Films, TV programmes and other forms of literature act as a window on the world; they are able to convey and demonstrate themes, messages and ideas that wouldn't normally be possible in reality. Through the fictional scenarios which they construct we are able to view the world as a simplified model. This is particularly useful in terms of talking about political regimes because it is easy to create a fictional regime (of particular interest to us- regimes that are non-democratic) in a literary text and explore the consequences and outcomes of that regime without any real repercussions. There have been a number of texts which are particularly famous for the way demonstrate this concept, with one example being Animal Farm.

In this discussion page the various [fictional] texts which explore non-democratic political regimes will be listed and analysed in terms of what political regime they convey, in what light they convey it, how they view or suggest possible alternatives, how they are critical and/or complimentary of the alternatives and how closely the regimes explored reflect real world equivalents. Additionally, there will be an exploration of the context in which each text was written and how this may have affected understandings within the text.

Jericho - CBS TV Show

Links to Jericho pages: IMDB, Wikipedia CBS (official)

The show Jericho tells the story of a small town in the state of Kansas, USA, that is struggling to survive after a series of nuclear attacks within the continental United States. As a result of the decimation of the country, a new government is formed using the "continuity of government" option within US legislation. This government encompasses [what's left of] the western states and aims to create a new America known as "The Allied States of America" - it is opposed by the eastern states who maintain the appelation of USA. The state of Texas is seperate from both of these regimes, claiming independence. The distribution of states is illustrated in this image. Because the government of the Allied States of America is formed under emergency powers and without popular support it is non-democratic, with the new 'American President' a Senator with strong ties to a private company who drafted a continuity of government report that spelled out in detail how an attack such as the one that took place would be organised, what would happen and how the country would continue. Conspiracy theories aside, what is interesting here is the interaction between the small town of Jericho and the fictional government.

In the many months that followed the nuclear attacks the town of Jericho managed to hold elections for the mayorship, which leaves a biting question for the people of Jericho - if they could organise an election without any resources or support at all, how come the government with the full support of the military and other state agencies couldn't? Furthermore, there doesn't appear to be anyone within the new government besides the president who is non-military in their power; the company, J&R, which drafted the continuity of government report maintains a private army -- unsuprisingly, these 'security contractors' are well equipped, ranked highly and their authority supersedes even military personnel. The new government attempts to change the constitution and even has plans to rewrite North American history by reprinting textbooks and redrafting law.

The political regime of the Allied States of America is conveyed as non-democratic, corrupt and centralised. It is shown in a very negative light, without popular support and with many injustices and un-constitutional behaviours. It is portrayed as being contrary to the American spirit of freedom and justice with Draconian rules and regulations, which are enforced predominantly by a private army. The show suggests possible alternatives of the existing United States system and it is highly supportive of an electoral representative system. Although the alternatives very much reflect the current real world US system The text itself was originally written as a feature film -- a post-apocalyptic little character drama. However, the creators decided to change it to a TV series and it was influenced by the events of: 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. The creators felt that these two events were 'spectator disasters' and that they brought out both the best in people and the worst in people. Consequently, they hoped to integrate this kind of feeling within the series. In terms of understanding political regimes within the text; the best in people was seen within the town of Jericho - they held elections, they organised themselves as a community and things were free and just; contrastingly, the government of the Allied States was the worst in people - they hoarded power, dominated and destroyed others in order to further their own interests and so on.

Animal Farm - George Orwell's Novel

Links to Animal Farm pages: Wikipedia
George Orwell's classic novel, Animal Farm, told a story of a group of animals on a farm rising up against the oppressive power of the farm's owners. It was a metaphor for the communist revolution like had occurred in Russia, and it explored how the government the animals established became more and more corrupt as the leaders began to enjoy the same powers and priveleges that their former masters had. The animals are led in their revolution by the pigs, who take over the leadership of the farm after the humans have been run off the property by the revolting farm animals. The pigs are based on key figures in the Bolshevik party; Lenin; Stalin; Trotsky; and so on. They found the new communal farm on principles of equality, with one of the key rules for the farm being "all animals are equal". However, as the novel progresses we see the pigs accumulate more and more power and this rule is eventually changed to "all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others." The dominant pig, Napoleon, raises a bunch of puppies into his private security force - an allegory for the KGB - and finally him and the dogs move into the same house that the humans had lived in, and they enjoy the human foods and wine. The novel illustrates how a socialist movement for revolution can begin with good intentions but can be manipulated by the individuals with physical and political power within the movement to further their own interests. It is a cautionary tale about putting too much faith in the revolutionary forces - despite how convincing they may be.

Bulibasha - Witi Ihimaera's Novel

Links to Bulibasha pages: Salient Book Review
Bulibasha tells the story of conflict; conflict between generations; conflict between families; conflict between races; and conflict between patriarchy and democracy. The novel follows the story of Himiona, who is the grandson of Tamihana (also known as Bulibasha, King of the Gypsies), and his observations about these conflicts and how they demonstrate the injustices of his world. The conflict between patriarchy and democracy is just one of many conflicts within the story, but we will focus only on the political conflict for the purposes of our discussion. Tamihana is the head of a large family, with 10 children of his own and the addition of all of their children (his grandchildren) he sits at the top of the hierarchy of a group of people the size of a small town. The family operates a patriarchical system, with the (eldest) males in the family having the final say. In Tamihana's case, he has unquestioned power; whatever he says is law within the family. Himiona, and his father, are the youngest of their generation - so they are left with the least in both material and non-material terms. Their voice is sought last, and counts for the least amongst all the men in the family.

Himiona's perspective is that this system is injust; why should one man have the right to say how things should be for everyone else?; why should Himiona and his father be subordinate to the others because they were the last ones born? Himiona begins to challenge the authority of his Grandfather, encouraging his father to do the same. Initially Himiona's father is reluctant, but towards the end of the story he begins to realise how unfair it is that he should be inherently disadvantaged (his brothers all receive a share of the family land, while he receives none and has to stay on Tamihana's land) for something that he couldn't control - irrespective of how he might be advantaged in other ways (he has more skills than his brothers in some tasks such as shearing, but is ranked last because of his place in the hierarchy - he must submit to them and NEVER beat them). With support from Ramona, Tamihana's wife (so we are told...), Himiona begins to persuade the rest of the family that this is not right. And in Tamihana's last days, as he struggles with cancer, Himiona has the family vote on decisions. We see the transformation of a patriarchical family system to a democratic system. The women have a chance for their voice to be heard, rather than submitting to the will of their husbands/elders - and all members of the family are represented equally. The novel demonstrates how a community, no matter how small or how constructed, can benefit from discussion and democratic debate. While the votes are always contested, with multiple groups in the family representing different perspectives, all the voices are heard and the result is accepted by all. It functions almost perfectly as a democratic community; free and rational critical discussion, equal representation, and communally accepted outcomes.

I Cento Passi (One Hundred Steps) - directed by Marco Tullio Giordana

Links to I Cento Passi pages: Wikipedia, IMDB, Sicilian Culture Site
One Hundred Steps tells a similar story to Bulibasha, with the political reality taking place in the family rather than within the government. However, the story of 100 Steps is set in a time of Communist groups forming throughout Europe. The narrator and antagonist of the film, Impesto (known also as Peppino), joined the Communist Party and started a local rebel radio station - he spoke out against the Mafia, and the rest of the people in the town who accepted their place. He was part of a rebellion which was dominated by youth against the old patriarchical systems that oppressed the people. He argued that there was no justice when one family was tryanically ruling without question from anyone. One of the key strands of the story is that Impesto's father was a part of the mafia which Impesto is speaking against. So, in a sense, Impesto was fighting patriarchy on every level - his father and him were in constant argument because of Impesto's political views. However, it was his father's position within the mafia that protected Impesto from their wrath. Without that connection, Peppino wouldn't have lasted nearly as long as he did. Once his father died, though, Impesto was at the mercy of the mafia. They kidnapped him and tied him to the traintracks with explosives... The police, who are implied to be corrupt and panderers to the mafia, decide the case was an accidental suicide as a result of terrorist activity-- what else would a young communist be doing near a railroad with explosives?

The story in the film illustrates how the patriarchical system of the mafia family can dominate a town and result in injustice for everyone outside of the family in power. It touches on the frustrations of the Italian (Sicilian) people and is a clear marker for why the leftist and communist groups were popular within Italy. It is an interesting perspective on the struggle for political change, with Impesto making a seemingly tireless and relentless challenge to the powers that were. However, the film ends on a note of hopelessness... with all of his efforts; the radio station, the public demonstrations, the speeches - what has Impesto achieved? The mafia is still in power, the Communist Party is still regarded as a youthful rebellion, and Impesto himself is dead. What the film seems to highlight, is that without dissent there is no chance for change. Impesto was one voice, the Communist Party was many voices, but the voice of the people was missing. That is the key message of the film - unless the people speak, they will not be heard. If they do not speak for change, there will be no change.

Land and Freedom, and Libertarias

Both films set during the Spanish Civil War and available at Aro St Video.

Land and Freedom (1995)

Directed by Ken Loach

Wikipeadia, IMBD
WARNING: Wikipedia contains spoilers.

The film's narrative unfolds in a long flashback. David Carr has died at an old age and his granddaughter discovers old letters, newspapers and other documents in his room: what we see in the film is what he had lived.

Persuaded of the necessity of helping the Spanish Republicans in their fight against the fascist Nationalist insurgence, Carr, a young unemployed worker and member of the Communist Party, leaves Liverpool and travels to Spain to join the International Brigades. He crosses the Catalan border and casually ends up enlisted in a POUM militia commanded by Lawrence, in the Aragon front. In this company, as in all POUM militias, men and women — such as the young and enthusiastic Maite — fight together. In the following weeks and months he becomes friends with other foreign volunteers, like the French Bernard, and he falls in love with Blanca, a member of POUM, who is also the ideologue of his group. After being wounded and recovering in a hospital in Barcelona, he finally joins — in accordance with his original plan and against the opinion of Blanca — the government-backed International Brigades, and he witnesses first-hand the Stalinist propaganda and repression against POUM members and anarchists; he then returns to his old company, only to see them rounded up by a government unit requiring their surrender. After, he returns to Great Britain with a red neckerchief full of Spanish earth.

Finally the film comes back to the present, and we see Carr's funeral, in which his granddaughter throws the Spanish earth into his grave after speaking lines from "The Day Is Coming", a poem by William Morris. Afterwards she and the other family members perform a raised fist salute, honoring his beliefs and suggesting that his family might also hold them.

Libertarias (1996)

Directed by Vicente Aranda

In Spanish with English subtitles.
Wikipedia, IMBD

In the midst of the Spanish Revolution and Spanish Civil War in Barcelona, militia women Pilar (Ana Belen) and Floren (Victoria Abril) are joined by former prostitute Charo (Loles Leon) and former nun Maria (Ariadna Gil). The film opens with scenes of working class militants demolishing and burning religious icons, as they shout "down with Capitalism!" and "long live the libertarian revolution!"

While fully immersed in the overall enthusiasm of revolutionary Spain, Pilar and friends find themselves fighting against deep gender inequality which complicates their efforts in the war against Francisco Franco's Nationalist/Fascist/Catholic forces. They encounter resistance even within their own "Free Women" (Mujeres Libres) organization as one woman (that resembles Federica Montseny) tries to persuade them to stay and work in defense factories, while men try to convince them to go work as cooks, not front-line soldiers. Source:

Some anarchist thoughts on the film here.