Introduction

Authored by: Claire Molloy

The Routledge Companion to Cinema and Politics

Print publication date:  June  2016
Online publication date:  July  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415717397
eBook ISBN: 9781315678863
Adobe ISBN: 9781317392460

10.4324/9781315678863.ch11a

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Abstract

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, critical engagement with the concept of propaganda appeared to have waned to the extent that Nicholas J. O’Shaughnessy has described it as, “relegated beyond the marginal to the irrelevant” (2004: 1). Consigned primarily to historical accounts of early Soviet cinema and twentieth century American, British and German wartime activity, propaganda was considered to have little contemporary currency in the face of communications and audience theories that were thought to better describe a more complex and nuanced media environment and its agents. All of this was to change, however, after the September 11 attacks as the ideological stakes were ramped up, and public and academic interest in propaganda reignited. More than a decade later, the ‘power of film’, its practices of manipulation and the potential for mass persuasion have continued to be debated, the discussion accelerated by internet sharing activities and the rise and reach of social media. In the mid-2010s, training and execution videos attributed to IS, controversial videos about the migrant crisis such as With Open Gates: The Forced Collective Suicide of European Nations (2015) or about the geopolitical role of Russia such as I, Russian Occupier (Zhurov, 2015) and a number of recent, high-profile Hollywood films such as American Sniper (Eastwood, 2014), The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (Lawrence, 2014), The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 (Lawrence, 2015), The Interview (Goldberg/Rogen, 2014) and many others, kept the issue of propaganda in sharp focus and in the public consciousness. While much news media coverage has continued to employ the term propaganda in a disparaging sense, academic engagement with the concept of propaganda has sought to revise such narrow definitions and give consideration to its various complexities. The chapters in this part contribute to the expansion of thinking about the topic in relation to film and the associated connections between state and ideology.

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