For better or worse, Donald Trump will be the President of the United States for at least the next four years. The effects of Trump’s term will be seen in almost every institution across our country and across the globe per The Atlantic. One overlooked portion of society that will be changed by Trump’s presidency is the film and television industry.
Without predicting the success or failures that may occur during Trump’s presidency, the current social climate for many in the United States is already depressed, angered, paranoid, and hopeless. In a social climate with such despair, it is natural that people want to escape from reality, turning to movies or television for a distraction from everyday life. The people making film and television, screenwriters, producers, and directors are not immune to the social anxieties shared by the country. Stories from these creative minds will undoubtedly change with the social climate created by this election.
An exasperated social and political atmosphere creating a film movement will not be unique to this time frame. Some of the most influential eras in film were forged in the wake of unrest.
The Soviet Montage movement in Russia came briefly after the Russian Revolution in 1917, an event that came after a period of massive social unrest and class discrimination. The Soviet Montage movement featured spliced together clips or images that downplayed the significance of an individual character, instead having a character represent one group of people or an ethnic class. Sacrificing a character’s individuality to represent a group symbolized one of the main ideals of communism which was the face of Russia post-1917.
War continued to shape film in 1900s Europe with the German Expressionism movement of the early 1920s. After losing World War I, Germany was saddled with massive war reparations and a fractured national psyche. Filmmakers like Fritz Lang showed the national despair of Germany’s citizens by making films about dark subjects like death, insanity, and evil. German filmmakers substituted reality with bizarre sets and distorted scenery to illustrate the confusion and dread felt by Germans post-World War I.
While German Expressionism often opted for fantastical sets and stories, the filmmakers behind the Italian neorealism movement of the 1940s-50s chose to illustrate the plight of their country through gritty realism. Like Germany after World War I, Italy was severely unstable after losing in World War II, with an unstable social landscape, economic crisis, and cities in ruin. Italian neorealist films featured stories about normal Italian people and the difficulties they faced surviving on a day to day basis. To add to the realism of the stories being told in these films, Italian neorealist movies were typically shot on location, with destructed Italian cities as a backdrop.
The films and television made during Trump’s presidency will undoubtedly resemble film movements of the past. If Americans filmmakers lean towards realism, their stories will focus on hot social topics from this election such as race, hate, and economic class or in contrast, love, and acceptance. American filmmakers will also have the option of making films for the disillusioned, truly giving their audience an escape from reality with abstract plots and settings.
What will set the American film movement during Trump’s presidency apart from past film movements is the ways in which these films and shows will be consumed by audiences. In an era where audiences can consume more television and film than ever before, more and more people in the film industry will be able to get their stories told, whether it’s at the movie theater, through a web series or from a streaming service. With creative minds such as Donald Glover, Ryan Coogler, Ava DuVernay, Jeff Nichols, and Barry Jenkins currently making headlines in film and television, there will be no shortage of talent for the wave of content during Trump’s presidency.
If there is a silver lining to this election, it’s that with trying times will come spectacular art.
[Featured Image by Randall Hill/AP Images]