Trump jails children for immigrating, new film

This 4 December 2018 video says about itself:

Icebox 2018 Official Trailer. Written & Directed by Daniel Sawka. Premieres on HBO on Dec. 7 at 8PM.

The NHMC [National Hispanic Media Coalition] supports programming that includes Latinos/as in prominent roles in front and behind camera, such as this feature, ICEBOX, which explores the grim realities of the current U.S. immigration system through eyes of Oscar, a 12-year-old school boy from Honduras, whose unsolicited connection with a violent local gang has led his parents to smuggle him out of the country in hopes of escaping to [US] America.

Caught by border agents in the Arizona desert and sent to an immigrant processing center for minors, Oscar struggles to gain control of his fate inside the “Icebox”.

By David Walsh in the USA:

Icebox: The US government locks up children

11 December 2018

Icebox, a film about young asylum seekers locked up by US authorities, is available for free streaming by nonsubscribers at HBO starting Monday, Dec. 10: here.

We reviewed the film and interviewed the director and actors at the Toronto film festival in September. Directed by Daniel Sawka and produced by veteran American writer-director-producer James L. Brooks (best known for his extensive work in television spanning four decades), Icebox focuses on a 12-year-old Honduran boy, Oscar (Anthony Gonzalez), forced by gang activity to flee his home country and head for the US, where an uncle lives.

The trip north in a truck is frightening enough, organized by thugs who, at one point, pick out the women they think attractive enough to work as prostitutes. In the desert, the group of immigrants climb a border fence and ride off across the desert on bicycles provided by the smugglers. Oscar has a problem with his bike, and finds himself alone in the wasteland.

A sinister US border patrol drone, hovering in the sky like a bird of prey, spots Oscar and agents take him into custody. He ends up in a detention center, better known as the icebox. Here, in the land of the free and the home of the brave, children are locked up in cages. They shiver at night under plastic “space blankets.”

Oscar repeatedly attempts to telephone his uncle, without initial success. Other young detainees pour cold water on his illusions about being able to stay in the US: “They’ll send you back.” “Would they build places like this if they wanted us to stay?” “There is no asylum. They’re sending us all back.”

Oscar meets a female journalist (Genesis Rodriguez), and prevails upon her to contact his uncle for him. The latter, Manuel (the talented Omar Leyva), finally comes for Oscar. Manuel is in the US on a temporary visa and has hesitated to help Oscar because of fears about his own precarious situation. Picking up Oscar at the detention center, he mutters, “Never been so scared in my life.”

At the farm near Phoenix, Arizona where Manuel works in the fields, he and Oscar fill out forms and prepare for a hearing before an immigration judge. They have no legal counsel to assist them. Nonetheless, they persevere in the face of the bureaucratic red tape.

Oscar dresses up for his hearing. The judge (Forrest Fyre), perfectly civil and polite but without any comprehension of or perhaps interest in the violent, dangerous conditions in Honduras, asks Oscar whether he was forced to join the gang in question. In his ruling, the judge notes that gang violence is “prevalent” in Honduras, and we “can’t give you asylum.”

Manuel now faces a moral dilemma. He has vouched for Oscar. If he aids his nephew to go underground in the US, what will happen to his own chances of staying in the country? “If I let you run, I’ll lose everything!” On the other hand, if he helps send Oscar back to Honduras, will he be responsible for what happens to the boy?

Daniel Sawka’s film is sincere and intelligently done. Preparatory work on Icebox was begun under the Obama administration, which deported hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants. Donald Trump has made vicious, venomous attacks on immigrants a centerpiece of his government’s right-wing policies.

Border Angels, a migrant rights group, estimates that 10,000 men, women and children have died since 1994 attempting to cross the increasingly militarized US-Mexico border. Icebox bends over backward to portray the circumstances in the detention center in the most impartial manner and clearly has no wish to condemn either ICE or the border patrol as an institution. One suspects the everyday conditions are considerably worse than those depicted in Sawka’s film. But this only has the effect of making the objective brutality of incarcerating children, whose sole wrongdoing is attempting to cross a border, all the more cruel and depraved.

The film places great emphasis on the intimidation Oscar’s uncle feels in the presence of any representatives of US law and order. None of the various agents acts here improperly or with particular violence. Again, this only reinforces the inhumanity of a situation where millions of men and women are obliged to live in terror for the crime of attempting to make a living for themselves and their families.

Sawka’s Icebox concentrates on gang violence as the principal factor in the decision of Oscar’s family to send him away to the US. In part, this is no doubt an effort to build a “stronger case” dramatically and emotionally. Oscar, literally, has no choice—gang members are threatening his life unless he takes part in their activities.

But drug and gang violence themselves are only symptoms of the barbaric social realities confronting the working class and rural poor in Central America, whose impoverished countries have been wracked by intense violence produced, above all, by decades of US imperialist domination. Those generalized conditions have driven vast numbers to head north, where they face further repression and threats to the elementary right to work and live.

The greatest strength of Icebox is that the filmmakers have decided, to their credit, to tell the story from the point of view of a 12-year-old Honduran refugee and with unquestionable sympathy and anger.

ICE RAMPS UP UNDOCUMENTED ARRESTS Immigration and Customs Enforcement has ramped up its investigations of workplaces suspected of employing undocumented immigrants, with a surge in the number of workers arrested from 300 last year to 2,300 in 2018. [HuffPost]

In a series of tweets Tuesday morning, President Donald Trump threatened to bypass the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and have the military build a wall along the US-Mexico border. After congratulating the government agencies for “securing” the border, he criticized the Democrats for wanting “Open Borders for anyone to come in. This brings large scale crime and disease”: here.

Trump’s embrace of murder in the Saudi regime’s assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, his defense of fascists such as the neo-Nazis who marched last year in Charlottesville, his racist and fascistic attacks on immigrants, are blowing up a basic ideological pillar of US imperialist foreign policy—the pretense that the United States is a bulwark of human rights and democracy: here.


Franco dictatorship in Spain, new film

This 6 December 2018 video from the USA says about itself:

“The Silence of Others”: New Film Warns Against Spain’s Fascist History Repeating Itself

A far-right, anti-immigrant, anti-abortion political party in Spain has made gains in regional elections, prompting protests in the streets.

Members of Spain’s younger generation are too young to remember the brutal 40-year military dictatorship under General Francisco Franco. But a remarkable new documentary titled “The Silence of Others”, or “El Silencio de Otros”, hopes to remind Spaniards of the country’s fascist past, lest history repeat itself. The film follows several survivors of the Franco regime in their pursuit of justice. We speak with Spanish filmmaker Almudena Carracedo, who, along with Robert Bahar, wrote, produced and directed “The Silence of Others.”

Singer Maria Callas, new film

This September 2018 video says about itself:

Maria By Callas | Official US Trailer HD

Tom Volf’s MARIA BY CALLAS is the first film to tell the life story of the legendary Greek/American opera singer completely in her own words.

Told through performances, TV interviews, home movies, family photographs, private letters and unpublished memoirs—nearly all of which have never been shown to the public—the film reveals the essence of an extraordinary woman who rose from humble beginnings in New York City to become a glamorous international superstar and one of the greatest artists of all time.

Assembling the material for the film took director Volf four years of painstaking research, which included personal outreach to dozens of Callas’s closest friends and associates, who allowed him to share their personal memorabilia in the film. When recordings of Callas’s voice aren’t available, Joyce DiDonato, one of contemporary opera’s biggest stars, reads her words.

By Joanne Laurier in the USA:

Maria by Callas: A documentary on the life of the famed opera singer

8 December 2018

From France, Tom Volf’s Maria by Callas is an engrossing documentary about the legendary Greek-American opera soprano. An intimate portrait of Maria Callas (1923-1977) is presented through archival material, television interviews, home movies, family photographs and unpublished memoirs. Opera star Joyce DiDonato reads Callas’ words, when recordings of Callas are unavailable.

Volf’s research is meticulous. He tracked down a global array of people with expertise on Callas, filming interviews with 30 of the singer’s friends in nearly a dozen countries who “opened up their cupboards and pulled out 8mm films, audio tape reels, letters, and photos. He quickly realized that a large part of this memorabilia was previously unseen and had never been shown in public before,” according to the movie’s production notes.

Says Volf: “I understood very quickly that she was not only a phenomenon in her lifetime, she was still a phenomenon in 2013, nearly four decades after her death.”

One of the film’s highlights is Callas’ 1970 interview with commentator and television host David Frost. Portions of the 17-minute interview are interspersed throughout the documentary, which toggles between her career and personal life. A key theme of Maria by Callas is Maria’s comment to Frost, “There are two people in me actually, Maria and Callas … If someone really tries to listen to me, he will find all of myself there.” Volf is adept at presenting, as he says, “how the two communicate and sometimes struggle, and sometimes sacrifice one to the other.”

One segment shows dedicated young people waiting, and sleeping, on line in New York City for a chance to hear Callas sing. Also mentioned is her notorious (she was ill) 1958 “Rome Cancellation”, as well as her publicized conflict with the Metropolitan Opera’s general manager (1950-1972) Rudolf Bing. There is, as well, in-depth footage of her complicated relationship with Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. Longtime friend Nadia Stancioff (author of Maria Callas Remembered) and Georges Prêtre, one of her favorite conductors, also form part of the film’s fabric.

Notably, Callas worked with Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini on his film, Medea (1969), her only film role, and developed a close friendship with the influential director and writer.

The film brings out the immense pressures exerted on Callas by the demands, on the one hand, of an art form that requires constant artistic obsession and near perfection and, on the other, of her status, in the words of a commentator, as “one of the world’s first international celebrities, especially after she began her affair with shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis in 1959. The paparazzi couldn’t get enough of her.” The combined pressures may well have helped lead to her early death from a heart attack at the age of 53, while living in considerable isolation.

Undoubtedly, one of the film’s most breathtaking moments is Callas’ 1958 performance in concert of “Casta Diva” (Chaste Goddess), the famed aria from Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma.

This music video shows that 1958 performance.

Sung at the Théâtre National de l’Opéra in Paris, it is, according to the movie’s production notes, “presented for the very first time in color and shows a Callas at the pinnacle of her career. We will see her Norma seven years later in the film, when she has to abandon the stage in Paris in 1965. It’s the last time she ever sang it and her last but one performance ever on an operatic stage. One could say her career started with Norma (back in 1947) and ended with it.”

Also featured are sublime performances of arias from Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata —“Addio del passato” (Farewell to the Past, 1958); Georges Bizet’s Carmen —“L’amour est un oiseau rebelle” (Love is a Rebellious Bird, 1962); and Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca—“Vissi d’arte, Vissi d’amore” (I Lived for Art, I Lived for Love, 1963).

Volf’s films does not choose to take up the more controversial question of Callas’s activity, while still a teenager, in occupied Greece during World War II. In The Unknown Callas: The Greek Years, author Nicholas Petsalis-Diomidis discusses the singer’s performances at concerts attended by Italian and German troops. He takes note of “the number of Greek singers who took part, although the events were organized by the loathed enemy. Even those with leftist political views seldom missed such opportunities to make a public appearance, to further their careers and be rewarded for their services, usually with food that could not otherwise be obtained at any price. Of course there was no question of their being accused of collaboration.”

However, in Callas’ case, “her accusers have concentrated much more on her social intercourse with Italians … than on her ‘collaboration’ in the field of music. … In [Callas’] case it is beyond question that she did have close friendships with a number of Italians on a clearly personal basis.”

In a review of Petsalis-Diomidis’s book, the Telegraph wrote, “There is also a lot here about Callas’ personal life. Her mother, as they used to say, was no better than she should be during the war, with lovers ranging from an Italian colonel to German officers. Callas took up with a Fascist major, a paratrooper, a German music critic, a British officer who got her a job at Army HQ and a Greek businessman (shades of things to come), who paid for her return ticket to America.”

It should be noted that left-wing Italian artists such as Pasolini and Luchino Visconti did not consider Callas’ wartime activities an obstacle. Visconti first directed the singer in a 1954 production of Gaspare Spontini’s La Vestale at Milan’s La Scala. Four other collaborations (one of them conducted by Leonard Bernstein) followed over the course of several years. In a 1969 joint television interview, Visconti explained, “I started to direct opera because of … no, not because of, but for Maria Callas.”

An Inconvenient Truth 2, climate change film review

This 2017 video from the USA says about itself:

An Inconvenient Truth 2 – An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power | official trailer (2017) Al Gore

Climate Changes, Truth Does Not

A decade after AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH brought climate change into the heart of popular culture, comes the riveting and rousing follow-up that shows just how close we are to a real energy revolution. Vice President Al Gore continues his tireless fight traveling around the world training an army of climate champions and influencing international climate policy. Cameras follow him behind the scenes – in moments both private and public, funny and poignant — as he pursues the inspirational idea that while the stakes have never been higher, the perils of climate change can be overcome with human ingenuity and passion.

Directed by Jon Shenk & Bonni Cohen

As this trailer says, a main criticism by climate denialists of the earlier film by former United States Vice President Al Gore was its prediction that the New York City site of the World Trade Center, ruined by the 9/11 attacks, might be flooded. That was supposedly exaggeration and demagogy. However, a few years later, during Hurricane Sandy, it did in fact happen.

This video from the USA says about itself:

“An Inconvenient Sequel”: Al Gore on New Film, Trump, Climate Change & His Opposition to DAPL

24 January 2017

More than a decade after the release of the groundbreaking film “An Inconvenient Truth”, former Vice President Al Gore is back with a new film about the climate crisis, “An Inconvenient Sequel”. On Sunday, Gore was part of a panel moderated by Amy Goodman at the Sundance Film Festival.

On 25 November 2017 I went to see that film.

Gore remarks in it is that it looks like that before the damage to the environment can be overcome, the damage to democracy must be overcome. That reminded me of what Gore has said in 2006 about the causes of the war on Iraq.

Al Gore said the Bush administration was in denial on the inconvenient truth of global warming; including silencing scientists on this subject.

He drew a parallel with their attitude on the start of the Iraq war, with their denial of the inconvenient truth that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; the official cause for war.

Gore said at least three factors really influenced the decision to invade Iraq: Dick Cheney‘s wish to control Middle East oil for big corporations; the idea of Karl Rove [see also here], Bush’s adviser, that it would electorally be good for Bush to be a ‘war president’; and ideologists really believing in their ideologies, like Iraqi masses supposedly welcoming US soldiers with flowers, as their invasion was a ‘cakewalk.’

One may criticize Gore in this for not doing enough to stop the damage to democracy caused by George W Bush’s stolen victory in the 2000 presidential election, aided and abetted by George W’s little brother and then governor of Florida, Jeb.

Sustainable energy is an important theme in An Inconvenient Sequel. Sometimes Gore discovers it at unexpected places. Eg, in Georgetown, Texas. There, a Republican mayor, Dale Ross, has managed to make the municipal energy company 100% sustainable energy.

Very recently, Ross turned up at a meeting on climate change.

This 3 December 2018 video says about itself:

Republican Mayor Joins Bernie Sanders On Climate Change

Dale Ross joined Bernie Sanders’ town hall on climate change to discuss how we can come together and achieve success on the matter. Cenk Uygur, John Iadarola, and Francesca Fiorentini, hosts of The Young Turks, break it down.

NEW ORLEANS — National flood maps are underestimating the risk for tens of millions of people in the United States. That’s the conclusion of researchers presenting a new study December 11 at the American Geophysical Union’s fall meeting. The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency estimates that about 13 million people live in a “1-in-100-year” floodplain zone, a region that has a 1 percent chance of flooding in any given year. But the agency’s risk assessment largely focuses on larger streams and rivers, and lacks assessments of risk along smaller tributaries. FEMA’s calculations “miss a lot of the risk,” says Oliver Wing, a geographer at the University of Bristol in England: here.

Donald Trump to drop climate change from list of national security threats. New National Security Strategy set to exclude global warming, which had been added by Obama administration: here.

Journalist John Pilger organises film festival

This 29 November 2018 video from Australia says about itself:

Video featuring The Power of the Documentary on ABC News

Power of the Documentary is a film festival curated by John Pilger and in association with the Museum of Contemporary Art, featuring 26 different documentaries.

Video Credit: ABC News Weekend Breakfast, Journalist Miram Corowa.

By Richard Phillips in Australia:

“Well-paid journalists have become gormless cyphers of the propaganda of war

John Pilger discusses his “The Power of Documentary” film festival

3 December 2018

Veteran investigative journalist, documentary filmmaker and author, John Pilger, is currently hosting a special film festival in Australia. Entitled The Power of the Documentary: Breaking the Silence, the festival is on at Riverside Theatres in the western-Sydney suburb of Parramatta and at the Museum of Contemporary Art at Circular Quay in central Sydney. It will run until December 9.

Curated by Pilger, the festival is screening 26 films, including a number of his own documentaries, several significant works by Australian filmmakers and three foundational films from the US and Britain.

Pilger, who has made 62 documentaries since 1970, is one of a handful of journalists internationally who vigorously defends WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. On June 17, he addressed a rally in Sydney organised by the Socialist Equality Party (Australia) to demand Assange’s immediate release.

Some of the early Pilger films to be screened include: The Quiet Mutiny, his first documentary for British television; The Outsiders, which features interviews with war correspondents, such as Wilfred Burchett and Martha Gellhorn, and other individuals in 1983; and The Last Dream: Other People’s Wars (1988), about the history of Australian military involvement in British and American imperialist interventions.

Recent Pilger documentaries to be shown, some of which have been reviewed by the World Socialist Web Site, include Palestine is Still the Issue (2002), Breaking the Silence: Truth and Lies in the War on Terror (2003), The War You Don’t See (2010), Utopia (2013) and The Coming War on China (2016).

This 2009 video says about itself:

Salute (trailer)

One of 2008’s biggest documentary films is about to be unleashed onto screens Worldwide. SALUTE is a film by Matt Norman, the nephew of 200m Silver Medalist Peter Norman who was involved in one of the most powerful moments in Olympic history where Tommie Smith and John Carlos gave their Black Power Salute at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. Being released through Paramount Pictures and Transmission films in Australia on the 24th of July 2008, and then around the world shortly after Salute promises to be a wake up to what’s happening today especially with the 2008 Beijing Olympics just around the corner.

The Richard Phillips article continues:

Other important films to be shown are Curtis Levy’s The President vs David Hicks (2004) and Matt Norman’s Salute (2009), about track athlete Peter Norman and his victimisation by Australian authorities after he supported US athletes who gave a “black power” salute during the 1968 Olympics in Mexico.

Finally, “The Power of Documentary” festival includes three classic works: Edward R. Murrow’s Harvest of Shame (1960), an exposure of the slave-like working conditions of farm workers in the US; Peter Watkins’ long-banned War Game (1965), one of the first docudramas which recreates the horrific impact of a nuclear attack on Britain; and Peter Davis’s Hearts and Minds (1974), the first mainstream American documentary opposing the US intervention in Vietnam to secure a theatrical release. Full details of the festival program can be accessed here.

Pilger conducted the following email interview with the WSWS last week, just before the festival began.

Richard Phillips: Can you explain why you decided to organise this festival? What do you mean by “Breaking the Silence” in the title and why is this necessary?

John Pilger: By silence I mean the exclusion of ideas that might change the way we see our world, or help us make sense of it. There are 26 films and each one pushes back a screen of propaganda—not just the propaganda of governments but of a powerful groupthink of special interests designed to distract and intimidate us and which often takes its cue from social media and is the enemy of the arts and political freedom.

A documentary is not reality TV. Political documentary is not the consensual game played by politicians and journalists called “current affairs”. Great documentaries frighten the powerful, unnerve the compliant, expose the hypocritical. Great documentaries make us think, and think again, and speak out, and even take action…

Well-paid journalists have become gormless cyphers of the propaganda of war: lies known these days as fake news and spread by the intelligence agencies. Why do we allow governments, our governments, to commit great crimes, and why do so many of us remain silent?

These are questions for those of us privileged to be allowed into people’s lives and be their voice and seek their support. It is a question for filmmakers, journalists, artists, arts administrators, editors, publishers. We can no longer claim to be innocent bystanders. Our responsibility is urgent; as Tom Paine impatiently wrote: “The time is now.”

RP: You began making documentaries in 1970 with The Quiet Mutiny, about the Vietnam War. Can you speak about the filmmakers that influenced you in the early years and the most important thing you learnt in that formative period?

JP: My formative period as a documentary filmmaker was as a journalist. For me, the two crafts complement each other; the most expressive journalism is often cinematic. As a young war reporter in South East Asia, I was struck by the surreal spectacle of the American invasion and its atrocious consequences. The Quiet Mutiny is a factual, political film that uses irony and satire bordering on black farce, together with the music of the time, much of it political.

I was influenced by many I worked with; in the beginning by my producer Charles Denton, who encouraged me to depart from the formula of “current affairs”. When The Quiet Mutiny was broadcast, the then Director General of the Independent Television Authority in Britain (a pompous fellow Australian with a knighthood) called me “a dangerous subversive”. It was the highest honour I have received, and I am grateful to him.

This video says about itself:

“The Quiet Mutiny” in 1970 was the first of over 60 documentary films by Pilger. Filmed at Camp Snuffy, the film presented a character study of the common US soldier during the Vietnam War revealing the shifting morale and open rebellion of Western troops. Pilger described the film as “something of a scoop” – it was the first documentary to show the open rebellion within the drafted ranks of the US military that led to the withdrawal of the land army in 1973.

“When I flew to New York and showed it to Mike Wallace, the star reporter of CBS 60 Minutes, he agreed. “Real shame we can’t show it here”” Pilger said in an interview with the New Statesman.

The Richard Phillips article continues:

RP: Since then you’ve made scores of documentaries. These include exposing US war crimes in Vietnam, Iraq and many other countries, the danger of nuclear war, state brutality against the working class and the poor, ongoing oppression and social mistreatment of Aborigines.

Your second documentary was shot in West Yorkshire and was entitled Conversations with a Working Man and broadcast on British television. It’s difficult to imagine anything with a title like that being screened on the celebrity obsessed television networks today.

JP: I agree. But as with almost every film I have made, I had my struggles. The executive producer decreed that my use of “the people” was unacceptable because it was a “Marxist term”. He refused to allow me to use “working class”; if you listen carefully, you will hear me say “working heritage.” This nonsense made not a blind bit of difference; the viewers understood and a record audience watched the film.

RP: Why do you think there are so few of these sorts of exposures today? Is it because of financial and distribution problems, or a question of self-censorship and/or lack of political perspective?

JP: It is all those things. I would put lack of political perspective at the top, alongside an enthusiasm to join the system of elite power. Many on the BBC believe that once they join that institution they rise to a Nirvana of purest impartiality and objectivity when, in truth, they have become part of the most refined propaganda system on earth.

RP: The festival is showing Edward R. Murrow’s Harvest of Shame, Peter Watkins’ The War Game and Hearts and Minds by Peter Davis. Could you speak briefly about their importance?

JP: Each of these films is truth-telling in its highest form, especially The War Game. No film-maker has matched Peter Watkins’ astonishing achievement in recreating a town in England devastated by nuclear war. He did it all with official documents, which was why his film was banned by the BBC for 23 years.

Unknown to the British people, their governments were planning precisely that which Watkins reconstructed in The War Game. His film was profoundly threatening because it would possibly change the minds of millions of Britons towards Cold War policies, even war itself.

I’ve read the declassified documents of Harold Wilson’s cabinet secretary, Sir Burke Trend; the government was horrified by Watkins’ film because it was true. I admire him enormously for the same reasons I admire Julian Assange.

Harvest of Shame was a very different film, yet its bracing journalism was also committed to the truth. The regression today means none of these films would be made.

RP: You’ve also selected some films by Mark Davis, Curtis Levy and other Australian documentarians. Do you see any parallels between The President vs David Hicks, which follows the courageous fight waged by David’s father Terry to secure his son’s freedom from Guantanamo Bay prison and the situation facing Julian Assange?

JP: Yes, they are similar; Terry Hicks is a supporter of Julian. For their moral courage, both Terry and Julian are the best kind of Australians.

RP: You’ve coined the phrase “Vichy journalism” to describe journalists who have joined the campaign of slander, lies and frame-ups against Assange and WikiLeaks. Why has this occurred and what are the consequences for Assange and investigative journalism? What is the current situation facing Assange?

JP: Most “mainstream” journalism has been integrated into corporate and so-called national security systems that rule the West, especially in the United States and Britain. When I was working in what was known as “Fleet Street”, the press was conservative but there were spaces for different, dissenting work, and a certain range of views. This was even encouraged. Today the spaces have closed, and the best journalists write online, or in foreign publications, or in a new samizdat, or not at all.

WikiLeaks and Julian Assange are the counter to this oppression, and, of course, he is subjected to a smear campaign. The greater his impact and symbolism the more vicious the campaign against him.

The Guardian’s sordid role as a platform for the scuttlebutt of spooks is shocking. Those involved are no different, morally, from those who collaborated under the Vichy government in France during the Second World War.

Julian’s situation is serious. The person contracted to bring his food to the Ecuadorean embassy has been told she is no longer wanted. This does not mean he will go hungry, but it demonstrates the depth of his struggle. That said, he is a very strong character with an abiding moral purpose and a dark sense of humour. He needs, as Martha Gellhorn wrote about those who stand up to rapacious power, “the alliance of us all … the support of decency.”

RP: Can you speak about your last documentary The Coming War on China and what prompted you to make it? What will be the consequences of such a war? Can you comment on Australia’s involvement in these preparations and the mounting anti-China hysteria in the Australian media?

JP: China is surrounded by more than 400 American military bases that reach from Australia, through the Pacific to Asia and across Eurasia. A State Department official described it as “actually a noose.” Low-draught US warships probe the waters of southern China and US drones overfly Chinese territory. This has been a fact, mostly unreported, for many years and was inverted during the Obama presidency to propaganda, the falsehood, that China was threatening the US, Asia, the Pacific.

As expected, Australian politicians, “experts” and journalists have echoed this. It has become a chorus. The Chinese—like the Russians—are becoming the enemy of Australia, which in reality has no enemies, apart from its own forces of institutionalised paranoia. I grew up during the first Cold War and it is all familiar: perhaps worse in its inventions and deceptions.

RP: Finally, what’s your advice to young people who want to become documentary filmmakers and investigative journalists today?

JP: My advice is always follow your star. By that I mean: never abandon your commitment and idealism and keep in mind that journalists and film-makers are truly credible as the agents of people, never of power.

Egyptian actress five years in jail for dress?

Egyptian actress Rania Youssef in 'illegal' dress, AFP photo

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

An Egyptian actress has to appear in court because of immorality. During the closing ceremony of a film festival in Cairo, Rania Youssef wore a dress whose skirt was translucent. As a result, her legs were completely visible.

That is considered obscene in Egypt …

One might think that the Egyptian military dictatorship is so indebted to the money of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that they not only give Egyptian islands away to Saudi Arabia and help the Saudi absolute monarchy in its bloody war on the people of Yemen, but that they also copy the Saudi government’s oppression of women by denying them the freedom to dress the way they want as well.

On the other hand, there is a similarity to other friends of the Egyptian dictatorship: NATO countries like France. In France, mainly Muslim women are persecuted for wearing, eg, ‘burkinis’ or maxiskirts. Which seems different at first: but is based on the same denial of women’s rights to wear what they want as in Saudi Arabia or Egypt.

Youssef may get up to five years in prison. Her trial starts on 12 January.

See also here.