Posts Tagged ‘Politics’

What If? Ehud Barak on War and Peace (2020) Moscow Film Festival 2021

Dir.: Ran Tal; Documentary with Elud Barak; Israel 2020, 85 min.

In his immersive new documentary Israeli director/writer Ran Tal (The Museum), interviews former Prime Minister Ehud Barak. The upshot? That war has dominated Israel’s history – from before its foundation of to the ongoing stalemate.

Since the State of Israel came into being, the Premier also served as Defence Minister. This changed in 1967, after the war when battlefield hero General Moshe Dayan became Minister of Defence. Since then, five Prime Ministers have been high ranking military men: Yitzak Rabin, Ygal Allon, Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu. Some people may include Menachem Begin, who was a leading proponent of the Zionist Underground, responsible for the death of over 80 British soldiers in the bombing of the Hotel King David in 1946. Barak was only PM for two years at the turn of the 20th century when he met Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at the failed Camp David meeting in 2000, where President Clinton tried in vain to broker an agreement between the two leaders. It turned out to be the last time a peace agreement seemed possible.

Ehud Barak (*1942) grew up in Mishmar Ha Sharon, a small Kibbutz. He remembers nights round the camp fire when the young members of the modest Kibbutz – a family room was a just 11 square meters, and there was no loo – they sang patriotic songs that told how “it was worthwhile to die for one’s country”. 300 meters down the road was the Arab village, the inhabitants “looking like our biblical forefather”. There was no tension between the two communities, but one day, the Arabs disappeared. The Kibbutz suddenly grew, taking, over the land which had belonged to the Arabs. When Barak became Chief of Staff of the Israeli Army he once asked the Chief of Military Intelligence if they should assassinate Yasser Arafat. The answer was negative, since Arafat was deemed to be a political leader.

A few years later, the situation had changed. Barak saw active service in the 1967 war, which, so he believes, was won, “because we attacked first”. In the Yom Kippur War of 1973 (Barak flew in from California, where he was studying), the roles were reversed: Barak was part of heavy fighting in the Sinai peninsula.

After the murder of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972, Barak became leader of an Elite Corps, called the ‘Wrath of God’ who targeted terrorist all over Europe, killing, among others, Abbas al-Musawi, the Secretary General of the Hezbollah which he had co-founded. Asked about the civilian victims of these killings, Barak is clear: “When you operate, not to kill civilians, you won’t do anything.”  Referring to the assassination of Sadam Hussain, he claims history could have been entirely different: “Over a hundred thousand lives lost in the Iraq war, might have been saved”.

Strangely enough, the Rabin assassination “is not comparable with the aforementioned terror acts”. Sometimes Barak sounds reasonable: defending the reason to withdraw Israeli troops from Lebanon, or offering to divide Jerusalem in four sections, an offer Arafat refused at Camp David. But then he slips back into the warrior position: “We can not offer the Palestinians an enlightened occupation, that would be an oxymoron”. In 2001 Elud Barak lost the General Election to Ariel Sharon – an ex-general, responsible for the massacre at Sabre and Shatila.

No doubt Palestinian leaders are thinking on the same lines as the Israeli commanders – but how can you sit down and negotiate a peace treaty with somebody you would have assassinated, had you had the chance. This is the real oxymoron. Ran Tal’s feature is sad proof the military conflict between Israel and the Palestinians will go on for a long time: the language of war speaks loudest. AS

SCREEEING DURING THE MOSCOW FILM FESTIVAL 2021

Golda (2019) ****

Dir.: Sagi Borenstein, Udi Nir, Shani Rozanes; Documentary with Golda Meir, Uri Avneri, Zivi Zamir; Israel, Germany 2019, 85 min.

This new biopic on Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir is based on a recently discovered interview from 1978, done just before her death. It tells the important story of her time in office – from her surprising rise to power to her lonely demise. And although the Israeli State TV channel  and the interviewee maintain this meeting was “off-record”, both parties must have been aware that the recording equipment was working.

The trio of directors – Borenstein, Nir and Rozanes (Uploading_Holocaust) – have decided to play it fair and let Zivi Zamir, ex-boss of the Mossad, do a hagiography of Meir. But the former MP and peace activist Uri Avneri can barely hide his contempt for the ex-premier.

Born in 1898 in Kiev (then the Russian Empire) Golda Mabovitch emigrated with her family to Milwaukee in the USA at the age of 8, before settling with her husband in Palestine, a British Protectorate, in 1921. She joined the Hisdadrut, a union movement, before making a quick career in Mpai (later the Labour Party), serving as a Minister for Labour (1949-1956) and Foreign Secretary (1956-1966), before becoming Prime Minister in 1969, beating rivals generals Moshe Dayan and Yitzhak Rabin. Her premiership coincides with the mass immigration of Jews from North Africa and the Middle East. Meir, an Ashkenazi Jew, could not relate to the culture of these new citizens, the latter founding the “Black Panthers”, that rose up against the lack of opportunities in Israel and were unable to establish any common ground during their meeting with the premier. Avneri complains about Meir’s lack of understanding of anything Arab, he nearly goes so far as calling her a racist. On the other hand, Zamir is full of praise for Meir, particularly for letting him and his Mossad organisation off the leash, in hunting down the “Black September” cell responsible for the murder of Jewish athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972. The Yom Kippur War of 1973 signalled the end of Meir’s political career. She had been seen as “The Mother of the Nation” but 3000 dead soldiers were too much for a public who could only contemplate glorious victory on the battle field. Although Dayan and the other generals had played down any threat of an attack, Meir was more tuned in to an impending disaster. And she turned out to be the main culprit. With her health deteriorating – one photo shows her having chemotherapy whilst still smoking – she eventually threw in the towel in 1974.

Golda Meir is somehow symbolic of the trouble Israel finds itself in today. With Avneri rightfully criticising her policy of opening up the building of new Jewish settlements in the West Bank, Meir was one of many politicians who made it now near-impossible for a two state solution to be found. And when president Anwar Sadat of Egypt offered her peace talks in 1971, she refused. Worse, when Premier Menachem Begin invited Sadat to Israel in 1977, which amounted to a de-facto recognition of Israel by an Arab state, Meir was cynical: she told journalists that Begin and Sadat deserved the Oscar – not the Nobel Peace Price for their Camp David accord. Golda Meir was a strong woman in a man’s world – no doubt about it – but she shared a long-time strategy which relied only on continuous war with most of her male competitors.

Borenstein completes his engaging portrait of one of the first woman PMs ever with archive footage and photos. Eitan Hatuka’s pertinent images reveal the truth behind Avneri and Zamir’s body language,  Thankfully, the directors leave the audience to make their own judgement. AS

GOLDA 

 

                 

  

Watergate (2018) **** Home Ent release

Dir/Wri: Charles Ferguson | With: David Mixner, Daniel Ellsberg, John Farrell, Patrick Buchanan, John Dean, Richard Reeves, Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward, Lesley Stahl, Hugh Sloan, Paul Magallanes, John Mindermann, Betty Medsger, Lowell Weicker, William Ruckelshaus, Richard Ben-Veniste, Jill Wine-Banks, George Frampton, John McCain, Dan Rather, Elizabeth Holtzman, Pete McCloskey, Evan Davis | US Doc 271′

Spanning over four hours Charles Ferguson’s biopic of Nixon delves into the archives to offer up an immersive if plodding look at a political scandal that almost pales into significance when compared to our current situation in Westminster and The Whitehouse.

The Oscar-winning documentarian has really done his homework in a film that builds on Penny Lane’s tape-focused Our Nixon (2013) to offer interviews from key players in the episode including Dan Rather, Carl Bernstein and John McCain, and first hand accounts from Kissinger, Liddy, Ehrlichman and Mitchell. Watergate showcases a series events that sent shockwaves into the World as it was back then in the 1970s in a massive undertaking that will inform today’s audiences and those yet to come.

Ferguson clearly sets out his stall examining the events that led up to Nixon’s election in November 1968 and eventually culminated in the resignation of the 37th president of the United States of America in 1976. The tortuous process of cover-ups, lies and bogus explanations continued until eventually the inexorable machine of government took over during the summer of 1974. Ferguson incorporates dramatic re-imaginings of what went on and this enlivens what  – for some – could be considered rather dry material. Although it is difficult to find actors that resemble real people: the only successful incidence of this was where Michael Sheen played Tony Blair in Peter Morgan’s trilogy.

As history reveals, the Nixon administration eventually wound up in 1976 with over 41 people convicted and serving time in prison for crimes relating to Watergate. It remains to be seen whether Ferguson will ever turn his hand to taking on the story of President Donald Trump. It certainly would be a colourful epic providing and interesting day’s programming on political intrigue at some festival in the future. This one is a collector’s item. MT

NOW AVAILABLE ON DVD AND ON DEMAND from 16 September 2019 | COURTESY OF DOGWOOF

 

 

The Brink (2019) ***

DIR: Alison Klayman | US Doc 98′

Alison Klayman shadows political operative Steve Bannon from the time he leaves the White House to the 2018 midterms.

Political strategist Steve Bannon (1953-) is best known for being the co-founder of Breitbart, and is also a former investment banker, educated at Georgetown and Harvard. He served in the United States Navy for seven years and then went on to exec produce 18 Hollywood films, between 1991 and 2016. Thereafter he was the White House chief strategist from January to August 2017, and founder of nonprofit organisation The Movement designed to promote economic nationalism in Europe. Eventually he was ejected from the White House after the infamous Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.

Not as informative and intriguing as Errol Morris’ American Dharma that screened at Venice  last year, this fly on the wall affair manages at least to avoid glorification, hardly bringing anything new to the table – although Bannon clearly had his knees firmly under the metaphorical one in the Whitehouse during the early stages of the Trump administration.

Klayman’s (Ai Wei: Never Sorry) cinema vérité style treatment is the result of her following Bannon as part of his elite during the course of a year’s media tour intended to rebrand his image as the leader of a global populist movement. A strong and engaging orator (in the style of Ken Livingstone, Gladstone and Nigel Farage) he is clearly clubbable, and we see him taking his movement on the road, talking to various advisors on how best to support congressional candidates, and showing his support to European populist parties – including Farage’s – in preparation for the European Parliament elections in 2019.

In Europe there’s obviously the high birth rate among Muslims to consider (in Belgium), and these far-righters all agree that “immigration is a bad thing”. Bannon then sets off on a US tour, promoting Republican candidates such as Roy Moore, and those running in the 2018 midterms. This involves attending fundraiser dinners and rallies. A heckler interrupts him during a speech and he smirks, “Who invited my ex-wife?” Klayman intercuts all this with news clips from the Brett Kavanaugh hearing to the Tree of Life shooting. He keeps on keeping on. He also talks to journalists, who seem to have a low opinion of him. Meanwhile, his film TRUMP @WAR (the media) is released, about the President’s victory in the face of the violent left.

The Brink is another documentary about the general mayhem that exists in US politics, focusing on one extreme figure to another (Weiner and Get Me Roger Stone). Klayman avoids talking head interviews but there’s no mistaking her take on her subject matter.

Very much like Brexit for the UK, the Trump era is a thorn in America’s side. And The Brink tries to analyse how it all came about, but without much success. Basically politicians see themselves as in the game for the love of humanity, despite the majority of them being self-seeking, bottom-feeding forms of life. In Dante’s journey to Hell, Klayman is simply trying to explore some of the characters on the way. MT

NOW ON GENERAL RELEASE

 

Loro (2018) ****

Dir: Paolo Sorrentino | Paolo Sorrentino, Umberto Contarello | Cast: Toni Servillo, Elena Sofia Ricci, Riccardo Scamarcio, Kasia Smutniak, Euridice Axen, Fabrizio Bentivoglio, Roberto De Francesco, Dario Cantarelli, Anna Bonaiuto, Alice Pagani, Mattia Sbragia | DoP: Luca Bigazzi |Biopic Drama 151′ 

Director Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty) exposes the hedonistic emptiness of Italian mainstream culture in this entertaining and sumptuously scenic sensual satire on Silvio Berlusconi. 

And once again Toni Servillo is the star turn and spot on as the man himself. Bringing his colossal charisma and a chink of humanity to this ebullient portrait of a leader who is foremost a salesman. It’s a film about the much-devalued power of seduction. We first meet Silvio after his government has been blown out in the elections and he needs to win back his prime position. This will be achieved by his superlative seduction technique and prepares to persuade six senators to join his party, so he can to be top dog again: “In love, you betray. In politics, you change your mind.” And this proves to be a piece of cake.

The international version conflates the director’s original two-parter into a parade of preternatural vulgarity. But there’s something compelling about the way it all plays out that is gripping until the finale. This is no dry old political pot-boiler, but an all-singing all-dancing affair where the flamboyant, flirtatious four times president (and now leader of Forza Italia) loves to party at all times. And Sorrentino knows that Italian audiences love to party too. And so the thrust of this biopic is party-time in Italy as never before (and never mind the debut-ridden economy or the Mafia): bare-breasted babes and buff boys gyrate in vertiginous coastal villa: Sardinia is seen at its most glamorous and recherché. Meanwhile, Berlusconi, when not partying or indulging in his famous Bunga-bunga games, likes most Italians, loves to seduce. And there’s an extraordinary scene where he does just that – and nobody even takes their clothes off.

Toni Servillo, has already tucked caricatures of Giulio Andreotti (Il Divo), and a compulsive gambler Gorbaciof under his belt. As ‘Berlusco’ his disingenuous perma-smile is a legend in its own lunchtime. Meanwhile his wife Veronica Lario (Elena Sofia Ricci) looks on disdainfully as cool and calming as pistachio ice-cream. Luca Bigazzi’s luscious cinematography and Stefania Cella’s spectacular interiors compliment Carlo Poggioli fabulous costume design.

The condensed cut brings a better clarity to the prostitution ring run by Sergio Morra (Riccardo Scamarcio)and his wife Tamara (Euridice Axen) and Berlusconi’s subtle distancing from his boring long term marriage to the supercilious Veronica. But it also brings into focus a narrative whose slackness contrasts sharply with the endless pertness of the bottoms and boobs on show. But this surfeit of uproarious partying eventually feels sad and vacuous also emphasising  the delusional qualities of Berlusconi’s own ego, showing him to be a narcissist and showman who deep need to be loved and admired is eventually laid bare by the fully dressed object of his ongoing affections (Alice Pagani).

We are fully aware that modern European mainstream culture is a vision of x-factor trashy tawdriness but at least in Italy there’s a certain style and enjoyment to the gaudiness. And for the most part Sorrentino’s tongue is firmly in his cheek as he showcases the endless marketing of sex as the best way to achieve the ends on the slippery pole to riches and success. There is no suggestion in any way that these girls don’t know what they are doing. They’re actually empowered by their looks and that sexiness is propulsive in a world where youth, fitness and beauty is the key to success. And it’s still the way the world goes round, whatever anyone else might suggest, a machiavellian mind and a killer instinct is the icing on the cake. Sorrentino and Umberto Contarello’s script still points out that it’s not what you know, but who you know, and laugh in the face of Veronica’s claim that her long term-husband is “pathetic”. And we do too. However depressing that may be.

Sorrentino brings us firmly back to reality with sequences showing the earthquake that destroyed the city of L’Aquila where a statue of Christ is solemnly lifted to safety from a ruined church. This is clearly a link to the real ‘them’ and seems an appropriate way to close this bacchanalian feast. MT

LORO IS OUT ON RELEASE NATIONWIDE FROM 19 APRIL 2019

 

The Hate You Give (2018) ****

Dir.: George Tillman jr.; Cast: Amanda Steinberg, Lisa Carter, Russell Hornsby, Algen Smith, KJ Apa, Sabrina Carpenter, Common, Anthony Mackie; USA 2018, 133 min.

Director George Tillman jr. (Faster) and his screen writer Audrey Wells have made a brulliant job of adapting the novel The Hate U Give, avoiding clichés and easy answers in this case of another shooting of a black youngster by a white police officer. Instead of solutions, Tillman explores the issues through a teenager representing both communities: she – and other young people – are the victim of a fight they did not chose.

Starr Carter (a brilliant Amanda Steinberg) lives with her family in the black neighbourhood of Garden Heights. Every morning she puts on the uniform of her prestigious prep school and becomes somebody else. Her boyfriend Chris (Apa) and ‘bestie’ Kayleigh (Carpenter) are both white, as are the majority of the students. Starr’s mother Lisa (Hall) has insisted on her choice of school. She wants security for her daughter. Her father Maverick‘Mave’ (Hornsby) is deeply politicised, Black Panther leaflets are all over the house. Starr’s half brother is also very much into his black identity. As a small child, Starr has been the key witness of her classmate’s shooting by the black drug lord (Mackie), who rules Garden Heights with an iron fist. History will soon repeat itself, when Starr is in the car with childhood friend Khalil (Smith) who is shot dead by a white police officer, who mistook a hairbrush for a piece. But, as black officer Carlos (Common) explains to Starr and her father, this is not a simple case because the officer suspected that Khalil was a drug dealer (which he actually was), and reacted in self defence.

When Mave asks Carlos if he would have shot Khalil, the officer nods. “But, if the person in question would have been a white man in a Mercedes, would you have shot too?”, asks Mave. Carlos replies that he would have asked the white man to raise his hands. This double standard is not a question of race, but of tribal law: police officers of all colours are used to dealing with drug lords like the one running the black neighbourhood. It does not matter to them, in the moment of confrontation, that the huge majority of the black population is equally afraid of the drug dealers. Nevertheless, a heated street battle is being fought, and Mave is not only fighting the police, but the black drug dealers, who suspect him of collaborating with the police. In the final analysis, Amanda surmises that hate and violence is not only a question of race.

Stylishly shot on the widescreen and revealing personal close-ups, Steinberg carries the feature with extreme maturity: she is a girl of divided loyalties. And must find a world where she can live in peace with both sides.

Without lecturing, Tillman tries to ask questions. And the audience has to to answer. And there’s no easy answer here, only an acknowledgement that the fault lines run much deeper than the agitators on both sides want to admit. At the same time, The Hate U give is a full-blooded thriller, and in spite of the length, it sustains its suspense. And the real triumph is the marriage of genre aesthetics and articulate political content. AS

NATIONWIDE FROM 22 OCTOBER 2018 | SCREENING DURING BFI LONDON FILM FESTIVAL 2018

Fahrenheit 11/9 (2018) ****

Dir.: Michael Moore; Documentary, USA 2018, 128′.

Michael Moore has reversed the figures of his earlier documentary feature that focused on the Twin Tower attack Fahrenheit 9/11. 11/9 refers to the date in 2016 when Donald Trump was elected as President of the Unites States of America. This latest is an in-depth analysis of Trump’s past and present but also a future devoid of democracy due to the over-whelming power of the corporations.

And the Democrats don’t get an easy ride in this incendiary examination of US politics: Moore also  rubs Hilary Clinton’s nose into the debacle: on the day before the elections, super-confident, she thanks Beyoncé/Jay Z for their appearance at her rally, and also applauds rappers, whose names she has never heard off. Next comes a reminder that Trump has always played out his corruption and scandals in plain view of the public, but always seems to get away with it. Ditto also appears to have had an inappropriate relationship with his daughter daughter Ivanka – during all stages of child and adulthood. But then again, everyone was made aware of it. Then Moore starts criticising himself: clips from his TV appearance on the Roseanne Barr Show with Trump, the latter praising “Roger & Me”. And Ivanka’s husband Jared Kushner even threw a premiere party for Moore’s “Sicko”, because he too liked it so much.

Moore then veers off to his home town of Flint, Michigan (the state Trump won by a whisker). In April 2014, Governor Rick Snyder (R), had called a “State of emergency Management”, dismissing all elected state representatives, and replacing them with his cronies, mostly from the corporate sector – without ever giving any reason for the so-called emergency. Flint got his fresh water from Lake Huron, but Snyder had ordered a new (superfluous) pipeline to be built, and during the time of the construction, water for Flint was pumped from the polluted river which gives the town its name. Thousands of, mainly black, children suffered lead-poisoning, 12 died of Legionnaires disease, but Governor Snyder insisted that the water was safe. Later President Obama visited the stricken town, tasting the water publicly, but only putting his lips to the rim of the glass. Townspeople, who had welcomed his arrival, later damaged a mural in his honour: trust in political institutions in the poorest community of the USA was gone.

Moore concludes with a call to arms, to uphold basic democracy. He also questions whether democracy really exists in the USA, or indeed whether it has ever existed in the across the country. The Snyder example in Flint shows how even the most basic of democratic rights can be circumvented: during a recent TV appearance Trump has already asked the public whether he should  do away with the 2020 election, if a majority of them is in agreement. It seems that this is already a foregone conclusion in Russia and communist China, so why not the USA? For those who don’t support Trump the outlook is grim: Just like Orwell’s Big Brother, Trump urges the people of his country not to always believe what they see and read. Slightly unwieldy, and certainly too long, Fahrenheit 11/9 is still valuable. AS

SCREENING NATIONWIDE FROM OCTOBER 19 2018

The Plan that came from the Bottom Up (2018) **** LFF 2018

Dir.: Steve Sprung; Documentary with shop stewards of Lucas Aerospace; Portugal/UK 2018, 212 min.

This film essay, the feature documentary debut of director/writer Steve Sprung, is a British history lesson about about politics, the working class and ecology. Five shop stewards of Lucas Aerospace, who helped to draw up the Lucas Aerospace (L.A.) Shop Steward Committee’s Alternative Corporate Plan in 1976, discuss their motivation, struggle and eventual defeat. The Alternative Corporate Plan was written up after a meeting of 34 Shop Stewards with the then Industry Minister Tony Benn in November 1974, and was called by the Financial Times “the most radical alternative plans ever been drawn up by workers for their company” and nominated for the 1979 Nobel Peace Price.

Lucas Aerospace was a company relaying very much on their armament production, even though it accounted only for just over 50% of the general turnover. In 1974 the company decided to make redundancies, “due to increased international competition”. The Alternative Corporate Plan was an answer, “because it irked the workers that while they could produce Concorde, they were unable to build affordable paraffin heaters for many suffering from the cold in winter”. Staff and manual workers came up with a list of our 150 products, which could replace the military hardware – over 180 organisations had put their proposals forward to the Combine. The argument was that the production of socially more useful goods would also mean that the state would not to have to pay unemployment benefit. The L.A. management rejected the proposals immediately, even though they had admitted that the market for armament products was shrinking. The list of alternative goods was long: it included medical equipment, transport vehicles, improved braking systems, energy conservation, oceanic equipment, and telechiric machines. A cry specific proposal included an expansion of 40% in the production of kidney dialysis machines, which were being manufactured on one of the L.A. sites. The Combine was successful in attracting funding from charitable bodies, which enabled them to set up the Centre for Alternative Industrial Systems (CAITS) at North East London Polytechnic and the Unit for the Development of Alternative Products (UDAP) at Coventry Polytechnic. But after Prime Minister Wilson replaced Benn, and took charge himself of the industry portfolio, he sided with the management of of L.A., and the Combine plan was not even discussed.

Newsreels and documentaries play a big part in recreating the 1970s in the UK which seems a very long time ago. But A Plan is visually dominated by the repeated documentation of the bloody wars L.A. products played such a major part in. The ethical dilemma is so clear that one wonders how successive governments tolerated and even supported a company like L.A.: Between 1971 and 1976, L.A. made a profit of 25 Million £, at the same time, it received grants from Labour/Tory governments worth 10.6. Million £, effectively paying real tax of 470 000 £. But then, today the government supports fossil fuels four times as much as sustainable energy.

The Plan is a reminder that although the black-and-white images seem outdated to us now, the underlying moral bankruptcy of successive government decisions has not changed. Lucas Aerospace doesn’t exist any more, parts of the company were sold off, others went bankrupt. AS

SCREENING DURING LONDON FILM FESTIVAL 2018 | 10-21 OCTOBER 2018   

Putin’s Witnesses (2018) *** Karlovy Vary 2018 | Best Documentary Winner

Dir: Vitaly Mansky | Doc | Latvia/Switz/Czechia | 102’

On New Year’s Eve 1999 the former head of the Federal Security Service (FSB), Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, became president of Russia. In his latest offering the exiled documentarian Vitaly Mansky (Truba) threatens to blow the lid on his own entente cordiale in a film that gives intimate and unprecedented acces to Putin himself and other protagonists on the Russian Political scene including Mikhail Gorbachev, and Boris Yeltsin, who chose the ambitious 47-year-old politician as his successor.

Ukrainian-born Vitaly Mansky bases his film on witness accounts of the events that happened in the years following that fateful day in December, perhaps the most important moment in 21st century Russian history. Making his presence known both behind and infront of the camera as he relaxes with his wife (who openly admits her hatred of Putin) and kids durimg the New Year holidays, the filmmaker offers his own telling perspective on the current man behind the iron mask who is seen delivering red roses and a hug to his former teacher and giving his own personal take on the responsibilities of being a president, while being driven to his private gym: “you have to create a world which you are happy to live in..and not hang you head in shame..when your term of office is over”. Throughout  all this bonhomie and bumfluffery, Putin smiles but remains cold-eyed.

During their voluble encounters, Mansky probes the president on his decision to restore the Soviet anthem and his reasoning behind doing appears candid and unguarded in a film that allows this entertaining expose to speak for itself. This is not about the here and now but how it all came about and throughout a sinister soundtrack signals doom and bleak resignation. At one point a sick and bloated Yeltsin puts a call through to Putin to congratulate him on his victory only to be told that Putin will ring him back. He never does. Although Mansky seems keen to humanise the whole affair, Putin’s glare never really melts, although he cracks the odd fake smile. He is man who plays his cards close to his chest, and we can see all see through the charm offensive. Mansky’s final words offer a chilly takeaway:  “Tacit consent turns witnesses into accomplices” MT

BEST DOCUMENTARY WINNER | KARLOVY VARY FILM FESTIVAL 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Young Karl Marx (2017) ***

Dir: Raoul Peck |France / Germany / Belgium | Drama | 112 min · Colour

Interesting to discover that, according to Raoul Peck (I am Not Your Negro), the young and unemployed Karl Marx lived on the money of a capitalist he despised, while writing his community treaty Das Capital, and fathering two children. This is one of many revealing facts uncovered in this worthy period drama – which is rather pleased with itself despite being about as enjoyable as a wet weekend with Diane Abbott and one of her migraines.

Played convincingly by August Diehl (Salt), the 26 year old lived with his heiress wife Jenny in exile in Paris, where he is pictured as a rather arrogant flaneur habitually in debt and plagued by existential anxieties. Initially dismissing German factory heir Friedrich Engels (Stefan Konarske) as a dandy, the pair go on to develop a veritable bromance when Marx discovers Engels has just published a study on the miserable impoverishment of the English proletariat, and has distanced himself from his father – despite remaining on the payroll, hence financing Marx.

From then on this becomes a political procedural as the pair, assisted by Jenny and Engel’s factory shop steward wife Mary Burns (Hannah Steele), continue to work tirelessly and admirably to provide a theoretical foundation for revolution and to improve workers’ rights and abolish child labour. Soon their aim is not merely to interpret the world, but to change it with a work entitled Critic of the Critical Critique and subsequently, the Communist Manifesto.

Pascal Bonitzer’s brisk workmanlike script follows a linear narrative; Alexei Aigui (I am Not Your Negro) and animates it with an earnestly dramatic score, with unimaginative visuals conveying the drabness of Victorian England to great effect in a rather lacklustre but informative period drama. MT

ON RELEASE FROM 4 MAY 2018

 

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