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Screen Grabs

Raise your fists and press play

by Amanda Sukenick

My selection of films this month—each of which reveals a specific ideological bent—is intended to correspond with the activism theme of this month’s issue. The following films span the last four decades and depict an array of subjects from four very different countries.

Africa Addio

(1966) Dir: Gualtiero Jacopetti,
Franco Prosperi Wri: Gualtiero Jacopetti, Franco Prosperi

Africa Addio is easily one of the most controversial films ever made. Since its release in 1966, it has been plagued with charges of gratuitous violence and racism. Shot in various locations in Africa following decolonization, the film’s directors sought to portray, in their own words, “a picture of [Africa’s] [a]gony,” as warring ideologies lead to horrific mass slaughters and riots. Several of these massacres, as well as grotesque acts of animal cruelty, are caught on film. This is not a film for the weak of heart; fetal elephants are ripped from their mothers’ wombs and civilians are murdered senselessly. During one scene, the directors themselves are nearly murdered, saved at the last moment by proving that they aren’t “white” but Italian. Is this movie a portrait or an act of racism? Whichever side of the fence you’re on, few that watch can dispute the horror of the realities shown and the sheer brilliance with which they have been captured. Africa Addio was released in the United States with the title Africa Blood and Guts.

If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?

(1971) Dir: Ron Ormond Wri: Estus W. Pirkle Cast: Ron Ormond, Tim Ormond, Estus W. Pirkle

Reverend Estus W. Pirkle is serious when he says that communists are going to take over America and rid the country of Christians. He’s so certain, in fact, that he insists that the attack will only take 15 minutes. If Footmen Tire You is a tongue-in-cheek portrait of Rev. Pirkle, using dramatizations of his fears to demonstrate just how absurd his sermons really are. One such example involves a young boy made deaf after communists shove bamboo rods into his ears for speaking out against his “evil” captors. If this isn’t the best thing that ever came out of the Cold War, it almost certainly is the funniest, as it reveals the blatant absurdity of the last bastions of McCarthyism.


(1972) Dir: Sarah Kernochan, Howard Smith Cast: Marjoe Gortner

Marjoe Gortner preformed his first legal wedding at the age of four. At that time he was the youngest evangalist in the United States. Despite a difficult and tumultuous childhood, Marjoe developed a keen nose for exposing the shady practices of evangelical preachers across America. Still working as an evangelist as an adult, Marjoe worked closely with director Sarah Kernochan and her crew on this Academy Award-winning documentary, which reveals evangelical Christianity’s criminal use of fear and hypocrisy from the inside. Though occasionally humorous, Marjoe compels the viewer to sympathize with those whose faith and salvation have become nothing more than a commodity.

Yuki Yukite Shingun

aka, The Emperors Naked Army Marches On
(1987) Dir: Kazuo Hara Cast: Kenzo Okuzaki, Riichi Aiwaka, Masaichi Hamaguchi

Yuki Yukite Shingun
focuses on Japanese political activist Kenzo Okuzaki, who is on a quest to find the truth about atrocities committed against Japanese foot soldiers by their comrades in New Guinea during World War II. During Okuzaki’s pursuit of justice, it is revealed that, because some soldiers were starving, army officers ordered a number of them slaughtered so that the other men could dine on their flesh. A firm believer in violence as a justifiable means for change, Okuzaki viciously physically attacks several of the aged, sickly former officers who ordered the killings in an attempt to get to the truth. By the end of the film, Okuzaki’s approach has alienated even the families of those slaughtered years ago. Yuki Yukite Shingun is more than a portrait of a man’s decent into madness—it is a movie that raises questions about the cost and effectiveness of vigilante justice and retribution.


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