In This Chapter


Authored by: Philip Drake

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


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Film has since its beginnings been political, and the emergence of film and cinema studies can itself be understood as a political project, legitimating film as worthy of scholarship. In arguing that film – both as a technology and cultural form central to the project of modernity – needed to be understood not just in terms of aesthetics but through its articulation with politics and ideology, academic research placed questions of power, identification, and representation at the center of the discipline. Over a century has passed since the release of D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation (1915) – still one of the most controversial films ever made – and the centrality of film to the twentieth century produced early studies such as those by Herbert Blumer and the Payne Fund Studies in the 1930s exploring movies and social conduct, and the culture industry critiques of the Frankfurt School. It also provoked the use of propaganda films during the World Wars, led to the production of films in the 1950s and 1960s that powerfully documented the post-colonial experience across Africa and Latin America, and consolidated the economic and symbolic power of Hollywood as the global popular cinema.

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