Emory Cinematheque Presents Film Series "Resisting Fascism"

The Great Dictator (1940)

August 8, 2017

ATLANTA – The Emory Cinematheque, a weekly series of free film screenings, explores the ways in which fascism has been opposed in the movies since the 1930s with “Resisting Fascism.” The series commences August 23 with Charlie Chaplin’s hilarious 1940 spoof of Adolf Hitler, “The Great Dictator.” 

Fascism emerged in Europe in the early 20th century, during the same decades that saw the rise of cinema as a medium of artistic expression and popular entertainment. While fascist governments were eager to harness the power of cinema to rally audiences, anti-fascists around the world quickly turned to film as a means of opposing fascism’s authoritarianism and extreme nationalism. Some of the twentieth century’s most beloved films participated in the ideological struggle against fascism and Nazism, such as “The Great Dictator” and Michael Curtiz’s “Casablanca” (1942, screening September 13). 

In today’s highly contentious political and cultural climate, the concept of fascism has gained renewed attention, spiking as a search term in Google and sparking a renewed interest in stories of fascist societies, both real and imagined. This resurgence prompted Paul Buchholz, assistant professor of German Studies at Emory University, to create a film series about resistance to fascism this fall, with a focus on films about European fascism at its peak before and during the Second World War. 

“Some of the most enduring images of what fascism is, and how fascist societies operate, have been transmitted to us through film,” Buchholz says. The core of many anti-fascist films is moral, Buchholz explains. “Movies about resisting fascism tend to picture an unfree society, showing us something that we should not allow ourselves to become, while also holding up particular heroic individuals whose resistance embodies the values that we should preserve.” 

There is, Buchholz adds, no one single set of anti-fascist values reflected in films about resistance. “When you look at a film like ‘Casablanca,’ there’s a particular mix of values that motivate the characters to resist the Nazis: basic human decency, patriotism, and individualism. Other anti-fascist films, like the East German film ‘Naked Among Wolves,’ reflect socialist values like solidarity and fundamental human equality. Anti-fascism is very politically and ideologically diverse, and that’s something I hope comes across through the film series, and will generate discussion in the audience.”

The films selected for the series are also diverse in terms of the time and place of their production, with works made between the 1930s and the 2000s in the United States, France, the Netherlands, West and East Germany of the Cold War-era, Austria, and Italy. As such, the series will include films made during the moment of European fascism, such as the propagandistic anti-fascist documentary “The Spanish Earth” (1937, screening August 30), as well as films that look back at fascism from the twenty-first century to pose complex questions about complicity and resistance, such as the 2007 Austrian Oscar-winning film “The Counterfeiters,” directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky (screening November 15). 

All screenings take place Wednesday evenings at 7:30 p.m. in White Hall 208 on the Emory campus. Admission is free, no tickets required. Most films are shown in DCP or 35mm. Each film in the series will be introduced by Buchholz, with contributions from other faculty in Emory’s Department of German Studies. For more information, visit the Emory Film and Media Website at www.filmstudies.emory.edu or call 404-727-6761.  

Series Lineup