FIGHT the Power
Streaming films about Revolution and Rebellion
by Rebecca M. Alvin
The Fourth of July is here! Independence Day brings to mind a lot of things to a lot of different people in America. Barbecues and fireworks for some, Epic beach parties for others, and patriotic displays, wholesome family fun for others. But at its core, Independence Day celebrates a revolution, our revolution against the colonial powers of the British Empire. As many of us here don’t feel like being out and about today, it’s a good time to take a look at films that celebrate the revolutionary spirit via streaming…. Here are five films available to stream right now that do just that.
- Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution
Stanley Nelson’s riveting documentary about the Black Panthers offers a portrait that is grounded in reality, showing where the organization succeeded and where it failed. It is both well researched and brilliantly constructed. No American should go without seeing this film. https://www.pbs.org/independentlens
The battle for freedom of speech in America is one that continues to evolve, always facing new interpretations. Back in the 1960s comedian Lenny Bruce (played by Dustin Hoffman) pushed the limits with his off-color humor, ultimately paying the price for fighting for the First Amendment rights that comedians today take for granted. Too many younger people have no idea who Lenny Bruce was. Bob Fosse’s brilliantly directed biopic is an excellent start. Amazon Prime
- The Battle of Algiers
This groundbreaking film about the Algerian War against France is one of the most important and influential political films in history. Italian director Gillo Pontecorvo worked with Algerian collaborators, including non-actors who had actually been involved in the guerilla movement in Algeria against France. In the Italian neo-realist tradition The Battle of Algiers is fresh and realistic with dialogue and a cast that come directly from those streets and bring truth to this dramatic film. Made in 1966, just a few years after the War ended, it was banned in France until 1971… naturally. YouTube.com.
- The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson
David France’s documentary follows Victoria Cruz’s efforts to investigate the suspicious death of LGBT activist and trans revolutionary Marsha P. Johnson. It also provides an excellent understanding of the LGBT rights movement in New York City, complete with its own divisions along racial and class divides, thereby offering a more complex view than we usually see. It also features Sylvia Rivera, a complicated but fierce spirit whose work changed people’s lives, even as she herself never overcame her own demons. Netflix
- Howard Zinn: You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train
As many begin to rediscover the insightful writings of historian Howard Zinn, this documentary becomes more and more relevant. Zinn provides an excellent interview about his life and work, including his most important accomplishment—and required reading for all conscious Americans—A People’s History of the United States. Directed by Deb Ellis and Denis Mueller. Kanopy.com (free access through many public and school libraries)