Revolutionary Love: 10 Films for Valentine’s Day

To commemorate Valentine’s Day, and the act of loving, we share with you a list of our top ten films about revolutionary love—transformative, against-all-odds, empowering love.
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974) – Rainer Werner Fassbinder
This film follows the blossoming of a romantic relationship between an older white woman and a recent Arab immigrant. Their love is deemed scandalous by their neighbors as it flies in the face of the dominant racist and bourgeois ideology of post-war Germany. Fassbinder manages to tell a simple and beautiful love story while skillfully navigating the nuanced dynamics of class, race, gender, and age. 


Tongues Untied – Marlon Riggs (1989)
A young man calls a sexy hot-line and leaves a message: “B.G.A., Black Gay Activist. 30ish, well-read, sensitive, pro-feminist, seeks same for envelope licking, flyer distribution, banner assembly, demonstration companion, dialogical theorizing, good times, and hot, safe, sex.” This essay film explores the realities of being a black gay man in late 80’s America through performance, autobiographical material, and interviews with artists such as the poet Essex Hemphill. Riggs’ film is a powerful and moving homage to the black gay experience, and situates black gay love as a thoroughly revolutionary act. 


The Cow (1969) – Dariush Mehrju’i
A tragic love story between a man and his closest friend, his pet cow. Set in a rural community that is beset by bitter poverty and paranoia, this film successfully blends the immediacy of Italian Neorealism with the poetry of German Expressionism in order to craft a potent political allegory. This political critique initially led to the film being banned by the pre-revolutionary Shah government, and helped spark the Iranian New Wave film movement. 


Tromeo and Juliet (1996) – Lloyd Kaufman 
Punk re-telling of the Shakespearean classic made by the notoriously fucked-up B-movie production company, Troma. Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead narrates this wild ride, as the film oscillates between over-the-top-gross-out gore and exceedingly silly sex scenes where nipples make a “boing” sound when flicked. Buried beneath the trash is a political commentary about the radical power of revolutionary love. Fun fact: “Guardians of the Galaxy” director James Gunn co-wrote this film. 


Born in Flames – Lizzie Borden (1983)
If a social democratic revolution were to occur in America, what would political struggle look like in this new context? Borden’s film convincingly answers this question by portraying the limitations of social democracy and by positing feminist revolutionaries—that account for class, race, and sexuality—as the new vanguard. This film proves that even if certain gains are won for the working class, there will continue to be a necessity for ongoing revolutionary love, solidarity, and action among society’s most marginalized peoples. 


Love and Anarchy – Lina Wertmüller (1973)
This film tells the story of a poor, anarchist farmer who joins a militant sex worker in a plot to assassinate fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. During his stay in the brothel, he falls in love with one of the women working there, causing a complication that leads to a tragic conclusion. 


Stray Dogs – Tsai Ming-Liang (2013)
Standing on top of a road divider in the midst of hectic traffic, a father of two steadily holds an advertisement placard against the pelting rain and wind. Tsai’s film depicts the unwavering love of a homeless father for his children, and the exhaustion and isolation experienced by those in the neglected underclass. The family is eventually cared for by a working-class woman, whose revolutionary love gives them some respite from their destitution. 


Zabriskie Point – Michelangelo Antonioni (1970)
This film opens with a scene where white radical students are critiqued by black revolutionaries, and closes with an amazing super-slow-mo shot of a bourgeois mansion exploding while a sick Pink Floyd jam plays over top. The rest of the film is basically annoying hippies gallivanting around Death Valley, doing ‘transgressive’ counter-culture stuff like having orgies in a pile of dirt. 


My Name Is Kahentiiosta – Alanis Obomsawin (1995)
This documentary short is a successor to Obomsawin’s masterful film Kahensetake: 270 Years of Resistance and follows one of the Mohawk activists who was part of the Oka crisis, a woman named Kahentiiosta.  There are many moments of revolutionary love in the film, as Kahentiiosta explains her connection to the land, how she wants her children to witness and inherit the anti-colonial struggle, and how the Oka crisis itself is an act of love in defiance of settler expansion. One particularly moving scene occurs when she is unable to hug her son because she has been handcuffed by the Canadian military. 


Bed and Sofa – Abram Room (1927)
Inspired by a true story, this silent film from the USSR depicts a polyamorous relationship in which a woman, her husband, and her lover, all live under one roof. Initially banned in both Europe and the US, this film’s frank depiction of sexuality and abortion gives an intriguing insight into the sexual norms of the working class in 1920’s Moscow.


This list was curated by our friends at @FilmPolitic, follow them on Twitter or Instagram.