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Political Pictures

When asked what a government most fears, one prime minister declared, "Events, dear boy. Events". These films chart events and people, real and imagined, who dared to ask for change, for power and for more.

From the revolutionary stirrings of Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin to the intellectual interrogation of The Stuart Hall Project, our collection offers an entryist route into cinema's body-politic: where radical thought meets imperative image-making.

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Political Pictures
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View Land and Freedom
Land and Freedom

Land and Freedom 1995 15

Ken Loach’s passionate war drama follows an idealistic young Liverpudlian (Ian Hart) who fights for the international brigade during the Spanish Civil War.

105 mins United Kingdom Director. Ken Loach

Ken Loach is Britain’s foremost political filmmaker, but he’s more readily associated with contemporary, home-grown social drama.

With this Spanish Civil War film he tackled one of the defining moments in the history of international socialism.

View The Stuart Hall Project
The Stuart Hall Project

The Stuart Hall Project 2013 12

More startling and relevant than ever, a vivid profile of intellect and insight set to the music of Miles Davis.

98 mins United Kingdom Director. John Akomfrah

The revered cultural theorist and founding figure of the New Left is profiled in John Akomfrah’s invigoratingly intellectual study.

Hall’s articles for Marxism Today influenced a generation of Labour politicians, although he later denounced the party's New Labour rebirth.

View Comrades

Comrades 1987 15

Bill Douglas' epic story of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, six Dorset labourers deported to Australia in the 1830s for forming a trade union.

181 mins United Kingdom Director. Bill Douglas

Following his run of acclaimed autobiographical shorts, Bill Douglas crafted this sprawling historical drama.

Described as a “magical poem of human dignity,” it profiles the Tolpuddle Martyrs, a group of 19th-century labourers deported to Australia for forming a trade union.

View Winstanley

Winstanley 1975 PG

An authentic historical drama about the visionary Gerrard Winstanley who led a group of impoverished 'Diggers' to assert their common rights.

96 mins United Kingdom Director. Andrew Mollo, Kevin Brownlow

Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo’s film recreates the 17th-century commune started by a group of Christian radicals, the Diggers.

Sid Rawle's presence in the lead role - himself leader of a hippie commune called the ‘New Diggers’ - underscores the story’s echoes of 70s politics.

Beyond these shores, Sabiha Sumar’s film was one of the first Pakistani motion pictures to tackle the rise of radical Islamism.

It chronicles the effects of General Zia-ul-Haq's Islamisation programme on the family of a resolute Punjabi matriarch.

View Skinflicker

Skinflicker 1972

Tony Bicât’s radical, found-footage record of a revolutionary act, in which three dissidents kidnap a cabinet and torture a cabinet minister.

44 mins United Kingdom Director. Tony Bicât

The 1970s were a time for radical politics and Skinflicker explores the disturbing consequences of revolutionary action, as dissidents kidnap and torture a cabinet minister.

Tony Bicât’s experimental film utilises the ‘found footage’ structure often seen in horror films, and the effect here is equally chilling.

View Little Malcolm
Little Malcolm

Little Malcolm 1974 15

Delusional revolutionary Malcolm Scrawdyke (John Hurt) leads his Party of Dynamic Erection in a battle against an unseen nemesis in this dark comedy.

110 mins United Kingdom Director. Stuart Cooper

George Harrison produced this angry satire of revolutionary righteousness, which plays like a darker forerunner to the BBC comedy Citizen Smith.

John Hurt excels as the delusional leader of the Party of Dynamic Erection, standing firm against a tide of perceived reactionary insubordination.

View Laboured Party
Laboured Party

Laboured Party 1975

An unsuspecting Labour Party canvasser stumbles onto an experimental film set and is drawn into a strange atmosphere of uninhibited abandon.

20 mins United Kingdom Director. Stephen Dwoskin

Stephen Dwoskin captures the moment when a Labour Party canvasser interrupts his experimental shooting session, and is instantly plunged into a bizarre world.

This fascinating time capsule illustrates the attempts of 1970s politicians to reach out to the electorate's disaffected countercultural crowds.

View Riddles of the Sphinx
Riddles of the Sphinx

Riddles of the Sphinx 1977 U

Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen’s visually accomplished and intellectually rigorous film is one of the most important avant-garde films of the 1970s.

92 mins United Kingdom Director. Peter Wollen, Laura Mulvey

An important work of feminist cinema, Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen’s film uses avant-garde techniques to examine the position of women in patriarchy.

With 360-degree pans and allusions to Lacan and structuralist theory, Riddles may not be mainstream viewing but it's a vital piece of 70s radicalism.

View Before the Revolution
Before the Revolution

Before the Revolution 1964 12

Bernardo Bertolucci's beautifully operatic film celebrates the passion and ideology of the 1960s, winner of the Cannes Critics' Week prize in 1964.

105 mins Italy Director. Bernardo Bertolucci

Political discourse is a regular feature of New Wave cinema, where we often see characters agonisingly pontificating about their political identity.

Bertolucci’s film follows a young revolutionary tempted by conformity, exemplifying one of the director’s recurring themes: the clash between one’s politics and psychology.

View Ascendancy

Ascendancy 1982

An English aristocrat is driven to despair over the effects of violence on her family, in this powerful meditation on the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

92 mins United Kingdom Director. Edward Bennett

The Troubles in Northern Ireland presented a fertile ground for British filmmakers during the 1980s.

Edward Bennett’s film is set in the 1920s, but contemporary resonances proliferate in its story of a woman driven to despair by conflict.

View That Hamilton Woman
That Hamilton Woman

That Hamilton Woman 1941 PG

Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier bring Hollywood glitz to the love affair between Lord Nelson and Emma Hamilton in the midst of political turmoil.

128 mins USA Director. Alexander Korda

Alexander Korda’s lavish period drama revisits an 18th-century political scandal, the love affair between the wife of a diplomat and Admiral Nelson.

Its rousing backdrop of Nelson's Napoleonic victories won favour with Winston Churchill, but also saw Korda accused of feeding propaganda to America’s pre-war public.

View The Birth of a Nation
The Birth of a Nation

The Birth of a Nation 1915 15

D W Griffith's highly controversial, yet extremely significant American silent epic about the American Civil War and its aftermath.

191 mins USA Director. D.W. Griffith

A portrayal of a defining political juncture in America’s history (the Civil War), Birth of a Nation is also itself saturated in political resonances.

Its disgraceful depiction of black characters and lionisation of the Ku Klux Klan remain deeply troubling, but it harbours historical importance for its development of film language.

View Battleship Potemkin
Battleship Potemkin

Battleship Potemkin 1925 PG

A fixture in the critical canon almost since its premiere, Eisenstein’s film about a 1905 naval mutiny was revolutionary in both form and content.

68 mins USSR Director. Sergei M. Eisenstein

Regularly cited as one of the most influential films in terms of cinematic technique, Potemkin is also a significant political film.

Its account of a soldiers' uprising was a potent metaphor for the Revolution, and its international success reinforced Soviet ideals of cinema as a revolutionary tool.

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