Radical Films: 15 Movies That Shook the World

Explore a series of underappreciated and largely marginalized films that changed the world. John Trafton returns with an exciting dive into socially relevant filmmaking from the past 100 years.

January 18 - February 15, 2018

You've probably never seen most of these films, but they changed the world. There's no denying that Citizen Kane, The Godfather, Star Wars, and Psycho changed the way that movies are made. In this class, John Trafton will share a history of films that may have changed the world in unexpected ways and others that have been marginalized or rendered invisible by the "official" film history but which nevertheless shook the world.


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In this five week series, we will look at one of the earliest African-American filmmakers, who made Within Our Gates, a powerful rebuttal to D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation. We will look at The House is Black, a work of visual poetry from one of Iran's first female filmmakers. We will explore Charles Burnett's Killer of Sheep, a film that reveals the other side of Los Angeles, a sharp contrast to Hollywood's glittering image of the city. We will see films about immigration, worker's rights, radical feminism, and a film that is perhaps one of the most powerful anti-death penalty statements ever made. Lastly, we will look at recent films that have impacted audiences and challenge us to think differently about the world around us.

Class Specifics:
Five Thursdays: January 18 - February 15
7:00PM - 9:00PM
SIFF Film Center
$60 | $50 SIFF Members (price includes all five classes)

Class Syllabus:
January 18: Within Our Gates (USA, 1920, d: Oscar Micheaux), Strike (USSR, 1925, d: Sergei Eisenstein), Modern Times (USA, 1936, d: Charles Chaplin)

January 25: Salt of the Earth (USA, 1954, d: Herbert J. Biberman), The House is Black (Iran, 1963, d: Forugh Farrokhzad), The 400 Blows (France, 1959, d: Francois Truffaut)

February 1: In the Year of the Pig (USA, 1968, d: Emile de Antonio), Medium Cool (USA, 1969, d: Haskell Wexler), Killer of Sheep (USA, 1978, d: Charles Burnett)

February 8: Born in Flames (USA, 1983, d: Lizzie Borden), El Norte (USA, 1983, d: Gregory Nava), A Short Film About Killing (Poland, 1988, d: Krzysztof Kieslowski)

February 15: Elephant (USA, 2003, d: Gus Van Sant), Hedwig and the Angry Inch (USA, 2001, d: John Cameron Mitchell), I Am Not Your Negro (Switzerland/France, 2016, d: Raoul Peck)

Class Workload:
A familiarity with these films will provide the best outcomes for students in this course but there is no expectation of viewing them in advance of class. There are no required readings but suggested readings may be emailed in advance of specific classes and a website will be created to help connect students to supporting materials.

About the Instructor:
John Trafton is a film historian and writer from the Seattle area. He is the author of several works on cinema history, including the book "The American Civil War and the Hollywood War Film." His work focuses on how history is portrayed on film, war and cinema, the Horror genre, and pre-cinema spectacle art. He has a PhD in Film Studies from the University of St. Andrews, and has taught cinema on both sides of the Atlantic for over six years. He is currently a Lecturer in Film Studies at Seattle University.