today, yet, in every dimension, Zhivago was a great film.

Here, in Canada, we have a film board, so films like The Corporation and many with political themes masquerading as "art" are produced. A friend of mine mused about why there were so many Canadian musicians well-known in the world but few Canadian films. The music industry isn't regulated like the film industry, and, most of the artists go south anyway.

The history of the left's filmmaking is one that deals with the murder of aesthetics. That's because art is subordinated to the urge to send messages, and not tell stories. So much of filmmaking that is readily consumed is meant to constantly propagandize (An Inconvenient Truth, for example). There's definitely different storytelling in The Poseidon Adventure v. The Day After Tomorrow. Additionally, Michael Moore has larded the genre of documentary with propaganda as well.

This is what art has become - and this is truly sad. Free markets allow and tolerate free expression, not so for politics that tend to have and then keep, obedient followers, which is so typical of the left.

Give us a break
It's a free country. Nobody tells people who make movies what movies to make except for the capitalists who put up the money. You don't like Michael Moore's documentaries? Don't go to see them, but he didn't stage or fake the footage of President Bush frozen reading a kids book as the Trade Tower burned.

>Free markets allow and tolerate free expression, not so for politics that tend to have and then keep, obedient followers, which is so typical of the left.

So why can't you accept the operation of the free markets in the movie industry? Or are you going to come up with a conspiracy theory that says that nobody on the right can come up with money to make a movie? You have an idea for a movie - write a script. Stop whining.

So why is the operation of the free market so scary
No worries about gasoline prices, or outsourcing jobs, or air pollution. That's all being taken care of the by the market. But -- oh dear -- not enough movies with communist villains decades after the Berlin Wall came down, and the rightwing faithful are stamping their tiny feet and crying boo-hoo. Dry your eyes - or why not go try to make a movie of your own that will stick it to those socialists good??

Hiss-Chambers Case film
The pro-Hiss Concealed Enemies came out in 1984: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0087079/

Then came Nixon in 1995: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0113987/ I think you'd better go back and check your facts next time -- before you post.

It's in there
You missed the point, but thanks for your interesting reply.

You're the only one worried
Ridiculing the Hollywood movies for their selection choices, is not the equivalent of worrying.

In eric's world, criticizing something is tantamount to demanding the govt do something about it.
If I think that Walmart should have more varieties of grape soda, in what passes for your mind, is that the equivalent of saying that I believe that capitalism has failed?

eric isn't happy unless he's picking a fight with someone.
...

Either/Or?
Saying that the only enemy that remains after the death of communism is Big Business is sort of a ridiculous statement, don't you think?

I could mention a few people who still don't like us much, like the Islamofascists, the increasingly powerful Chinese communists, a resurgent Russia, etc. All of them are familiar with brainwashing techniques, and have used them in the past.

The remake of the Manchurian Candidate took a story that was fundamentally anti-totalitarian, and turned it in to an anti-Halliburton screed. It was a disgrace, and its box office returns reflect that.

A movie that tells the story of people who lived under communism would do well, if it told the truth. Lefties in Hollywood won't make it, but maybe some independent filmmaker could.

What are you criticizing??
You're not saying that Warners hasn't made enough anti-communist movies; You're saying the industry - about as unregulated as industries get, regarding content at least - hasn't made enough. The industry doesn't exist to create political statements, it exists to make money. Again, your way is open: raise some money, get a script, make the movie, and make money. if not, what's your gripe?

What free market in filmmaking?
The people who own most of the studios are lefties. The people who write, produce, direct and star in most of the movies are lefties. The crew is composed of Teamsters. The publicists are mostly Manhattan libs. The people who hand out awards are the same lefties who did all of the above. The entertainment correspondents who review the garbage Hollywood puts out are almost all lefties as well.

Hollywood is an unofficial Board of Film. Because the only point of view that is tolerated is the lefty point of view, nothing else gets made, unless it is by accident.

This is changing, for three different reasons:

1)The internet facilitates distribution of smaller films, and avoids the necessity of going through the big studios to get anything sold.

2) People like Mel Gibson and Clint Eastwood score successes with independent movies like the Passion of the Christ and Flags of our Fathers (not a big success, but big enough to turn heads.) Success attracts dollars.

3) Superhero movies tend to have to be patriotic and in favor of truth, justice, and the American Way (even if they refuse to say so.) Since every other movie these days is based on a comic book, this means we are seeing a lot more patriotism.

Hollywood will continue to fail, and other institutions will rise to take its place. Once more conservative movies becomes available, we can bury Hollywood in a shallow grave and move forward.

I'm not the one whining; you are.
Again: you don't like the films, go out & make your own.

And perhaps you don't know where the director of Titanic was born.
Canadian filmmakers aren't required to only work Canada.
Maybe some of these names are familiar to you. Every nationality can furnish a similar list.

Cameron, James: Director. "True Lies", "The Terminator", "Aliens", "Titanic"
Cronenberg, David: Director, Writer. "The Fly", "Dead Ringers", "Naked Lunch", "M. Butterfly"
Dmytryk, Edward: Director. "Crossfire" (AAN), "The Sniper", "The Caine Munity", "Murder, My Sweet"
Dunning, George: Animator, Director. "Yellow Submarine"
Egoyan, Atom: Director. "Exotica", "The Adjuster", "The Sweet Hereafter"
Hiller, Arthur: Director. "The Americanization of Emily", "Love Story".
Jewison, Norman: Director. "Fiddler on the Roof", "Jesus Christ Superstar", "Agnes of God", "The Cincinnati Kid".

Sure, 20th Century Fox, run by liberals, out to propagandize
Perhaps you've heard of 20th Century Fox, the same ownership as Fox News. Do you really think that Fox is dominated by liberals aiming to brainwash the country?

Hollywood is the most competitive place on the planet, with everyone only as good as their last movie, and the movies are not judged by their politics but by how much money they make.

>Hollywood will continue to fail, and other institutions will rise to take its place. Once more conservative movies becomes available, we can bury Hollywood in a shallow grave and move forward.

And the Easter Bunny will bring you good things.

Speaking of picking fights, do you have anything to say on topic?
Some facts? Some insights? A website that will contribute to the discussion??

You're right again
however........it was mentioned that many Canadian filmmakers go "south".

Now here's a line for you - from a film about bad capitalists in the fashion industry who corrupt young, innocent people and cause all sorts of problems in the lives of those young people who are really morally superior than capitalists - from the character Miranda, with the same tone of voice, eye expression and hand motions whle turning the chair away - "that's all."

No happy ending.
I'm sure political ideology is a factor in this matter but consider the hardship in giving these stories a hollywood happy ending. As horrific as Schindler's List was, it ended with the camps being liberated, the ***** being hanged and an introduction to the living survivors. Also, we can take pride as Americans for what we did to stop the *****. How does a director put a hopeful spin on the end of a story taking place in the Gulag in 1961? Where can you find a happy ending in the communist world? And, to return to ideology, you'll be hard pressed to find a director willing to celebrate American anti-communist efforts.

If you don't like the way Wal-Mart does business, go out and start your own.
In eric's world, you have no right to complain about anything, unless you are willing to go into business for yourself.

Just pointing out how juvenile you tend to be
...

I haven't said anything about what kind of movies people should make
your projecting again

as usual, eric can't deal with facts
he can't get beyond labels.

It must be conservative, it's associated with Fox.

Not that Fox is conservative, except when compared to far left fruitcakes like eric.

For the record,
Fox News is not "right wing", not "Conservative", it is only less liberal than CNN. I might even give you that it is close the middle of the road, and is just a slight bit to the "left" of the center divide.

The major movie studios wont criticize their own view point.
One of the major reasons, is simply that the studios are mostly run and owned buy very liberal people, with very socialist views. As socialism is the foundation of communism, I would hardly expect Hollywood to spend lots of time or money criticizing themselves, nor to give awards, or face time to a film that did just that.

And your alternative is what besides whining?
Please share what you think should be done about the alleged shortage of films about communism other than deplore.

Again, what facts on the issue do you want to offer?
Or maybe you can tell us about your special knowledge of the film industry.

The devil wore Prada very well
And you wound up admiring the 'evil capitalist,' though the young protagonist decided to take her life in another direction. Maybe it was too three-dimensional to fit into cozy categories; was that a fault in your view?

Then what's your beef?
Why are you making noise if you don't have an issue. If you do have an issue, what is it, besides express dislike for me?

So: Publius labels the whole film industry as "lefties,"
And I point out that Fox is hardly run by lefties. But I'm the one who "can't deal with facts" I'm he one who "can't get beyond labels."

As for your pathetic attempts at insults - you're as bad at namecalling as you are at thinking.

For the record
Your ideas about Fox News being leftist are shared by perhaps 5 percent of the population. But dream on.

How much time do you spend criticizing your point of view?
You come on, spout party-line ultraright talk radio rhetoric, without a particle of backup, but it's everyone else who's wrong.

Regarding the studios, hey aren't government agencies or political parties, they are businesses, owned by people who have to sell their product every day of the year. You don't like their product? Don't buy it. But if Warners is "sociaiist," then so is Sears or GM or Boeing.

I criticize my point of view daily.
A point of view is worthless without being questioned, or exposed to the "acid of doubt" to use a phrase from Descartes.

I am not spouting ultra-right wing rhetoric, I made a truthful statement. I am not a puppet regurgitating some windbags daily rant. I am making a statement of fact. Hollywood IS liberal, Hollywood IS socialist, and they wont criticize themselves.

Aside from those facts, I am sure that part of the reason is that not to many people would be particularly interested in seeing a movie on the downfalls of socialism and communism, talk about obvious and boring.

What are you talking about??
Hollywood criticizes itself all the time. There's a whole genre of films biting it. And TV shows: Larry Sanders. Entourage. Larry David. You want someone to criticize from your ultraright ("Fox news leftist") point of view. Fine: go pitch the show.

>Aside from those facts, I am sure that part of the reason is that not to many people would be particularly interested in seeing a movie on the downfalls of socialism and communism, talk about obvious and boring.

Then what's your beef?

No Subject
First, at no point did I ever say Hollywood didn't criticize itself.

Second, This discussion is referring to FILMS not television shows, and those television shows you mentioned, while funny, and entertaining, are for humor.

Third, My response to you was in saying yes I do question my view points, daily. A point of view, or a belief is worthless if it is not gained through careful thought, contemplation, research, and personal reflection. A point of view has to be questioned and defended to be worth keeping.

Finally,I will make my points again, maybe I was not clear the first time.

1. "Hollywood" is primarily socialist.
2. When making movies, they tend not to want to use governments which reflect their personal belief system, SOCIALIST, and COMMUNIST as the villain. Nor are they particularly interested in making movies like "Schindlers List" but which instead detail the Horrors Mao, Stalin, Lenin, Castro, Pol Pot, etc. committed.

Post 9/11 bad guys
After 9/11/01, many films have studiously avoided using Muslim terrorists as bad guys. Even when a major bestselling book included Iranian 'terrorists' detonating a nuclear weapon at a Super Bowl in Denver.

Prior to 9/11/01 there were movies with Arab terrorist bad guys. (One I liked was "Wanted Dead or Alive").

There was also Black Sunday.

the killing fields

The word "Communist" was never uttered in the so-called anti-communist movie, "The Killing Fields".

No sense
You saying something is very entertaining but really doesn't carry much weight without backup, particularly when you're on the record as saying Fox News is center left.

specifically:
>1. "Hollywood" is primarily socialist.
Really. So films typically call for the takeover of private property by the state. Maybe you're thinking of the Devil Wears Prada?

>2. When making movies, they tend not to want to use governments which reflect their personal belief system, SOCIALIST, and COMMUNIST as the villain
Again, you really think that companies like Sony, Warners, Universal, etc. are SOCIALIST and COMMUNIST? On what planet is this. Or is the idea that capitalizing the word Socialist makes it truer.

Also: two words: "The Killing Fields." And regarding Castro - what particular horrors are you talking about that should be dramatized? Asking for Elian Gonzalez?


About the Khmer Rouge
That's what they called themselves, more formally the Party of Democratic Kampuchea. They were kicked out of power by the Communist Vietnamese. What's your issue? The film went easy on them?

About the Khmer Rouge

Yes, that's what these Communists called themselves.
And the North Vietnamese Communists called themselves the National Liberation Front. What does their name have to do with anything?

My point, which I stated clearly in my original post, was that this so-called anticommunist movie didn't even mention the fact that the ultrabrutal Khmer Rouge were Communist to the core.

No Subject
Yes films often call for and promote socialist agenda's. Look into all the different aspects of socialism. Seizure of private property is only one small part.

And When did I ever say a bloody corporation was socialist. I said that "Hollywood" in general regarding the the film industry is socialist. Which it is, period.

Making money, and pushing/promoting your private beliefs and agendas have never been mutually exclusive.

Further more, you continue to claim that I am some fringe 5% right winger. Because of an earlier statement that Fox is not right wing, its merely closer to the middle than the clearly liberal leaning CNN. If you want to label me that, then fine label away. I am sure that labeling me is a convenient way to allow you to disregard the truthfulness of my statements.

I will give you that Fidel does not belong in the same category as Stalin, Lenin, Pol Pot, Mao, etc. He has only killed thousands. Not millions.

Finally, "The Killing Fields" is three words, not two.

The poiint is, you don't have a point
How in the world was it possible for anyone in the audience not to know that they were communist?? What was missing - subtitles pointing to characters saying "a communist?"

Paranoid fantasy
Socialism is government ownership of property. If you want to object to say government regulations, or portrayal of government as other than evil, find another word than "communist" or "socialist,"

>I said that "Hollywood" in general regarding the the film industry is socialist. Which it is, period.

Which it is not, period, by any definition used by anyone not on the ultra-right paranoid fringe.

>Making money, and pushing/promoting your private beliefs and agendas have never been mutually exclusive.

Fine. It's just that the way films make money is capitalism. The people making money from films are capitalist. The films are judged as products on how well they make money, not how well they promote socialism (or Republicanism, for that matter).

>If you want to label me that, then fine label away. I am sure that labeling me is a convenient way to allow you to disregard the truthfulness of my statements.

The only evidence for the truthfulness of your statements is you saying they're true. Sorry.

>I will give you that Fidel does not belong in the same category as Stalin, Lenin, Pol Pot, Mao, etc. He has only killed thousands. Not millions.

So why not compare him to other killers in the Americas? He's way in the back in number of victims, behind people in countries like Guatemala, Salvador, Columbia, Peru and elsewhere.

>Finally, "The Killing Fields" is three words, not two.
got me there. Good movie about communist terror, didn't you think? Have the people who made it been shunned or disgraced in Hollywood?




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