In recent years, American cinema has tried to meet the new fashions of political correctness much more than it already did. In 2020, for example, it was announced that from the 2024 edition of the Oscars there will have to be a minimum quota of minorities in films that aspire to be nominated; a decision taken following the controversy of those who accused the Academy of not rewarding non-white actors enough. Or just think of the growing trend of having only dubbers of the same ethnicity or sexual orientation as voiced actors.
All of this is made possible by the fact that, when it comes to political engagement, the Left has almost a monopoly among Hollywood stars, shaping the common imagination. But although restoring a balance may seem like a titanic task, there are those who are trying to create a film industry designed for a non-Leftist audience. Ben Shapiro, one of the most successful conservative pundits in the United States and director of the website "The Daily Wire", has recently begun producing and streaming films, series and documentaries.
On February 10, Shut In, the first film made by "The Daily Wire" was screened for the first time, after others had already been distributed on their streaming platform (accessible only to subscribers). It is a thriller with dark atmospheres, apparently without a political message, where however among the main actors there is Vincent Gallo. The latter, in addition to being talked about for his over the top ways (see the case of his film The Brown Bunny), in 2020 attacked the movement "Black Lives Matter", to the point of selling on his website t-shirts with the words "Whites Freed The Blacks" and "Fuck Black Lives Matter". In addition, he has never hidden his support for the Republican Party. His merchandise is rich in politicized content well oriented to the right.
Shapiro explained the reasons behind his choice to produce movies: he did so on Feb. 12, during an episode of his "The Ben Shapiro Show." In his words, "if we were going to jump into the entertainment, which was a risky move, we needed to make stuff that people actually wanted to see, not people felt like they had to see. We were going to provide people a safe space where they felt they weren’t going to be attacked fot their values". He was echoed by Jeremy Boreing, former director and executive of "The Daily Wire," who explained how the films they want to produce must be in line with conservative values, but designed to entertain first and foremost.
This approach - of thinking first about commercial success and only afterwards about politics - is often practiced by progressives as well, because it brings more results. In 2020, Eleonora Andreatta, head of Italian series at "Netflix," explained that she wanted to focus heavily on themes such as diversity and inclusion, citing the case of "Zero." Released in 2021, this Netflix series, based on a novel by Antonio Dikele Distefano (an Italian writer who is the son of immigrants from Angola), chronicled the lives of second-generation Italians in the multiethnic suburbs of Milan. However, the series received less positive response than expected and production was halted after only one season.
Daily Wire's streaming
Aside from Shut In, the conservative site already has other films and television series in its catalog, mainly documentaries. In 2021, Run Hide Fight was released, an action film produced by Shapiro and premiered at the Venice Film Festival. Notable among the documentary series is China: The Enemy Within, which exposes the responsibilities of the Chinese and their supporters in America in facilitating the spread of the coronavirus. In terms of documentary films, currently the most important is Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in his Own Words, which chronicles the life of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, known for his conservative views (and for being the only judge currently in office, and the second in history, with black skin).
Among future productions, of note is Terror on the Prairie, a western scheduled for release in the summer. As in the case of Gallo, the most important member of the cast here is an actress who has been sidelined by Hollywood for controversial political comments: this is Gina Carano, who in February 2021 was kicked out of the cast of the series "The Mandalorian". Also, since the most successful films in Hollywood in recent years have been those about superheroes, "The Daily Wire" wants to try its hand at the genre by distributing the film The Hyperions.
The portfolio of this would-be "right-wing Netflix" expanded further with the 2020 acquisition of all content from PragerU, a conservative association that specializes in making video series that promote conservative values. Content includes political talk shows, analyses of the relationship between science and religion, and children's programs.
In the past there were those who had tried to unite Hollywood Republican celebrities to make a common front. In 2004, actor Gary Sinise (known for his role as Lieutenant Dan in Forrest Gump and as the protagonist of the series "CSI: NY") founded Friends of Abe (named after Abraham Lincoln), which in its most successful period reached a membership of 1,800, among whom were both successful actors and industry workers. However, in 2016 the group disbanded, according to some because there were internal disagreements over whether or not to support Trump's presidential bid that year.
Among the journalists placed to the right of the classic Republicans, before Shapiro, the Indian-born American pundit Dinesh D'Souza had already tried his hand at filmmaking, directing five documentaries. The first of these, 2016: Obama’s America, has grossed more than $33 million since its release ten years ago on a budget of just $2.5 million. Another case involves Canadian ex-reporter Lauren Southern, who previously worked for the right-wing site "The Rebel Media". In 2018, Southern made Farmlands, a controversial documentary about the plight of white farmers in South Africa, pointing the finger at what was described as ethnic cleansing carried out against them.
Andrew Breitbart, founder of the eponymous website and co-founder of the "Huffington Post", also expressed the need to oppose the hypocrisy and mentality of Hollywood celebrities. In the 2004 book Hollywood, Interrupted, which he co-wrote with journalist Mark Ebner, a whole series of stories were told highlighting the worst vices of the US film industry elites. Staying in the non-fiction realm, Shapiro also criticized Hollywood in his 2011 book Primetime Propaganda, where he attacked the Left's monopoly in the entertainment industry and, in particular, in television series.
From the catalog of "The Daily Wire", it can be deduced that, for the moment, Shapiro intends to divide his products into two categories: on the one hand, documentaries, which convey conservative political ideas about current affairs and history; on the other hand, fictions, at least in appearance without definite political connotations but which give space to right-wing actors or those who have been victims of cancel culture.
One cannot help but remember that producing a film or a series is much more expensive than publishing books or newspapers, and therefore the project inevitably involves an economic risk. His path in the world of big productions has just begun and only time will tell what the results will be.
A freelance journalist, he has written for the newspapers Mosaico , Cultweek and Il Giornale Off . Member of the Council of the UGEI (Union of Young Jews of Italy). He was editor-in-chief of HaTikwa and communications officer of the US-Italy Global Affairs Forum .