I'm going to have to mull over the questions of genre I brought up yesterday a little more. But there's a longstanding generic question I have: has anyone defined what propaganda is in a satisfactory manner? I mean, I know that film scholars pride themselves on the maxim that all cinema is propaganda and that distinguishing propaganda from "normal" cinema is both commonplace and ideological. Yet, granting that, is there not something about certain films that leads one to call them propaganda? To return to my distinction, propaganda may not have objective coherence as a genre, but it has subjective meaning for film viewers. What if we start by the idea that there is some distinction to diagnose, even if we don't agree with it?

I'm going to throw my aphoristic definition out there, culled from the chapter I'm currently polishing up on the public sphere and the problem film: "The dividing line between propaganda and problem film in fact may lie simply with the relative distance of the producer from institutions of the official public sphere." Something like Traffic is a drama rather than propaganda, not because it avoids didacticism or polemicism (it doesn't) but because it still circulates as in a general cultural marketplace based either on status as cultural commodity (the culture industry) or sequestered off in a cultural autonomy from the official field of power (the documentary and avant-garde communities, the festival circuit).


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