Bright Lights Film Journal

Now! (1965)

(Santiago Alvarez; 1965)

Using morgue photos, newsreel footage, and an amazing (if slightly over-arranged) 1963 recording by Lena Horne (composed, if you can believe it, by Jule Styne, Betty Comden and Adolph Green), Cuban filmmaker Santiago Alvarez fired off Now!, one of the most powerful bursts of propaganda rendered in the 1960s. Not intended as a work of great subtlety, Alvarez wields other people’s images with more artistry than those who first captured them, and builds a remarkable piece of rhetorical cinema in the process. It’s target — the then-current racial conflagration in the United States — was (and is) an easy one. But it is perhaps this fact that most fuels the scorn and rage in the marrow of this film. If there had been any room for nuance, he might have gone a little easier.

Now! is strident stuff, yes; but breathtaking.