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Yash Gupta
Business School Dean

Yash Gupta

Yash Gupta is Professor and Dean of The Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.

Socially conscious movies

Q: The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow's Iraq war movie, won great reviews and the Oscar for best picture but has failed to draw large audiences, joining other 2009 critically acclaimed films such as The Messenger. What are the challenges for artists who try to use their art to lead the public on a divisive political issue?

Certainly a movie director fits the definition of a leader - someone who steers an organization or a project and operates with principles developed through years of experience. And here, as in almost every other arena, leadership is about fortitude, adhering to a vision you believe in even when you're not sure your message is getting across.

Movies such as "The Hurt Locker," "The Messenger," "Invictus," and "Gandhi" belong in a special category because they possess a social consciousness that you're not going to find in typical Hollywood fare. These are films in which the writers and directors seek to convey important lessons. This is another basic characteristic of good leaders - they are always teaching.

No doubt educating the public about a particular issue - war, race, justice - is a motivation that drives these artists. And it's something from which they can derive solace and encouragement if their films aren't initially drawing huge audiences.

Anyway, who really knows when a newly released film is going to click with the public. It's hit-and-miss; so many factors are in play. Thank goodness the film makers' work can enjoy a relatively long shelf life in this age of the video. Years ago, a film would struggle at the box office and vanish from view. Now, a movie such as "The Hurt Locker" can build a word-of-mouth audience when it enters the home video market - thanks in part to recognition in the form of Oscars and other awards -- providing the creators further opportunities for their visions to be seen and appreciated.

By Yash Gupta

 |  March 9, 2010; 10:53 AM ET
Category:  Artistic leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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