Childish Gambino’s This is America video was one of the most talked about moments in pop culture last year. Through arresting visuals and clever choreography, it offered a powerful commentary on modern day America – referencing police violence, gun crime and racism – and it has since racked up more than half a billion views on YouTube alone.
It’s not just musicians who are using their platform to comment on current events: Nike has spoken out in support of Colin Kaepernick, Gillette made a film addressing toxic masculinity and soap brand Lush sparked debate with its controversial campaign on undercover police tactics.
Alongside this, a new generation of filmmakers and photographers are finding ways to explore political and social issues and give voice to under-represented communities, while brands and media platforms from Vice to Gucci and Smirnoff are investing in shorts, features and documentaries that address human rights issues, LGBT+ equality and Brexit.
So what is driving this surge in political filmmaking? “The world is fucked, and I think people want to address that,” says Joe Alexander, a director and Head of Film at Boiler Room. “The past five years, we’ve seen such polarity in politics, and we’ve seen that presented right there on our phones and laptops – politics and current affairs are no longer just the realm of Newsnight or late-night programming,” he adds.
Alexander also puts this down to a growing appetite for political commentary: “Young people especially seem very politicised, and are willing to watch stories that I don’t think I would have watched ten years ago,” he adds.