Curveball, new film on Iraq war lies


This 26 February 2020 German video says about itself (translated):

Curveball – in the Berlinale Talk 2020 with director Johannes Naber & actor Sebastian Blomberg

Knut Elstermann welcomes director Johannes Naber and actor Sebastian Blomberg to the Berlinale Talk.

Johannes Naber observes with a great deal of ingenuity the emergence of an unlikely friendship between two men who are overwhelmed by the absurd drama that they themselves triggered. And he warns us from the start: This is a true story – unfortunately. His outrage is contagious. Even those who already know the facts will be stunned by the surreal events that led to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

By Stefan Steinberg in Germany:

Curveball—Germany’s role in the Iraq war

Curveball by German director Johannes Naber valuably turns a knife in a wound that many in the American and German intelligence communities and governments no doubt hoped had long since healed—the way in which the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 was based on entirely fraudulent and lying justifications.

Naber has made a number of notable films, including the immigrant drama The Albanian (2009), Age of Cannibals (2013) and Heart of Stone(2019).

At the premiere of Curveball in Berlin, a festival representative introduced the film, but said he could not read out its title. The film festival lists it merely as “Untitled”. The film’s name is currently the subject of a US lawsuit. After seeing Curveball, one can see why both the American and German intelligence agencies are exerting considerable influence to prevent its distribution.

Naber’s film is a political satire rooted firmly in factual evidence carefully researched by the director and his team. It begins in Iraq where German biologist Dr. Arndt “Desert Fox” Wolf (Sebastian Blomberg), a biological warfare specialist employed by the Federal Intelligence Service (BND), fails to find any evidence of Saddam Hussein’s alleged weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

The head of the BND, Schatz (Thorsten Merten), is eager to outdo the CIA and be the first to prove that Iraq possesses dangerous nerve gas. An opportunity opens up when an Iraqi seeking asylum in Germany, Rafid Alwan (Dar Salim), claims he worked as a chemical engineer in Iraq and has inside knowledge of the country’s chemical weapons programme.

Wolf is given the job of interrogating “Curveball”, the alias given to the Iraqi engineer. In exchange for revealing what he knows (in fact, a pack of lies), Alwan requests he be released from incarceration in a German asylum centre and given citizenship.

After a series of interrogations, Alwan takes a hint from Wolf himself and reveals that the reason for the failure of all the intelligence services to find Iraqi WMD is the “ingenious” use by the Hussein regime of trucks and trains to move the huge chemical vats containing dangerous gases. Absurdly, the two men agree on a crude childish diagram drawn on a napkin purporting to show a truck mounted with the massive vats. Finally, the BND leadership have a scoop to present to their American “cousins”—and it’s champagne all round for those concerned. The German chancellor at the time, Gerhard Schröder, also sends his congratulations to the BND.

Desperately seeking evidence to justify a US intervention in Iraq, the CIA is only too willing to accept the scraps from the BNDs’s table. It organises the kidnapping of “Curveball” in Germany in order to present him as its own source. Feeling some obligation to the Iraqi fraudster, BND asset Wolf attempts to rescue him in a hilarious escape scene.

Wolf confronts the CIA agent responsible for the kidnap plan and argues in favour of reliable evidence. The CIA agent is unrepentant: “The truth doesn’t count, only justice matters.” Wolf goes on to ask what gives the CIA the right to distort the facts. “We make the facts”, the female agent responds.

Towards the end of Curveball, documentary footage is shown of US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s infamous presentation to the UN Security Council in February 2003 in which he regurgitated Curveball’s lies to justify America’s subsequent attack on Iraq. In his report, Powell stated that Iraq’s weapons programme included “biological weapons factories on wheels and on rails,” an “extensive clandestine network” to supply “its deadly biological and chemical weapons programmes” and the obtaining of “sufficient fissile material to produce a nuclear explosion.” All of this, according to the secretary of state, represented “facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence.”

Powell’s presentation included a sketch of a truck loaded with chemical vats based on Curveball’s original napkin drawing. According to one senior US official, Curveball’s lies were “the main pillar” of Powell’s report to the UN. Sitting in the UN meeting is the German Green Party leader, Joschka Fischer, who listens quietly to Powell’s report. BND biologist (in the meantime made redundant) Wolf watches Fischer at home on television and asks, “Why doesn’t he say something?”

Fischer was German foreign minister in the government headed by Schröder (Social Democratic Party, SPD). Schröder’s head of chancellery with responsibility for liaison with Germany’s intelligence services was Frank-Walter Steinmeier (also SPD), currently the country’s president.

Naber’s Curveball graphically demonstrates the duplicity and criminality of Germany’s role in the Iraq war. As chancellor, Schröder publicly declared the German government opposed a new war in the Middle East. Meanwhile, Germany’s intelligence agency was providing the lies that Washington used to legitimise its assault on Iraq in the name of the “war on terror.”

Naber wants to counter what the director declares to be “a false portrayal here, an idealised idea of how we Germans operate in the world.” It is important, he argues, to tell the truth and question the role of the secret services and politicians responsible at that time, such as Fischer, Schröder and Steinmeier: “So that children at school can no longer be taught that we were the good ones when it came to the Iraq war.”

To heighten the comedic effect of his film, Naber presents the leading BND figures as provincial careerists in thrall to their American counterparts. In so doing, however, the director runs the risk of seriously underestimating the methods and character of the German ruling elite, which has been trying to achieve greater independence from the US since the reunification of Germany in 1989-1990 and is once again flexing its ruthless imperialist muscles.

In that process, the ruling class draws upon the traditions of Nazism. The BND itself emerged from the Gehlen Organisation (1946-1956), named for Reinhard Gehlen, Hitler’s chief intelligence officer on the Eastern Front in World War II. After the war, he was recruited by the CIA and headed German intelligence from 1956 to 1968 in close cooperation with the US intelligence agency.

The US bombardment and invasion of Iraq war began a month after Powell’s testimony. Naber’s film ends with statistics detailing the massive loss of Iraqi lives in the subsequent carnage, a mass murder for which Germany also bears direct responsibility.

The end credits also note that “The head of the state chancellery at that time is the current federal president”—i.e., the Social Democrat Steinmeier. This credit was greeted with loud applause from the Berlin audience who clearly approved of this unmasking of Germany’s leading sanctimonious war-monger.

Naber’s film is due to open in German cinemas in September of this year as “Film ohne Titel” (Film Without a Title).

Japanese militarism abused ´comfort women´, new film


This 6 August 2019 video from South Korea says about itself:

Japanese-American director Miki Dezaki is in Korea with his ‘comfort women‘ documentary film “Shusenjo: The Main Battleground Of The Comfort Women Issue“. For over the span of 3 years, he had been tracking down vivid stories across Korea, the U.S. and Japan to make his film.

His film is distinguished from existing wartime sexual slavery documentaries in that it contains stories about activists who support the victims and interviews of Japan’s so-called ‘far-right revisionists’. The film had immense repercussions in Japan when it was released there last April.

Through the film “Shusenjo: The Main Battleground Of The Comfort Women Issue”, director Miki Dezaki says he wants to approach ‘comfort women‘ as a women’s rights issue rather than an interstate conflict. We meet with director Miki Dezaki on today’s Heart-to-Heart.

By Isabel Roy in Germany:

Shusenjo: The Main Battleground of the Comfort Women Issue: Documentary about war crimes and historical revisionism in Japan

20 March 2020

In late 2019, the documentary Shusenjo: The Main Battleground of the Comfort Women Issue, directed by Japanese-American filmmaker Miki Dezaki, was shown at a well-attended screening at Leipzig University in Germany. The film was shown at several European universities last year, following a US tour in 2018.

The valuable documentary treats the so-called “comfort women”, women who were forced into prostitution in military brothels both in Japan and Japanese-occupied territory during World War II. Most of the women came from Korea or China. The subject has been the source of tensions between South Korea and Japan for decades.

In his movie, Dezaki interviews historical revisionists from far-right circles, politicians and historians who have studied comfort women, as well as activists working for the recognition of the victims.

Following the release of his film, which Dezaki completed as his masters thesis and financed through Kickstarter and with his own money, he was sued by five of the interviewees. In the film, the latter deny both the responsibility of the Japanese government for the comfort women and their circumstances in the brothels. Dezaki also received several written threats and his movie’s distributor was sued by a right-wing extremist organisation that appears in the film.

A film festival in Kawasaki (in the Greater Tokyo Area) first announced it was canceling a showing for security reasons in response to threats from right-wingers. This move was criticized by other artists, including Japanese filmmakers Kazuya Shiraishi and Hirokazu Koreeda, and owing to help from volunteers who provided additional security, the film ended up being presented at the festival in November 2019. Shiraishi described the initial decision by the organisers as “an act to kill freedom of expression.” Shusenjo (which means “main battlefield”) opens with a clip from December 2015 in which one of the surviving women, Lee Yong-Su, confronts a Korean foreign ministry official at a press conference. The press conference followed an “agreement” on the comfort women issue between Japan and South Korea.

This agreement was initiated under pressure from the Obama administration, which viewed the conflict between its two most important allies in northeast Asia (South Korea and Japan) as a threat to its confrontation with North Korea and China.

Comfort women interrogated by the US army 1944

Lee Yong-Su is visibly angry and movingly accuses the official: “Who are you? What are you doing? Why do you have to kill us a second time? Are you living my life? Before reaching any agreements, shouldn’t you have spoken to the victims? You think we are old and know nothing.”

The agreement only entailed a very limited, “moral” apology to the comfort women and a donation of one billion yen [$US 9 million] to a fund to be split amongst survivors. The apology did not acknowledge the full responsibility of the Japanese military, even though historians such as Yoshiaki Yoshimi, a professor of Japanese modern history at Chuo University in Tokyo and a founding member of the Center for Research and Documentation on Japan’s War Responsibility, have been able to prove this responsibility conclusively with the aid of historical documents.

Dezaki’s film then moves on to examine the claims made by Japanese historical revisionists and contrast them with the explanations of serious historians and activists.

To give one example, the nationalist-revisionists argue that the testimonies by survivors are “inconsistent” and therefore unreliable. They also claim that although prostitution took place, the women voluntarily chose to engage in it and were “well-compensated” with “luxury goods and restaurant visits”, among other things. They present the comfort women as a South Korean and Chinese fabrication and dismiss it as “anti-Japanese” propaganda. The attendees of the showing in Leipzig were audibly shocked and disgusted by these statements.

Historians and activists in the movie explain that former comfort women from South Korea, among other countries, were faced with terrible social stigma for what they had endured. This led to many of them only speaking out years after the fact.

One particularly gripping interview features a former soldier in the Imperial Japanese Army. On the subject of women’s rights in Japan before the Second World War, he explains to the director: “Women before the war, before the constitution, weren’t quite seen as human. Nippon Kaigi wants to go back to that.” He also describes war atrocities again Chinese prisoners in which he was forced to participate.

Nippon Kaigi (“Japan Conference”) is a far-right organization that advocates a return to the monarchy of the Meiji Era (1868-1912), the abolition of women’s rights, state Shintoism, the remilitarization of Japan and a “patriotic” education in schools. It includes many members of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet, and Abe himself is a special advisor to the group’s parliamentary wing. Nippon Kaigi and Abe also support state visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, which commemorates Japan’s war dead, including 1,068 convicted war criminals of whom 14 are A-Class (convicted of having been involved in the planning, preparation, initiation or waging of war).

Bodies of victims along Qinhuai River out of Nanjing's west gate during Nanjing Massacre

One of Shusenjo’s strong points is the way it illustrates the intertwining of far-right organizations in Japan and the US, the Japanese state and historical revisionists.

Dezaki explains how after the Kono Statement of August 1993, which acknowledged the responsibility of the Japanese imperial army for the comfort women system, ultra-right groups and the Japanese government launched a targeted campaign to relativise the crimes of the Second World War.

In 2006, Abe championed a reform that promoted patriotism as a basic aim of the education system. Additionally, the government initiated the practice of routinely rejecting Japanese schoolbooks produced by private publishers on the grounds of “grave error”, without offering any further explanation. This, in turn, led the publishers to self-censor “uncomfortable” facts that might cause offense in order to avoid financial problems.

This kind of censorship is also prevalent in the media. A notable case was the editing out of victims’ testimony from a television broadcast of the Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery, held in December 2000. This took place under the pressure of Abe himself as well as right-wing groups.

Hideaki Kase is a central figure in the network of pseudo-historians, far-right activists and politicians exposed in Shusenjo. He is a member of or occupies leading positions in the following organizations: Global Alliance for Historical Truth, Society for Dissemination of Historical Fact, Alliance for Truth about Comfort Women and Nippon Kaigi. Kase (born 1936) has written numerous books and produced revisionist films, appeared on talk shows and was a special advisor to former prime ministers Takeo Fukuda and Yasuhiro Nakasone.

Kase, who—among other things—denies the Nanjing Massacre (in which Japanese military forces slaughtered as many as 400,000 Chinese in Nanjing in December 1937-January 1938), when asked by the director if he knew the two most important historians of comfort women, simply responded: “I don’t read books by other people.” … According to him, Japan’s involvement in the Second World War can be described as “a war of national self-defence.”

As is the case in Germany and other countries, historical falsification is resorted to in Japan because its population is deeply opposed to war. When Abe’s grandfather, the war criminal Nobusuke Kishi, was released by the Allies in 1948, massive protests took place.

During the question-and-answer session after the showing in Leipzig, Dezaki, who grew up in the US, remarked “I had this question I wanted to answer from the very beginning—why are these people trying to erase history? This led me to Nippon Kaigi and I found out it is because they want to cultivate or foster this myth that Japan has never done anything wrong and ‘we only fought wars of peace’. If you were to become a soldier in the future you don’t want to believe that your country fights wars for oil, right? Like the U.S., we fight for freedom, right? The history is being erased so that people will become more patriotic.”

Parasite film, first ever non-USA Oscars victory


This 11 February 2020 video says about itself:

A ‘Foreign’ Film Just Made History At The Oscars

Parasite‘, a South Korean movie about inequality made history at the biggest movie award event.

TRUMP COMPLAINS ‘PARASITE’ WON BEST PICTURE Trump complained during a rambling rally in Colorado Springs about the South Korean blockbuster “Parasite” winning the Academy Award for Best Picture. “I’m looking for like … let’s get ‘Gone with the Wind,’ can we get ‘Gone with the Wind’ back, please?” Trump rambled, naming the 1939 epic that romanticizes slavery. [HuffPost]

Rembrandt’s paintings, money and new film reviewed


This 12 November 2019 video, the trailer of the film My Rembrandt, says about itself:

What makes Rembrandt’s paintings technically so extraordinary, and why are different people so deeply affected by his oeuvre, or a specific work? Centuries after his death, his paintings are still a source of drama and gripping plot twists.

Rembrandt’s paintings have lost none of their appeal in the 350 years since his death. Collectors worldwide cherish the magic of the Dutch master’s work.

This entertaining documentary shows the passion of a variety of Rembrandt enthusiasts. An eccentric, aristocratic Scot is looking for the ultimate place to hang his beloved portrait of a woman reading, and an animated Amsterdam art dealer has his eye out for a second chance to discover a “new” Rembrandt—this descendant of an old merchant family, whose ancestor was once painted by Rembrandt himself, has got something to prove.

An ambitious American businessman and his wife proudly make “their” Rembrandts available to the Louvre, and the Rothschild family’s decision to put Rembrandt’s wedding portraits of Marten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit on the market threatens to provoke a diplomatic row between the Netherlands and France.

On 26 January 2020, we went to see this film by Oeke Hoogendijk. Earlier, I had seen another film by Ms Hoogendijk, about the reconstruction of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

My Rembrandt, more than being about Rembrandt himself, is a film about what happens around his paintings in the 21st century. It raises questions between the relationship between art and money; between art and social classes in history.

These issues have at least two sides. On the one hand, about Rembrandt himself and money and social classes. On the other hand, about Rembrandt’s works, money and social classes in our 21st century. It turns out that lots of money in art may destroy friendships between people and governments.

Rembrandt was luckier financially than Vincent van Gogh and many other artists. Van Gogh sold just one painting for little money while he was alive. However, after his death, Van Gogh, in a cruel twist of economical mechanisms, like quite some others, became an artist off whom some people made very much money. Rembrandt sold many paintings, usually for good money. But, as he spent much on eg, attributes for his paintings, he went bankrupt and died relatively poor. After his death, like with many other artists, some people who had never contributed a drop of paint to his art got very rich off it.

As for Rembrandt and social class: like Rubens, Rembrandt lived in the time of the Low Countries’ revolt against the kings of Spain. The Spanish monarchs managed to defeat that uprising in the south, in what, roughly, is now Belgium. However, the north became the independent Dutch republic. Rembrandt lived in the bourgeois Dutch republic. Rubens in the Spanish Netherlands, ruled by princes and nobles. The differences in social context between Rembrandt and Rubens meant differences in the subjects of their art.

In the Dutch Republic, there was no monarchical court comparable to most 17th century European countries.

There was only the Stadhouder‘s court.

Which would have liked very much to be a princely court like elsewhere in Europe; but constitutionally wasn’t.

Rembrandt got a commission from that princely court (princely, as the Stadhouders were also absolute monarchs in the tiny statelet of Orange in southern France).

But when his portrait of Princess Amalia von Solms, wife of Stadhouder Frederik Hendrik, turned out to be not flattering enough, his relationship to that court deteriorated.

A Hermitage Amsterdam exhibition noted that Stadhouder Frederik Hendrik prefered painters from the feudal southern Netherlands, though that region was the military enemy, to “bourgeois” northern painters like Rembrandt. He also prefered Gerard van Honthorst to Rembrandt as a painter of portraits of his wife. Honthorst was not from the Spanish occupied southern Netherlands. However, his home province Utrecht in the central Netherlands was less bourgeois rebellious than Rembrandt’s Holland. And Honthorst had spent much time in feudal Italy.

So, Rembrandt got most of his commissions for painting not from the Stadhouder’s court, but from bourgeois merchants, especially in Amsterdam city: the ruling class of the newly independent republic. They were as rich, or often richer, as nobles in other countries. Usually, they did not live in castles in the countryside, but in houses along canals like the Amsterdam Herengracht.

In one of the first scenes, the Rijksmuseum says they would like very much to have a painting which is now not in any of the houses to which Rembrandt sold his work, but in a big feudal castle in Scotland.

Rembrandt, Old woman reading, owned by the Duke of Buccleuch

This Rembrandt work, Old woman reading, is owned by the Duke of Buccleuch. If for some reason, the castle owners would no longer want it, then the Rijksmuseum would like very much to bring it back to the city where it was painted.

Rembrandt, Portrait of Jan Six

A Rembrandt painting which is already in Amsterdam is this portrait of the merchant and mayor Jan Six.

The Six family still owns it. In the 19th century, this originally bourgeois dynasty got the title of nobility jonkheer (baronet).

Another family who got a title of nobility then was the Rothschild family, originally bankers. In the first part of the film, Baron Éric de Rothschild was still the owner of the Rembrandt’s wedding portraits of Marten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit.

However, it seems that the Rothschild family is not as rich and powerful as some conspiracy theorists think, not as good in tax dodging as some other rich persons: Baron Éric de Rothschild’s brother owed debts to tax authorities. To pay these, Éric de Rothschild needed 160 million euros. The proceeds of selling his beloved portraits of Marten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit, hanging at both sides of his bed in Paris.

Rembrandt, Portrait of Marten Soolmans

Rembrandt, Portrait of Oopjen Coppit

Éric de Rothschild does not like interviews, and the filmmaker had just one hour for talking to him. Previously, an appointment for an interview had turned out to be impossible because of a Yellow Vest demonstration in Paris.

Ms Hoogendijk also made Marten & Oopjen, a TV film about the wedding portraits of Marten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit.

So, these portraits cost 160 million euros. The Paris Louvre museum did not have that money. Neither had the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. But the Rijksmuseum collected money and was almost at 160 million. Then, the French government banned these two paintings from going from private property in France to public property in the Netherlands. A diplomatic conflict between the European Union member governments of France and the Netherlands was imminent. It turned out to be not as sharp a conflict as the proxy oil war between the European Union member governments of France and Italy in Libya. The Dutch government, being smaller than the French one, gave in. There was a compromise: both museums paid 80 million euros, mostly government money. And the two paintings would sometimes be together in the Louvre, sometimes together in the Rijksmuseum.

A major role in this documentary is Jan Six. Not the 17th-century Jan Six depicted by Rembrandt, but a 21st-century relative. An art historian and art dealer, that Jan Six, ‘Jan Six XI‘, used to work at Sotheby’s. He claims to have discovered two unknown works by Rembrandt. No Rembrandt painting had been rediscovered for 42 years.

Rembrandt, Let the little children come to me

This is the first one: the biblical scene about Jesus saying Let the little children come to me.

Some unknown 17th century painter had painted over the Rembrandt original, so recognizing the work as a Rembrandt was not obvious. It is probably from when Rembrandt was still young and lived in Leiden.

Rembrandt, Portrait of a young gentleman

This is the other newly discovered Rembrandt: Portrait of a Young Gentleman.

Jan Six, Rembrandt's portrait of a young gentleman

Jan Six wrote this book about it.

The discovery showed how money in art can ruin friendships. Jan Six had bought the painting for 160,000 euros on behalf of an anonymous investor from an owner who did not suspect it was a Rembrandt. Fellow art dealer Sander Bijl claimed that Six had broken an agreement to buy the painting together. The purchase also caused a conflict between Six and Rembrandt expert Ernst van de Wetering.

Van de Wetering says in the film: ‘The conflict is about money. I hate talking about money. These paintings belong to all of us!

An interesting remark on the problems of art in a world of capitalism.

David Attenborough on Karnataka, India wildlife


This 20 December 2019 video says about itself:

Wild KarnatakaDavid Attenborough – Behind the scenes (BTS)

4 years and 400 hours of footage in the making. Wild Karnataka is India’s own 4K blue-chip natural history film made by a world-class team of Indian filmmakers and narrated by Sir David Attenborough.

‘Sorry we missed you’, Loach film review


This 21 October 2019 video from Britain says about itself:

Kris Hitchen & Katie Proctor on Ken Loach’s Sorry We Missed You

Kris Hitchen & Katie Proctor are interviewed for their new Sorry We Missed You from director Ken Loach and writer Paul Laverty. The film stars Kris Hitchen,

as a forty-something delivery driver

Debbie Joneywood,

as his wife, a carer on a zero hours contract

Nikki Marshall, Katie Proctor,

as his 11-year-old daughter

Rhys Stone

as his 16-year-old son Seb

, Alfie Dobson, Julian Ions and Ross Brewster.

A hard-up delivery driver and his wife struggle to get by in modern-day England.

Ricky and his family have been fighting an uphill struggle against debt since the 2008 financial crash. An opportunity to wrestle back some independence appears with a shiny new van and the chance to run a franchise as a self-employed delivery driver. It’s hard work, and his wife’s job as a carer is no easier. The family unit is strong but when both are pulled in different directions everything comes to breaking point.

On 21 December 2019, I saw this film in a crowded cinema.

The title of the movie is derived from ‘Sorry we missed you’ pre-printed forms which delivery drivers put in letterboxes of people who are not at home.

Driver Ricky, his wife and his two teenage children: four people who are not bad people, but who live in a society based on exploitation and oppression which drives them towards bad actions.

Ricky becomes self-employed in theory. But in fact, he becomes a worker of a corporation, not called ‘Amazon.com‘ in the film, but similar to it, with fewer rights than usually, working 14 hour days six days a week. And with work speed hazardous for his health. He has to urinate in a bottle, as going to a toilet would cost his boss time and him money. Ricky’s boss cares only about corporate profits, not about workers becoming injured or dead.

Ricky loves his family. But he becomes so overworked that he hits his son and drives him temporarily out of the home.

His wife Abby loves the other three. But to buy his pseudo-self employed white van, Ricky had sold her car. Which meant she was less able to do her zero hours carer job. At a certain point, she threatens to break up the marriage with the husband whom she loves.

Son Seb used to be a good secondary school student. But his overworked parents do not note his interest in visual arts. He sells his only winter coat to buy paint. Later, he steals paint and gets in trouble with police.

Daughter Liza Jane suffers from how economic trouble brings quarrelling to the family. She steals the keys of her father’s van, to stop him from leaving for his pseudo-self employed job.

Are signs of revolt against the capitalist status quo present in the film? There are several.

Early in the film, the boss sacks a driver. Well, officially it is not sacking, as that worker is in theory self-employed. In anger, the sacked worker attacks the boss. That does not solve his problems. It reminds me of the last six lines of a 1907 sonnet by Dutch poetess Henriette Roland Holst, as translated by me:

Sometimes, a wave of anger fills your brain:
for freedom, you advance like a mad bull,
you fall, so wounded by the sharpness in their hand.

Then you lay powerless, of pain so full.
O tortured brother, please do look again:
learn calm strength, which you need, to understand.

These last six lines of the poem are about early twentieth-century Dutch dockworkers sometimes individually lashing out against individual bosses or policemen, as a reaction to exploitation. The poem advises to organize workers’ struggles; instead of reacting emotionally.

Further in the film, there is an allusion to that ‘calm strength’ of workers. An old lady, one of care worker Abby’s clients, tells about her actions supporting the big 1984-1985 miners’ strike.

Another moment of revolt comes when Ricky reproaches Seb with wasting time on graffiti art. Seb replies that his graffiti is certainly not worse than senseless corporate advertisements.

Finally, a moment of revolt comes after criminals have attacked Ricky. Badly injured, he has to go to the hospital. By phone, his boss tells him that will mean big financial penalties for him. Then, Abby takes over the phone and tells the boss what she thinks of his oppressive and exploitative regime.

Another review is here.

Filmmaker Ken Loach on Brexit, European Union


This 8 December 2018 video from Portugal says about itself:

Jeremy Corbyn: EU support for austerity opens door to far-right

Jeremy Corbyn urged Europe’s Socialists Friday to challenge the political establishment and team up with like-minded leftists to check the rise of “fake” right-wing populists.

It is correct to speak of ‘fake populists’; as racists are not populists.

EU support for austerity and failed neoliberal policies have caused serious hardship for working people across Europe”, Corbyn said in a speech to the annual congress of the Party of European Socialists in Lisbon. It had “damaged the credibility of European social democratic parties and played a significant role in the vote for Brexit.”

He added that Europe must come together to fight against the rise of right-wing and neoliberal policies. Failing to do so “will smooth the path to power of the fake populists“, Corbyn said in a speech to the annual congress of the Party of European Socialists in Lisbon.

By Marcus Barnett:

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Film director Ken Loach urges European socialists to ‘clarify’ their stance on the EU

KEN LOACH has said that the European Union “works in the interests of big business” as he urged socialists to “clarify” their stance on the issue of Europe.

Addressing over 400 delegates in a video played at the Party of the European Left’s Congress on Sunday, the film-maker claimed that the left suffers from a muddled position when it approaches the question of the EU.

Mr Loach said that the June 2016 [British referendum] vote to leave the European Union came “out of austerity, out of alienation, out of inequality, out of despair, out of cynicism.”

Mr Loach said that last week’s general election result, where Labour lost 59 seats in mostly Brexit-voting areas, was an example of this, and claimed that “the desire to leave” Brussels was a “big problem” for the left.

He also warned that the left’s voice on Europe hadn’t been heard by voters, adding that the analysis was “that the union is an economic organisation in the interests of big business.”

Mr Loach then urged socialists in Europe to “clarify” their analysis on Europe, and said that the international left must organise if it decides to not campaign against EU membership.

He said: “If we decide that we should remain and transform the [EU] then we have to have a plan that is clear, that we can all unite behind and which the left in every country can proclaim.

‘Remain and transform’ in itself sounds like an attractive slogan. However, the problem is that often, there is vagueness about how to transform. And about transforming to where.

And too often, remainers and transformers have allied with right-wing remainers who want to transform the European Union into an even more Thatcherite capitalist, xenophobic and warmongering organisation than it is already now: with Thatcherite Conservatives, Thatcherite Liberal Democrats, and Thatcherite right-wing Labourite Blairites like Iraq war criminal spin-doctor Alastair Campbell. That drove voters straight into the arms of Boris Johnson‘s right-wing Brexit.

A bit comparable to the Scottish independence referendum. The then Blairite right-wing leader of the Labour party in Scotland, Jim Murphy, decided to campaign against Scottish independence, jointly with the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties, instead of waging a clearly separate campaign. That drove many Labour voters into the arms of the Scottish nationalists. That way, Jim Murphy, with a little help from Tony Blair and other Blairites, managed to destroy Scotland as a bulwark of Labour party voters. Labour in Scotland has still not recovered from that Murphy-Blair blow.

LEN McCLUSKEY has said that it is “wilful blindness” to deny that Labour lost the election because of Brexit. The Unite general secretary stated that it is “pretty obvious” that the reason for Labour losing 59 seats — including in traditionally Labour-voting areas — was because of its Remain-leaning stance on Brexit: here.

The dog whistle message from hardcore Remainers was heard loud and clear – Leavers were ‘thick and racist,’ writes RHEIAN DAVIES (herself a Labour member who had voted Remain).

TRADE union figures in the north-east have mocked Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s pledge that he will “repay the trust” placed in him by working-class voters in the region who switched their support from Labour to the Tories in the general election. Alan Mardghum, general secretary of the Durham Miners’ Association, told the Morning Star today: “When he made statements about the lazy unemployed, single mothers and the feckless working class, that is what he believes. That is the contempt he has for working people: here.

“Our Future Our Choice” is seen as a spontaneous “youth” movement against Brexit. But latest figures from the Electoral Commission show that, as the “second-referendum” campaign fell apart, it gave £20k to a group run by former New Labour hatchet man Alastair Campbell (62 years old) and Tory Peer Patience Wheatcroft (68 years old). Wheatcroft is a former Sunday Telegraph editor, one-time Barclays director and lifelong Tory activist: here.

British film-maker Ken Loach voting Labour


This 8 November 2019 video from Britain says about itself:

Ken Loach on Why Labour Will Win the Election

“Empathy, solidarity, supporting each other. That’s the essence of our political system, it’s the opposite of their political system”.

Today, 12 December 2019, is the general election in Britain.

By Ken Loach from Britain:

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Election 2019

Why I’m Voting Labour: Ken Loach, film-maker

Labour’s Charter for the Arts could transform lives

I WAS lucky. In the Midlands town where I grew up, a touring theatre company played for three days every three weeks. It was a varied programme from farce and West End comedies to Shaw and Shakespeare.

With enthusiasm bordering on an obsession, I went to every play, soaking up the atmosphere and staying late to get a glimpse of the actors, exotic beings from another world whose names I can still recall.

There are many reasons for voting Labour. Major issues of social justice, re-founding the NHS on its original principles, a foreign policy based on international law and human rights, reasserting common ownership as the basis for a socialist economy. And, of course, the urgent need to invest massively in green technology and tackle the impending climate disaster.

The regions, so neglected by the Tories and Labour when led by Blair and Brown, should have these new industries, with secure jobs and rights won by generations of trade unionists.

But you know all this. What has barely been mentioned is Labour’s Charter for the Arts. These bold proposals could transform lives. There will be an arts premium for all primary school pupils. This will allow teachers to develop children’s creativity and give every child the chance to shine.

Theatre, music, dance, the visual arts — these can bring self-confidence and just plain enjoyment. Sport does the same, but not everyone can be good at sport.

The Charter says: “Every child in every corner of the country will have the right to learn a musical instrument.”

While working in Newcastle, we met an inspirational headteacher, Judy Cowgill, at Hawthorn Primary School in Elswick.

She and the staff had created a school orchestra on the Venezuelan model. It was a huge success, featured on TV and the children played at the Sage Concert Hall. When they talked about this achievement you could see them bursting with pride.

Youth services are also vital. So much has been cut and so many young people are left with nowhere to gather. Restoring a sense of purpose and showing how young lives are valued is essential — that’s how we defeat alienation, cynicism and hopelessness.

Of course, it is tied to good, secure jobs that pay a fair wage but Labour has plans for these, too.

There will be £1 billion to transform libraries, museums and galleries. And arts funding should also go to develop regional theatres, concert halls and music venues, and – one day – cinemas that care for film more than fast food!

Labour’s Charter for the Arts reaffirms the promise made in the 1945 Manifesto: “We desire to assure to our people full access to the great heritage of culture in this nation.” As a boy, fulfilling that promise changed my life.

How many millions of young people will benefit from a similar commitment today?

115 poets back Labour: here.

Electing a Labour government this week would turn the tables on four decades of privatisation and deregulation and start the process of building a stronger, fairer and sustainable future for all of us: here.

British actress Maxine Peake on voting Labour


This July 2019 video from Britain says about itself:

Maxine Peake on Dinnerladies, Mike Leigh and More! | On Acting

The BAFTA-nominated actress talks about her prolific career across film and television, her craft, and Victoria Wood’s advice.

By Maxine Peake in Britain:

Election 2019

Why I’m Voting Labour: Maxine Peake, actor and writer

The arts are at the centre of a civilised society and Jeremy Corbyn knows this more than any other party leader

“IN ANY civilised community the arts and associated amenities, serious or comic, light or demanding, must occupy a central place. Their enjoyment should not be regarded as remote from everyday life.”

When Arts Minister Jenny Lee made this pledge in 1960, who knew that in 2019 this strategy would still be as important as it was at its initiation and, more shockingly, that it is still being fought for.

On reading Labour’s charter for the arts, I have to confess I shed a tear to see in black and white a future for the arts that I have longed dreamed of writ large.

The arts are at the centre of a civilised society and Jeremy Corbyn knows this more than any other party leader, he knows that creativity and expression are basic human needs. The human race is a race of story-tellers and performers. Since our arrival on the planet we have used song, dance and art as a way to communicate and express ourselves. It is essential not only as entertainment but also for our survival.

Art as an outlet is linked intrinsically to our health and wellbeing and the main problem we face today is inclusion. It’s common knowledge that many arts venues can have hefty ticket prices and lowering these prices is a start.

But the real issue we have to tackle is getting young people engaged in the first place, not perpetuating the idea that the arts are only for a privileged few. If we start at junior-school age encouraging youngsters to participate in an art form — Labour’s promise that every child will have the opportunity to play an instrument at school is one way to start to break down these barriers — outreach work is essential.

Arts and creativity need to become the norm within the more disadvantaged areas of society. We cannot go round enforcing this, it has to come from the people and what many of our towns are missing is encouragement and empowerment.

The Towns of Culture is a fantastic way of raising people’s confidence and giving them the facilities and finance to show off their creative prowess. The Cities of Culture have been huge successes, giving the arts and culture in cities like Hull the chance to flourish and show the nation what they are made of. This investment has a continuing legacy, with benefits for all.

Funding the Arts Council properly is another huge step. It does extraordinary work but more money is needed if it is to change more lives and support grassroots organisations that can capture talent and interest in the young and old and nurture it.

Labour promises an arts charter for all that will ensure nobody is overlooked or ignored, whatever their background. No talent will be missed and no-one will be excluded from the mental health benefits that the arts bring.

If we let the Tories — who think of the arts as a luxury and not a necessity — win, the effects on the arts, and us all, will be devastating.

History of Dutch fascism, new film


This 18 November 2019 video is the international trailer of the new Dutch film by Luuk Bouwmans All against all.

The film is about the history of Dutch fascism till 1945. The biggest and best known Dutch fascist organisation was the National Socialist Movement of Anton Mussert, founded in 1931. However, already from the 1920s on, there were also many smaller organisations.

The film will be in cinemas on 30 April 2020.