In light of Donald Trump being elected the 45th U.S. President last week, I believe socially progressive cinema has now become all the more vital. If Trump is going to continue pedalling his hateful propaganda on the world’s stage, then filmmakers can use their own medium to communicate to the public the importance of unity amongst people through shared experience.
The image is a powerful thing. A thousand words cannot do it justice. There are just some details that are beyond the power of language, the minutiae only an image can impart. It is one thing to read of an event, and another thing entirely to believe you have just seen it. There is a reason why nobody kicks up a fuss when the latest blockbuster has been adapted into novel form.
Take Quebec filmmaker Denis Villeneuve, whose films seem to be the antithesis of what Trump represents. Villeneuve’s 2010 drama Incendies, which garnered him a great deal of acclaim and international recognition, deals with two siblings attempting to unearth the identities of their father and brother in an unnamed Middle-Eastern country, following the untimely death of their mother who had fled the war-torn country many years before.
The film is all the more relevant today in the wake of the Syrian refugee crisis, as it intimately depicts brutal realities from which the refugees flee. The religious and social differences that bring people to take the lives of others are presented as arbitrary man-made signs, and are thus inherently flawed.
What is arguably more pertinent when discussing Trump, however, is Villeneuve’s 2015 film Sicario, which tackles the issue of the war on drugs at the Mexican border, the same border on which the president-elect would like to erect a wall (and make the Mexican government pay for it…good luck with that!).
Instead of telling a one-sided tale of the American government’s ‘heroic’ war on drugs, the film instead places a degree of insidious culpability upon the actions of the American government. Significantly, there is also a humanising sub-plot depicting a Mexican police officer, who is a drug mule for the cartel, though only by the necessity to provide for his underprivileged family.
Denis Villeneuve preaches tolerance in his films, yet, by means of senseless violence, he does not overlook the nihilistic reality in which we live. While films in general tend to gloss over certain elements of reality, there is more truth to the visual narratives of Villeneuve than there is to the words of Trump. So filmmakers, amateur, independent, and commercial alike, I implore you, the world needs more films like Villeneuve’s to battle the type of ideology that Trump has clearly tapped in the U.S. Let us not be separated by our beliefs, but united by the privilege of our very existence.