Hot Docs 2019: Our Review Of ‘Propaganda: The Art Of Selling Lies’

Hot Docs 2019: Our Review Of ‘Propaganda: The Art Of Selling Lies’

Propaganda: ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one’s cause or to damage an opposing cause.

It’s ironic that it’s easier than ever to spread lies, rumours, and misinformation in the information age. Larry Weinstein’s new documentary, Propaganda: The Art of Selling Lies, gives viewers a crash course on the phenomenon. Weinstein presents a wide range of material; defining propaganda, contextualizing its effect throughout history, and highlighting its grip on modern society.

The film begins its deep dive on all things propaganda by examining sixty-thousand-year-old Neanderthal cave-art. And Weinstein does a brilliant job explaining propaganda’s role in its creation. Something as innocuous to us as a palm print in a cave is so much more than just a palm print. Its placement inside of this particular cave, an awe-inspiring place of worship, acted as a signifier of the shaman’s power, which magnified his influence. Not only has propaganda existed since the beginning of civilization, our brains’ innate biases make us all susceptible. So it’s not going away any time soon.

The sneaky thing about propaganda, is when it works well, we don’t notice it at all. The doc points out that we don’t realize how many of our own values are shaped by Western propaganda; patriarchy, aspirational lifestyles, beauty, gender roles, and sexual politics. Later on, Weinstein pulls back the veil of perception by presenting examples from our past (Charlie Chaplin movies) and profiling modern subjects (Kathy Griffin and Ai Weiwei) whose unfiltered opinions provoke civil unrest because they don’t fit with established ideals.

Propaganda: The Art of Selling Lies uses lessons from our past to paint a terrifying picture of what lays ahead.

This post was written by
Victor Stiff is a Toronto-based freelance writer and pop culture curator. Victor currently contributes insights, criticisms, and reviews to several online publications where he has extended coverage to the Toronto International Film Festival, Hot Docs, Toronto After Dark, Toronto ComiCon, and Fan Expo Canada. Victor has a soft spot in his heart for Tim Burton movies and his two poorly behaved beagles (but not in that order).
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