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A Charlottesville movie theater is screening 10 vital films about hate and bigotry

Decades of dramas and comedies have critiqued hate in many forms, and they’re all worth seeing now.

Liza Minnelli in Cabaret, Patrick Stewart in Green Room, and David Oyelowo in Selma
Liza Minnelli in Cabaret, Patrick Stewart in Green Room, and David Oyelowo in Selma
Alissa Wilkinson covers film and culture for Vox. Alissa is a member of the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics.

In response to recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, and their aftermath, the Alamo Drafthouse in Charlottesville — one of 22 American cities in which the chain has theaters — announced this week that it will be programming a film series called “Intolerable: Reflections of Bigotry and Hatred in Cinema.”

The series begins on September 5 in Charlottesville with a screening of the 1972 film Cabaret and will expand to Alamo theaters in Austin, Dallas, Denver, Ashburn, and San Francisco over the following weeks. Some screenings will be followed by (presumably moderated) discussions and have voter registration available on site, and the proceeds from their ticket sales will be donated to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups and extremists in the US.

In addition to Cabaret, the film series will feature nine other movies: Green Room (2015), The Battle of Algiers (1966), 12 Angry Men (1957), In the Heat of the Night (1967), Hairspray (1988), Do the Right Thing (1989), Putney Swope (1969), Blazing Saddles (1974), and Selma (2014).

A scene from Do the Right Thing
Let me tell you the story of Right Hand, Left Hand...
Universal Pictures

This is a formidable list (and, perhaps surprisingly, often a fun one). All of these selections critique hate and bigotry, but in a variety of forms. The Battle of Algiers is a French film about the ways a colonialist power seeks to contain a guerrilla force — and that force supposedly inspired the Black Panthers, the IRA, and the JKLF in Pakistan, as well as one of the founders of the Baader-Meinhof Group. Cabaret is set against the backdrop of Berlin during the Weimar Republic, as the Nazi Party is growing in power.

In the Heat of the Night, Do the Right Thing, Blazing Saddles, Hairspray, and Selma all deal in very different ways with the complicated interplay of justice, policing, race, and class in the United States. Putney Swope couches its critique of race in the context of advertising and corrupt corporations. And Green Room is a bloody dip into the underbelly of contemporary American white supremacist culture.

Taken together, it’s a great list of films to watch even if the “Intolerable” series isn’t playing anywhere near you. Revisiting the stories we’ve told for decades about hate, corruption, and bigotry is part of the larger toolbox for combating hate when we see it around us.