Third Cinema revisited

Just another weblog

International Workers’ Day

Posted by keith1942 on May 1, 2021

Greetings for the Day of the International

Working Class.

This year we also celebrate the anniversary

of the heroic Paris Commune of 1871 but

also mourn those who died in this historic

revolutionary action.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Pomegranates and Myrrh / Al Mor Wa Al Rumman (Palestinian Territories-France-Germany 2008)

Posted by keith1942 on April 30, 2021

Kamar visits Zaid in prison

This was the first feature of a young Palestinian film-maker who has subsequently made two more features; most recently Between Heaven and Earth (2019). She studied in the USA, a common route for Palestinians who still lack a autonomous homeland. Her features rely on funding from abroad, mainly Europe; a common limitation for Palestinian film-makers. Her features dramatise family relationships and traumas that typify the experiences of a people under occupation.

The film opens with the wedding of Kamar (Yasmin Elmasri) and Zaid (Aashraf Farar) in Ramallah, in the occupied Palestinian territories. Zaid owns an olive grove and an olive press. Kamar’s own interest is a local dance group. Shortly after the wedding Israeli soldiers turn up on Zaid’s land with a notice of confiscation. There is a scuffle and Zaid is arrested and imprisoned under ‘administrative detention’. Most of the film follows Kamar as she copes with the situation but also attempts to continue her own life, in particular her membership of the dance troupe. There are periodic visits to Zaid in prison, and at one point he is held in solitary confinement. Kamar’s life becomes more complicated when Kais (Ali Suliman) joins the troupe. He is a choreographer whose family was exiled to Lebanon at the start of the occupation in 1948. By the end of the film the troupe have performed a dance event supervised by Kais, ‘Pomegranates and Myrrh’: Zaid has finally been released from prison and there is tentative reunion between him and Kamar: but the olive grove remain under Israeli occupation.

The film deals with an important issue for Palestinians, the creeping theft of their land under a variety of guises by the Zionist regime. The soldiers claim that the confiscation is because ‘boys threw stones’ from the land. The soldiers then claim that Zaid ‘threatened and attacked’ them to justify his imprisonment. Zaid imprisonment lasts several months and we glimpse the bureaucratic methods used by the Israeli’s to delay any possibility of justice. At the same time Jewish settlers start to occupy the confiscated groves, and at one point vandalise the disused olive press.

However, the prime focus of the film is the situation of the young wife, Kamar. Along with the pressures of the confiscation and her husbands imprisonment are those of friends and family who believe that her dance activities and growing friendship with Kais are unseemly. Eventually the Director of the troupe, incensed by Kais’s interest in Kamar, cancels the planned event that Kais is rehearsing with the dance troupe. The dance finally takes place in a disused playground. And it is during a performance that Kamar and Zaid exchange smiles that suggest their future together.

The film makes an interesting comparison with the 2008 film, Lemon Tree (Etz Limon, Israel, Germany, and France). There is not only a common plot problem, in this case the confiscation of a Lemon Grove, but also shared actors. In Lemon Tree Haim Abbass plays the widow, Salma Zidane, whose grove is under threat because an Israeli Minister moves into the adjoining house: in Pomegranates and Myrrh she plays Umm Habib, the owner of a small café. The café hosts an important scene as Kamar and Kais are forced to spend a night there during an Israeli curfew. Ali Suliman (Kais in Pomegranates and Myrrh) plays the Zaid Doud, the young Palestinian lawyer who conducts Salma’s case. Lemon Tree is clearly the more didactic film: [not a weakness despite the claims of certain mainstream critics]. For me the main weakness was that this didactic tone was rather one-note: it did not develop all the complexities of the situation. For example, Pomegranates and Myrrh has a much stronger sense of the wider context and Palestinian communities. An aspect of the one-note tone is the recurring use made of the folk song, ‘Lemon Tree’, which I felt did not stand frequent re-playing. Lemon Tree also offers a closer look at the Israeli protagonists; the film ends without Salma recovering her land, but with Mira Navon (Rona Lipaz-Michael) leaving her ministerial husband, Israel Navon (Doron Tavory) out of disgust for his oppressive actions. In Pomegranates and Myrrh the Israeli soldiers are almost faceless, and the settlers are uniformly shown in long shot. This is a trope that goes back at least as far as Goya.

Umm Habib

Pomegranates and Myrrh seem to me to subordinate the political issue to the personal. So much of the plot focuses on Kamar’s personal difficulties and the developing relationship with Kais. This is reinforced by the film’s ending, when the audience are left with what seems to be a re-united husband and wife without a clear reference to the confiscated land. The writer and director commented on her approach to the issue and the story:

“The idea for the film started with the beginning of the second Palestinian Intifada. …When violence, hate and anger became the only life around me, it almost broke my spirit and soul, and my faith in humanity. I needed to find a way to survive, to find hope in what seemed to be a hopeless situation, to breathe again despite the suffocating weight of frustration. Yet in this search I was also confronted with barriers in a Palestinian society – those which can hinder individual development, dreams and aspirations but none as challenging as those which force people to turn to losing themselves when despair, uncertainty and loss prevails. Writing offered me the escape I needed and a way to release my frustrations. The result was ‘Pomegranates and Myrrh’. I took the story of a Palestinian female dancer trying to fulfil her dreams in a conservative society…. The film is in some ways a prediction of how a worsening political climate and the consequent lack of hope can directly affect Palestinian daily life, pushing the society to further isolate itself and the individual to regress into conservative traditionalism and religion if there isn’t hope, determination and a continuation of life. … It is my hope [that this story] will ultimately deepen the understanding of the present Palestinian story, transcending the barriers of culture and language.” (Leeds Festival Catalogue).

I have to question how far the emphasis of the film on the personal as to the political really does ‘deepen understanding. It is a staple of the commercial, entertainment film, even when it addresses contemporary political contradictions, to focus on the emotions of individual protagonists. This tendency {I believe] weakens and dissipated political issues. This is not a criticism that I would apply to the earlier Lemon Tree.

There is an interesting comment by a ‘reader’ on the Internet Movie Data Base site. One writes, “Although not explained, it is maybe interesting to note that pomegranates were eaten by souls in the underworld to bring about rebirth. Hellenic mythographers said both Kore and Eurydice were detained in the underworld because they ate pomegranate seeds there. Myrrh was traditionally an aphrodisiac.” In this sense the film’s title reinforces the personal issue.

Cinematically Pomegranates and Myrrh is more interesting than the earlier film. There are occasional long shots, usually for establishing a scene or as transitions between scenes. Much of the movie is shot in mid-shot and close-up. This relentlessly emphasises the enchainment of the Palestinians: also present in the mise en scène in the frequent use of bars and enclosures. The films’ opening follows the wedding party on their way to an Orthodox Church for the ceremony. Their journey perforce is through an Israeli checkpoint and alongside the ‘apartheid wall’. This style also reinforces the sense of the restrictions that are laid on the heroine.

However, I felt this style was rather over-done: the continuing close-ups do feel very oppressive and frequently frustrate the viewer’s view of the settings. Another quirk I thought not completely successful was the frequent shots of feet, especially during the dancing by the troupe. A colleague told me that Film Schools advise students that shots of feet make a useful transition, and I have this sense that they are often excessive in contemporary cinema. Despite these reservations Pomegranates and Myrrh is an absorbing film and it generates emotional involvement both around its central issue and the involved protagonists.

Palestinian Territories, France, Germany 2008.

Screened at the 23rd Leeds International Film Festival 2009.

Running Time 95 minutes.

Languages, Arabic, Hebrew, English with some English Subtitles.

Director: Najwa Najjar, Screenwriter: Najwa Najjar.


Posted in Palestinian films | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

On representation

Posted by keith1942 on April 2, 2021

I subscribe to the Radical Film Network. You get a lot of notices, more than I can handle. However, you also get some excellent recommendations like this one:

“Following on from Adam Curtis’ “Can’t Get You Out of my Head” I was delighted to watch the latest film on the RFN Film site this morning ‘What is Representation” by sub.Media. For me it’s an excellent analysis of the problematic definition of representation and should be screened to all media students. Being only 11 minutes long as opposed to Curtis’ 6 hour production, it probably says as much in that short time.

So thank you sub,Media for putting it on our site – I hope you’ll get lots of viewings.”

Here is the link:

‘What is Representation’ is part of an ‘A for Anarchy’ series on sub.Media;

“sub.Media is a video production ensemble, which aims to promote anarchist and anti-capitalist ideas, and aid social struggles through the dissemination of radical films and videos. Founded in 1994, has produced hundreds of videos on everything from anti-globalization protests to films about shoplifting. Our films have been screened around the world in social centers and movie theaters and have been watched by millions on the internet.”

In eleven minutes this short video manages to pack a lot of analysis and comment on a term that is bandied about in media studies; frequently without it being clear what exactly it means, covers or indeed ‘represents’.

The video offers a stream of moving images from many sources; mostly the mainstream media. I did find the stream had a rapid pace, rather too rapid. Being able to play it in slow motion, [like Jean-Luc] would be interesting. However, viewers who are used to the tempo of much modern video will probably find it fine. The majority of clips are moving images with sound but the sound is not heard; rather two songs play behind the commentary. Given how important sounds are in representations and that noise rather than the dialogue or commentary frequently receive less attention, I think it would be helpful to address this.

The commentary that runs over these images is excellent and it comments on the underlying social relations of representations, an aspect often overlooked. There are a number of references to ‘ideology’, another term that seems to have multiple meanings and which in any particular case it may not clear which is meant. It did seem to me that this video treated ideology as something which applies to nearly all intended communications. This term, unlike representation, is undefined and I could not find among the sub-Media titles on its web page one that dealt specifically with ideology.

What is ideology. I follow a key definition and usage by Karl Marx; that ideology is not just the dominant ideas of the ruling class in a social formation but a viewpoint that treats the surface aspects rather than the underlying social relations. This video tends to treat ideology in the first sense though the commentary does emphasize that any representation disguises the real relations involved. It also appears to see all representations as of this character. I tend to think that there are communications, like this video aware of the underlying social relations, which, to that extent, are not ideological.

There are indeed two meanings of representation in the video. In its early part the emphasis and examples are of portrayal of people and people’s actions that re-present our world. Towards the end the commentary addresses the ideas that actual people in power are seen to represent those not in power; that is they claim our voice and our consent for the activities of the state. Both meanings of representation interact in what is called hegemony; the dominance of the ideas of the ruling class. This takes a very particular form under the capitalist mode of production. Whilst the video addresses the sense of capitalist societies I think there is a need for a accompanying video about the commodity that lies at the heart of this mode of production. Another entry in ‘A is for Anarchy’ is ‘Property’ which refers to commodities but this is a commentary that I think needs development. A second title in the series is ‘Class’; this I thought good on the working class but that it needed development in its commentary on the Capitalist class.

The commentary ends with a generalised call for the anarchist movement; something which also does not seem to be set out in any video in ‘A for Anarchy’. So sub.Media’s ‘representation’ of the way that these cultural transmissions work itself needs to be critically viewed.

I note that the recommendation also referred to the new set of titles by Adam Curtis. I have watched earlier series by Adam Curtis and find his work extremely problematic. This seems to be the case as well with ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head’. I only watched the first episode; that was enough. Curtis tends to use ideas expropriated from other thinkers but not always credited. He espouses a type of fast editing [Montage] which is typical of the modern media but fails to draw critical attention to the representation itself. And in this title he criticizes what is termed ‘individualism’ but which itself relies on individualist values.

Sub.Media is definitely a better use of your time.

Posted in Analysis and theory | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Blood and Tears French Decolonisation

Posted by keith1942 on December 18, 2020

This is a three part documentary; episodes run just under fifty minutes. The production was directed by Korn Brzoza and Pascal Blanchard for the Cinétévé audio-visual company. The narrative covers from the 1930s up until the 1960s; the period in which the world-wide empire of the French State gradually escaped the bonds placed on peoples and lands. This was the great period of oppressed peoples and nations throwing off the shackles of predominately European colonial powers and achieving some form of independence and freedom . The process saw widespread and often brutal violence inflicted on people struggling for freedom. However, the French State offered the most intransigence and the most extreme violence in response.

The documentary provides interviews with people from both sides of a number of the conflicts: liberation fighters: ordinary indigenous people: settlers: French military and critics in France. There is a substantial amount of archive footage, both film and television material. And there is a commentary that is broadly critical of the French resistance to decolonisation and of the French strategy and tactics.

There is focus on the well-known struggles in Vietnam and in Algeria. But there is also a focus on less well known struggles and the less well-known violent spasms by the French State and military. The French empire included peoples in North and North-West Africa, South East Africa, the West Indies, Indo-China and the Pacific. The account includes massacres in Madagascar and in the Ivory Coast. There is the appalling brutality used in the construction of a railway in Senegal. And there is the more Machiavellian strategy pursued in some areas, such as the West Indies.

The interviews, film material and commentary probe both the way that the French State operated and the way that Independence movements worked. There is also comment on the response internationally, especially to the French actions in Indo-China and Algeria. Most of these present responses in the United Nations. There is not much coverage on other colonial powers. The commentary seems to imply that the French were far more violent and more intransigent than other colonial powers. This is only partly true. The example of British responses to independence struggle was frequently as violent as the French; check their actions against the Mau-Mau in Kenya. And, to take another example, the British role in enabling the French to re-occupy Vietnam at the end of World war II is overlooked.

Another issue is the continuing neo-colonial role operated by the French State, especially in North and North-West Africa. The commentary does mention this and there are examples of French neo-colonialism in the 1960s. But it is really stressed how this continues in 2020. The French State continues to operate economic, military and political activities in an number of apparently independent states. In this sense, like the British State, it continues the exploitation and oppression of the colonial era.

The history presented in this documentary is one that is rarely treated in film or on television. Al Jazeera in recent years have produced a number of such titles, presenting stories and issues that the mainstream media in the European colonising states have ignored. So this is welcome opportunity for viewing. The documentary has its limitations as I suggest above. There is also an issue about the style and technical form of the episodes. Al Jazeera has in recent years, unfortunately, followed the conventional treatment on television of mishandling archive film material. As with other recent documentaries the archive material, mainly filmed in academy ratio, has been re-framed to fit the 16:9 screen. This three part title has now gone even further in colourising the predominately black and white archival footage. Some of it looks pretty bad and the whole treatment is anachronistic. The problem is highlighted by a couple of instances where film material is presented in its original aspect ratio: one short clip is from Afrique 50 (Africa 50) René Vautier | Niger/Côte d’Ivoire 1950. I assume that the film’s copyright holder insisted that the film’s original form be respected.

Still the series is worth watching. It is available on the Al Jazeera web pages where it can be viewed without the interruptions that occur in broadcasts.

Posted in Colonial history, Television | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Leeds Palestinian Film Festival 2020

Posted by keith1942 on November 18, 2020

This year’s programme is, as with so many events, an online or virtual festival. It runs from November 14th until November 28th. The programme is structured through four themes:

Annexation, Occupation Defiance

Roadmap to Apartheid is a 2012 US documentary. It was made by Ana Nogueira who is a white South African with Eron Davidson who is a Jewish Israeli. They use their knowledge of the two states and their settler regimes, [the South African is past] to explore the parallels between them. They provide information and testimonies that show the similarities and differences of the two states. The testimonies are provided by Israelis, Palestinians and South Africans. The parallels are emphasized visually by running archive footage of both systems in split screens.

The parallels include occupation, enforced separation, violent suppression, ID controls, housed demolition and bantustan-type areas. The South African testimonies also comment that the Israeli system includes actions that were not used in South Africa; these include the separation wall, armed helicopter surveillance and open warfare against Palestinians. On the last point it is worth noting the South African Apartheid regime invasion of Angola and surreptitious invasion in Mozambique. Alongside this the investigation highlights the military co-operation that existed between the two regimes fin the 1970s and 1980s.

The documentary ends with the argument that the only way to resolve the conflict is a ‘one-state’ solution; an argument that so many people resist.

Naila and the Uprising is a 2017 documentary produced by Just Vision and like their other title, Budrus, explores grass roots activism. Much of the story it tells takes place in the first Intifada in the late 1980s. Naila is a young Palestinian woman who marries a fellow activists. But their marriage coincides with increased Israeli repression. Naila becomes a leading figure in a popular movement in which women play an important part. She becomes a target for the Israeli surveillance and security. During one spell in prison she suffers a miscarriage. Later she suffers further imprisonment, now accompanied by her young son. On release her partner is deported and the couple are once more separated. Naila’s story provides an example of the heroism and the cost of activism among Palestinians. The film uses interviews, archive footage and animation; and it provides a chronicle of the Intifada and of how ordinary Palestinian organised resistance.

The latter part of the film presents the US sponsored talks, [a rare US action sympathetic to the Palestinians] between Israel and Palestinians and the Oslo accords that followed. These show how the out-of-touch PLO leadership made an agreement without the participation of the activists who led the struggle. Predictably the agreement merely placated the US and it international partners whilst giving little to the Palestinians. This is a fine and at times moving record.

Jews Step Forward is a US documentary from 2015 that features a series on interviews with Jewish US citizens who at one time supported, in some way, Israel but now are part of the opposition to the Israeli occupation. The interviews are presenting in clips and the presentation cuts from one person to another. What adds power to their recollections and comments is that these clips also alternate with footage and images of Palestine, its history and its present.

The first half -an-hour presents people’s personal history and their involvement in Jewish culture and Zionism. Then for about 45 minutes they detail the history and impact of Zionist migration. Here we see footage from the early days of migration: the Nakba: 1967 and the enlarged occupation: the settlement movement: and the wars inflicted on Gaza.

In the final half-an-hour we see and hear the ways that they support the Palestinian struggle and, in particular, the Boycott – Divestment – Sanctions campaign. There is also comment on the responses, both from Israel and in the wider Zionist camp,

The whole offers a powerful testimony on the issues. Some of the illustrative material is pretty shocking; I do not remember this amount of brutal action in one title.

My main reservation is regarding the editing strategy. In the first part the interviewees’ comments are often extended. But as the documentary progresses the comments seem to be shorter and the cutting between people faster. This appears to follow the conventional editing style on television of ‘talking heads’. I find this approach does not provide space for complex comments and I do find that it subverts my attention. The documentary runs for nearly two hours but the treatment of the US role and interest in the Zionist State is rather underdeveloped; yet it is the main factor in perpetuating the Zionist occupation. Of course, this is all before the Trump administration.

But it is a powerful viewing with convincing testimonies.

Budrus is a Palestinian/Israeli documentary produced by ‘Just Vision’, an organisation supporting grassroots film-making. The village of Budrus, like much of the West Bank, suffers from  the construction of the Israeli ‘apartheid wall’. The film charts the non-violent resistance organised in the village and how, eventually, it was successful in producing some changes in the line of the wall and the impact on the village. However, during the resistance  many of the local olive trees were uprooted, residents were attacked by Israeli military as were supporting Israeli citizens who oppose the state policies. The film includes voices of the Palestinians, the Israeli’s and one Israeli member of the border police. The last appears to have emerged from the experience with the same irredeemable prejudices.

I saw the title when it was released in Britain in a 70 mninute version in 2009, the version available here is 82 minutes produced for a DVD release. It is a powerful testament to the quality of Palestinian resistance and the vicious nature of Israeli violence against Palestinians. The film, unusually, ends with a victory for Palestinians; but this is only one battle as the Wall and the occupation continue.

As Seen by Annemarie Jacir

AnneMarie Jacir is a talented and distinctive Palestinian film-maker.  When I Saw You / Lamma shoftak (2012) was her second feature as both writer and director.  It was released in Britain in 2014 and screened in Leeds that year. The story is set in 1967; the year of a further ‘Nakba’ for Palestinians as Israel added to the lands stolen and occupied in historic Palestine. The setting is Jordan and a Palestinian refugee camp but there is a hidden fedayeen base nearby. The fedayeen moved into Jordan when they lost their bases in the Jordanian holdings of Palestinian territory.

The two central characters are Mahmoud Asfa  as Tarek, a young boy, and his mother played by Ruba Blal as  Ghaydaa. Their husband and father is lost, presumably during the Israeli invasion of the same year. Both long, as do the other refugees, to return to their homeland. Tarek is consumed by the wish to see his father and as well as  returning  to their home. The wandering Tarek finds his way into the fedayeen camp where he becomes a sort of mascot. And his mother joins him there later. Much of the film presents a group of fedayeen recruits training for longed-for action against the Zionist.

The representation of the refugee camp and the fedayeen camp is completely convincing. And the situation of the mother and son is full of sympathy. Among the fedayeen there is a strong sense of optimism that they will regain their homeland. All through this Tarek’s desire to return is acute. At the climax he attempts jus this.

The nearest we come to sight of the zonists is a border land rover slowly patrolling fencing. They are, as in innumerable western and war films, an unseen enemy; the other. Here the film’s sense of space, finally visualised throughout, provides a moving and ambiguous note.

The film essayed a subject that has not featured so far in the Palestinian ‘new wave’. And the characters of mother and son are finely drawn. This offers an impressive, interesting and absorbing feature. Shot in colour and with English sub-titles for the Arabic songs and dialogue.

Wajib (2017) is the second title written and directed by AnneMarie Jacir in the Festival. The title translates as ‘duty’; the duty here is the traditional delivery of wedding invitations by hand. A father and his son, who now lives and works in Italy, drive round Nazareth with the invitations. They meet friends and relatives, drink innumerable cups of coffee, have a specially cooked meal, and, on a couple of occasions, are offered alcohol. Their journey is punctuated not just the numerous calls bit also by the conflicts between parent and off-spring. We learn that the wife and mother of this pair left them years before. Shadi, the son, lives with the daughter of an exiled PLO leader. That Shadi lives abroad and their different set of values cause repeated irritation between them. We also meet the daughter, Amal, in a sequence where they have to help her select her wedding dress.

Their whole journey and lives are dictated to by the Israeli occupation. This does not produce a direct confrontation, but constant pressure. Shadi is also incensed by the compromises than his father, a teacher, has made under the occupation.

The detail of life and of rituals among Palestinians is fascinating. The family conflicts are for a time amusing but also develop some serious drama. Jacir has a well honed ability to capture the ambience of life and of a particular culture. This is a fascinating study and always absorbing. And whilst the style is low-key very well done.

As Seen by Children

As Seen Through Creative Eyes

All told there are fourteen features that include both dramas and documentaries. In addition there are several supporting videos. As with earlier Festivals there are a range of views and experiences from amongst Palestinians and the few critical voices found among Israelis

The Festival is available on line through ‘InPlayer’ which is an online streaming platform. It claims to be ;

‘the world’s leading pay-per-view and subscription solution’.

It appears to be based in Britain and be an independent company. It relies on the Vimeo provision. There does not appear to be a test video to check reception but when I looked both the image and sound were of a reasonable quality. I have viewed two titles. both of which ran at 720 and there was some buffering.

You can check yourself on the Festival WebPages by looking at one of the ‘free’ videos like ‘Through the Eyes of Others – Launch Event’. This is useful as there is an introduction and a conversation regarding grassroots film provision.

You can buy a festival pass, but only if based in Britain, or buy tickets for individual titles. Note, with the latter your viewing window is 48 hours. The pass enables you to view right through the period.

Note: sadly the London Palestine Film Festival is running to almost the same dates with a different set of titles.

Posted in Palestinian films | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

A Brighter Summer Day / Gu ling jie shao nian sha ren shi jean, Taiwan, 1991

Posted by keith1942 on August 13, 2020

This was a film restored under the auspices of The World Film Foundation . I saw it in a screening at Il Cinema Ritrovato. Previously I had only seen a shortened version which runs for three hours; but in the World Film Foundation the film has been restored to its original 237 minute length. The shortened version appears to have had mainly subsidiary scenes that refer to supporting characters edited out. The main story is still clear in this version, but the complete film fills out the world of school and gang cultures.

This is clearly an epic film to watch, but one that amply repays the time spent. Yang shares some characteristics with his fellow Taiwanese film-maker, Hou Hsiao-Hsien. The latter’s Three Times / Zul Hao de Shiguang (2005) covers a slightly later period in its first story, A Time for Love. The long shot and the long take dominate the film. Yang frequently uses slow pans that allow a viewer’s gaze to survey the settings in which events occur. And the narrative follows an elliptical course, becoming quite complex as it cuts between a number of major characters. It opens, a title informs us, in September 1960.

The following contains plot spoilers.

The central characters in the film are Xiao Si’r (Zhang Zhen) and his family, which includes an elder brother and three sisters. His father is a civil servant who migrated to the island when the Guomindang fled the mainland after losing the Civil War with the Chinese Communist Party.

One recurring family incident concerns a valuable watch belonging to the mother which the sons ‘borrow’ in order to pawn and raise money. A key early scene concerning the watch is missing in the short version.

Si’r attends a ‘night school’, in Taipei. Taiwan appears to have had an unusual arrangement of schools in this period, with less privileged pupils attending some daytime and some evening classes. Much of the action occurs in the school and we see a variety of classes and actions there. Examinations and tests are frequent.

The other important, though unofficial, institution is the youth gang. The films focuses on the rivalry between the Little Park Gang [which includes Si’r and his friends] and the 217 Gang, which is from a working class district. The youth gang culture actually afflicted the island in this period. And the violent climax that resolves the film was also based on an actual incident that the director remembered from his youth. An opening title suggests that the gangs are a manifestation of young people’s insecurity, resulting from their parent’s own insecurities after fleeing the mainland for the Island.

The film’s primary focus is male. Si’r close friends are Cat [Wang Qizan] and Airplane [Ke Yulun]. And there is an uneasy relationship with Sly [Chen Hongyu], the substitute leader of Little Park Gang. The original leader, Honey [Lin Hongming], had to go into hiding following a fatal incident. At school Si’r acquires another friend Ma [Tan Zhigang], who comes from a more affluent military family. He has been moved to the school after an earlier and violent incident at another institution.

Another key character is Ming [Lisa Yang], a girl pupil at Si’r school with whom he gradually develops a relationship. She was originally the girl friend of Honey, and appears to have other relationships as well. But the films masculine focus includes a critical perspective. Ming tells Si’r that, like all her boyfriends, ’you want to change me’ for selfish reasons. All these characters are affected by the ups and downs in gang conflicts.

The screenplay that Yang wrote with three colleagues, both evokes and comments on the troubled times that followed the Guomindang’s arrival in Taiwan. The defeated nationalist party instituted an authoritarian state, though one that went unremarked by its US allies even as they denounced ‘totalitarian’ Mainland China. In the film Si’r’s father [Zhang Guozhu] is the victim of a secret police interrogations whose purpose is never clearly explained. Like Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Yang’s films explore the impact of the Taiwan’s chequered history on its inhabitants. Both are now able to explore the repressions and conflicts that for years were not publicly recognised.

The complexities of plot and character mean that an audience has to work to follow events and developments. One of the pleasures of a second viewing was I was able to explore the film more fully. Also, seeing the full-length version for the first time I noted scenes that previously been missing, and which filled out some of the characters and their situations. Yang has a real mastery of mise en scène, and the long takes enable one to note the settings and the many visual motifs that help construct the film.

One of these is light. The film opens with a shot of a solitary light bulb. Early in the film Si’r acquires a torch, which he then carries for most of the rest of the film. He pinches the torch from a film studio that he visits one evening. Just before the film’s climax he returns and inadvertently leaves the torch. And the lighting and blocking in the film constantly reinforce this theme. Torchlight, candlelight, power cuts and blackouts are spread across the film. Much of the film is shot in twilight or at night. Some scenes, with large blocks and shadows, reveal only little of the action. Sight and watching is another motif: characters frequently stand and observe other characters. Si’r himself has an eye ailment for which he receives injections at school.

One of the arresting images in Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s Three Times was the snooker hall in the sequence ‘A Time for Love’. Similarly in Yang’s film a snooker bar is an important setting. But this is a seedier and darker site than in the later film. The most violent confrontation between the two gangs takes place here.

The film also has a fine soundtrack. One frequently finds oneself listening to accompanying sounds like bands, firing ranges, bicycles, doors and so on. The film uses music to comment on the narrative. The film’s title is taken from Elvis Presley’s song, ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight’, which is sung by one of Si’r friends, Cat, after Si’r elder sister [Wang Juan] has transcribed the lyrics. The song re-appears in the final sequence of the film, and is clearly ironic.

A Brighter Summer Day is an extremely fine film that is certainly worth a viewing. I can think of considerably shorter films that seem to take a lot longer on screen. Its complexities are beyond a relatively short review. For example the film studio that appears briefly in the film offers an interesting commentary on film itself. In his last visit a disillusioned Si’r shouts at the director [Danny Dunn] that he cannot tell ‘real from fake’. The portrayal of Taiwanese society in an early period offers a representation rather removed from that common in western states where Taiwan is seen as a bulwark against China; still regarded as a ‘communist’ state.

This is really an auteur film. The issue of the ‘national’ is complicated by the question of China since the counter-revolution. As a state run by the force of the market the primary contradiction in China is the class struggle between labour and capital. This is the same contradiction that operates in Taiwan. And Taiwan remains under the dominance of the US imperialists It would seem that a revolution would offer more to both societies if this was a struggle combining the working class in both states. Taiwan has developed its own film industry and in recent years, with the decline of the authoritarian aspect of the state, film-makers, as noted in the above, have been able to explore that history in a more critical manner. From this it might seem that the situation is more positive here than in authoritarian China.

Director Edward Yang, died in June 2007. This film is in 1.85:1 and colour;  in Mandarin, Taiwanese and Shanghainese with English subtitles.

The World Cinema Foundation is dedicated to the ‘preservation and restoration of neglected films from around the world’. The moving spirit in the Foundation is Martin Scorsese. Other noted film-makers on the Board include Souleymane Cissé, Abbas Kiarostami and Wong Kar-Wai. The restored films are premièred at the Cannes Film Festival. They are also screened at Il Cinema Ritrovato. The latter is an archive festival held annually in the city of Bologna. The festival covers world cinema from the early silents up until recent productions.


Posted in Chinese cinema | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution USA (2015)

Posted by keith1942 on July 30, 2020

The Black Panther Party was one of the most important organisations in the struggle for full emancipation for black people in the United States. This was a struggle for Civil Rights rather than national liberation: but it was an important part of the twin struggles of class struggle in advanced capitalist societies and liberation struggles of the oppressed peoples and nations. The Panthers were, at least initially, inclined to a nationalist perspective on the struggle but as the party developed it became a more class conscious and internationalist organisation. Thus the description of ‘Vanguard of the Revolution’ in the title of this full-length featured documentary is fully deserved.

Running for just on a hundred minutes the title offers a narrative of the development of the Panthers from their founding in 1966 up until their serious decline in the early 1980s. The narrative is full of asides that focus on aspects of the Party’s History. There are portraits of the important members of the Party including Huey Newton, Bobby Hutton, Bobby lease, Eldridge Cleaver, Fred Hampton and Elaine Brown.

The distinctive feature of the Panthers was their emphasis on self-defence for black communities. They utilised the constitutional right to bear arms in order to carry weapons for defence; and this involved monitoring police actions bearing arms. It is instructive that the Republican Party and the California governor Ronald Reagan, normally advocates of unlimited gun control, passed the Mulford Act in 1967 to restrict this right; specifically aimed at the Panthers. Even more oppressive was the reaction of the Federal government and in particular the Federal Bureau of Investigation, then led by the powerful and reactionary J. Edgar Hoover.

“counterintelligence program (COINTELPRO) of surveillance, infiltration, perjury, police harassment, and many other tactics, designed to undermine Panther leadership, incriminate and assassinate party members, discredit and criminalize the Party, and drain organizational resources and manpower.” (quoted on Wikipedia).

The title presents a number of episodes where the FBI and other state security organs used and abused their powers to attempt to subvert the Panthers, on more than one occasion resulting in state sponsored murder.

Several Panther leaders were prosecuted, though the process was suspect. And this persecution resulted in broad support for the Panthers from Civil Rights and Revolutionary [in embryo] organisations and demonstrations involving large popular participation. The ‘Free Huey! Campaign’ was a notable example. But the FBI campaign was successful in the longer term as the film indicates. A notable example of these state trials was the prosecution of the ‘Chicago Eight’, including Bobby Seale, following the conflict around the 1968 Democratic Convention in the city. The conduct of the trial, including the racist treatment of Seale, can be seen in the 1970 The Chicago Conspiracy Trial and the 1987 Conspiracy The Trial of the Chicago 8. And the trial is also referenced in a number of other films, including works by Jean-Luc Godard and Peter Watkins. The use of the law to pursue Eldridge and Kathleen Cleaver led to them leaving the USA and finally setting up an international bureau in Algeria. The Panthers both received support from Liberation Struggles and took an open stand supporting liberation struggles. This internationalism was one of the most positive angles of the Panther politics.

Another aspect delineated in the documentary are the social activities of the Panthers. The most notable part of this was the ‘Free Breakfast for Children Program’ which ran in Los Angeles. There were also health programs and organisation actions to help black communities fight poverty and economic exploitation.

At the end of the 1960s the Panthers were well organised, successful and enjoyed respect and support across the Afro-American population. However, the overt and covert actions buy the state undermined the organisation and splits within the leadership exacerbated this. The Panthers maintained active and influential throughout the 1970s but by 1980 they were in serious decline. And sections became involved direct criminality.

The documentary charts this history with detail and much illustration. However, there is a real weakness when we look at the coverage of the politics of the Panthers. There is a reference to the 1967 ‘Ten Point Program’; but this does not present the whole programme. The documentary is also scanty in the way that it presents the influences on the Panther politics; including that of liberation movements and the ‘socialist’ camp:

Wikipedia offers Curtis Austin writing that by late 1968, Black Panther ideology had evolved from black nationalism to become more a “revolutionary internationalist movement”:

“[The Party] dropped its wholesale attacks against whites and began to emphasize more of a class analysis of society. Its emphasis on Marxist–Leninist doctrine and its repeated espousal of Maoist statements signalled the group’s transition from a revolutionary nationalist to a revolutionary internationalist movement. Every Party member had to study Mao Tse-tung’s “Little Red Book” to advance his or her knowledge of peoples’ struggle and the revolutionary process.” [2006 book on the Panthers].

One wry reference in the documentary recounts how the Panthers sold the ‘Little Red Book’ on campuses for a profit. But, for example, the development from a Black Nationalist standpoint to a Revolutionary Class-conscious standpoint is not really detailed.

One response to the documentary quoted on Wikipedia is:

 “Elaine Brown, a former Black Panther Party leader, criticized the film, writing that it presents “a disparaging portrait of Huey P. Newton” and that Nelson “[excised] from his film the Party’s ideological foundation and political strategies, […] reducing our activities to sensationalist engagements, as snatched from establishment media headlines.” [Elaine Brown has appeared in discussion programmes on Al Jazeera presenting an acute analysis of C21st US capital].

Elaine Brown represents one of the other developments in the Panthers; a move away from a male chauvinist position and the relegation of women to support roles to a much more clearly defined revolutionary position on gender roles. This is something highlighted in the documentary.

The limitations of this production reflect the limitations of the main stream media with the documentary aimed at that sort of platform. Much of the illustrative film footage has been re-framed to the 16:9 standard for television. However, there is little available on the Panthers in Moving Images. There is a 2010 documentary, 41st & Central: The Untold Story of the L.A. Black Panthers on the ‘Bay Area’ Chapter of the Panthers. The title refers to a violent raid on the Panther Chapter by the Los Angeles Police Department. The Wikipedia pages on the Panthers provide much detail of the organisation’s history.

Both PBS in the USA and BBC 4 in Britain have aired the documentary and it is likely to be aired again in the future; [it is currently appearing on the British PBS channel].. It is a flawed but  fascinating treatment of a seminal organisation in the history of US Civil Rights and even more class conscious action. Clearly the Panthers continue to exercise an importance influence which can be seen in the current ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement. The latter is a varied set of groups and politics, but the more radical elements reflect both the class consciousness and the internationalism of the mature Panther Party. It is an interesting reflection on the context that whilst the only response of the state to the Panthers was organised violence there are clear attempts to co-op the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement both by capital and elements of the US state like the Democratic Party. If a high tide of revolt occurs, as was the situation when the Panthers arose, then elements in this movement might rival the Panthers in some ways.

The Black Panther Party first publicized its original “What We Want Now!” Ten-Point program on May 15, 1967, following the Sacramento action, in the second issue of The Black Panther newspaper.

We want freedom. We want power to determine the destiny of our Black Community.

We want full employment for our people.

We want an end to the robbery by the Capitalists of our Black Community.

We want decent housing, fit for shelter of human beings.

We want education for our people that exposes the true nature of this decadent American society. We want education that teaches us our true history and our role in the present day society.

We want all Black men to be exempt from military service.

We want an immediate end to POLICE BRUTALITY and MURDER of Black people.

We want freedom for all Black men held in federal, state, county and city prisons and jails.

We want all Black people when brought to trial to be tried in court by a jury of their peer group or people from their Black Communities, as defined by the Constitution of the United States.

We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace.

Posted in Documentary | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

May Day 2020

Posted by keith1942 on May 1, 2020




Check out Reel News

Visit Radical Film Network


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

In Defence of Ken Loach – Palestinian activist

Posted by keith1942 on April 10, 2020

In 2018 I posted defending Ken Loach from the slander of being a ‘holocaust denier’ on the ITP Blog.

The campaign against him bore all the signs of supporters of Zionism and the Israelis state. Now unfortunately we have another instance of this.

“Jewish Voice for Labour finds it deeply regrettable that the Board of Deputies of British Jews is seeking to disrupt the work of a leading anti-racism football charity by demanding the removal of an internationally respected cultural figure as a judge for its children’s design competition.

Show Racism the Red Card (Strict) is under attack by the Board for choosing campaigning film-maker Ken Loach to help judge the charity’s 2020 Schools Competition. Thousands of young people in hundreds of schools across the UK take part in the project, designed to stimulate discussion and understanding about issues around racism. Winners are invited to an awards ceremony with special guests, including current and former professional footballers.

SRtRC Chief Executive Ged Grebby announced on Tuesday Feb 4 that Loach and former children’s laureate Michael Rosen were to be this year’s judges. Grebby commended both men as valued supporters of the charity, saying they were “ideally qualified” to help choose the most inspiring and original creative designs produced by young people on anti-racist themes.

However the Board of Deputies has challenged this appointment saying that Loach “is a poor choice to judge a competition on anti-racism.” The grounds for this extraordinary allegation against an anti-racist with Loach’s record have not been made public. We note however that the flurry of on line abuse targeting Loach and Show Racism the Red Card since the Board’s intervention, has consisted mainly of unfounded (and potentially libellous) allegations of anti-semitism or Holocaust denial. A scurrilous report in the Jewish Chronicle suggested that Michael Rosen too is an unsuitable competition judge, because he has rejected charges of anti-semitism against Jeremy Corbyn.”

In fact a statement by the Board of deputies did specifically mention ‘holocaust denial’; a hoary old charge that was featured in the pages of ‘The Guardian’ newspaper. The dubious nature of this attack was revealed when the same newspaper refused to print Loach’s response. Unfortunately that newspaper, along with nearly all the other mainstream press, television and radio, treat fraudulent claims against supporters of the Palestinian Struggle completely uncritically. If you want some critical reporting than I commend The Jewish Voice for Labour Web pages, Al Jazeera, R.T. and Media North.

Ken Loach, apart from his politics, has also frequently treated football in his films. There is the now famous football sequence in Kes (1969) More recently his film Looking for Eric (2009) presented football as sport and as culture rather than a capitalist commodity. Presumable this is what made him such a suitable figure for the Show Racism the Red Card competition.

Unfortunately, whilst SRtRC initially defended Loach they subsequently caved in to this pressure: It needs noting that Ken Loach has agreed with their response and resigned from the role of judge in the competition. This seems in part because of the level of abuse to which he and his family have been subjected. However, cynic that I am, I strongly suspect that if SRtRC had maintained a strong defence in this case Loach would have also resisted. Ken Loach has been a prominent supporter of the Palestinian cause and of the Boycott and Divestment Campaign. It seems likely that the latter role is what has occasioned this fraudulent attack.

Ken Loach is in good company. So many supporter of the Palestinian Struggle have been on the receiving end of such invective and the abuse of language in the claims of anti-semitism. Two of my own posts, one regarding the Israeli film Waltz with Bashir (2008) and the earlier defence of Ken Loach earned me the sobriquet of an anti-semitism. Predictably this was repeated when I posted again in his defence.

One of the weapons used by these revilers is the IHRA definition of anti-semitism. Many people have already critically deconstructed this on line. Whatever the motivation of some people involved in the definition it is objectively a manoeuvre to subvert the Palestinian struggle and follows on the growing success of the Boycott and Divestment Campaign.

People will presumably have seen the critical examination of the Zionist lobby and its tactics in the USA. It would appear that a parallel movement is increasingly active in Britain. What is disturbing is the uncritical way that the British mainstream media treats this vilification along with uncritical acceptance by some public bodies. And, unfortunately, many organisations try to appease these campaigners rather than actively resisting them. The response of the Labour Party, which has been in the centre of this campaign, has been pathetic. The Palestinian Solidarity Campaign’s head office has been eloquently silent on the issue; fortunately individual branches have been politically vocal. It seems that SRtRC has now followed the appeasement example.

I have now stop using the term anti-semitic. Semitic is actually the linguistic definition of a group of languages coined in the C18th; its coiners also came up with a classification of racial groups, a dubious exercise. Edward Said includes the term in his seminal discussion of ‘Orientalism’. Whilst Hebrew is a semitic language so is Arabic; the various semitic languages are spoken by over 300 million people. It seems adding ‘anti’ occurred in the late C19th, specifically referring to prejudice against Jews. The dubious nature of this is that the term was also quickly used by European racist groups. Logically to attack Palestinian is anti-semitic. But no-one ever seems consider that. The misuse of the term is also ironic; Jews were included in the attacks on Semitic linguists along with the Arabs who they now treat in like manner

Wikipedia has a page on anti-semitism which notes:

“From the outset the term “anti-Semitism” bore special racial connotations and meant specifically prejudice against Jews. The term is confusing, for in modern usage ‘Semitic’ designates a language group, not a race. In this sense, the term is a misnomer, since there are many speakers of Semitic languages (e.g. Arabs, Ethiopians, and Assyrians) who are not the objects of anti-semitic prejudices, while there are many Jews who do not speak Hebrew, a Semitic language. Though ‘antisemitism’ could be construed as prejudice against people who speak other Semitic languages, this is not how the term is commonly used.”

The page uses the term ‘misnomer’ arguing that therefore the common usage is not ‘a misconception’ or ‘incorrect’. This seems to me another dubious argument. This is an example of ideology in the sense used by Karl Marx; accepting the surface appearances without noting the underlying social relations. Ideology grows in the superstructure as a result of the dominant social relations. Our language is full of terms and concepts which reflect the colonial and imperialist hegemony of advanced capitalist states. Britain’s oldest colony, still operating in the six northern counties of Eire, have almost a whole dictionary of  ‘misnomers’.

The increase in the accusations of anti-semitism have been assisted by the growth of what is called ‘identity politics’. Just to give a specific example. During the recent British Election campaign supporters of Zionism were active in accusing the Labour party of anti-semitism. Alongside this, though not of the same volume, there were reported claims by Hindu group accusing the Labour party of racism because of support for the the people of Kashmir in their resistance to the revoking of their autonomy and attacks on their life and culture by the Indian government.  We now have a plethora of ‘isms’ which are legitimate targets of attack. And many of the people who make such claims feel entitled to decide individually whether or not this is a case. We should probably return to considering all acts of direct prejudice against particular ethnic groups as racism, one to be identified by agreed social mores.

Attacks on Ken Loach in the media are nothing new. They commenced back in 1966 when he, together with his colleague and mentor Tony Garnett, produced and delivered the now classic Cathy Come Home (1966). It continued over a number of programmes and films scripted by the late Jim Allen and directed by Loach. A particular germane example was the play Perdition by Allen and Loach which was forced from the stage of the Royal Court in 1987. And it has continued with the script writing work of Paul Laverty for Loach’s films. An example of this can be found on the post on The Wind that Shakes the Barley [‘shakes the critics’].

The early television work of Loach, Allen and Garnett dramatised the class snuggle in Britain; a Britain that still occupies lands belonging to other peoples. In the 1980s all three found that they could no longer work on British television because of the official and unofficial censorship. The axe fell on Loach fine and poetic film supporting the miner’s strike, Which Side Are You On (1985). Something that also fell on the Derry Film and Video Workshop whose Mother Ireland was banned from Channel 4 . And the same fate befell the black workshop Ceddo’s The People’s Account (1985). The more recent films for cinema by Ken Loach, which have not only addressed the struggle in Britain, but the struggles elsewhere in Ireland and in the United States [Bread and Roses, 2000] and in Central America [Carla’s Song, 1996 ], have been honoured by Europeans but often slated in Britain.

It is worth noting a limitation on Ken Loach’s work for cinema and for television. Predominately his work has addressed the exploitation of the British working class, and, on occasion, also addressed the oppression that accompanies this; for example of women, as in Cathy Come Home and more recently Ladybird Ladybird (1994).

Certain films have addressed the struggle beyond these shores. Three films [Hidden Agenda (1990), The Wind That Shakes the Barley and Jimmy’s Hall (2014)) have addressed the occupation by the British state of either the whole or  [more recently] part of Eire. It is a sad reflection that Loach is among a small minority of class-conscious Britain’s who recognise and fight this colonial occupation. Karl Marx’s dictum is relevant here as is that of Vladimir Lenin, both making the point that:

“Can a nation be free if it oppresses other nations? It cannot.” {‘The Right of Nations to Self-Determination’].

Loach also addressed US imperialism, specifically against the people of Nicaragua in Carla’s Song.

Original Cinema Quad Poster – Movie Film Posters

But I do not think he has made a film addressing the Palestinian Struggle despite his support. I  think in part this is because of a certain hesitation in filming struggles outside his own experience. But is also seems to be a reflection of his politics, which are tinged with Trotsky-ism. A good example is Land and Freedom. The film fails to address an issue that even George Orwell in ‘Homage to Catalonia’ [an inspiration for the film] addressed. This was the failure of the Spanish revolutionaries to address the colonial exploitation and oppression of the Spanish State.

And there is a parallel lacunae in the otherwise excellent documentary The Spirit of ’45. Whatever the reforms bought in by the Labour Government headed b y Clement Atlee in 1945, they failed to break from the colonial and imperialist values of the State. Continuing the occupation of Eire, producing an unparalleled disaster in the Indian sub-continent through their manipulation and turning their back on the Palestinian people after the earlier machinations of the British State enabled a settler regime to steal their lands.

It is a real irony in this case that the campaign around what is falsely called anti-semitism relies mainly on rhetoric, misquotations and unsubstantiated allegations. But Ken Loach films, with Allen, Garnett and Laverty, have all been carefully researched and rely on a proper and detailed understanding of the actual social relations and conditions in Britain today and over the recent decades. So we have a dominant media where the real world is constantly misrepresented by officials purveyors of news; whilst what are fictional representations of our world are much closer to reality and the underlying social forces.

One of the aphorism of Mao Zedong was

“To Be Attacked by the Enemy Is Not a Bad Thing but a Good Thing.” (1939).

His rationale was the enemy was forced to take action by the strength of opposition. As other writers have pointed out, the recent campaigns orchestrated by Israel [see Al Al-Jazeera ‘The Lobby’] follow on from the successes of the Boycott and Divestment Movement, in which Ken Loach has played a vigorous role. However, the weakness of some responses to the Zionist campaign have only fuelled it. So it is important that all people with progressive views defend artists and activists like Ken Loach. From early dramas like The Big Flame, 1969. through excellent films like Riff-Raff’  (1991) and Jimmy’s Hall, Loach and his collaborators have celebrated people who resist and struggle.

The limitations of the work of him and his partners would seem to reflect the distinction between the struggle within the advanced capitalist states and that between such states and peoples occupied or dominated by these states. I argue elsewhere that this is a distinction that needs to be made in the use of Third Cinema. But this is not to deny the way that one struggle can and should support the other. Certainly the Zionist movement has used its power and support in a country like Britain to undermine the Palestinian struggle. This is why it is so important to defend supporters of that struggle.

Posted in Films supporting Liberation | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Cuba: Living Between Hurricanes / Vivir entre ciclones, 2019

Posted by keith1942 on February 2, 2020

This is a new title by Michael Chanan working with the Commodities of Empire British Academy Research Project at London University and the Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos. The film was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

“In the Commodities of Empire project, we explore the networks through which particular commodities circulated both within and in the spaces between empires, with particular attention to local processes originating in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and Latin America, which significantly influenced the outcome of the encounter between the world economy and regional societies.”

ICAIC is the world famous Institute, founded in the aftermath of the Revolution and responsible for a long line of political cinematic masterworks.

This is a 69 minutes documentary which focuses on the way hurricanes affect Cuba but relates this to the focus of the ‘Commodities’ project and also to the history and politics of Cuba since the 1959;s successful revolution. The documentary opens with the voices of local Cubans from Caibarién, a fishing port on the north coast of Cuba. These are followed by comments and archive materials from contemporary Cuba and from its history since the revolution.  The documentary is divided into three parts:

Part One: Hurricanes and History

Part 2: Caibarién – Rise and fall of a port

Part 3: Sustainable Futures

Over the 69 minutes the title presents a portrait of Caibarién and key people in the port. It fills in some of the changes, both economic and political, over the decades since the 1960s. And it offers a sense of the direction of Cuba in the C21st.

The archival material is well integrated into the contemporary footage which is in colour and standard wide screen. The dialogue and commentary, much of it in Spanish, is rendered in English sub-titles. The archival material includes both documentary and newsreel footage and extracts from some of the key films produced by ICAIC. As one comment noted, the film achieves a smooth and telling narrative with a fairly clear political commentary.

Hurricane map – ‘Irma’

Michael Chanan, in comments on the documentary, writes;

“We believe that this film, about ecological history and moves towards ecosocialism in Cuba, makes a timely contribution to the increasingly urgent debate about climate change both in Cuba and globally.”

Ecosocialism is a fairly varied political discourse. In this work we see and hear how Cuba is coping with the economic problems that follow on from the continuing US boycott and the loss of of sometime patron, the USSR. Depending on your stance the degree to which Cuba can be considered a socialist society will vary. And I suspect this will also apply to the political and economic direction presented in this analysis.

What is clear is that, despite,the setbacks and adverse situations experienced by Cuba, the Island continues to defend the positive aspects of the revolution and resist the neo-colonial polices of the USA.

Michael Chanan has along career in supporting an publicising progressive politics and in particular progressive cinema across Latin America and in particular in Cuba. There are a number of fine Cuban films that I have enjoyed thanks to his efforts. And this new documentary continues that important work and is definitely worth viewing at least once. There are some rare screenings which can be checked on the web page:

And the page also offers the opportunity of viewing this work on line. If you are not able to find a screening you can attend, which would seem to also include talks by people involved in the film; then definitely spend 70 minutes watching it on line.

The documentary is also been publicised on the Radical Film Network.

Posted in Cuban film, Documentary | Leave a Comment »