After my last post, I found myself thinking: If you were going to stage a film festival for North Korea (or some other country that has been under totalitarian rule with virtually no access to the outside world), what movies would you screen for them and why?
Here's my short list:
- The Wizard of Oz. Not just because it's a musical, or a fantasy, or a cheery look at life (L. Frank Baum is long overdue for a cultural revival, especially since all his work is in the public domain at this point), but because it's a movie that most anyone from any culture can plug into in some fashion.
- Ikiru. The unexamined life is not worth living, and this movie has for me long been one of the best embodiments of that. This is how to examine your life, and this is how to live it. It also contains, not incidentally, a very sly attack on the soul-deadening bureaucracies that are just as wretched in democratic states as they are in authoritarian ones.
- To Kill a Mockingbird. For moral courage, and also for the sake of being a wonderfully-told story.
- 12 Angry Men. Justice in a democratic society: difficult, messy, emotionally fraught, problematic, imperfect, and I'm not sure I'd want it any other way.
- The Grapes of Wrath. Hard times made human.
- Pan's Labyrinth. If only children have decency in the face of evil ...
- Modern Times. My favorite Chaplin, and one that remains endlessly relevant to people in just about any society.
- The 400 Blows. Youthful rebellion may well be the same everywhere.
I'd to include at least one animated production, and I'm leaning towards one of the Miyazaki films by default. But failing that, I could include something like Beauty and the Beast — one of the better Disney productions on all levels.