"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


communist fluoridation

Yesterday in my intro IR class, we were discussing deterrence & mutually assured destruction and all that fun stuff. I mentioned Dr. Strangelove, which is, of course, a brilliant cinematic depiction of the theory. Not one of my students had seen it, and most had never heard of it. They were all born after 1988.

It occurs to me that it might be fun to organize an IR movie series to help enlighten the minds of my youngsters. But all I can think of to show them beyond Dr. Strangelove is Red Dawn, and that won't make for much of a series.

This is where you come in. What say ye, loyal blog readers? What movies could I show that are both entertaining and that will enhance my students' understandings of international relations theory, Cold War history, and the art of diplomacy?

Bonus points for commentaries on constructivism.


Blogger Kim Dionne said...

there are some more recent films that I think undergraduates might appreciate.

for parallels to our current situation, why not fog of war?

and for those interested in Africa, why not Lumumba?

of course, these are both US-centric options...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009 11:50:00 AM

Blogger Caitlin said...

The Marx Brothers' Duck Soup - certainly not recent, but a classic. "Freedonia's going to war!"

Tuesday, September 15, 2009 11:55:00 AM

Blogger Lauren Jenkins said...

Steve Walt and Dan Drezner between themselves came up with 18 movies.

I would second Seven Days in May. Also worth noting, in my IR 101 course, my prof also used Red Dawn as a touchstone for Cold War tensions, but even my circa 1980 born classmates were in the dark. (Obviously, my parents showed me the film early on and it, perhaps, led to why I read your blog today.)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009 12:47:00 PM

Blogger the librarian said...

The Manchurian Candidate, original version with Angela Lansbury

Tuesday, September 15, 2009 2:43:00 PM

Blogger Andrew said...

I took an IR in Film & Fiction class, and while I can't for the life of me remember most of what we watched, I do recall our professor showing a couple of episodes of "Yes, Minister" (or perhaps it was "Yes, Prime Minister").

Also see this discussion from LGM: http://lefarkins.blogspot.com/2009/05/ir-film-series.html

Tuesday, September 15, 2009 3:13:00 PM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

I'm trying to think of words that would clear the room of Morehouse students faster than "Angela Lansbury..."

Thanks for the great ideas, everybody. Also, Andrew, that was a class? Seriously?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009 5:01:00 PM

Blogger Mcsmongerson said...

Absolutely Fog of War

Tuesday, September 15, 2009 6:23:00 PM

Blogger the librarian said...

Have you seen the original Manchurian Candidate? AL is young and SCARY! We watched it at Governor's School and it entertained a roomful of high school students.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009 9:10:00 PM

Anonymous Ranil Dissanayake said...

There are loads, if you're willing to dig deep enough.

- One of the best is The Mouse that Roared, an old Ealing Comedy, starring Peter Sellers (the original Pink Panther and all-round comic genius), which is about a small country that decides to go to war with America after seeing the economic benefits of occupation to Japan and Germany post-WW2. Not cold war, but a clever and funny look at diplomacy.

- Second duck soup. But not sure what they'd learn beyond: 'time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana'.

- Wag the Dog (De Niro, Hoffman; directed by Barry Levinson) is also good and quite funny - about war in the media. Contemporary relevance. America goes to "war" with Albania for domestic reasons.

- Not Cold War history, but if you want to teach your students about the appeal of Communism in turn of the century Russia, show them Battleship Potemkin. It's a silent film, and very powerful.

- A propaganda piece on Cuba's revolution that happens to be great cinema: Soy Cuba

- There was an excellent adaptation of Graham Greene's The Quiet American (by Philip Noyce?) a few years back, starring Brendan Fraser (brilliant in an atypical role for him) and Michael Caine. If you haven't read the book it's about American involvement in Vietnam.

- For more nuance on Vietnam, there's always Rambo.

enjoy, some of these films are classics.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009 1:20:00 AM

Blogger Karl said...

My Comparative Politics professor screened Burn! for our class.

I would also recommend Traffic to demonstrate globalization on a macro level and Maria Full of Grace on a micro level.

Speaking of micro, Day Night Day Night is an excellent film to spark a discussion on the motivation of terrorism.

The Conformist I think does a brilliant job of showing the extent to which human beings will challenge their own moral convictions in order to survive in a totalitarian state.

And finally I'd recommend Ararat as a jumping off point for a discussion of how modern society reacts to past atrocities.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009 7:16:00 AM

Blogger euphrony said...

I was going to say "Wag the Dog", but as someone beat me to it I'll recommend "Canadian Bacon". Alan Alda as president of the US, invading Canada - beauty, eh?

Side note: as of a few years ago, when I was in Scotland for a month, I saw repeated news stories about water fluoridation and many, many people vehemently against it. It's no wonder most of the Scottish have bad teeth, but they've stopped the Commies in their tracks!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009 1:56:00 PM

Blogger haitianministries said...

Like _Red Dawn_, I think _War Games_ captures the mood of what it was like to live through the Reagan-era cold war years.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009 10:16:00 PM

Anonymous Elia said...

I have to confess I have a certain weakness for war films, and there are so many of them (and so many good ones) that it's really hard to pick only a handful. But here are a few of my favorites that come to mind:

-On the Yugoslav wars & the UN, I recommend "No man's land"

-On the UN & Africa as a country, "The interpreter"

-On French colonial rule in North Africa, "The battle of Algiers"

-On WWI, "Paths of glory"

-On WWII (the Nazi occupation Italy), "Roma, open city"

Thursday, September 17, 2009 6:17:00 PM

Anonymous Ranil Dissanayake said...

Elia: Roma, Citta Aperta should be watched by all people, regardless of their interest in WW2 or anything else. It's one of the best films Europe has produced.

Really liked No Mans Land, too. And while I'm thinking of war films there's a really good Korean one, very unexpected (not so good in the first 15 minutes, rapidly improves to excellence) called JSA: Joint Security Area, about South/North Korean conflict.

Friday, September 18, 2009 12:26:00 AM

Blogger Lil said...

The Strategic Studies program at Hopkins SAIS does a fun movie series:


Friday, September 18, 2009 2:00:00 PM

Blogger Michel S. said...

No one has mentioned Hunt for the Red October yet? Tom Clancy's "Jack Ryan" series of novels are actually first-class, despite the commercial rubbish he produced more recently.

I'd second War Games and Quiet American. If you could find it, there's the movie adaptation of Forsyth's The Fourth Protocol, starring Michael Caine, and a TV adaptation of le Carré's Smiley's People. And I'd also recommend the Clint Eastwood-starring Firefox, about a plot to steal an advanced Russian superplane.

And then there's this really obscure Japanese-directed (but with a Western cast) movie, Virus, about terrorists hijacking a biological weapon that was accidentally released when their plane crashed. I won't divulge more of the plot, but suffice it to say both superpowers suspect the other, with tragic consequences.

I actually was not impressed at all by Battleship Potemkin -- travesty, I know. Communist propaganda movies somehow all sound like a hysterical version of a Catholic cathechism.

Sunday, September 20, 2009 10:16:00 PM


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