Electronic Ambient Scores in Science Fiction Thriller Feature Films

Science Fiction is the genre in which the widespread use of electronic scores in feature films was pioneered. The sound effects and ambient scores that are created within this genre have an incredible impact on the fantastical worlds that SciFi films absorb their audiences into by emphasizing otherworldly and alien aspects using tonal effects. Electronic instruments are able to create unique vibratos, glissandos, portamentos, and timbres that combine to build up a completely unique atmosphere for a film.

First Image: MiniMoog. Digital Image. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minimoog 
Second Image: Jeffrey Tobin Playing the Theremin. Digital Image. Indiana Gazette. https://www.indianagazette.com/news/white-township-man-plays-theremin-with-symphonies/article_ce689220-419e-56a0-a905-326f7545bbaa.html. See vintage footage of Leon Theremin playing his own instrument here.

Electronic music is a broad genre that is only really constrained by requiring the use of some kind of electronic instrument, including theremins, synthesizers, Ondes Martenots, and MiniMoogs. Many electronic instruments were originally developed in attempts to win the race to invent a working telephone. Tweaks in the methods used to send out signals may not have worked as a telephone, but they did make instruments with beautiful otherworldly tones that could be made to express the intense subtleties of human emotions. Listen to a theremin being played and take note of the impactful expression of emotion in the music through each subtle shift in tone, or think back to hearing a synthesizer in a song and how the tones expressed an indescribable feeling.

The following list is composed of SciFi movies that use electronic music to create stunning ambient scores that pull their audience into the “other” and “alien” worlds imagined in the films.

The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) Movie Poster. Digital Image. WRTI. https://www.wrti.org/post/story-behind-really-creepy-sound-film-score-day-earth-stood-still. Listen to The Day the Earth Stood Still, “Prelude and outer space” performed on the theremin here.

One of the more common electronic instruments, the theremin, was used in this soundtrack to generate the sound effects for the aliens in The Day the Earth Stood Still. The enchanting and alien tones composed by Bernard Herrman built the suspense and curiosity in the film, making the audience feel as mystified by the alien arrival as the film’s characters. At this point in film history, electronic music was rarely, if ever, used, mostly to create brief sound effects of fearful unknowns or alien concepts and creatures instead of full scores. Upon the film’s release, the effect of Bernard Herrmann’s soundtrack on audiences was huge compared to the orchestral sound design that was typically used, and the effect of its other-worldly mood endures for present-day audiences as well.

Forbidden Planet (1956)

Forbidden Planet (1956) Movie Poster. Digital Image. LetterBoxd. https://letterboxd.com/film/forbidden-planet/. Listen to excerpts from the Forbidden Planet soundtrack here.

Forbidden Planet’s score composers, Bebe and Louis Barron, are heralded as pioneers and innovators of electronic music. This was the “first major motion picture to feature an all-electronic film score … predat[ing] synthesizers and samplers” (Stone). The Barrons had to invent their own instruments from cybernetic circuits and magnetic tape that they would manipulate to generate the “ring modulated warbling” (Lynne) tones heard in the film. This was such a unique and new way of creating a score at the time that the American Federation of Musicians refused to allow them to call it music or to be named as composers in the credits. The Barrons were instead credited as creators of “electronic tonalities” (Lynne). However, the dismissal of their work at the time did not diminish the emotional impact that their work had on the film, nor the influence their work would have on the whole genre of SciFi. Bebe Barron herself is quoted as saying that “the sounds which emanate from the electronic nervous systems seem to convey strong emotional meanings to listeners” (Laudadio), and they do so in a way that is fantastical and alien, but still conveys an emotional context that audiences can understand and relate to. The tones that are generated set audiences on edge and plunge them into the same unfamiliar alien world as the characters in the film, fully immersing them into the titular forbidden planet, Altair IV, and the strange and mysterious events that unfold upon it.

Blade Runner (1982)

Blade Runner (1982) Movie Poster. Digital Image. L.A.Mag. https://www.lamag.com/culturefiles/the-essential-movie-library-21-blade-runner-1982/. Click the links to hear Memories of Green, Tears in Rain, and the main title theme from Blade Runner.

Synthesizers (or “synths,” for short) were used in the soundtrack of Blade Runner in a way that could only have emerged from the 80’s. The composer, Vangelis, created the enticing sound design that drew people into the film and cemented Blade Runner as an essential classic film in the SciFi genre. The score created the otherworldly atmosphere of futuristic noir necessary to the storyline. That air and environment was masterfully evoked in the sweeping emotional charge in each track, from the melancholic tonal drawls in the track “Memories of Green”, to the emotional but still uplifting warbles in “Tears in Rain”, to the futuristic awe from the synthetic wails of the main title. The score pulls the audience along through the shifts in emotions from the development of Blade Runner as the story travels along.

Run Lola Run (1998) Original German title: Lola rennt

Run Lola Run (1998) Movie Poster. Digital Image. Sony Pictures. https://www.sonypictures.com/movies/runlolarun. Hear the excerpt Running Two.

Run Lola Run delves into the more techno-pop/rave subgenre of electronic music, and while it leans more towards thriller than SciFi, the track is too beautifully done to ignore. The score, composed by Reinhold Heil and Tom Tykwer, embodies the anxiety that the titular Lola is feeling from the life-or-death situation the film’s plot forces her into. The film is fast paced and second-hand stressful to the audience watching Lola’s day devolve, and the score matches that energy perfectly. The overall vibe of this soundtrack and film can be gleaned from a line from the track “Running Two” that says “just go, go/and never, and never think/just do, do” which is exactly how this score makes the audience feel as Lola does whatever she can as fast as she can to save the lives of herself and her boyfriend. The techno pulses reinforce the stress of the film’s action and set the audience on edge right alongside Lola, so that they can feel exactly what she feels and be fully immersed in the film-watching experience.

Ex Machina (2014)

Ex Machina (2014) Promotional Image. Digital Image. RedShark News. https://www.redsharknews.com/creating-the-real-out-of-the-unreal-for-exmachina-sound-production. Click the links to hear Watching and Ava.

The score for Ex Machina, composed by Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury, creates an unsettling atmosphere for the full duration of the film that makes the audience feel put off and anxious. Barrow and Salisbury had an interesting way of evoking these feelings, creating an almost minimalist-feeling soundscape that draws the audience in, the intriguing sounds keeping them guessing about what could be coming up next in the plot. There are eerie, haunting trills in some of the tracks like “Watching,” which incite a sense of curiosity that gets counterbalanced with deep rhythmic pulsing that feels like a subconscious warning. But there are also sounds that embody the exciting spirit of innovation and the desire to learn new things. The composers manifest this spirit with echoing chimes that feel light with their uplifting lilts, such as in the track entitled “Ava”. Overall, the electronic tones in this soundtrack dance between emotions in an elegant way, using the intricate tones allowed by electronic instruments.

Annihilation (2018)

Annihilation (2018) Movie Poster. Digital Image. Medium. https://medium.com/@zach.vecker/annihilation-2018-movie-review-4a6e72d7a41. Listen to The Alien from the film’s soundtrack.

In Annihilation, another Barrow/Salisbury soundtrack, the composers chose to develop the electronic music as the plot progresses and the environment changes to become more and more alien. The opening of the film has a more traditional orchestral score and even some acoustic elements, but by the time the final act comes the music is almost entirely electronic. In one of the final tracks “The Alien”, there is no dialogue or sound occurring in the film other than the soundtrack itself, so the composers turned the score into a direct vehicle for conversation and plot development. In that track, they create tones that sound like electric trombones having a conversation, during which they come to a consensus with one another, leading to the resolution of the film. By drawing the ambient soundtrack to the forefront over the course of the film, Annihilation‘s composers communicate the developments that unfold during the surreal final act.

Upgrade (2018)

Upgrade (2018) Movie Poster. Digital Image. IMDb. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6499752/. Click to hear the Jed Palmer score.

Jed Palmer is responsible for Upgrade’s score, and he created it in a way that cultivates the cyberpunk aesthetic of the film and emphasizes the actions and evolutions of the artificial-intelligence implant, called”STEM”, as the film progresses. The haunting echoed tones throughout tracks such as “Aftermath” evoke a feeling of dystopian bleakness that connects the audience with the deeper themes of grief, revenge, and the dark side of technological advancements that come from the perspective of the main character, Gray. It’s those electronic echoes that set the tone throughout the entire film and pull the audience into the setting of a technologically advanced urban metropolis. The tones can also shift though, to provide the hard energetic lilts that drive the audience through the more eventful scenes such as “Run Gray Run”. The design of the electronic elements in the score complements the emotional shifts in Upgrade and deepens the understanding that the audience has of the film.

Though technological advances in electronic and computer music have changed the craft of soundtrack creation over time, it is fascinating to hear composers use the new technologies to find new ways of conjuring what are often timeless human emotions. CR

Do you have thoughts on how electronics have influenced soundtracks over time? Have you ever seen a favorite film with different music playing over the visuals? Do you tend to notice the soundtrack of a film, or does it only affect you subconsciously? What is the best/worst/scariest/funniest electronic soundtrack you have ever heard? Let us know in the comments section!

Media Services student staff member Cas Regan is a Junior at IU in the Earth Science B.S. program with minors in Chemistry and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). In addition to classes and working for Media Services, they are also the VP of the Beekeeping Club at IU and spend their free time caring for the club’s hives at IU’s Hilltop Gardens.


Laudadio, N. “What Dreams Sound Like: A Brief History of the Electronic Musical Instrument in Film and Song.” University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Department of English. http://www.trifectapress.com/text/ElectronicInstruments.html 

Lynne, B. “10 Unforgettable Electronic Movie Soundtracks.” Shockwave Sound. 18 May, 2021. https://www.shockwave-sound.com/blog/10-unforgettable-electronic-movie/ 

Stone, S. “The Barrons: Forgotten Pioneers of Electronic Music.” NPR. 7 Feb., 2005. https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4486840

Jungle movies

King Kong. Rotten Tomatoes. 25 June 2021, https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1011615-king_kong. IUCAT record: https://iucat.iu.edu/catalog/6431804

In Hollywood, the Jungle is a setting which has often been used to connote danger and intrigue, a setting used to generate tension. For American audiences, the jungle is a place which is foreign, isolated from civilization, and wild.

The history of the jungle in cinema is a long one, with white audiences having gained exposure to the setting via 19th-century exploration and imperialism, especially as those subjects were portrayed in novels. As early as 1918 in Tarzan of the Apes, an adaptation of a novel by Edgar Rice Burrows, literary fascination with the jungle translated to film, and the “jungle movie” was born. Over the next century, the jungle would be used in a variety of different films, some which delighted audiences, others…not so much. Regardless, the jungle has remained a relevant, popular setting in film from its first appearance one hundred years ago to the present day. Though the essence of the jungle as an ecosystem has remained relatively constant (despite severe climate change threats), its cinematic treatment has changed considerably.

In the 1930s, as film began to evolve from short, silent moving pictures into something with which we are more familiar today, a number of jungle movies enjoyed great popularity.

In the 1950s, jungles continued to be used in horror settings. Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954), used many of the same tropes as King Kong to make a monster movie that audiences wouldn’t forget. Photo credit: Creature from the Black Lagoon. Rotten Tomatoes. 28 June 2021, https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1004906-creature_from_the_black_lagoon

Between the 1910s and 1970s, Hollywood produced a huge number of Tarzan films, which took up a big portion of the ‘adventure’ side of the jungle movie genre. Still, other light-hearted jungle movies were produced at this time, notably Disney’s The Jungle Book in 1967. Photo credit: Bomba The Jungle Boy. Rotten Tomatoes. 28 June 2021, https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/bomba_the_jungle_boy

Such ‘light-hearted’ films were more common in the late 50s and 60s, with most of the jungle movies of those decades being Tarzan or Tarzan-esque creations.

Apocalypse Now. Rotten Tomatoes. 28 June 2021, https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/apocalypse_now

In the 70s, the horror aspect of the genre returned to some degree with Apocalypse Now (1979), a Vietnam War movie which plays the madness of the wilderness against the madness of war, and mankind.

Throughout the 80s and 90s, the jungle was used time and time again as a backdrop for horror and adventure movies.

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Predator (1987), and Jurassic Park (1993) are all examples of films which use the jungle to convey excitement and/or danger to an audience.

Photo credits, L to R: Raiders of the Lost Ark. IMDb.com. 28 June 2021, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0082971/; Predator. IMDb.com. 28 June 2021, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093773/; Jurassic Park. IMDb.com. 28 June 2021, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107290/

Since the turn of the 21st century, jungles have continued to be used in action/horror blockbusters, despite some critical complaints of over-reliance on outdated stereotypes. This was particularly noticeable in Peter Jackson’s 2005 King Kong, which was criticized for its portrayal of the ‘natives’ of Skull Island. Photo credit: King Kong. IMDB.com. 28 June 2021, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0360717/

Today, the jungle remains a setting which conveys isolation, and all the danger that may accompany it. Characters that live in the jungle are often either nature-wise and wary, or pagan natives that will either see white people as gods, or special sacrifices. While the real-life jungle shrinks, it’s cinematic presence will remain in the public sphere for years to come, warts and all. Photo credit: Jumanji. IMDb.com. 28 June 2021, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7975244/.

Guest blogger Sarah Bull just started in Media Services during Summer 2021. This is her first post for the department.

Digital or practical effects: Which fake looks better? You be the judge.

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006). Dir. Guillermo del Toro. Warner Bros. Pictures. IMDb.com. 27 May 2021, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0457430/mediaviewer/rm2110357760/

There’s an old adage that the magic of Hollywood is just smoke and mirrors. But don’t be fooled: that smoke and those mirrors cost millions of dollars and can turn a bad script into a mega-million dollar blockbuster hit. Since the beginning, set design and effects were an important cornerstone in creating a great film. To this day, people have to get creative with effects to capture a sense of realism within a film, yet effects have changed drastically over the last 100 years. Before the digital age, art designers and sculptors would come together to bring worlds alive with whatever they had on hand. Whether it was common household items or industrial-grade steel, effects artists had to create within and despite constraints.

Jump to modern times and it’s a night-and-day difference from what had to be achieved decades ago. Computers can now generate explosions, people, monsters, and even entire worlds in just a matter of hours. Things that couldn’t have been done using only practical effects can now be brought to life digitally on the big screen. But despite the technological advances, from a qualitative standpoint questions remain: Which style of effects is better, practical or CGI? Both have their strengths and weaknesses, but can one trick the eye better than the other? You be the judge! In this post, we’ll briefly discuss examples of great practical and CGI effects. Some films that will be discussed will have sequels and modern remakes in which the effects are different from the original.

Blade Runner (1982) and Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

Above: Blade Runner. IMDb.com. 27 May 2021, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0083658/mediaviewer/rm3431104768/. Below: Blade Runner 2049. IMDb.com. 27 May 2021, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1856101/mediaviewer/rm679884032/

The Blade Runner franchise is one of the most beloved and respected sci-fi franchises in cinema. From the 1980s to now, the franchise has stunned the world with its groundbreaking set designs and impressive worldbuilding. In age, these films are decades apart and both hold up well against each other. As far as production budget goes, Blade Runner 2049 is blowing its 1982 counterpart out of the water with an approximately $185 millions dollars spent ($201,554,299.93 with inflation), while the original had a budget of $41.5 million dollars ($114,847,056.99 with inflation). A major difference between the two productions is the type of effects used. In the 1980s, CGI and computing technology were very far from what is possible today, and a major part of the budget had to be directed toward the practical sets and costumes. The artists really had to bring dystopian Los Angeles to life, and it was no easy feat. This article delves into the delicate art of miniatures, which were used to great effect in Blade Runner. In Blade Runner 2049, the production team blended practical effects (including miniatures) and CGI; it is done in such an intricate way that it’s hard to tell what is practical and what is computer-generated. When all is said and done, both of these films have pushed the boundaries of their times as well as reaching back to time-tested techniques, and they will continue to be excellent examples of what filmmakers are able to do with their creativity.

Star Wars: Originals vs. Prequels*

*IUCAT links provided at the end of this post

Star Wars. IMDb.com. 27 May 2021, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0076759/mediaviewer/rm2583643392/

Speaking of beloved sci-fi franchises, Star Wars is by far the most popular on the planet. Star Wars films have been entertaining generations of filmmakers, families, and sci-fi fans for over forty years. However, there is a divide within the greater fanbase about the trilogies. Depending on who you speak to, the original Star Wars trilogy is held in an almost god-like esteem in the film world. When the first film came out in the late 1970s, people had never seen sci-fi on such a large scale. Sure, we had Star Trek and Dr. Who, but from an effects standpoint, neither of those franchises were as sophisticated and innovative as the 1977 film. Star Wars enticed fans with an innovative story, an elaborate and never-before-seen style of set design, and iconic costumes. From the outset, Star Wars was an instant classic and paved the way for the summer blockbuster culture.

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. IMDb.com. 27 May 2021, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120915/mediaviewer/rm3935189504/

After Return of the Jedi in 1983, George Lucas put the franchise on hiatus until 1999 when Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace was released worldwide. New and old fans of the franchise were beyond excited to get a new trilogy from LucasArts. However, actual reception was underwhelming. The film was met with poor to mediocre reviews and fans were not happy with the story. A large part of the criticism involved the new CGI effects in the film. A lot of the set designs and non-humanoid characters of the film were digitally rendered and seemed flat and lifeless, a complete contrast to the films of the 1980s. I personally feel the franchise went in reverse as far as effects quality is concerned, and similar assessments were expressed throughout the media, as they are here. However, there is still a huge fanbase for the prequels, and they contain some of the franchise’s best lore.

Which style of effects do you think is better? Do you prefer the tangible realness of practical effects or the otherworldly effects of CGI? Maybe you refuse to settle for either or and want films that have the best of both worlds. Whatever the case, both of these practices have been the cornerstone in cinema for over 100 years and continue to be the source of great creativity for each new generation of filmmakers.

Do you have any favorite films whose effects thrilled you? Let us know in the comments!

Guest blogger Donovan Harden is a filmmaker and an avid film fan. He has enriched the Media Services with his film knowledge for a number of years and is now off to film-related adventures in New York and beyond. We will miss Donovan and appreciate the many animated conversations about film as well as his many other contributions to the department.

Example of films with great practical effects that are available in Media Services (not all films are suitable for all audiences):

Examples of films with great CGI/digital effects that are available in Media Services (not all films are suitable for all audiences):

Star Wars films:

Original trilogy (1977-1983): Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope; Star Wars, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back; Star Wars, Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

Prequel trilogy (1999-2005): Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace; Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones; Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith\

Sequel trilogy (2015-2019): Star Wars, Episode VII: The Force Awakens; Star Wars, Episode VIII: The Last Jedi; Star Wars, Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (this title unavailable at Media Services)

Pandemic Pics I: Why now is the perfect time to watch Sátántangó, Béla Tarr’s epic 7-hour look into the futility of life

Singleton, Julian. Catching Up with the Classics: SÁTÁNTANGÓ (1994). cinapse.com. 3 December 2019, https://cinapse.co/catching-up-with-the-classics-s%C3%A1t%C3%A1ntang%C3%B3-1994-5c7e0aabee71. Accessed 28 May 2020.

Editor’s note: Our guest blogger, Simone Bassett, submitted this post at the height of the pandemic. I admit I was concerned about people watching futility-of-life pics at that time. For those of you who would have been up for it during the deepest darkness, I hope the delay will not decrease your interest. For those, like myself, who needed some hints that we were emerging before taking on such themes, please enjoy Simone’s post now. And though we just finished Mental Health Awareness Month in May, a reminder that it is important to prioritize your mental health year-round. If you or anyone you know is struggling with a mental health concern, IU offers support and resources for students (https://www.indiana.edu/hoosier-life/health-wellness.html) and staff/faculty: (https://hr.iu.edu/benefits/eap.html).

Picture this: You feel like your country and maybe the entire world are crumbling all around you. The monotony of your regular life stretches days into months before your very eyes. You complete meaningless labor only to continue your pitiful existence, dreams of greatness or even just fulfillment long lost to the weathers of time. If this at all sounds like your day-to-day life in America in the 2020’s, you may find yourself relating to the downtrodden protagonists of Sátántangó.

Set in Hungary during the fall of the USSR, the movie unfolds on a group of people stuck in a country without a government that was once run entirely by the government. Squatting in the desolate ruins of a collective farm, they eke out a generally miserable existence on very little money, until the charismatic Irimiás seemingly returns from the dead with promises of helping them escape to a better life. To say anything more would do a disservice to first time viewers, so I implore you not to read the Wikipedia plot summary.

Of course, the 7 hour 19 minute runtime is in the kindest terms a daunting length for a film. Sátántangó ranks as the 13th longest narrative film of all time, and the length can be palpably felt in the editing as well: there are less than 150 cuts in the entire movie, which averages to an astounding 3 minutes per take, with some of them lasting upwards of 10. However, social lives are at an all-time slump, and once the initial shock subsides it starts to become unlike any other film. The villagers’ long walk to an abandoned building in the middle of the film that would traditionally be at most a ten-second sequence is turned into a ten-minute journey, and the audience ends up wondering along with the characters what got them into this predicament and what could possibly be awaiting them ahead. The meditative pace adds a profound depth to the comically non-heroic protagonists, and you will find yourself wishing for just one thing to go right for them in this wasteland. My only warning is that you probably won’t feel any less downtrodden after the credits fade off into the top of the screen.

Pandemic Pics II: Feeling listless and unsatisfied in quarantine? Feel listless and unsatisfied in bustling 1960’s Paris in Cléo from 5 to 7.

Continuing the trend of existentially sad and temporally realistic films set by Béla Tarr’s Sátántangó, a second pandemic pic is French auteur Agnes Varda’s Cléo from 5 to 7. Made in 1962, Cléo displays the distinctive youthful and carefree attitude of the French New Wave made famous by Jean-Luc Godard, who also stars in a meta-cameo role. Over its 90-minute run time, the film shows in almost real time two hours in a young Parisian woman’s life.

100 Essential Movies Every Serious Film Fan Should See. (updated 7 January 2021). collider.com. 28 May 2021, https://collider.com/top-100-best-essential-movies/.

The film follows the eponymous Cléo, a selfish and shallow singer whose air of aloofness is thrown off by a possible diagnosis of malignant cancer. After an especially ominous tarot reading at 5:00 PM, we see her wander around with various friends who continually fail to cheer her up as she waits for the test results at 7:00. As 7 o’clock approaches, Cléo starts to wonder about what would happen were she to die and be forgotten, and how long her fame as a singer could possibly last. If you need a film to remind you that life is just a short gasp for air in an infinite ocean, Agnes Varda might have made the right feature for you.

Guest blogger Simone Bassett has been part of the Media Services Desk Staff team for several years. Among other subjects, Simone studies film and Japanese, and she has studied abroad in Japan through Indiana University as well. Simone is a Spring 2021 graduate and as such will no longer work at Media Services. We warmly thank her for her many contributions to the department over the years and wish her the very best in her next adventures!

Bring on the Music, Part Two: Life Lived Live

B., Laura. Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii. Sortiraparis.com. 14 Sept. 2020. https://www.sortiraparis.com/tips/free-activities/articles/228174-listen-pink-floyds-live-at-pompeii-for-free-at-the-grand-palais-auditorium/lang/en

Live music is one of the best forms of spiritual sustenance. Much smaller in scale than music festivals, these more intimate performances let artists exhibit their performance in a more exclusive manner. This can be seen especially clearly in the stage design on the Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense and in Pink Floyd’s Live at Pompeii, where there is collaboration between the visual and sonic aspects of the performance.

Stop Making Sense. RogerEbert.com, 5/4/21.

Live concerts

Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii

Conceived by the French director Adrian Maben as “an anti-Woodstock film,” Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii was shot in October 1971 in a vacant, 2,000-year-old amphitheater, a venue chosen to accentuate the grandeur and spaciousness of the band’s Meddle-era music. This disc contains a new, 90-minute director’s cut as well as the original 60-minute concert film, whose production and effects feel inescapably dated. Maben’s cut goes to great lengths to lend the film a more contemporary feel, but it’s the earlier version that makes this disc such a gem, being more focused on the music and more holistic in vision.

Pink Floyd Live. Wikipedia. 29 December 2018. Accessed 29 May 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pink_Floyd_Live.jpg.

The anamorphic, 16:9 director’s cut interweaves the Pompeii performances with fascinating but distracting interviews and music snippets filmed later (mostly during the recording of Dark Side of the Moon). The movie was originally prepared in a 4:3 aspect ratio, however, and the widescreen version crops perfectly framed images like the nine-square mosaic of drummer Nick Mason in “One of These Days.” The original offers plenty of closeups of fingers on frets and keys, with shots that are often luxuriously long in duration. And the picture quality from Pompeii is revelatory: outstandingly sharp and clear, rich in subtle grades of light and color.

Sade Live

Sade. Lovers Live. Wikipedia. Accessed 29 May 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lovers_Live#/media/File:Sade_-_Lovers_Live.png

Live is the first video album and first live release by English band Sade, headed up by Nigerian-born British singer Sade Adu (given name Helen Folasade Adu). It was released on 22 November 1994 on VHS by Epic Records, followed by a DVD release on 20 February 2001. It was filmed during the last two shows of the band’s Love Deluxe World Tour at the SDSU Open Air Theatre in San Diego, California, on 2 and 3 October 1993.

The inimitable Sade, 80s queen of the elegant, cool ballad. Photo credit: Benjamin, Isis. “The Legacy of Sade Adu.” Black Music Scholar. Accessed 29 May 2021, https://blackmusicscholar.com/student-work-spring-2018/isis-benjamins-work/11659-2/

Talking Heads: Stop Making Sense

Director Jonathan Demme captures the frantic energy and artsy groove of Talking Heads in this concert movie shot at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre in 1983. The band’s frontman, David Byrne, first appears on an empty stage, armed with only an acoustic guitar, and is gradually joined by bassist Tina Weymouth, drummer Chris Frantz, keyboardist Jerry Harrison and a cadre of backup singers as they perform the band’s hits, culminating in an iconic performance featuring Byrne in an enormous suit.

Hart, Ron. Talking Heads’ ‘Naked’ at 30. billboard.com. 26 March 2018, https://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/rock/8260956/talking-heads-naked-album. Accessed 25 May 2021.

Fela in Concert

Photo credit: Anton Corbijn. Adénẹ́, Ayọ̀. “Fela, wetin you go sing about?” Blog post. zammagazine.com. 23 October 2018, https://www.zammagazine.com/perspectives/blog/762-fela-wetin-you-go-sing-about. Accessed 25 May 2021.

Nigeria’s explosively charismatic superstar was at his very best in this historic concert recorded in Paris. Fela’s Afro-Beat music is inspired by Charlie Parker, Bob Marley, and Miles Davis, fusing funk and jazz with traditional African music. His multi-instrumentalism is punctuated by the tribal dancing performed by fifteen of his wives.

Photo credit: Anton Corbijn. Adénẹ́, Ayọ̀. “Fela, wetin you go sing about?” Blog post. zammagazine.com 23 October 2018, https://www.zammagazine.com/perspectives/blog/762-fela-wetin-you-go-sing-about. Accessed 25 May 2021.

Artist Portraits

Some of these names have been forgotten, which is an offense to their legacy. These influential artists not only redirected entire genres/scenes of music through their own sounds; their music comes from a very profound and spiritual place that connects with listeners on deeper levels. Although artists like Sun Ra and Arthur Russell sounded absolutely nothing like their contemporaries, their music impacted the hearts of its listeners and the sounds of its musical successors.

Wild Combination: a Portrait of Arthur Russell

Wild Combination. New Zealand International Film Festival, 5/4/21

Wild Combination is director Matt Wolf’s visually absorbing portrait of the seminal avant-garde composer, singer-songwriter, cellist, and disco producer Arthur Russell. Before his untimely death from AIDS in 1992, Arthur prolifically created music that spanned both pop and the transcendent possibilities of abstract art. Now, over fifteen years since his passing, Arthur’s work is finally finding its audience. Wolf incorporates rare archival footage and commentary from Arthur’s family, friends, and closest collaborators—including Philip Glass and Allen Ginsberg—to tell this poignant and important story.

Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man

Photo credit: thequietus.com. Accessed 25 May 2021, https://thequietus.com/articles/00966-len-s-laughing-as-hallelujah-flogs-a-million

Filmmaker Lian Lunson interviews the prolific Canadian songwriter about his rise to fame and his retreat from the music business. Rufus Wainwright, U2, Nick Cave and others take part in a musical tribute to Cohen at Australia’s Sydney Opera House. Songs include “If It Be Your Will” and “Tower of Song.”

Leonard Cohen, free-spirited songwriter for the ages. Photo credit: Istvan Bajzat/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images. Leonard Cohen. brittanica.com. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Leonard-Cohen. Accessed 25 May 2021.

Sam Lightnin’ Hopkins

Lightnin’ Hopkins. concord.com. 25 May 2021, https://concord.com/artist/lightnin-hopkins/

Provides a close look at the work and creative philosophy of Sam “Lightnin'” Hopkins, who has been singing and playing the blues for over fifty years. Recreates, through the many songs he sings, a picture of “Lightnin’s” life. Includes segments of his on-campus performances at the University of Houston and Notre Dame.

Sun Ra: a Joyful Noise

Robert Mugge filmed jazz great Sun Ra on location in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. between 1978 and 1980. The resulting 60-minute film includes multiple public and private performances, poetry readings, a band rehearsal, interviews, and extensive improvisations. Transferred to HD from the original 16mm film and lovingly restored for the best possible viewing experience.

These are but a few of the many concerts and musicians you can explore in the Media Services collection. As Sun Ra says, “The earth cannot move without music.”

Duncan Hardy is a longtime Media Services student desk staff member. 2021 will be his last summer, and this is his last blog post series for the department. We are so grateful to Duncan for his outstanding contributions to the department blog, his warm collegiality, and his devotion to department patrons. We will miss Duncan’s presence, but we wish him all good things in his future endeavors!

Bring on the Music, Part I: Music Festivals

Jimi Hendrix. by Ray Stevenson. Rockarchive.com, 5/4/21

Last month, I went to the Jazz Kitchen in Indy to see my professors’ band play jazzier arrangements of Joni Mitchell’s music. It was the first time I had seen live music performed in person — not over a YouTube or Twitch livestream — in over a year. The performance was phenomenal; the musicians were enjoying themselves and putting their heart into the music. Plus, the atmosphere had that empathic quality often felt at jazz shows, wherein you could really read the room around you and feel the impact of the music upon it. I realized afterwards how much I had missed live music, both the humanely-generated sounds themselves and the healing atmosphere congregated listeners create. And although we might not be able to go out as much as we used to, shows are being organized with more and more regularity as our collective social confidence increases. To keep myself satisfied until my next chance to attend a live performance, I have collected a series of DVDs from Media Services’ shelves that either showcase famous performances or create a portrait of the music and the artists behind them. Although this list is just a taste of our entire collection, hopefully you will find some performances that resonate with you, shed new light on an artist’s work, or carry you over until the next concert you are able to attend. Part I is focused on music festivals. Stay tuned for Part II which covers live concerts and documentaries on such artists as Pink Floyd, Sun Ra, Sade, and Fela Kuti!

Music Festivals

These historic music festivals spotlight the culminating shows of one of the most exciting eras for music, and they represent a time when people made an effort to come together in the names of “peace and music”. For just a few days, some of the world’s most accomplished musicians and bands would come together in a little village with thousands of fans. Given the chance to reach such a huge and dedicated audience, these artists offered their spectacular performances. A few of my favorite sets from this section are Miles Davis at the Isle of Wight, Otis Redding at Monterey Pop, and Joni Mitchell’s appearance in The Last Waltz.

The Complete Monterey Pop Festival

Live with Otis, Janis & Jimi. WNYC. Documentary of the Week. 16 June 2017, https://www.wnyc.org/story/live-otis-janis-jimi/

On a beautiful June weekend in 1967, at the beginning of the Summer of Love, the Monterey International Pop Festival roared forward, capturing a decade’s spirit and ushering in a new era of rock and roll. Monterey featured career-making performances by Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Otis Redding, but they were just a few of the performers in a wildly diverse lineup that also included Simon and Garfunkel, the Mamas and the Papas, the Who, the Byrds, Hugh Masekela, and the extraordinary Ravi Shankar. With his characteristic vérité style—and a camera crew that included the likes of Albert Maysles and Richard Leacock—D. A. Pennebaker captured it all, immortalizing moments that have become legend: Pete Townshend smashing his guitar, Jimi Hendrix burning his, Mama Cass watching Janis Joplin’s performance in awe. The Criterion Collection edition presents the most comprehensive document of the Monterey Pop Festival ever produced, featuring the films Monterey Pop, Jimi Plays Monterey, and Shake! Otis at Monterey, along with every available complete performance filmed by Pennebaker and his crew and additional rare outtakes.

Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music

Ebert, Roger. Back to the Garden, Again. 22 May 2005, https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-woodstock-1970

In 1969, 500,000 people descended on a small patch of field in a little-known town in upstate New York called Woodstock. In this documentary, the iconic event is chronicled in unflinching detail, from the event’s inception all the way through to the unexpected air-delivery of food and medical supplies by the National Guard. The film contains performances, interviews with the artists and candid footage of the fans in a defining portrait of 1960s America.

Message to love: the Isle of Wight Festival

In 1970, 600,000 people descended on the Isle of Wight in England to watch a three-day music festival headlined by the Who, the Doors and Jimi Hendrix. Shot during the festival but only completed 25 years later, Murray Lerner’s documentary is equal parts nostalgia and critique, contrasting the festival’s classic-rock performances with its chaotic planning and financial failure. This film shows this collision between ideals and commerce at the end of an era of change.

Miles Davis performing live onstage at the Isle of Wight festival. by David Redfern/Redferns. The Guardian, 5/4/21

The Last Waltz

Seventeen years after joining forces as the backing band for rockabilly cult hero Ronnie Hawkins, roots rockers The Band call it quits with a lavish farewell show at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom on Nov. 25, 1976. Filmed by Martin Scorsese, this documentary features standout performances by rock legends such as Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, and Muddy Waters, as well as interviews tracing the group’s history and discussing road life.

The Band, Richard & Garth’s house above the Ashokan resevoir, infrared film, Woodstock, 1969. Photo By ©Elliott Landy, LandyVision Inc. Robbie Robertson, Richard Manuel, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, Levon Helm. Fear, David. “Why the Band’s ‘The Last Waltz’ Is the Greatest Concert Movie of All Time.” Rolling Stone Magazine, 25 November 2020, https://www.rollingstone.com/feature/why-the-bands-the-last-waltz-is-the-greatest-concert-movie-of-all-time-104637/

Part II of this blog series will cover great live concerts by soloists and bands along with some of the most compelling documentaries available on influential musicians.

Duncan Hardy is a longtime Media Services student desk staff member. 2021 will be his last summer, and this is his last blog post series for the department. We are so grateful to Duncan for his outstanding contributions to the department blog, his warm collegiality, and his devotion to department patrons. We will miss Duncan’s presence, but we wish him all good things in his future endeavors!

Four Political Movies That Will Make You Laugh, Or At Least Not Cry

Vu, Maria. How Peter Sellers Lost His Fourth Role in ‘Dr. Strangelove’. Metaflix. 8 September 2020, https://www.metaflix.com/discussion/2020/09/08/how-peter-sellers-lost-his-fourth-role-in-dr-strangelove/

Let’s face it: this has been a crazy time for American politics. From the nerve-wracking election process that had the world on the edge of their seats, to the developments surrounding a certain respiratory virus, 2020 and early 2021 have tested the human race in almost every way imaginable. This year’s events hit me with a lot of negative emotions: confusion, anger, worry, the list goes on. And I bet I am not the only person for whom politics has been near the top of my list of anxieties.

But now that 2020 is behind us, and the world begins to see small signs of a post-pandemic future, perhaps we can also start looking to humor to help get some perspective and heal from the isolation, as well as the political divisions we have faced. Sometimes it can help to remember that humans have gone through other difficult and contentious periods and come out the other side. So if you’re like me and you’re looking for a punchline, here are four great politically themed movies that will help you cope with 2020 through satire.

Dr. Strangelove (1964)

Dr. Strangelove. IMDb.com. 17 April 2021, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0057012/mediaviewer/rm1000966913/

Often referred to as the pinnacle of American comedy, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is a classic spin on Cold War-era US democracy. Centered around Air Force General Jack Ripper, the film illustrates the potential danger the world can face with just a little influence from one man. When Jack Ripper goes insane and declares that the USSR is trying to pollute Americans’ “precious bodily fluids,” he sends an array of nuclear warfare to destroy the country. The rest of the cast, consisting mainly of the president and his advisors, must come up with some way to prevent a nuclear holocaust. It may seem cruel that Dr. Strangelove makes light of a situation as catastrophic as nuclear war, but director Stanley Kubrick uses this dire premise effectively to show how removed politicians often are from the consequences of the decisions they make. 

Cover Art for ‘Thank You For Smoking’ Book. Wikipedia. 24 April 2020, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thank_You_for_Smoking_(novel)

Thank You For Smoking (2005)

This movie is based on the book of the same title, written by Christopher Buckley in 1994. Nick Naylor is a successful tobacco lobbyist in the 90s who is trying to rationalize the duties of his career while he also tries to be a good role model to his son. The film often satirizes the occupation that lobbyists have with blatant morbidity; for instance, Nick and his two best friends, an alcohol lobbyist and a firearm lobbyist, meet up once a week, giving their small group a catchy moniker, “The Merchants of Death Squad.” Thank You For Smoking highlights the ethical dissonance lobbyists may face every day, and it does not shrink from the true dangers of tobacco. But like Dr. Strangelove, the serious subject, and Naylor’s difficult internal struggle, are presented through the lens of satire.

Borrelli, Christopher. Movie Review: ‘Thank You For Smoking’. 14 April 2006, https://www.toledoblade.com/a-e/movies/2006/04/14/Movie-review-Thank-You-for-Smoking/stories/200604140056

Man of the Year (2006)

Man of the Year, the most recent film on this list, stars the late, great Robin Williams as a popular radio personality. After making a joke on the air about how he could run the country better than the sitting president, his fans across the country take him seriously and just like that, he is in the Oval Office. However, he learns that a glitch in the polls led to his election, and that he has therefore become the world’s most powerful man through undemocratic means.

The film highlights his dilemma: whether to tell the truth about the error or keep the job and run the country his way. But much of the humor also plays on the (sometimes absurd) mechanisms of federal governance. Man of the Year is an amusing take on what would happen if a radio celebrity wound up in the Oval Office, but, like Dr. Strangelove and Thank You For Smoking, it also treats with satire a more important topic: what the protagonist does with the power of truth. Photo credit: Man of the Year Promotional Poster. 2016, https://apssbih.wixsite.com/apss/single-post/2016/01/05/Man-of-the-Year%E2%80%9C

The Candidate (1972)

Bethune, John. What Next? Chop Wood and Carry Water. 3 December 2011, http://www.b2bmemes.com/tag/robert-redford/

While Dr. Strangelove is considered one of America’s best comedies, The Candidate is often credited as being America’s best political film that combines both satire and realism. It depicts a last-ditch effort by an election specialist to throw a Democrat into the race for Senate, solely for the sake of needing running an opponent to the Republican candidate. Bill McKay is a leftist lawyer, the son of a former senator and the man chosen to run for the Democratic party. Although skeptical, he agrees to run after being told that, because he isn’t expected to win, he can talk without reserve about his progressive values. After winning over a small but enthusiastic crowd, the situation changes as the election is projected to be a landslide loss. To protect the party and save himself from a professional humiliation, the election specialist fundamentally changes the campaign message to appeal to a broad range of voters and close the poll gap. While mostly lighthearted, the film’s commentary on the condition of American democracy is clear in the last scene when a victorious McKay, hiding from press mob, asks, “…What do we do now?” He never gets an answer.

For some, it may be too early to look back on the year with amusement. If that describes you, you can still check out one of these movies from Media Services anyway, if only to appreciate the way they capture their own uncertain times. BC

Brandon Carr is a senior studying Psychology (BA) at IU. In his spare time he likes to play video games, listen to DnD podcasts, and hang out at home with his boyfriend.

Taiwanese New Wave

Below, we are excited to offer the first of a number of posts during the month of April dedicated to the topic of Asian and Asian-American film and culture, in observance of Asian American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) Month.

Taipei Story. reddit.com. 22 January 2021, https://www.reddit.com/r/fujifilm/comments/idi4ye/still_from_taipei_story_1985_by_the_great_edward/

While achieving critical acclaim at various festivals and influencing many filmmakers around the world, the era of Taiwanese filmmaking later dubbed the “Taiwanese New Wave” (ca. 1982-1990) remains largely unknown to Western audiences. Following a period of mass censorship in Taiwan that had encompassed the entire history of film on the island up to that point, in many ways it was a first wave. Taiwanese New Wave is characterized by long, elaborate single-take scenes, bright city lights that threaten to swallow up the characters, and questions about modernity and cultural identity. Here is a sampler of the period in four great Taiwanese films (and one closely related, highly recommended Hong Kongese film).

A City of Sadness. IMDb.com. 22 January 2021, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0096908/mediaviewer/rm3610536960/

Widely considered the masterpiece of Hou Hsiao-Hsien, one of the most notable directors of the movement, A City of Sadness also serves as a handy crash course for those unacquainted with modern Taiwanese history. Unlike most “New Wave” film movements across the globe, the Taiwanese New Wave did not focus solely on the present but produced a number of films looking back into history, attempting to reveal how events had actually unfolded after decades of propaganda and censorship. The prime example of this is A City of Sadness (1989), which was the first film ever to address the White Terror, a 40-year period of martial law in Taiwan lasting from 1947 to 1987. During the White Terror, thousands of civilians were killed by the ruling party in Taiwan, the Chinese Nationalist Party, which itself was a capitalist defector from newly communist mainland China. Shot in great detail through Hsiao-Hsien’s distinct style of long takes with minimal camera movement, A City of Sadness is set in the 1940s and tells the story of a newly immigrated family as they become embroiled in the tyranny of the government.

The Terrorizers. senseofcinema.com. 22 January 2021, https://www.sensesofcinema.com/2018/cteq/smoke-gets-in-your-eyes-the-terrorizers-edward-yang-1986/

Like Hsiao-Hsien, Edward Yang is considered a quintessential filmmaker of the era. Yang is the co-writer and director behind The Terrorizers (1986), a mystery thriller about the ways different groups of people interact in the world and the small coincidences that make up our lives. While Hsiao-Hsien tended to film stories in rural and countryside areas, Yang’s films are uniformly set in large cities, most often the colorful urban jungle of the capital city of Taipei. The Terrorizers is no exception, following three groups of people throughout the city: a crime photographer; a novelist and her husband who is from the mainland; and a teenage petty thief alongside her group of friends. As the film unfolds, their fates collide with deadly consequences.

A Brighter Summer Day. IMDb.com. 22 January 2021, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0101985/mediaviewer/rm3432100097/

The technique of finding a perfect shot and then simply letting a scene play out within it, a style that quickly became emblematic of the movement, is at its most thoughtful and beautiful in A Brighter Summer Day. Just under four hours in length, it is a monumental work inspired by news stories that ran during Yang’s youth about a teenage delinquent who murdered his girlfriend. The film stars Chang Chen, in one of his earliest roles, as the delinquent, Xiao Si’ir, and documents his slow slide from model student to criminal, against the backdrop of 1960s Taiwan.

In The Mood For Love. IMDb.com. 22 January 2021, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118694/mediaviewer/rm2378324480/

While Kar-Wai is a Hong Kongese filmmaker and sets many of his films there, his work has a similar vocabulary, and a lot of the same actors, as his contemporaries in Taiwan. Deliberate framing, vivid use of color, and a haunting violin theme played at the end of each sequence adorn In the Mood for Love, a quiet romance about a man and a woman who befriend one another and slowly realize that their spouses are cheating on them with each other.

What Time Is It There? IMDb.com. 22 January 2020, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0269746/mediaviewer/rm301364224/

If, by chance, you have seen the slowly paced shots and minimalist plots of Taiwanese New Wave movies and enjoyed them, and like me have wondered “What if it were pushed even further?” then What Time Is It There? is the film for you. In a nutshell, the “story” is: A watch vendor in Taipei, whose father has recently died, sells a woman a watch that can keep two different times at once. The woman explains that she is going on a trip to Paris the next day. After that, the two occasionally think of each other as their lives diverge. And that’s about the extent of the plot. This movie may not be for everyone, but if you stick it out you may find it evokes a mood that is rare in other films, and poses some interesting questions about the one-way nature of time.

Guest blogger Simone Bassett has been part of the Media Services Desk Staff team for several years. Among other subjects, Simone is a student of Japanese and has studied abroad in Japan through IU as well.

Women’s History Month: Intersectionality

Abstract Lines Curves. needpix.com. Accessed 24 March 2021, https://www.needpix.com/photo/1182291/

In 1989, Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term “intersectionality” in her paper, Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics. Since its introduction, the word “intersectionality” has pushed the feminist movement forward. Intersectionality deepens our understanding of how multiple aspects of a person’s identity contribute to their experience on this planet. In a 2020 interview with Time magazine, when asked how to explain what intersectionality means today, Crenshaw said “These days, I start with what it’s not, because there has been distortion. It’s not identity politics on steroids. It is not a mechanism to turn white men into the new pariahs. It’s basically a lens, a prism, for seeing the way in which various forms of inequality often operate together and exacerbate each other. We tend to talk about race inequality as separate from inequality based on gender, class, sexuality or immigrant status. What’s often missing is how some people are subject to all of these, and the experience is not just the sum of its parts.”

“The better we understand how identities and power work together from one context to another, the less likely our movements for change are to fracture.”

Kimberlé Crenshaw

Activist Leah Thomas champions the legacy of Crenshaw’s intersectionality with the movement for Intersectional Environmentalism. Working from intersectionality principles, Thomas aims to help others recognize that oppression of all peoples and the abuse of the environment are not mutually exclusive issues. According to the website for Intersectional Environmentalism, the movement is “an inclusive version of environmentalism that advocates for both the protection of people and the planet. It identifies the ways in which injustices happening to marginalized communities and the earth are interconnected.” Today, activists like Thomas all over the world have benefitted from discussions about intersectionality. Intersectionality influences all spheres of society, from law to art and culture to science; it has ushered in a new era of activism and understanding. Learning about intersectionality can be difficult. A quick Google search of the term provides many helpful, and some slightly skewed, ideas about the topic. With so much noise out there, it’s easy to get lost, especially if you are new to intersectionality. Here are six films that prominently feature the theme of intersectionality as it relates to individuals and the world as a whole. Also, at the end of this post you will find further web-based and print resources available at IU and online to help deepen your understanding of intersectionality.

Kimberlé Crenshaw: The Urgency of Intersectionality (Ted Talk, 2016)

Now more than ever, it’s important to look boldly at the reality of race and gender bias and understand how the two can combine to create even more harm. Kimberlé Crenshaw uses the term “intersectionality” to describe this phenomenon; as she says, if you’re standing in the path of multiple forms of exclusion, you’re likely to get hit by them all. In this moving talk, she calls on us to bear witness to this reality and speak up for victims of prejudice. (Description provided by Films on Demand).

Crenshaw also hosts a podcast called Intersectionality Matters! (available on many of the commercial platforms that stream podcasts). A mix of one-on-one interviews and group discussions, Crenshaw utilizes Intersectionality Matters! to bring to light people’s lived experiences through the lens of intersectionality. This podcast is a great resource for those seeking to understand intersectionality on a deeper level and engage with important current issues.

Amá (2019)

Amá tells an important and untold story: the abuses committed against Native American women by the US Government during the 1960s and 70s. The women were removed from their families and sent to boarding schools. They were subjected to forced relocation away from their traditional lands and even to involuntary sterilization.

Jean Whitehorse in Amá. Amá Movie. March 19th 2021. https://amamovie.com/about#the-issue

The result of nine years painstaking and sensitive work by filmmaker Lorna Tucker, the film features the testimony of many Native Americans, including three remarkable women who tell their stories: Jean Whitehorse, Yvonne Swan and Charon Asetoyer. The film also contains a revealing and rare interview with Dr. Reimert Ravenholt whose population control ideas were the framework for some of the government policies directed at Native American women.

Over the twenty-year period between 1960 and 1980, it is estimated that tens of thousands of Native American women were sterilized without their knowledge or consent. Due to poor recordkeeping during this era, the number may in fact be much higher. Many of these women went to their graves without the public understanding that they suffered this incredible abuse of power.

The film ends with a call to action: to back a campaign to get a formal apology from the US government, which would then open the door for the women to bring a lawsuit. (Synopsis provided by Docuseek) After watching the movie, you can visit the film’s website to learn more and take action.

Pick up a DVD copy of this film in Media Services or stream this title with valid IU credentials here.

Dolores (2017)

Dolores Huerta in Dolores. PBS. March 19th 2021. https://www.pbs.org/independentlens/films/dolores-huerta/

Dolores Huerta is among the most important, yet lesser-known, activists in American history. An equal partner in co-founding the first farm workers unions with Cesar Chavez, her enormous contributions have gone largely unrecognized. Dolores tirelessly led the fight for racial and labor justice alongside Chavez, becoming one of the most defiant feminists of the twentieth century. She continues the fight to this day, at age 87. With intimate and unprecedented access to this intensely private mother to eleven children, the film reveals the raw, personal stakes involved in committing one’s life to social change.

He Named Me Malala (2015)

He Named Me Malala is an intimate portrait of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Malala Yousafzai, who was targeted by the Taliban and severely wounded by a gunshot when returning home on her school bus in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. The then 15-year-old was singled out, along with her father, for advocating for girls’ education, and the attack on her sparked an outcry from supporters around the world.

She miraculously survived and is now a leading campaigner for girls’ education globally as co-founder of the Malala Fund (Synopsis provided by Alexander Street Press). Learn more about the Malala Fund on their website. Photo credit: Malala Yousafzai with classmates at Oxford University. Malala’s Story. March 19th, 2021.

bell hooks: Cultural Criticism and Transformation (1997)

bell hooks is one of America’s most engaging public intellectuals. In this richly illustrated two-part interview, hooks argues that we can acknowledge the impact of media without denying our own agency or the pleasure we derive from popular culture. Rather than ignoring or denying the power of representation, hooks advocates for critically confronting the influence of the media in our lives. Photo credit: Cover of Bell Hooks: Cultural Criticism and Transformation. Amazon. March 19th 2021. https://www.amazon.com/Bell-Hooks-Cultural-Criticism-Transformation/dp/B00YYKO152

Vandana Shiva (2020)

Episode 8 of the series Thinking Existenz stars Vandana Shiva, the Indian physicist combining the struggle for human rights with the protection of the environment. She obtained a PhD in Physics at the University of Ontario in Canada with the thesis Hidden Variables and Locality in Quantum Theory. Shiva combines Quantum Physics with social activism to peacefully resist a socioeconomic and political system that she argues has colonized the Earth, life, and the spirit. She recounts how she started defending the forest, the seeds, and the local ways of life and production, against the registration and control of patents claimed by multinational corporations. Our civilization, to survive, will have to review its model of understanding and interacting with the world, taking as an example the holistic knowledge of the Chinese and Indian civilizations that, according to Shiva, survived history essentially because they differ from the Occident in the relationship they have established with nature (synopsis provided by DocuSeek). This film touches on themes of intersectionality as it relates to the environment, much like the movement for Intersectional Environmentalism.

While many of these films feature intersectionality in relationship to activism and personal identity, there are many more resources available that explain intersectionality and the effects of Crenshaw’s coining of the term. I highly recommend some of the resources below as a jumping-off point for further discussion and information on intersectionality. It is through the lens of intersectionality that we can build a better and brighter future for the planet and all of its inhabitants.

Further Web-Based Resources:





Intersectionality: Foundations and Frontiers

Presumed Incompitent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia

Age Matters: Realigning Feminist Thinking

Guest blogger Olivia Kalish is a Fine Arts student specializing in painting. She works at Media Services as part of the desk staff team.

Women’s History Month: Spotlight on Frida Kahlo

Photo courtesy Getty Images. Maranzani, Barbara. How A Horrific Bus Accident Changed Frida Kahlo’s Life. biography.com. 17 March 2021, https://www.biography.com/news/frida-kahlo-bus-accident

Born in 1907, Frida Kahlo was a Mexican surrealist painter who was inspired by Mexican history, society, and culture. At the age of eighteen, Kahlo was in a tragic traffic accident, which left her with chronic pain and medical problems after an iron handrail impaled her. It was while she was recovering from this accident that she began her painting career. 

Photo credit: Muray, Nickolas. From Oatman-Stanford, Hunter. “Uncovering Clues in Frida Kahlo’s Private Wardobe.” Collectors Weekly, 1 February, 2013. Accessed 17 March 2021, https://www.collectorsweekly.com/articles/uncovering-clues-in-frida-kahlos-private-wardrobe/

Kahlo was very involved politically and was associated with the Mexican Communist party, through which she met artist and future husband Diego Rivera. The two had an open relationship and both had extramarital affairs.

She spent the last years of her life in bed rest, battling pain caused by the traffic accident. Kahlo died in bed in 1954 due to a pulmonary embolism. However, there has been speculation as to whether she committed suicide due to physical pain and complications in her marriage. Kahlo’s legacy goes beyond the art world; she is remembered as an iconic figure for Chicanos, feminism, and the LGBT community. Her starkly personal works, rendered in an inimitable, unflinching style, are a testament to both her personal strength and the power of her artistic vision.

Frida. IMDb.com. 17 March 2021, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120679/mediaviewer/rm4191984896/

Frida (2002), directed by Julie Taymor, is a dramatic film depicting the life of Frida Kahlo (played by Salma Hayek). The film follows her artistic development and focuses on Frida’s private life. Throughout the movie one can see Frida’s carefree spirit destroyed by the pain from her accident and her husband Diego Rivera’s infidelity. The film portrays some of Frida’s most famous artworks.

The Broken Column (La columna rota). Wikipedia.org. 17 March 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Broken_Column#/media/File:The_Broken_Column.jpg

Some of her early portraits, painted right after her accident, can be perceived as brutal and grotesque. They reflect her broken body and spirit, caused by the accident that left her bedridden for months. Photo credit: fridakahlo.org. 17 March 2021, https://www.fridakahlo.org/henry-ford-hospital.jsp

Photo credit: fridakahlo.org. 17 March 2021, https://www.fridakahlo.org/the-two-fridas.jsp

Her husband’s infidelity also had a big impact on her life. In the movie, Frida says to him to be “not faithful, but loyal.” This allowed for their open relationship and allowed Frida to experiment with bisexuality. In the end, Rivera is not able to be loyal to Frida.

Julie Taymor’s film does a great job of capturing Frida Kahlo’s pain, beauty, vulnerability, and spirit. I highly recommended this movie to anyone who wants to learn more about Kahlo’s life and her art. Frida (2002) is available for check-out at the Media Services. For easy access to the IUCAT item record, just click the film title link that appears just below the Frida film poster above. If you are in Wells Library, make sure to check out our Staff Picks shelf at Media Services for more movies related to Women’s History Month!

Isabella Salerno is a Media Services student staff member who studies Political Science, American Studies, and Sociology.