The Trump presidency about three weeks in is already absurd and will likely give rise to a new wave of filmmaking. As a divisive figure attempting to lay waste to modern-day progress, governmental standards and human decency, I look forward to seeing the creative work that will be born in reaction his dark orange cloud. I’m not necessarily saying it will be a “movement” of any kind (especially with general interest in film itself waning), but obviously art is a reflection of the period in which it was created.
The human experiences Trump’s policies have triggered and will continue to trigger are symptomatic of an ideology of fear, hate, self-interest and loathing. He, his administration and his ardent followers want to take America back to the 1950s.
But unfortunately for them, that’s not going to happen.
Why? Because those who oppose him are strong, have influence and have agency. His most extreme supporters may dream of living in the past, but those whom they want to diminish and expunge from American society are having none of that.
After the election in November, there appeared to be a sentiment amongst some marginalized folks along the lines of “Where do I go now?” They were likely and understandably suffering from as much shock as the rest of us around the country and around the world. However, the simple answer to them is “nowhere.” This is not Trump’s country. It’s ours. It’s all of ours, inclusive of everyone including those who wish it were still the post-WWII U.S.
Conflict is drama, and there’s going to be plenty of it on all strata of American society. It elicits emotion and passion, and to me the widespread reactions to the Trump Administration will end a complacency in storytelling that existed for the majority of Obama’s presidency. Yes, some great unique and meaningful work was created, but the general inertia of political and social progress both real and imagined put out some of the collective fire in both creation and reception. The tech/information age has been one of pure optimism. The Lego Movie said it best, “Everything is awesome.” And as YouTubers know, when in doubt skew positive.
Films from the 70s such as Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde, John Boorman’s Deliverance, Alan Pakula’s All the President’s Men, Hal Ashby’s Being There, Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now and Martin Scorcese’s Taxi Driver brought a mix of subversion, soul-questioning, social commentary and antiheroes.
The social climate of the late 80s through the 90s gave us Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It and Do the Right Thing, Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man as well as Todd Solondz’s Welcome to the Dollhouse and Happiness.
While some are more overt than others, the very fact that they were made and widely seen is a political act that manifests the circumstances of their times. It’s not strictly the topicality, but rather the socio-political climate in which ideas are born.
What will 2017 and beyond bring us? Trump’s presidency in a way already feels like a satirical film, like Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove in real life. It’s a great reminder that things go in cycles and that we have to consistently call out bullshit and fight for the freedoms so many of us can easily take for granted.
Films don’t change the world, but they have the potential to add mightily to the conversation. I eagerly anticipate seeing what comes of this. It might be one of our nation’s most creative eras in recent history.