This thesis investigates the political conjuncture surrounding the U.S. New Communist Movement’s break with the New Left of the 1960s, tracing the coordinates of this ideological shift through the lens of committed documentary. I argue that a materialist analysis of committed documentary necessitates understanding the form according to an aesthetics of political use-value. By attending to the question of documentary’s political utility, I demonstrate how films were used as cultural tools for conducting hegemonic struggles over certain political issues. Focusing on the contested dialectical relation between class and race, I trace period debates over the political status of the black proletariat through readings of four documentaries: Columbia Revolt (1968), Black Panther (1968), Finally Got the News (1970), and Wildcat at Mead (1972). Through these analyses, I argue for the centrality of political organization to any useful theory and practice of cultural commitment as a form of revolutionary politics.
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Thesis advisor: Druick, Zoe
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