Movies that stirred the pot

Caroline Madden, ‘Doah Staff Writer 
April 10, 2013

Throughout the years there have been many films that were deemed shocking and controversial. Sometimes it’s because of the subject matter, other times because of what is shown on screen. Debates rage among political and religious groups over whether we need to be exposed to certain images, and if these films serve any greater purpose than to just shock and awe.

“Cannibal Holocaust” (1980)

best-italian-horror-movies-cannibal-holocaust-posterIt’d be easy to fill a list of controversial movies with exploitation films. There are many of them, but they are all purposefully designed to shock and disgust. However, this one has a fascinating controversy.

“Cannibal Holocaust” is an Italian film done in the “found footage” style, following a film crew that visits the Amazon to film cannibal tribes. The film is unique because the actors actually interacted with real indigenous tribes.

After the premiere, the director was arrested and charged with making a snuff film, meaning there was actual murder sans special effects. There were rumors of actual actor deaths on set that ended up to be unfounded; however, they were indeed found guilty of killing six animals on screen.

With brutality, sexual assault and animal violence, the film is banned in several countries.

“The Last Temptation of Christ” (1988)

The_Last_Temptation_of_Christ_posterBased on a novel by the same name, this film is directed by Martin Scorsese. Starring Willem Dafoe as Jesus Christ and Barbara Hershey as Mary Magdalene, it tells the story of Jesus’s life and how he dealt with many complicated emotions such as fear, doubt, depression and even lust. Jesus struggles with knowing his purpose of dying to save mankind. The ‘last temptation’ is depicted as he dies on the cross, dreaming of marriage, raising a family and a sexual relationship with Mary Magdalene.

This was obviously very controversial for religious groups. There was a protest outside of a Parisian theatre showing the film, where Christian Fundamentalists set fire to the building. Many Christians around the world boycotted the film, and groups picketed outside Universal Studios. Several theatre chains were convinced to cancel showings. Even to this day several countries ban it.

Personally, I find it an incredibly fascinating take on the figure of Jesus Christ, humanizing and making him more relatable. However, I can understand why some religious people would have problems with the interpretation.

“Natural Born Killers” (1994)

215px-NBKillazWritten by Quentin Tarantino and directed by Oliver Stone, “Natural Born Killers” stars Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis as a Bonnie-and-Clyde pair of lovers who are also mass murderers.

Shot in a frenetic style, it has extremely graphic violence throughout the film, which was accused of inspiring copycat crimes throughout the U.S. This includes the famous Columbine High School massacre, where the shooters’ journals revealed that they were fans of the film and  planned to go “NBK” on their school.

Stone insists that the film is meant to be a satire of how killers are glorified in the media, and the movie itself does not  promote violence.

“Natural Born Killers” further perpetuates the debate of whether or not violent films — or video games — influence people to kill off-screen.

“Zero Dark Thirty” (2012)

zero-dark-thirty-poster“Zero Dark Thirty” was very popular during this year’s Oscars. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, the first and only woman to win Best Director for “The Hurt Locker,” the film tells the story of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden.

The graphic depiction of torture sparked controversy. Some feel that it is a platform for pro-torture propaganda, others feel it is anti-torture, exposing the interrogation process for everyone to see how wrong it is. Politicians were angered, feeling that the film made it seem as if torture was the primary tool used in finding Bin Laden. John McCain, who himself has been a prisoner of war, made a speech to the Senate saying that the film feeds into the myth that torture is effective.

Other political figures claim it is all completely fabricated, and that there was no torture used in the hunt for Bin Laden. Several Republicans claimed that the Obama Administration or the CIA had given Bigelow and her team access to classified information.

“Zero Dark Thirty” came under heavy fire from many politicians, but Bigelow stands by her interpretation and that torture was indeed used at that time.

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