What the Oscars ignore: Progies spotlight films you should see

In an attempt to draw attention to films of social significance with progressive content, film critic and author Ed Rampell developed The Progie Awards. A collective of international film writers, The James Agee Cinema Circle (JACC), named after the prominent 1930’s film writer, nominates films and actors for these special progressive awards. They’re timed to catch some of the Oscar buzz, hoping to influence Academy members and film lovers about progressive films that have much to offer but risk being overlooked.

This year only a few titles appear on both lists, The Help, Hugo, War Horse, The Artist, and the amazing Iranian film, A Separation, are films that JACC members feel also have some progressive merit. Actors Demián Bichir (A Better Life) and George Clooney (The Descendants) are the only other duplicates in both The Oscars and The Progies.

The rest of the Progie nominees contain a wealth of progressive content and contain many suggestions for progressives viewers to watch … if you can find the films at your local theater, on TV or anywhere in the U.S.!

Other Progie nominees for Best Picture include A Better Life about a Mexican laborer in LA whose truck is stolen thus his job threatened. Compared by some to the classic Italian film Bicycle Thief, it’s a moving film worth seeing. Although The Time That Remains came out in 2010 it qualifies for this year’s Best Picture Award because it’s American release occurred in 2011. A rare cinematic glimpse of the Palestinian Nakba, done in the unique comic style typical of accomplished Palestinian director Elia Sulieman, The Time That Remains leaves powerful images in the viewers mind of the tragic loss of a people’s entire homeland.

It’s hard to imagine that anyone can seriously believe that the Oscars award the best acting performances in the world. With the hype and corporate advertising campaigns, it seems at times that nominees are sold to the highest bidder. There are just too many fantastic performances in foreign and alternative cinema that it almost makes the task of selecting 5 nominees futile and certainly political. There’s no way you could exclude Peter Mullan’s performance in Tyrannosaur, or ANY of the actors in Le Havre, Potiche, London River, Mooz-Lum, Pariah or Polanski’s Carnage to name just a few. Danny Glover’s contributions to progressive cinema are numerous and his amazing performance in Mooz-Lum deserves special attention.

This year’s candidates for JACC’s Lifetime Achievement Awards include George Clooney, Sean Penn and the recently deceased Chilean director Raoul Ruiz, who fled Chile after Allende was overthrown and lived as an exile in France the rest of his life. An innovative intellectual director of over 115 feature films, Ruiz is pretty much unknown in America. (So there are 115 more films to look up!)

My favorite category in the Progies is Best Progressive Picture Deserving Theatrical Release in the US and Distribution in Other Countries. This category is simply a list of great suggestions from informed progressive film writers, rather than having a single title chosen as winner.

Members of JACC feel the frustration of narrowing down the list to just a few candidates when there are so many great progressive films and talent deserving of recognition. I focus on what I consider the best in progressive cinema in my columns for People’s World; I would just have to advise the reader to see ALL the films I write about. And although that’s many titles, it’s only a touch of the many great films available to see!

Some great titles that were nominated but didn’t make the final list include, Snows Of Kilimanjaro (France), Free Men (France), Habanastation (Cuba), Film Socialisme (Jean Luc Godard), God Bless America, Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding, Meek’s Cutoff, Pink Ribbons, Inc., Brother on the Line, Loving Story, If a Tree Falls (also an Oscar nominee) and the amazing 15 hour classic study of the history of cinema, Story of Film: An Odyssey by Mark Cousins.

The Progies cleverly named each category after a progressive hero of cinema. For example, the 13 Awards include The (Paul) Robeson for Best Film About People of Color, The (Pier Paolo) Pasolini for the Best Gay Rights Film and the (Dalton) Trumbo for the Best Progressive Picture.

The complete list of 2012 Progie nominees can be seen here

Photo: Film poster of A Better Life from their Facebook page .



Bill Meyer
Bill Meyer

Bill Meyer writes movie reviews for People’s World, often from film festivals. He is a keyboardist at Bill Meyer Music and a current member of the Detroit Federation of Musicians. He lives in Hamtramck, Michigan.