Frank Capra

As noted in the module introduction, a major theme of this week’s conversations is the role that creating a compelling visual or letting reality speak for itself in film, and how that drove the tension within and among filmmakers as they developed content to support the war effort.

For Capra, early in the war, the pressure to create a compelling visual to drive support for the war oftentimes won out. This is likely due to his response to the work of Riefenstahl in Triumph of the Will, a major piece of propaganda work from a talented filmmaker in Germany that painted a vivid, powerful picture of the Reich, intended to garner full support of the people. This was the inspiration for the Why We Fight series, which includes the two films you reviewed of his during the war, as well as those you’ll see from other filmmakers later on this term.

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By the time the second film was made, it has been wrought with controversy among the filmmakers in the Signal Corps, as William Wyler had quit the project citing the implicit racism driving the early creative process. In time, Capra brought in African-American script writer Carlton Moss, who became the kind of advocate necessary to reframe the piece into something that was ultimately critically and commercially successful.

For the sake of your weekly essay, you are to compare and contrast the two pieces, and to address the following questions, using what you observe in the films to make your case:

If you had to describe the first film, how might you do so in thinking about the themes Capra attempts to convey? Be sure and offer some clear examples in the process.
How can we see the influence of Carlton Moss in the second film? What elements do you see, using examples from the film, to explain key differences in filmmaking that made the second piece more popular with the public than the first.
It is commonly argued that representation matters in films and creative works about minority groups. How could one argue that Moss worked well to serve this perspective in his contributions to “The Negro Soldier”?

FILMS: Netflix – “Five Came Back” – Episode 1 Perform Critical Review of Films

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