Every Friday this summer we will recommend different available movies you may enjoy on late summer nights. This week we have 3 films on the menu and promise several great film moments!
This week we’re focusing on dystopian movies, what they are and why they’re so interesting. In addition, we’ll meet an African American musician who makes friends in the Ku Klux Klan!
The story of Advantageous is set in a future dystopian city where the job market for women is threatened by demands of higher education but also their appearance and their age. Gwen is a scientist and the face of her research center who is raising her daughter Jules on her own and wants to secure her future. But when the marketing division wants to replace Gwen with someone younger to target a younger demographic, both Gwen’s career and her daughter’s future is threatened.
Advantageous is a dystopian film. On the surface it works well as a good film narrative, but beneath the surface the dystopian movies reveal a whole other dimension worth studying and discussing.
The dystopian films’ primary function beyond a good story is as a critique of our own society. The dystopian universe is constructed by choosing one or multiple aspects in our society that the filmmaker finds negative or even dangerous and draw them to an imagined extreme consequence. The negative sides of our society shown in dystopian films is therefore easily recognized but often perceived as exaggerated. Both are important; it’s by this exaggeration that the issues become visible but if they’re not easily recognizable we’ll ignore them.
The opening sequence(s) of dystopian movies often portray a perfect society, a utopia, and identifies to lesser or greater degree who or what holds absolute power over it. This totalitarian power varies from movie to movie – from politicians or bureaucracy to advanced technology, from a powerful company to a philosophical or religious power – but what they usually have in common is that they control society through propaganda which gives the citizens an illusion of the perfect society and dictates how to fit in. Often the citizens are monitored, and information, freedom, free will and thought is limited. To not follow the rules and expectations of society comes with great consequences and in most cases a human cannot survive outside the system.
The main character of the dystopian film is the one who realizes that something is seriously wrong and who starts to question the perfect society. He/she feels trapped and tries to break free. The main character is also the filmmaker’s voice and shows the audience the criticism of our own society by revealing the negative sides of the dystopian society.
The dystopian films are more or less successful sci-fi movies set in a future universe and can be watched and enjoyed as pure entertainment. But in my opinion it is when we go beneath the surface and study the criticism of our own society made by the dystopian movies that they can spur truly interesting conversations. When you watch Advantageous it can therefore be helpful to ask a few questions while you’re watching the film which can then be used to start a conversation afterwards. Here are a few suggestions, but please feel free to add your own.
Advantageous is available on Netflix.
Original Title: Advantageous
Runtime: 90 min
Language: English and french
Original Title: Castro
Run time: 85 min
Language: Spanish with English subtitles
Our second film this week doesn’t fit as well into the dystopian film category – and maybe it doesn’t even belong here – but I’ve chosen it to show how one can use the characteristics of the dystopian film in a movie that’s not necessarily dystopian to identify and criticize aspects of our own society.
In Castro we meet the main character of the same name. He’s unemployed, has recently left his wife and has found love in the beautiful Celia – and he’s chased by a group of people we know very little about. Castro and Celia escapes to the big city where Castro reluctantly starts to look for a job, but the couple is under constant surveillance.
That Castro is a dystopian film is not obvious, and as mentioned it may not be, but it shares some of the characteristics of the dystopian film that are useful to identify in order to talk about the themes of the movie. As mentioned, the dystopian film creates its world when the filmmaker highlights aspects of our society he/she finds negative or dangerous and draw these to an imagined and exaggerated consequence; even though Castro seemingly takes place in today’s Argentina, a number of aspects in the portrayed society have been exaggerated and therefore separates it from our own. The most obvious characteristic of this created society is the frantic pace of this rat race, from all the running to the world’s shortest job interview, and how it all seems rather meaningless. Even sex is portrayed in this manner, without foreplay or intimacy and made efficient by the characters discussing job related matters while doing it.
The absolute or totalitarian power is not easy to identify either. When society runs at such an exaggerated high pace, no room is left for reflection. Society becomes a machine with clear instructions on how to fit in and not end up on the outside (e.g. you must have a job). In this way the citizens themselves construct society as an absolute power which limits their free will and freedom to choose their own life.
Another trait of the dystopian film we can identify in Castro is its main character who is the only one who realizes that something is seriously wrong about the society he lives in. He feels trapped by a world that doesn’t offer him a way to stay with Celia and feels forced into the rat race.
Moguillansky has created a film that shares a lot of traits with the dystopian film although it doesn’t fit perfectly under that label. But by utilizing these traits he’s created a fascinating story which highlights and criticizes aspects of our own society and invites reflection and conversation about them.
Castro is available on Mubi.com.
Original Title: Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davies, Race & America
Runtime: 96 min
Daryl Davies is an african-american musician who has played with some of music history’s greatest legends, but at his house he holds a collection one wouldn’t expect; over 20 Ku Klux Klan robes given to him by former members who left the KKK after befriending Daryl. In Accidental Courtesy we get to know Daryl Davies and follow him as he sits down with both current and former members of KKK and other white supremacist organizations and see how Davies faces the people who hate him and how he talks with them. At the same time this documentary is not afraid to show the opposition Davies faces not only from white racists but also from african-americans who disagree with his approach.
Accidental Courtesy is available on Netflix.