(Welcome to The Movies That Made Star Wars, a series where we explore the films and television properties that inspired George Lucas’s iconic universe. In this edition: The Interpreters.)

If there is one thing certain about the escapism offered by Star Wars, it’s that it hasn’t exactly been escapism. It’s always been inherently political. George Lucas has often remarked about how the original trilogy cast the United States as the the aggressive, evil Empire and how it was all a metaphor for the Vietnam War. The Rebels were the freedom fighters staving off the colonialist meddling of American aggression.

The prequel trilogy doubled down on this. Characters were named to resemble men in the Senate: Newt Gingrich, Trent Lott, and Chris Dodd all became Nute Gunray and Lott Dodd, the mouthpieces of the greedy Trade Federation. The prequel trilogy explored the decay of a Republic and the way the best of intentions can lead into tyranny. When the sequel trilogy came about, J.J. Abrams and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan took the themes even further, showing us how fascism can return with even more fervor and less rationality.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story fits in there, too. And we’ll talk about one film in particular that aligns with its politics: a PBS Independent Lens documentary called The Interpreters

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