dirs. Jhally, Ratzkoff
Opens Sat March 26
Clinton St. Theater
The abject lesson of Peace, Propaganda, and the Promised Land is how to filter biased media coverage. That's a good lesson to keep in mind--and not only while watching the news, but also while watching the unquestionably biased Peace, Propaganda, and the Promised Land.
Promised Land examines how American news outlets report the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Yes, we learn Americans tend to vilify Palestinians, a prejudice that can be traced back to lopsided media coverage from the likes of Dan Rather and The New York Times.
But just like the media organizations they lambast, directors Sut Jhally and Bathsheba Ratzkoff also oversimplify the conflict and over-sympathize with one side. In other words, there's the smack of an agenda here, as well.
The bulk of Promised Land consists of interviews with journalists and journalism professors. But it's when the filmmakers silence the talking heads that the film works. (At one point, Promised Land succeeds merely by comparing BBC and CBS footage of the same event.) It is then--when they show, instead of tell us what to think--that Promised Land really drives their points home. PHIL BUSSE
Saints and Soldiers
Opens Fri March 25
If I didn't tell you Saints and Soldiers was all about Mormonism in the military, you might not even realize it. But since I grew up as practically the only non-Mormon kid in all of Salt Lake City, I'll let you in on Saints' understated Mormon foundations. Deacon (Corbin Allred) doesn't drink, smoke, or drink coffee. (He prefers HOT LEMONADE!) He carries around a book. (A book of MORMON!) And, most tellingly, he has faith. (In GOD!) Immediately following the Malmedy Massacre of WWII, Deacon and several other U.S. soldiers are charged with getting a stereotypically fey British officer (Kirby Heyborne) to safety.
Largely, Saints and Soldiers is a slickly produced, entertaining-in-a-TV-movie-sort-of-way WWII flick. More interesting, however, is looking at Saints as a model of a Mormon film trying to reach/convert a wider audience… while subtly disguising its Mormon underpinnings. It's fascinating stuff--and watching a WWII firefight is always more fun than answering the door to real missionaries, right? ERIK HENRIKSEN
Up and Down
Opens Fri March 25
Immigration is always a problem in America--how many people should we let in, and who do we keep out? But compared to European countries, we hardly have an issue--I mean, imagine if the United States was surrounded completely by land, and all around us were countries like Albania, Bosnia, and Afghanistan, where people would risk anything to flee their native land.
This dilemma--and the racism bred out of the mass immigration to a now-democratic Czech Republic--is the core theme of Up and Down. The movie begins with two criminals smuggling a group of refugees into Germany by truck--but once they get safely across the border (and the refugees disperse into the forest), the two criminals realize a baby has been left in the vehicle. Because the baby is what they call a "negro," the men contemplate dumping it in the forest, but don't because one gets a pang of guilt when he sees the adorable baby's eyes; later, the kid is sold to a desperate woman with a racist live-in boyfriend.
Further intriguing plotlines are explored, and the filmmakers do a beautiful job of making the viewer sympathetic to both the refugees and the Czech people, who feel overburdened by their presence. True, no huge lessons are learned about racism--but instead, we witness a fascinating account of a country in a difficult predicament with no immediate solution. KATIE SHIMER