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IU Themester Streaming and DVD Resources


Coinciding with 2020 presidential election season and the commemoration of the ratification of the 19th amendment to the U.S. constitution in 1920, fall 2020 focused on democracy.

Since ancient Greece, the problem of how to “make democracy work” has challenged theorists and practitioners. Coinciding with Fall 2020’s U.S. presidential election, Themester’s Democracy focus engaged a global interdisciplinary debate at a critical moment. At no time since the 1930s has democracy been as challenged. Global optimism over democratic transitions has given way to contestation over minority rights, democratic back-sliding, and the rise of populism. These trajectories raise concerns about the potential for an intractable democratic crisis that will affect both younger democracies and established systems.

Themester 2020 looked at factors leading to democratic continuity and change. The College explored such issues as democracy’s “rules of the game,” free speech, media bubbles, fake news, and schisms between science and faith that limit debate and harden political opinions. We will examined the compatibility of capitalism and democracy and how social divisions—some concrete, others manufactured—can be resolved through democratic processes.

Democracy implies a system of rule of law and the protection of individual rights. But democracy pertains to more than politics and government. The theme invoked an approach to organizational decision-making, a way of communicating with one another, and a social good. In politics, in corporate boardrooms, in society, in art, and in science, democratic principles are defined through contestation, conversation, and practice. - Adapted from IU Themester Homepage


From top left to bottom right: Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) defends Tom Robinson (Brock Peters) in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). TCM. n.d., escapes the assassination of Lincoln in The Birth of a Nation (1915).  Los Angeles Times. 30 Sept. 2016, Wilma Mankiller in Mankiller (2019). PBS. n.d., King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) shares bounty poster with Django (Jamie Foxx). NPR. 24 Dec. 2012, Stewart signals to the Capitol as Jefferson Smith in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). Time. 17 Oct. 2014, Winfrey as Annie Lee Cooper in Selma (2014). Rolling Stone. 23 Dec. 2014, Hanks as Ben Bradlee and Meryl Streep as Katharine Graham in The Post (2017).The New York Times. 24 Dec. 2017, Penn as Harvey Milk in the biographical Milk (2008). accessed August 2021.

IUB Streaming Titles

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American Hustle (Dir. David O. Russell, 2013): In a world where power and corruption intersect, two con artists are forced by an FBI agent to infiltrate New Jersey’s fraught 1970s political scene.

The Battle of Algiers (Dir. Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966): An open-eyed submersion into guerilla warfare and realistic production cinema. Utilized by both the American government and groups such as the Black Panthers in the decades after its release, the film presented an experimental montage of revolutionary tactics that soon became the defining tool of twentieth century political resistance. In the process, the value of human life and the limits of government come to the forefront.

BlacKkKlansman (Dir. Spike Lee, 2018): Ron Stallworth, the first black officer in the Colorado Springs Police Department, sets out to infiltrate a chapter of the Klu Klux Klan with the help of his Jewish coworker. The film’s release during the Trump administration encouraged particular debate on hate groups and freedom of speech in an increasingly tense political climate.

Bread and Roses (Dir. Ken Loach, 2000): Voices of undocumented workers come to the fore as two young Mexican women struggle to make ends meet. The film’s debut at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival presciently coincided with massive janitorial strikes in L.A., bringing greater publicity to the Justice for Janitors social movement.

Django Unchained (Dir. Quentin Tarantino, 2012): Two years before the outbreak of the Civil War, an enslaved man seeks his wife through a chance interaction with a traveling bounty hunter. Tarantino’s revisionist film brings into sharp relief larger questions on systemic racism, freedom, and perspectives on the United States’ antebellum past.

Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Dir. Stanley Kubrick, 1964): A fanatical United States Air Force general orders a first-strike nuclear attack on the Soviet Union -- until he learns the Russians have the technology to destroy the world. This black comedy on the Cold War was selected as one of the first films to be preserved by the Library of Congress on its National Film Registry in 1989 as a significant cultural artifact, repeatedly placing in the top lists of the American Film Registry since its production.

I Am Not Your Negro (Dir. Raoul Peck, 2017): At the time of his death in 1987, American novelist James Baldwin left an incomplete manuscript detailing the deaths of three of his closest friends – Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and Medgar Evers. In this Oscar-nominated documentary, Peck imagines how Baldwin might have finished his novel, examining the incendiary impact of race in the United States.

The Man Card (Dirs. Peter Hutchison and Lucas Sabean, 2020): Masculinity emerges as a powerful aphrodisiac in this documentary about the intersection of gender and identity in American politics. From creator Jackson Katz, Hutchison and Sabean explore the construction of masculinity in the Republican Party as configured by presidential campaigns ranging from Nixon and to Trump, and its connection to voter attitudes.

Mankiller (Dir. Valerie Red-Horse Mohl, 2019): Visionary, activist, and community developer, Mankiller celebrates the life of Wilma Mankiller (1945-2010), the first woman elected Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. Winner of the Congressional Medal of Freedom, this documentary explores how Mankiller navigated challenges of sexism and inequality to construct innovative legislative foundations for the Cherokee peoples and First Nations’ advocacy.

Requiem for the American Dream (Dirs. Jared P. Scott, Kelly Nyks, Peter Hutchison, 2016): How do you define the “American Dream”? Through a series of interviews conducted over four years, Noam Chomsky dives into the distribution of wealth, power, and the functioning of American democracy in the twenty-first century.

IUB DVD/Video Films

Be sure to check with Media Services for hours. VHS titles are housed off-site at ALF, and can be requested via IUCAT

12 Angry Men (Dir. Sidney Lumet, 1957): Twelve jurors decide the fate of a young boy charged with the murder. An electrifying tale of the American justice system, Twelve Angry Men has been remade in both radio and film since its release as a screenplay in 1954. Selected by the Library of Congress for the National Film Registry in 2007.

The Birth of a Nation (Dir. D. W. Griffith, 1915): A tale of two families living through the Civil War and Reconstruction eras after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Alternatively known as The Clansman, Birth remains as one of the most controversial films in United States history, known for its highly racist depictions of Black Americans and charged as one of the inspiring forces for the rebirth of the Klu Klux Klan in the early twentieth century. Despite the film’s portrayals, the film remains one of the most renowned for its early technological advances in film production. The first film to be shown at the White House (under the administration of Woodrow Wilson) and selected by the Library of Congress for the National Film Registry in 1992.

Citizen Kane (Dir. Orson Welles, 1941): When newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane dies with the word “Rosebud” on his lips, reporter Jerry Thompson is tasked to uncover the mystery. Slighted lovers and estranged friends retell Kane’s dizzying ascent into the world of politics, power, and the yellow journalism of the 1920s.

The Manchurian Candidate (Dir. John Frankenheimer, 1962): Korean War veteran Raymond Shaw becomes an unwitting pawn in Communist attempts to overthrow the U.S. government. The film was later remade in 2004 (dir. Jonathan Demme) under the backdrop of multinational corporations and the ramifications of the Gulf War. Selected in 1994 for preservation under the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. 

Milk (Dir. Gus Van Sant, 2008): A biographical film based on the life of Harvey Milk (1930-1978), the first openly gay man to be elected for political office in California. Repeated discrimination against queer communities encouraged Milk to run for a seat in the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. After he develops a difficult, but functional working relationship with fellow supervisor Dan White, political division takes a fatal turn. Harvey’s tireless anti-discrimination work remains a powerful benchmark of gay-rights activism in the late 20th century.

Mr. Smith goes to Washington (Dir. Frank Capra, 1939): “Significant, because it shows democracy in action” (trailer).  A junior senator fights against political corruption after he’s appointed to fill a recent vacancy. On-site filming in Washington D.C. and the U.S. Capitol building, as well as meticulous recreation of the Senate Chamber, shine as a time capsule for American legislative spaces. Preserved by the National Film Registry as one of the first 25 films to be conserved for its cultural significance.

The Patriot (Dir. Roland Emmerich, 1997): Benjamin Martin, war hero and pacifist, takes up arms when the Revolutionary War arrives at his door. The film garnered three Academy Award nominations and generated notable conversations on the responsibilities of revisionist filmmaking in early American history.

The Post (Dir. Steven Spielberg, 2017): The discovery of a decades-long government cover-up forces the country’s first female newspaper publisher to test the limits between press and government. Based on the story of Katharine Graham as editor of The Washington Post and attempts to release the Pentagon Papers in the early 1970s.

Selma (Dir. Ava DuVernay, 2014): A look at Dr. Marin Luther King Jr.’s work to secure equal voting rights through marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965.  Critical acclaim for the film’s portrayal garnered multiple awards; criticism on the film’s use of artistic license additionally generated conversation on the ethical responsibilities of film in creating historical fiction. Nominated for Best Picture.

To Kill a Mockingbird (Dir. Robert Mulligan, 1962): When Scout Finch and her brother Jem watch their father defend an innocent black man in 1930s Alabama, the racial tensions of a small town come to a head. Nominated for eight Academy Awards.

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