Steven Spielberg’s new film The Post


This video from the USA says about itself:

15 December 2017

On Thursday December 14, The Washington Post hosted a discussion with director Steven Spielberg and cast members of the movie, “The Post”, a drama about the newspaper’s decision to publish the Pentagon Papers in June 1971. The Washington Post’s chief film critic, Ann Hornaday, was joined on stage by Spielberg and actors Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Bob Odenkirk and Bradley Whitford to talk about the movie.

By Joanne Laurier in the USA:

Steven Spielberg’s The Post: To reveal government secrets and lies or not?

17 January 2018

Directed by Steven Spielberg; screenplay by Liz Hannah and John Singer

Steven Spielberg’s new film The Post recounts the internal struggle at the Washington Post over whether or not to publish the Pentagon Papers in June 1971.

The 7,000-page, 47-volume document was a Department of Defense history of American imperialist involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1966. It revealed that successive administrations, Democratic and Republican, had systematically lied for decades, with devastating consequences, including the death of millions of Vietnamese and tens of thousands of Americans.

At the center of The Post are a series of disputes that took place over the advisability of making public the explosive government secrets, including between Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham and her financial and legal consultants, and between Graham, on the one hand, and managing editor Ben Bradlee and his reporting staff, on the other. In addition, Graham and Bradlee each undergoes an internal conflict during the crisis.

Spielberg’s film conscientiously and intelligently represents these events and brings out a number of critical questions, including freedom of the press, the right of the population to know what the authorities are up to, and the dangers of presidential dictatorship.

The Post begins in 1966 with a semi-prologue. Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys), a military analyst, is on a fact-finding mission in Vietnam for Lyndon B. Johnson’s Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood). Concurring in private with Ellsberg that the war is going terribly, McNamara sings a different, optimistic tune in front of the American media.

Ellsberg has served as a Marine, spent two years working in Vietnam with the State Department, and has been involved in the writing of a document, commissioned by McNamara in 1967, blandly entitled “History of U.S. Decision-making in Vietnam, 1945-66”, which eventually gains notoriety as the “Pentagon Papers.”

In 1969, increasingly disillusioned by the war and disgusted at government falsehoods, Ellsberg and his colleague Anthony Russo (Sonny Valicenti), both employed at RAND Corporation, begin clandestinely photocopying all 7,000 pages of the Pentagon Papers.

On June 13, 1971, Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) and publisher Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) are caught off guard when the New York Times starts publishing portions of the top-secret document, which Ellsberg had leaked to Times reporter Neil Sheehan (Justin Swain). Bradlee is frustrated by Sheehan’s blockbuster scoop.

On June 15, Attorney General John Mitchell tells the Times they are violating the Espionage Act, and the Nixon administration gets a court order to stop the Times from continuing to publish the papers. “If the Times shuts down,” Bradley says, “we’re in business.”

“Anyone else tired of reading the news instead of reporting it?” he asks angrily and rhetorically, charging national editor Ben Bagdikian (Bob Odenkirk) with tracking down the source of the leak. When Bagdikian figures out it is Ellsberg, a former colleague at RAND, he goes to Boston, meets the anxious whistleblower, and returns to Washington with a trove of 4,400 photocopied pages.

The Post now possesses the material. The debate over whether or not to publish it pits Bradlee against the paper’s legal team, bankers and potential investors. Graham and her business advisors are in the midst of launching the newspaper’s first public stock offering worth millions of dollars. Criminal charges could destroy the paper and potentially land Graham and Bradlee in prison.

Bradlee argues: “The only way to assert the right to publish is to publish.” Furthermore, he argues: “We have to be the check on their power. If we don’t hold them accountable, who will?” As the debate rages between the editorial and legal departments, additional pressure is brought to bear on Graham by her friend Robert McNamara. In a private conversation, however, she reminds him that her son fought in Vietnam and that she has an obligation to expose the heinous character of the war and government lies, including his own. In reply, McNamara vehemently warns her: “Nixon hates you, and if there’s a way to destroy your paper, he’ll find it.”

The first Washington Post article making use of the Pentagon Papers appears on June 18, despite threats from the Justice Department, which insists (via a phone call from then assistant attorney general and future chief justice of the US Supreme Court, William Rehnquist!) that the paper has—like the Times—violated the Espionage Act.

On June 26, 1971, the Supreme Court hears the Post and Times cases together, and on June 30, issues a 6-3 decision, supporting the papers’ right to publish. The Post ends with the onset of the Watergate scandal in 1972, whose working out would bring about the resignation of Richard Nixon in disgrace two years later.

Spielberg’s movie honestly and entertainingly sets out to depict the details and personalities of a major moment in American history. Its strongest element is a genuine democratic sensibility. Perhaps the most oft-repeated line in the film is “They lied”, referring to the various administrations. Graham and Bradlee are truly perturbed by the actions of particularly the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. Each has been personally close to officials in both.

Furthermore, The Post demonstrates that the interests of the population stand in opposition to those of the authorities. It argues for the press to be independent of and skeptical toward government pronouncements. It that sense, it is a rebuke and condemnation of today’s mainstream media, which has become little more than a propaganda arm of the White House, CIA and Pentagon.

The Post is Spielberg’s filmmaking at his most effective: coherent, well-told, engaging. The entire cast performs with a degree of urgency and commitment. Special mention must go to Hanks, Odenkirk and Greenwood. The filmmakers successfully integrate snippets from Nixon’s infamous, mafia-like audio tapes over the image of a shadowy figure in a White House window. Moreover, the movie’s rhythm and intensity provide a sense of the real rhythm and intensity of the earth-shaking events in 1971.

Support for this effort comes from the score by John Williams, and the script by co-writer Josh Singer who also co-wrote the screenplay for Spotlight, a 2015 exposé of the Catholic Church. Singer presumably has a hand here in doing what he did for that film, creating an unglamorous, “secondary” character who seems entirely devoted to uncovering the truth: in Spotlight, the indefatigable lawyer, Mitchell Garabedian (Stanley Tucci), and here, Odenkirk’s Bagdikian.

Above all, The Post directs the attention of contemporary audiences to a momentous episode. The movie’s production notes point out that the Pentagon Papers “would set off shattering shockwaves that continue to this day. The document…uncovered a dark truth: that vast, wide-ranging deceptions about the deadly war in Vietnam had spanned four presidential administrations, from Truman to Eisenhower, Kennedy to Johnson.

“The Pentagon Papers revealed that each of those Presidents had repeatedly misled the public about U.S. operations in Vietnam, and that even as the government was said to be pursuing peace, behind the scenes the military and CIA were covertly expanding the war. The Papers provided a shadowy history loaded with evidence of assassinations, violations of the Geneva Convention, rigged elections and lies in front of Congress.”

In an interview, Singer said that The Post script had foreseen some present-day parallels under Donald Trump to the era depicted in their film. “It was remarkable how more and more relevant the first amendment theme became as we were in production”, remarked the scriptwriter. “It’s one of the reasons why Steven [Spielberg] wanted to make the movie now.”

The comment is no doubt sincere, but it points in a contradictory fashion to some of the movie’s limitations.

The authentic feeling for the First Amendment and constitutional rights is expressed in a film that, first of all, also offers a highly idealized portrait of its central characters. The Post itself makes mention of the many connections of Graham and Bradlee to the political establishment. McNamara, one of the chief war criminals of the day, was Graham’s close personal friend.

The movie’s feminist coloration is off the mark. The script apparently originated with the desire of screenwriter Liz Hannah “to tell the story of Katharine Graham, the former Washington Post publisher who became the first-ever female CEO of a Fortune 500 company … As Hannah was writing the first draft, the symmetry between Graham and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton seemed to be the most obvious parallel to the present. (She sold the script just 10 days before the election.)” Fortunately, the screenplay evolved from that narrow beginning to take up broader questions. Nonetheless, the emphasis on Graham’s “pioneering” status as a female CEO remains. The filmmakers take for granted this is something to celebrate.

As an antidote to the worship of Graham-Streep, it ought to be remembered that one of the most notorious union-busting operations of the 1970s took place when the publisher set out to break the pressmen’s union at the Post, provoking a strike in October 1975 that ended with mass firings and the frame-up of 15 workers on charges related to slightly damaged equipment in the printing plant. The Post strike is widely considered one of the preludes to the Reagan administration’s destruction of the air traffic controllers union, PATCO, in 1981.

In the Washington Monthly in January 1976, in an article sharply critical of Graham and her activities, the same Ben Bagdikian who hunted down and helped see to the publication of the Pentagon Papers wrote that the Post’s going public in 1971 marked the “transformation of the daily newspaper in the United States from a family enterprise to a corporation with an obligation to its stockholders to ‘maximize’ profits.”

As for Bradlee, his history may be even more sordid. This Cold War liberal from a Boston Brahmin family, and an intimate friend of John and Jacqueline Kennedy, worked covertly for the CIA in Europe in the 1950s. His sister-in-law in 1971 was Mary Pinchot Meyer, formerly married to Cord Meyer, a high-level CIA official, involved in countless agency operations.

Christopher Reed in a 2014 Guardian obituary detailed how Bradlee had “spent many years undercover as a counter-espionage informant, a government propagandist and an unofficial asset of the Central Intelligence Agency.” Among his credits, according to Reed, included promulgating “CIA-directed European propaganda urging the controversial
execution of the convicted American spies Ethel and Julius Rosenberg” in 1953.

As noted above, The Post offers a romanticized version of Graham and Bradlee as heroes of democracy, and that is not to the filmmakers’ credit. Moreover, Spielberg’s rush to shoot and release the film by the end of 2017 apparently had a great deal to do with Trump’s coming to power and his own support for the Democratic Party.

This is not the first time in history of course that a Hollywood movie has shaded the truth about the lives of its central figures. But that has not prevented a host of biographical and historical films from shedding light on important matters. That’s the case here too. The Post has an impact and implications that go beyond the immediate ideas and intentions of the filmmakers.

Spielberg’s film dramatizes, with some insight, the outlook and physiognomy of a bourgeois layer who still retained in 1971 some attachment to and also fear about the abandonment of democratic principles. After all, only one year after the mass protests over the killings at Kent State, what if the Pentagon Papers had gotten beyond the control of the New York Times and the Washington Post? In any event, Graham and Bradlee showed a certain amount of courage and principle in contrast to their counterparts today.

The whole ruling elite has moved dramatically to the right. Graham herself said in 1988 in an address to the CIA: “There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn’t … I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows.”

In November of 2010, at the height of the revelations published by WikiLeaks of US actions in Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries, former New York Times executive editor Bill Keller published a piece stressing that in considering whether or not to disclose state secrets, the Times engaged in “extensive and serious discussions with the government.” Keller wrote: “We agree wholeheartedly that transparency is not an absolute good. Freedom of the press includes freedom not to publish, and that is a freedom we exercise with some regularity.” There would be no publication of the Pentagon Papers in our day.

It is inconceivable that the 1971 Supreme Court decision allowing the Times and Post to publish the documents would be handed down today. The courts now routinely rule that the government has the right to suppress information and spy on everybody in the interests of “national security.”

The Post cites a passage from Justice Hugo Black’s 1971 ruling. It is worth quoting at greater length:

“In the First Amendment the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. … In my view, far from deserving condemnation for their courageous reporting, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other newspapers should be commended for serving the purpose that the Founding Fathers saw so clearly.”

The fate of Daniel Ellsberg, who never went to jail and was even widely honored, was far different from that of Julian Assange, Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning. In 2011, an 80-year-old Ellsberg, commenting on the 40th anniversary of the release of the Pentagon Papers, wrote: “What we need released this month are the Pentagon Papers of Iraq and Afghanistan (and Pakistan, Yemen and Libya).”

In an interview with CNN at that time, Ellsberg noted that the crimes committed by the Nixon administration against him 40 years ago could now be carried out under the cover of law by the Obama White House.

The list of crimes “includes burglarizing my former psychoanalyst’s office… warrantless wiretapping, using the CIA against an American citizen in the US, and authorizing a White House hit squad to ‘incapacitate me totally’ (on the steps of the Capitol on May 3, 1971)”, Ellsberg said. “But under George W. Bush and Barack Obama, with the PATRIOT Act, the FISA Amendment Act, and (for the hit squad) President Obama’s executive orders”, those crimes “have all become legal.”

To whatever extent Spielberg, Singer and company are aware of the vast decay of American democracy, it is the most vital feature that the discerning viewer will take away from The Post.

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Jane Goodall and chimpanzees, new film reviewed


This video says about itself:

First Look at Jane | National Geographic

5 October 2017

Dr. Jane Goodall’s groundbreaking chimpanzee research redefined what it means to be human. Brett Morgen’s critically acclaimed film JANE will be released in select theaters starting Oct. 20.

Jane Goodall started her research without having any university degree: her family could not afford that. Before her work in Gombe in Tanzania, no one had ever properly studied wild chimpanzees. Goodall managed to get gradually closer and closer to the chimps, until they no longer saw her as a danger. This way, she managed to discover much about ape behavior never recorded before.

On 7 January 2018, I saw the film Jane, the 40th film ever about Jane Goodall, in a packed cinema. Much of the material is 1960s-1980s footage by Goodall’s first husband Hugo van Lawick; it was thought to have been lost, but was found again in 2014. Interviews with the main character, now that she is 83 years old, were added.

Before I write more about the movie, I have to go back 27 years; to something, not mentioned in the film, but relevant to its content.

In 1991, an article appeared in the New York Review of Books in the USA, written by Lord Zuckerman. The article claimed there were big, unbridgeable differences between humans and apes. One of the books reviewed in the article is Through a Window: My Thirty Years with the Chimpanzees of Gombe, by Jane Goodall. Lord Zuckerman attacked Ms Goodall for being supposedly ‘anthropomorphic’ about chimpanzees.

Who was Lord Zuckerman? Lord Solly Zuckerman (1904–1993) was a South Africa-born British zoologist and military strategist. I don’t know if he ever made any mistakes in military strategy. He certainly made major mistakes in zoology. More precisely, about Jane Goodall and chimpanzees, thirty years before his New York Review of Books article.

Lord Zuckerman, like most establishment scientists until the 1960s, believed there was absolute patriarchal male supremacy among chimpanzees. Jane Goodall’s research proved that theory was not completely right. One may argue that Zuckerman himself was ‘guilty’ of anthropomorphism. though different anthropomorphism from what he accused Jane Goodall of, as he projected human patriarchal societies into the world of chimpanzees and other animals.

A 2014 interview with Jane Goodall mentions:

If her [Goodall’s] Cambridge colleagues had been patronizing, it was nothing compared to the treatment she received at a symposium on primates held at the Zoological Society of London in April 1962. “I gave my first scientific presentation and was terrified, says Goodall. “I practiced for hours,” she says. “I was determined not to read and not to say ‘er’ or ‘um.’ I have remained true to that ever since.”

After three days of talks, the meeting came to a close with a speech by Sir Solly Zuckerman, an anatomist who had studied monkeys in Africa, and gone on to become secretary of the Society and chief science adviser to the Ministry of Defence. Although Goodall had been well received, Zuckerman took the opportunity to fire a volley of pointed comments at the twentysomething newcomer.

“There are those who are here and who prefer anecdote—and what I must confess I regard as sometimes unbounded speculation,” he told his audience, as recounted in Dale Peterson’s biography of Goodall, The Woman Who Redefined Man. “In scientific work it is far safer to base one’s major conclusions and generalizations on a concordant and large body of data than on a few contradictory and isolated observations, the explanation of which sometimes leaves a little to be desired.”

On the morning of 7 January 2018, Dutch primatologist Jan van Hooff told Vroege Vogels radio about his memories of that meeting. Jane Goodall had discovered that chimpanzees use tools. And not only use tools: make tools. That contradicted the establishment science consensus that only humans use tools. Louis Leakey said Ms Goodall’s research made it necessary to redefine humans. If one defines a human as Homo faber, the tool user, then chimpanzees should be called humans as well (later discoveries found that not only chimpanzees but also other animal species make and use tools).

Jane Goodall also discovered that chimpanzees sometimes eat meat, hunting other animals.

Lord Zuckerman was livid, Jan van Hooff recalls. The noble lord stormed toward biologist Desmond Morris, who had invited Jane Goodall, and said: ‘Who has invited this stupid wench to talk nonsense here? Everyone knows that chimpanzees do not make tools. Everyone knows that chimpanzees eat only plants.’

Van Hooff and Morris responded politely, Van Hooff remembers. As it is not clever to sharply contradict a secretary of the Zoological Society of London who is a nobleman as well.

The 2014 interview says:

This was not Goodall’s first run-in with Zuckerman. At the end of 1961, there had been a press conference at London Zoo to announce her preliminary findings—and she had hatched a plan to use this public platform to call for an improvement in the conditions of the captive chimps at the zoo. “There was a bare cage with a cement floor,” she explains. During the summer months, the chimps had no shade: “It got boiling hot and there was only one platform, the other had broken, so the male got that and the female had to sit on the floor. It was horrible.”

Before the meeting, over dinner with the diplomat Malcolm MacDonald (who had visited her briefly in Gombe and would become governor-general of Kenya in 1963), Goodall shared her intention to champion the welfare of the captive chimps: “I was really excited.”

But MacDonald, with his experience as a politician, could see a flaw. Speaking out on behalf of the chimps to a packed auditorium would be a direct criticism of Zuckerman’s leadership of the zoo. “Do you think he’s going to allow a little whipper-snapper who doesn’t even have a degree to tell him he’s in the wrong?” Goodall recalls MacDonald telling her. “You’ll make an enemy for life, and you don’t want an enemy like that.”

Instead, Goodall suggested several simple changes to the chimps’ enclosure that would improve their welfare, and MacDonald worked behind the scenes to see them implemented. “What I learned then is: Don’t let people lose face, don’t try to do something publicly until you’ve tried every which way to do it quietly. I’ve found that so helpful to me”, she says …

Naturally, Zuckerman took the credit for the improvements to the chimps’ enclosure. “I don’t mind two hoots as long as it gets done”, Goodall says.

Decades later, Professor Jan van Hooff asked his Dutch biology students who knew who Lord Zuckerman was. Not one student’s hand was raised. Then, he asked who knew about Jane Goodall. All hands went up. ‘So, you see’, Van Hooff said.

The film shows how Jane Goodall went into the Tanzanian forest alone. How good she was at climbing trees. That she was not afraid of snakes, including poisonous snakes, as they usually don’t bite unless you step on them. That she got to know the chimpanzees better and better, starting the longest ever continuous research of wild animals, continuing till now. She recorded how chimpanzees were born, grew up and died. She differentiated between individual characters; another one of her innovations.

National Geographic sent Hugo van Lawick to Gombe to film and photograph her work. This brought Jane Goodall and ‘her’ chimpanzees to the cover of the magazine. Hugo and Jane fell in love; married; went to national parks like Serengeti together; got a son; and eventually divorced.

In 2009, Michael Barker wrote this criticism of Jane Goodall:

In October 2008 the world renowned primatologist and United Nations Messenger of Peace, Jane Goodall, traversed Australia, regaling packed houses with stories from her latest autobiographical book, Hope for Nature. Undertaking such whirlwind tours is the norm for Goodall. On average she spends some 300 days a year on the global lecture circuit to raise funds for her wide-ranging charitable activities. This gruelling schedule means that rather than conducting chimpanzee research, speaking engagements have tended to dominate her life over the past several decades. In an interview conducted last year by The Sydney Morning Herald she was asked what had prompted her to make this serious lifestyle change in the 1980s, Goodall replied:

Realising that chimpanzees were becoming extinct — the forests were going — and realising that the environmental and social problems of Africa could often be laid at the door of the elite communities around the world.

Yet despite recognizing that elites present a serious threat to the environment, she is adamant that the same elites will, with a little support from the public, provide the solutions to the very problems that they have created.

Bearing Goodall’s evidently optimist outlook in mind, it is fitting that she formerly served as a board member of the Humane Society of the U.S., a group that describes itself as “the nation’s largest… animal protection organization,” and is well supported by the elite community that Goodall apparently rails against. Here it is informative to point out that one particularly notable board member of the Humane Society is David Jhirad, who is currently the vice president for research and evaluation at the Rockefeller Foundation — an influential philanthropic group that happens to be a key democracy-manipulating organisation (see my earlier article “Pacifying Civil Society“). In addition to holding this influential position, Jhirad acts as the executive vice president of The Gemstar Group, an organisation that, according to their Web site, “work[s] with partners around the world in implementing market-based approaches to global environmental problems.” The president of The Gemstar Group, William Nitze, served as deputy assistant secretary of state for environment in the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. …

Barker names other supporters of environment-destroying corporate capitalism, Big Oil corporation bigwigs etc. apparently trying to do ‘greenwashing‘ by associating with Dr Goodall’s pro-environment work. Work that apparently faces dilemmas like the WWF in Spain: which made King Juan Carlos its boss, only to discover that His Majesty killed elephants, and then having to sack him.

Barker concludes:

To surmise: the shady connections outlined within this article do not provide evidence to contradict the fact that Jane Goodall is a passionate and vocal orator on all things environmental. All the same, in spite of her evident passion, it seems more than probable that the message of hope that Goodall preaches worldwide is unlikely to promote environmental solutions that seriously challenge corporate power.

Maybe Ms Goodall’s 1961 experience of improving the London Zoo chimpanzees’ situation without a confrontation with the zoo establishment caused her to be over-optimistic on achieving change without confrontations with establishments. She supports the Green party in Britain; which sometimes does criticize the establishment, but sometimes does not go far enough in that.

Jane Goodall upset the scientific establishment and their wrong ideas. Unfortunately, she only partly sees through political and economic establishments and their wrong practices.

Dutch Wadden Sea wildlife, new film trailer


This December 2017 video is the trailer of a new film about wildlife in the Dutch Wadden Sea region. Including shrimps, fish, seals, eider ducks, peregrine falcon, little tern and others.

Film maker Ruben Smit made this video. The film ‘Wad; leven op de grens van water en natuur’ will be in the cinemas in the autumn of 2018.

New American film on Emmett Till


This video from the USA says about itself:

15 October 2017

Kevin Wilson Jr. talks “My Nephew Emmett” at Woodstock Film Festival 2017.

By Joanne Laurier in the USA:

3 January 2018

In December, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Short Films and Animation branch selected its shortlist of 10 live-action short films (out of 165 submissions) to contend for Oscar nominations.

After January screenings, branch members will narrow this down to the final five nominees. Nominations for the 90th Academy Awards will be announced January 23. The ceremony will be held March 4 this year.

In the age of the $200 million blockbuster, short fiction films hold no interest for the box-office-obsessed media. However, such works may demonstrate considerable artistry and insight. Like the short story, the short film is capable of isolating and treating a dramatic moment with great intensity and resonance.

My Nephew Emmett

The brutal murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till on August 28, 1955, in Mississippi, horrified millions and helped ignite the Civil Rights movement. At the time, Till, an African American boy from Chicago, was visiting family in Money, Mississippi. Four days before his murder, Till stopped at Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Market, encountering Carolyn Bryant, a white woman. At the time Bryant claimed Till flirted with her. Years later she admitted this was a lie.

Based on Bryant’s mere accusation, her husband Roy and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, seized Till from his great-uncle’s house, forced the young boy to carry a 75-pound cotton-gin fan to the bank of the Tallahatchie River and take off his clothes. They then beat him, gouged out his eye, shot him in the head, and threw his body, tied to the cotton-gin fan with barbed wire, into the river.

Till’s killers were acquitted by an all-white jury, all of whose members had been visited and threatened by the Ku Klux Klan, although there was little or no question about their guilt.

Written and directed by Kevin Wilson, Jr., My Nephew Emmett recounts the hours leading up to the atrocity. Emmett (Joshua Wright) is visiting his great-uncle Mose Wright (L.B. Williams) and great-aunt Elizabeth (Jasmine Guy) in rural Money. Emmett returns from a Saturday night excursion in good humor, but Mose is worried that the boy is naïve about the town’s racism.

Mose’s most disturbing fears are realized when there is an incessant pounding on his door at 2:30 a.m. Sunday morning. Three men, two white and one black, force their way into Mose’s home, demanding to know “where is the nigger who whistled at my wife?”

They push Mose aside, drag Emmett out of bed, and punch him, saying, “Don’t ever look a white man in the eyes again.” Mose pleads for Emmett’s life, begging to be taken in the boy’s stead. My Nephew Emmett ’s final scene shows a petrified Emmett being thrown into the back of a truck.

“Three days later, Mose Wright identified the body of Emmett Louis Till at the Tallahatchie River”, the movie’s postscript informs us. Movingly, there is a short video clip of the real Mose Wright.

The murder of Emmett Till and the freeing of his killers was a seminal event in the history of the struggle against racism, galvanizing opposition to Jim Crow segregation and racist terror. Furthermore, the decision by Mamie Till Bradley, Emmett’s mother, to have an open-casket funeral so the world could witness his mutilated remains, left an indelible mark.

Human Flow, Ai Weiwei’s refugee film, review


This video says about itself:

Human Flow Official Trailer

18 August 2017

A ground-breaking new documentary about the global refugee crisis from Ai Weiwei.

About Human Flow: Over 65 million people around the world have been forced from their homes to escape famine, climate change and war in the greatest human displacement since World War II.

Human Flow, an epic film journey led by the internationally renowned artist Ai Weiwei, gives a powerful visual expression to this massive human migration. The documentary elucidates both the staggering scale of the refugee crisis and its profoundly personal human impact.

Captured over the course of an eventful year in 23 countries, the film follows a chain of urgent human stories that stretches across the globe in countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, France, Greece, Germany, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, and Turkey. Human Flow is a witness to its subjects and their desperate search for safety, shelter and justice: from teeming refugee camps to perilous ocean crossings to barbed-wire borders; from dislocation and disillusionment to courage, endurance and adaptation; from the haunting lure of lives left behind to the unknown potential of the future.

Human Flow comes at a crucial time when tolerance, compassion and trust are needed more than ever. This visceral work of cinema is a testament to the unassailable human spirit and poses one of the questions that will define this century: Will our global society emerge from fear, isolation, and self-interest and choose a path of openness, freedom, and respect for humanity? Amazon Studios, Participant Media and AC Films present Human Flow, a film directed by Ai Weiwei.

On 30 December 2017, I went to see the film Human Flow.

Its first words are lines from a poem by Nazim Hikmet. The lines, claiming the right to live in dignity, are:

I want the right of life, of the leopard at the spring,
of the seed splitting open
I want the right of the first man

Nazim Hikmet, this famous poet, was a refugee. The government of his native NATO country Turkey took away his passport and he had to flee to Warsaw Pact countries in eastern Europe.

The film’s director, Ai Weiwei, is a well-known Chinese visual artist. He paid attention to refugees before this film came out, like in an exhibition in Berlin and as organiser of a pro-refugee demonstration in London.

A positive, though not uncritical, review by Eric London from the USA is here. It says that the film does name the causes of why people become refugees; but hardly names individuals and organisations responsible for these causes.

The film, correctly, names two main causes of scores of millions of people fleeing their homes in desperation: inequality and war.

A Mexican human rights activist names inequality as causing refugees towards the end of the film. Here, it might have been mentioned that the richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos, became so rich, eg, by oppressing and exploiting the workers of his Amazon business. That Bezos and the two other Top Three richest men have as much money as the poorest 50% of the United States people together. That Bezos and the seven other Top Eight richest men have as much money as the poorest 50% of the world’s people together. However, part of the money of producing the film is from Amazon Studios, part of Bezos’ empire. The movie does not mention the Amazon empire. Self-censorship because otherwise there would have been no money to make this important and moving film? I don’t know.

The other cause of the refugee crisis which the film mentions is wars. It names the war on Iraq (of George W. Bush, not named). It mentions that oil was and is a main factor in that Iraq war. It mentions that ISIS terrorism is a consequence of (Bush and Blair’s) Iraq war. It mentions that the war made four million Iraqis refugees. It mentions that war killed many Iraqis. It says 268,000 people (other, credible, estimates like in British medical review The Lancet say over a million).

Like all people, and even more so than other people, humans fleeing the horrors of wars need love and compassion. Yet, they often get hatred from the extreme right in rich countries. Causing ‘centrist’ establishment politicians, scared of losing supporters to neofascists, to crack down on refugees. The film mentions that when the Berlin wall fell, only 11 countries in the world had borders with fences and walls. In 2016, it was 70.

The film says that for a long time in the second half of the twentieth century, in western Europe there was a relatively humane refugee policy. Feeling shame about the often bad treatment of Jewish and other refugees from Adolf Hitler during the 1930s played a role in that, I add. The film mentions the role of the cold war in this. Like Nazim Hikmet fled from NATO country Turkey to Warsaw Pact countries, other people fled the other way, to the west. Usually, stating ‘I went here because I don’t like communism’ was enough to be officially recognized as a refugee in a country like the Netherlands.

After the end of the Vietnam war in the 1970s, the Dutch navy sailed all the way around the globe to pick up boat refugees from the new Vietnamese communist party government and bring them to the Netherlands. Today, NATO warships often let boat refugees drown in the Mediterranean. Or they help to forcibly return them to Libya where they may become slaves.

Refoulement of refugees is illegal according to international law. Yet, rich countries like the USA and in western Europe do it. The film mentions the disastrous consequences of the deal between the Turkish Erdogan regime and the European Union, forcibly returning refugees to Turkey. There in Turkey, the film shows, they don’t get the protection of refugee status. The Turkish government may return them any time to war in Syria, Afghanistan or elsewhere. It often does so.

Ai Weiwei shows that the Erdogan regime also wages war within Turkey itself. It destroyed the homes of over half a million, mainly Kurdish, civilian people in eastern Turkey, making them refugees.

After the initial Nazim Hikmet poetry lines, the film depicts the sea between Turkey and the Greek island Lesbos. An inflatable boat full of refugees manages to finish the perilous journey, landing on Lesbos. I myself made the journey between Turkey and Lesbos on a safe passenger ship. I enjoyed seeing shearwaters fly and bottlenose dolphins jump. How soothing it might have been for these fugitives from bloodshed to forget for a moment the horrors of ‘humanitarian’ war, while safely watching birds and dolphins!

Then, the film shows some improvement for refugees. Some of them can travel in a safe passenger ferry ship from Lesbos to continental Greece. One can see some of the adults and children smile, looking more relaxed.

However, once they arrive at the border between Greece and Macedonia, the horrors start again. As part of a chain reaction of many European governments, the Greek-Macedonian border is closed. Idomeni refugee camp becomes a hell on earth. A Greek government minister compared it to the nazi camp Dachau. A comparison also made by Pope Francis I.

The movie also pays attention to refugees outside Europe, like in Africa and Asia. A victim of the anti-Rohingya genocide in Myanmar talks about the violence by the military junta. He says the Rohingya don’t retaliate with violence, as their Islamic faith does not allow that. An interesting remark, as Islamophobes claim that supposedly all Muslims want to kill all non-Muslims, confounding violent groups like ISIS with the non-violent majority of Muslims.

The film continues to Palestinian refugees in Gaza. A tiger lives in Gaza in a bad situation. Animal lovers manage to get the animal out of Gaza to a better life in South Africa. To do that, they get cooperation of Palestinian, Israeli and other authorities. Unfortunately, there is not yet such cooperation for improving the lives of the millions of Palestinian refugees as there is for this one big cat.

For more hope for the 65 million refugees in the world, governments that care only for billionaires and for making war need to go.

Clintonism, Blairism damage to politics


This video from the USA says about itself:

Clinton, Blair and Obama Destroyed the Idealism of Politics – Gabriel Byrne

26 December 2017

On Reality Asserts Itself, actor Gabriel Byrne says his journey as an Irish immigrant helped to radicalize him as did his disillusionment with leaders who promised transformation and delivered conservatism with a “different tie” – with host Paul Jay.