Political Film Newsletter #32

1998–THE MOST POLITICAL YEAR IN RECENT FILMMAKING
Nominations for the best political films of 1998 closed on December 31. Fifteen films have been nominated, a record in the twelve-year history of the Political Film Society. According to the rules governing awards, film directors have been sent notifications that their films have been nominated. Since there is a limit of five nominees for any of the four award categories, ballots will be sent to Political Film Society members on 15 January to narrow the nominees in the category of Peace, where seven films have been nominated.

POLITICAL FILM SOCIETY WEBSITE CONSTRUCTED
Thanks to the diligent work of David Oshima of Pipeline Graphics, the Political Film Society now has a website, where members and nonmembers can peruse all elements of the work of the Society. Included are Political Film Society reviews of all films nominated for 1998, with links to other review sources. The address is http://www.geocities.com/~polfilms/ Now that the Political Film Society is entirely available in cyberspace, this is the last newsletter to be faxed gratis to its members. Starting 1999, all members will receive email newsletters and can go to the Political Film Society website free of charge. Those requiring faxed or mailed newsletters will remain members, but will receive newsletters for $5.00 annually.

THE THIN RED LINE AND A CIVIL ACTION ARE THE FINAL AWARD NOMINEES OF 1998
Based on James Jones’s autobiographical novel of the same title that was unsuccessfully made into a film in 1964, The Thin Red Line has been nominated for an award as this year’s best film in raising the consciousness of filmviewers on the advantages of peaceful methods for resolving conflicts. Filmed in the Solomon Islands, where Jones participated in the Battle of Guadalcanal, the film exposes the innermost thoughts of battle participants, one of whom tells us that war turns humans into dogs. The film has received rave reviews for creating a kind of French impressionist canvass with its combination of poetic voice-overs, brutal action scenes, breathtaking cinematography of flora and fauna of Guadalcanal, everyday peaceful lives of Solomon Islanders, and pensive music. Thanks to director Terrence Malick, who may well have upstaged Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan, we leave the theater no longer naïve about the consequences of committing troops, however noble the cause. MH
A Civil Action, in contrast, follows a well-established formula in presenting a true story based on a well-researched book by journalist Jonathan Harr: Big business (Beatrice Foods and W. R. Grace) has harmed humble individuals, causing death and disease, by dumping toxic waste into the drinking water of Woburn, Massachusetts. Jan Schlichtmann, a lawyer who at first was reluctant to accept the case, goes through a personal transformation as he decides to go for broke to aid the families. Indeed, he becomes broke while clever lawyers representing the corporations maneuver an acquittal. In desperation, Schlichtmann sends the documents to the Environmental Protection Agency, which finds another basis to sue the two errant corporations, which have to pay an enormous fine, the largest amount ever assessed for environmental damage in New England. As the film ends, we are told that Schlichtmann is currently representing New Jersey plaintiffs in a similar suit. During the film we hear explanations about the legal process—opposing lawyers settle most such suits out of court, judges make arbitrary rulings in order to shorten the proceedings, juries decide cases based on personalities of the lawyers, and similar points are made to show that money rather than human rights is paramount in most litigation of this sort. The film, directed by Steven Zaillian, has been nominated both as an exposé, bringing facts about the case and the legal process to the attention of filmviewers, and for promoting consciousness of human rights. MH

NOMINEES FOR BEST FILMS OF 1998

CATEGORY NOMINATED FILM
DEMOCRACY Enemy of the State
Four Days in September
Primary Colors
The Siege
Wag the Dog
EXPOSÉ Bulworth
A Civil Action
Four Days in September
Regeneration
HUMAN RIGHTS A Civil Action
Enemy of the State
The Siege
Wilde
PEACE American History X
The Boxer
Men with Guns
Regeneration
Saving Private Ryan
Savior
The Thin Red Line