More on Art and IR…

January 10, 2007

Speaking of politics and art, Prof. Rodger Payne at the University of Louisville (also a contributor to the Duck of Minerva blog), teaches a course called “(Global ) Politics through Film.” It would be a great to offer an “IR Theory through Film” course at HKU. What films would you include?

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11 Responses to “More on Art and IR…”

  1. Shermann Says:

    I don’t have a film to suggest for now. However, I came across with a book in a Singapore’s bookshop using motion pictures to explain IR theories. This is Cynthia Webber’s International Relations Theory: A Critical Introduction. Enjoy reading.

  2. lmcinhk Says:

    Thanks Shermann! LMC

  3. Kev Says:

    Perhaps a more recent film would be “Syriana” that touched upon the topic of oil politics. Another one would be “Munich” which is based on real affairs. Films like these 2 can certainly provoke a debate on the equity of US policy on terrorism and other world affairs.
    But I think that a whole bunch of hollywood hero movies from the 80’s “constructed” a lot images with strong penetration that helped topple Communism. Watch Rocky IV (1985) and you’ll laugh at the over-propagandism.

    Love to see familiar names writing in this blog. Shermann, don’t you sleep at the wee hours…

  4. Fanny Says:

    “No Man’s Land” maybe a good choice for this course. There’s an absurd relation between the Bosnian and the Serb.
    Similar choice could be “Before the rain”.
    You may also include “The Constant Gardener”, though this movie is actually quite “heavy”.
    If HKU really offer the course of “IR Theory through films”, I’ll be the first one to enrol..

  5. fannyl Says:

    The movie “Underground” just blinked my head after I logged out…an excellent movie about Yugoslavia with communism element in blood.

  6. Kev Says:

    Following on Shermann’s lead, I found another article by Cynthia Weber (2001) titled “The Highs and Lows of Teaching IR Theory: Using Popular Films for Theoretical Critique”. “Lord of the Flies” was mentioned for its dark message of international anarchy as the cause of war in realism.

    Another Webber, Julie (2005) wrote about using “Independence day” in her IR theory introductory classes in her article “Independence Day as a Cosmopolitan Moment: Teaching International Relations”, published in International Studies Perspectives. Below is the abstract:

    This essay expands upon a teaching approach that I used in my introductory international relations (IR) course for three semesters prior to September 11, 2001. The vast majority of the curriculum of the course is read through Independence Day, a 1996 blockbuster Hollywood film. Beginning with the film and the concept of world order it arguably provides through a fictional moment of world peace (or hegemony, depending how one interprets the leading role of the U.S. in the film and the significance of the Fourth of July holiday as the world’s Independence Day, hence ID4) students are able to understand several key concepts in IR theory, as well as the major paradigms of IR thought that I present to them. ID4 presents the viewer with the IR field’s two great mythological narratives, realism and idealism, and preserves the notion of the nation-state as the predominant actor and unit of analysis for understanding world history and key events in that history.

    A proven choice!

    Fanny, since you like Bosnian film so much, I think “Gori vatra (english titled: Fuse)” should be mentioned. This one takes on a parodic spin on the dark post-bellum days in a local Muslim town. Quite a realistic scene is portrayed despite the comic effect, and I would say that it’s a mockery of liberalism’s failure (a institutionalized task-force from the international community was sent to monitor the town until Bill Clinton’s supposed visit, which had the mayor busy with hiding all the vices in order to get the most out of the president’s visit), may be this one can be used in teaching realism.

  7. Iris Says:

    Though I have not been enlightened by Cynthia Webber’s IR book, a movie’s name hit on my head as I read through your inspiring words above. “Wag the dog”, starred by Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro, was a movie hilariously yet realistically projected the fecticious politics created by a Hollywood producer with the aim to divert public’s attention from the president’s sex scandal. The war in the movie was merely a fictional tricks to fool the world. A comedian way to manifest the key concept of IR.

    Another movie with a more serious content was “Thirteen Days” with a story based on the cold war period during Kennedy’s regime.

  8. Tom Says:

    I think of triangle and twins: United 93, World Trade Centre and Fahrenheit 9/11; The flags of Our Father and Letters from Iwo Jima. The twins is very interesting as they’re both directed by Clint Eastwood about the same war, but one from US and the other from Japanese perspective.

    While film directors have the absolute discretion to choose the perspective to present, if not distort so as to attract audience; isn’t policital propaganda just editing facts to construct people’s perception to solicit support?

  9. Florian Says:

    Hi,
    I found your blog via google by accident and have to admit that youve a really interesting blog 🙂
    Just saved your feed in my reader, have a nice day 🙂

  10. afl4 Says:

    Hello everyone, I’m new to class, and I hope this first posting works.

    Recently, Hollywood and films from other developed countries have placed more attention on the reality of IR. The posting before me have already given many examples, such as Munich, Syriana etc. Most of these movies are still mainstream in the sense that a significant proportion of the people in developed countries have watched them.

    If we were to do “IR Theory through Film”, covering movies done by third world countries would also be necessary. “Paradise Now”, a Palstinian film about suicide bombers would be one good example. There should also be many others that are still unknown, and waiting to be discovered.

    I personally have not seen many such movies, but believe that they should be able to bring new perspectives to our class.

  11. Rodger Says:

    Thanks for noticing the class. I did use “Wag the Dog,” by the way, and am seriously considering “United 93” and “V for Vendetta” for next time (fall 2007). The class had too little on terrorism and “United 93” highlighted some interesting points about crisis decision-making and bureaucracy.

    Each week through the fall 2006 semester, I blogged about the various film selections. See this post for a complete rundown.


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