Saturday, September 30, 2006

Children of Men

From - you've gotta see this film. Comes out Christmas Day in the States.

Venice diary - 'Children of Men' review
Dave Calhoun looks at Alfonso Cuaron's gripping adaptation of the P D James' sci-fi novel.
Dave Calhoun | Sep 4 2006

Clive Owen and Julianne Moore in 'Children of Men'
It's fitting that Alfonso Cuaron's new film, 'Children of Men' should have its world premiere in Venice in the same week that a major celebration of new Mexican cinema opens at London's National Film Theatre. Cuaron's latest film - an adaptation of P D James' sci-fi novel - is testament to the growing influence of Mexico on current world cinema. Together with fellow director Alejandro Gonzalaz Inarritu ('21 Grams', 'Babel'), screenwriter Guillermo Arriega ('The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada') and actor Gael Garcia Bernal, Cuaron is both revitalising the domestic Mexican industry with films such as 'Y Tu Mama Tambien' and injecting new spirit into English-language film with Hollywood-produced fare such as this latest movie.

Cuaron's first film since 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban' doesn't disappoint. 'Children of Men' is a clever vision of London in 2027 - an unhappy, paranoid and claustrophobic time when Britain is the only surviving nation in the world and a fertility crisis means that no new babies have been born for eighteen years. A rebel outfit of guerilla refugees (or 'fugees') known as The Fish loom threateningly in the background and the Department of Homeland Security have been ordered to arrest all illegal immigrants, cage them and propel them to the fortified compound of Bexhill-on-Sea. Never has the familliar name of a Kentish seaside town sounded so sinister. It hardly needs saying the focus on migrancy has an uneasy potency.

It's a film which easily could have been ridiculous. In Cuaron's hands, it emerges as quite some achievement, both technically (look out for the one-shot take that graces a battle scene late on) and dramatically (the script and performances are tight and credible; even Michael Caine is amusing as a cardigan-wearing, pot-smoking, Roots Manuva-listening old sage). Considering that P D James' plot is so far-fetched, it's all the more impressive that Cuaron's unhappy vision of the future is convincing. Its his boldness that makes it work. He doesn't bother with easy explanations or back story; he plunges straight into the action, shooting in an unfussy, in-your-face style and employing only the most necessary of special effects.

His prognosis of the future is gripping from the off; civil servant Theo (Clive Owen) is buying a coffee in the Square Mile when he notices a news report on TV. The newreader (a face recognisbale from television today) announces that the world's youngest person, 18-year-old Diego has died in a street brawl. It's major news. The public weep. Theo asks for a day off to recover. And it's no leap of the imagnation to connect the reaction to Diego's demise with the outpouring that greeted the death of another celebrity with a similar-sounding name back in 1997. When Owen finds himself unwitting guardian to the only pregant woman on earth, a Messianic tone infects the film, but Cuaron wisely backs off from stressing the Biblical overtones too much; at one point he pointedly pulls the needle off a choral number on the soundtrack in order to return to violent conflict.

One of the film's more striking features is that London in 2027 doesn't look so different from today's city. The red buses are more old and tatty, which contrasts nicely which the usual chrome-and-cream furnishings of the future. It still rains incessantly and the city's buildings remain grey - only many are now adorned with moving-image advertising. It's the creepy familiarlity which makes Cuaron's film so gripping and often terrifying.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Stop picking on us

Today I went to a screening of a bunch of short films that were sponsored by the film council. One of them was made by an Asian Muslim, about a young Muslim lad, who chooses cricket over terrorism. Some brothers in his local mosque get him to come to a meeting, where they're watching a video of an old uncle mullah ranting. Someone is coming to meet this brother because they want his "help", but he leaves. Instead of going down that path, he plays cricket and is spotted by a scout.

I respect this filmmaker for getting his views out. He said he got a lot of positive feedback on it. I wonder if anyone ever told him that what he's done is further establish the stereotype that Muslims in the UK have today - this film is clearly related to the bombings of 7th July last year.

What those bombings have resulted in is the massive Muslim community being targeted by the government more than ever before. People like Tony Blair and John Reid tell Muslims to watch out for any suspicious activity, to spy on their fellow Muslims, to rat on them if anything seems funny. Essentiallly the film mentioned above does the same, by making audiences think that yes, in your average mosque you will find brothers who want to recruit innocents to blow up people.

Don't you think its a bit funny that someone like John Reid can show up in the east end, a heavily populated Muslim area, tell people to spy on their kids, to not be too religious for that can lead to fanaticism, and then right away get a slew of reporters asking him questions? I mean I haven't even been here two weeks, but before coming here I knew that this stuff was going on in Britain, of Muslims being targeted. And after 10th of August, I think most if not all of the arrested were from the east end, particularly Walthamstow.

Once again those being arrested are not being put on trial but simply being detained, just like Muslims in America. The difference here is that while the Patriot Act stuff has died down in America, Britain is now stepping up in its efforts of monitoring and fingering Muslims. Why are we being targeted? Muslims here have the huge problem of ghettoization, drugs, crime, poverty. Just because there are many folks around here with beards and thawbs, nikabs and jilbaabs, doesn't mean they're dangerous. It is blatant institutional discrimination, and it starts from the top with Tony Blair. Its disgusting to think that these government officials tell Muslims to spy on their own, to watch out from terrorism, while they wage war against Muslim countries and kill 100,000s of innocent people.


I don't want your socialist paper

Why does everyone need a label?

Just because I come to your events and protests, that doesn't mean that you can assume I'm just like you or have the same viewpoint on everything. Please, I don't want to join your socialist organization, stop bugging me about it. I don't want your paper, because I follow the news already and don't need your slant on it.

You know I've noticed the same things here that I did in New York. I've met many activists who are socialists. They're cool but a few times, certain people keep bugging me about socialism. I tell them I'm not interested for personal reasons, but sometimes that answer isn't good enough.

Am I a leftist? Am I a liberal? If you asked me my viewpoints on everything you and I would both figure out, that I'm not as far left on everything as I appear to be. Why do I have to labeled? A leftist, or a liberal, or a socialist? Why must we pick sides? Can't I criticize the left? The left isn't right on everything man. For instance I feel a pressure, which I felt today, that we all must be labeled and be united against everything else. We are always in the right, and everyone else is wrong. Oh sure we'll debate and hear their arguments, but we're right because we're on the right side.

I don't want to be labeled. I'm not a leftist, or a liberal, and I'm certainly not a socialist. But that doesn't mean I'm a capitalist, not by far. But I am a human being, who just cares about other human beings. Why does everything have to be labeled? And as this movement or that movement? Its all one struggle isn't it? Does that struggle need a name also? Does it need to be called a coalition? Or even equality, justice, or freedom? How about just a fight for humanity? Not for leftism or socialism or the anti-war movement or the solidarity movement - just, humanity.