Riding a wave of black-themed films, movies about the struggles against slavery, apartheid and police repression dominate this year's Progie Award nominations for 2013's best progressive films and filmmakers.
The nominees include biopics about Nelson Mandela, Jackie Robinson, Oscar Grant, and Muhammad Ali, as well as a documentary about the 1985 aerial bombing of the Philadelphia Black nationalist group MOVE.
The legendary Greco-French director Costa-Gavras of Z and Missing is in contention for a lifetime achievement award. German director Margarethe von Trotta's biopic about the anti-fascist philosopher, Hannah Arendt, who dubbed Nazi Adolf Eichmann "the mediocrity of evil," was nominated for two Progies, as was Jeremy Scahill's scathing expose about U.S. covert ops, Dirty Wars. It is competing in the Best Progressive Documentary category with Blackfish, about marine life in captivity, among other docs. Due to a tie, six films are nominated in the Best Pro-Gay-Rights category, including a feature about poet Allen Ginsberg. A nonfiction film featuring Gore Vidal is also nominatdd.
The James Agee Cinema Circle, an international group of left-leaning film critics, historians and scholars, voted for the 7th Annual Progie Award Nominations. The Progies highlight features and documentaries and the artists who made and appear in them, primarily based on their progressive political, social, cultural, ethnic, economic, gender, ecological, immigrant, pro-human rights, pro-LGBTQ rights, pro-labor, etc., content and form. The nominations and awards are given in a variety of categories named after great lefty filmmakers and films of conscience, consciousness and creativity. The Progressive Magazine began publishing the Progie winners in 2007, when the awards premiered.
Up to five nominees can be selected per category - except in case of a tie, when more than five nominees can be entered in a category. Also, any motion picture nominated for the Langlois (the Progie for best progressive picture deserving theatrical release in the U.S.) is listed in order to shine a light on these deserving films, which is the purpose of the JACC and the Progies.
2013 Progie Nominations for Best Progressive Films and Artists:
1. The Trumbo: The Progie Award for Best Progressive Picture is named after Oscar-winning screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, a member of the Hollywood Ten, who was imprisoned for his beliefs and refusing to inform. Trumbo helped break the Blacklist when he received screen credit for "Spartacus" and "Exodus" in 1960.
2. The Garfield: The Progie Award for Best Actor in a progressive picture is named after John Garfield, who rose from the proletarian theatre to star in progressive pictures such as "Gentleman's Agreement" and "Force of Evil," only to run afoul of the Hollywood Blacklist.
Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
Matthew McConaughey (Dalla Buyers Club)
Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station)
Idris Elba (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom)
Shannon Harper (Welcome to Pine Hill)
3. The Karen Morley: The Progie Award for Best Actress in a film portraying women in a progressive picture is named for Karen Morley, co-star of 1932's "Scarface" and 1934's "Our Daily Bread." Morley was driven out of Hollywood in the 1930s for her leftist views, but maintained her militant political activism for the rest of her life, running for New York's Lieutenant Governor on the American Labor Party ticket in 1954. She passed away in 2003, unrepentant to the end, at the age of 93.
Barbara Sukowa (Hannah Arendt)
Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave)
Octavia Spencer (Fruitvale Station)
Judi Dench (Philomena)
Danai Gurira (Mother of George)
4. The Renoir: The Progie Award for Best Anti-War Film is named after the great French filmmaker Jean Renoir, who directed the 1937 anti-militarism masterpiece "Grand Illusion."
The Act of Killing
5. The Gillo: The Progie Award for Best Progressive Foreign Film is named after the Italian director Gillo Pontecorvo, who lensed the 1960s classics "The Battle of Algiers" and "Burn!"
A Touch of Sin
Blue is the Warmest Color
The Great Beauty
6. The Dziga: The Progie Award for Best Progressive Documentary is named after the Soviet filmmaker Dziga Vertov, who directed 1920s nonfiction films such as the "Kino Pravda" ("Film Truth") series and "The Man With the Movie Camera."
7. Our Daily Bread Award: The Progie Award for the Most Positive and Inspiring Working Class Screen Image.
This is Martin Bonner
Welcome to Pine Hill
8. The Robeson: The Progie Award for the Best Portrayal of People of Color that shatters cinema stereotypes, in light of their historically demeaning depictions onscreen. It is named after courageous performing legend Paul Robeson, who starred in 1936's "Song of Freedom" and 1940's "The Proud Valley," and narrated 1942's "Native Land."
12 Years a Slave
Let the Fire Burn
The Trials of Muhammad Ali
9. The Sergei: The Progie Award for Lifetime Progressive Achievement On- or Offscreen is named after Sergei Eisenstein, the Soviet director of masterpieces such as "Potemkin" and "10 Days That Shook the World."
10. The Bunuel: The Progie Award for the Most Slyly Subversive Satirical Cinematic Film in terms of form, style and content is named after Luis Bunuel, the Spanish surrealist who directed 1929's "The Andalusian Dog," 1967's "Belle de Jour" and 1972's "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie."
The Wolf of Wall Street
11. The Pasolini: The Progie Award for Best Pro-Gay Rights film is named after Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini, who directed 1964's "The Gospel According to St. Matthew" and "The Decameron" and "The Canterbury Tales" in the 1970s.
Behind the Candelabra
Blue is the Warmest Color
Reaching for the Moon
Kill Your Darlings
12. The Lawson: The Progie Award for Best Anti-Fascist Film is named after John Howard Lawson, screenwriter of 1938's anti-Franco "Blockade" and the 1940s anti-Nazi films "Four Sons," "Action in the North Atlantic," "Sahara" and "Counter-Attack," and one of the Hollywood Ten.
The Act of Killing
13. The Langlois: For Best Progressive Picture Deserving Theatrical Release in the U.S.,and distribution in other countries and platforms is named after film archivist Henri Langlois, co-founder of Paris' Cinémathèque.
Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia
Story of Film: An Odyssey
Stranger by the Lake
A Field in England
It Felt Like Love
Swim Little Fish Swim
Forty Years From Yesterday
When I Saw You
The Liberator: Simon Bolivar
Me and You
Winter in the Blood
The Untold History of the United States
The James Agee Cinema Circle's participants will select the award winners from the nominees around mid-February, and the results will be announced shortly before the Academy Awards ceremony on March 2. Until then, we'll see you in the Left Aisle at the movies!
Ed Rampell is facilitator of the James Agee Cinema Circle.
Photo: "12 Years A Slave." Francois Duhamel/Fox Searchlight & AP