Tuesday, August 28, 2012

56. The Battle of Algiers (1966) *

Gillo Pontecorvo's film focuses on the guerrilla warfare tactics used by Algerians in the years 1954-1957.  Struggling against colonial rule, the National Liberation Front (FLN) - based in the Casbah in Algiers - became increasingly violent in their endeavour to free Algeria in the War of Independence.  The film begins and ends with the focus on Ali la Pointe, who is recruited by the FLN leadership.  

The film was loosely based on the book Souvenirs de la Bataille d'Alger, by Saadi Yacef (who plays El-hadi Jafar in the movie). It was shot in black and white and in documentary style, although much of the action is highly dramatised.  The film shows the subversive techniques used by the FLN:  how bombs were transported and made, the command structure of the guerilla organisation, the role of women and the response of French paratroopers. 

Nominated for three Oscars and winner of the UN Bafta Award, the film is a classic war movie and highly recommended. 

55. Born into Brothels (2004) *

Calcutta's Red Light Kids

Sonagachi, Calcutta.  The Red light district.  

Photographer Zana Briski lives in the area for two years in order to photograph the women of Calcutta.  During this time 'Auntie Zana' teaches the children the art of photography forming a particularly close bond with some of the kids.  Kochi, Avijit, Shanti, Manik, Puja, Gour, Suchitra, Tapasi and Mamuni star in this film about the children of Calcutta. 

The filmmakers decide to try help the children get an education.  Gour, one of the young boys, expresses the fear that the girls will become prostitutes, drug addicts and thieves.  Without opportunities, the children face being sold, forced into prostitution or married off at a young age.  Already two of Zana's children were forced into prostitution and married at 11 years old and Avijit's mother was burned to death by her pimp. 

A rare glimpse into the red light distinct of the emerging global power.  The film won an Oscar for best documentary and is worth watching.  

More information about the project and the children can be found here.  The website provides updates about the children featured in the documentary and supports the children (who chose to be supported) in their education. 

54. Heart of Jenin (2008) *

November, 2005, Ahmed Khatib, an eleven year old child was shot dead by the Israeli Defence Forces whilst playing with a toy gun in Jenin, Palestine.  His father decided to donate the boy's organs to other children in need of transplants in Israel.  The documentary tells the story of Ahmed's father as he goes to Israel to meet the children.  One child is a Bedouin Arab, another child is from an Orthodox Jewish family.  Through the unselfish actions of one man, we are shown a glimpse of humanity, kindness and suffering of the everyday people of Palestine and Israel as the search for peace remains illusive. 

Directed by Lior Geller and Marcus Vetter. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

53. April Capitains (2000) *

Capitaes de Abril

On the 25 April 1974, a Portuguese radio played the 'Grandola' a song banned by the New State Dictatorship in power since 1926.  The song was a signal to revolutionaries, sick of the colonial wars in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea Bissau, to begin the 'Carnation Revolution'.  The military coup and the ensuring civilian resistance campaign toppled the dictatorship in Portugal and led to democracy without a single shot being fired.

Maria de Medeiros (Pulp Fiction), who stars and directs the movie, plays the role of a female activist married to the career soldier fighting in Africa.  She fights against the colonial wars through resistance with her students and others.  The movie tells the story of the civilian resistance and military coup in the run up to the 25th April.  In particular, the movie focuses on the story of Captain Salguiero Maia (Steffano Acorsi) one of the heroes of the Revolution.

An interesting film highlighting the history of Portugal with which English and American law students may not be familar.  Some of the scenes call to mind the regimes of Franco and the dictatorships in Latin America, which used censorship and torture to control and repress civilian populations. My favourite bit was when the civilian population start to cry out 'libertad sexual'!

Random Fact:
In addition to the Grandola, the 1974 Eurovision entry 'E Depois do Adeus' was played as a signal to begin the revolution.

52. The Apple (1998) *

Samira Makhmalbaf's directorial debut was met with critical acclaim and screened at film festival around the world.  Made when she was only 17 years old, the Apple, tells the real life story of two 12 year old girls who were locked up by their father and blind mother.  The two girls cannot speak and have not been let out for 11 years.  The neighbours therefore write to social welfare who take the girls and wash them.  The social worker returns to find the girls locked up again and, so in turn, locks the father up in place of the girls.  During this time the girls go out to play in the streets.  

The characters in the film are played by the real family involved in the case and by members of the Director's family.  The director Samira has stated on the family's official website:

The Apple,  which was originally conceived as a documentary picture, provided me with the pretext to carry out research on the issue of how much playing in the alleys and streets, which is the much exclusive prerogative of boys, helps men become more social than these women who do not have the chance of playing in the alleys and streets.  The film was also a means of discovering parent's motives when they act as their children's prison guards.  I also wanted to know how it is possible that the people in the neighbourhood can remain unaware of a virtual prison in their vicinity, or how they could remain indifferent when they became aware of the catastrophe.  and frankly I haven't found the answer to this last question. 

A part of the Iranian new wave movement, the Director similarly to her  sister and mother takes children as the focus to explore questions of social exclusion and gender. An interesting and promising film about horrific excesses of gender discrimination gone mad.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

51. Notorious (1946)

Last week I went to the BFI Southbank to see Notorious (1946) by Alfred Hitchhock.  The British Film Institute (BFI) is currently celebrating the 'Genius of Hitchcock festival' showcasing some of the Master of Suspense's work.  For those unfamiliar with Hitchcock his most famous movies include, Psycho, The Birds, Marine, Rear Window and Vertigo.  He has many other amazing films, mixing suspense and humour, such as, Strangers on a Train (1951) - remade by Danny DiVitto as Throw mamma from the train (1987), The Trouble with Harry (1955) and the Rope (1948).  Hitchcock is considered to be one of the movie greats, having moved from silent film to modern cinema, influencing directors and filmmakers around the world.  I've been looking for an opportunity to include a Hitchcock movie and Notorious seemed like an opportune movie.  

The movie is a film noir thriller, combining suspense with romance.  The film begins with the trial and conviction of Mr Huberman for treason (a law connection).  Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman), his daughter, is contacted by Devlin (Cary Grant) and asked to go to Brazil to spy on Nazi friends of her father's.  US secret agents want to know what the Nazis are doing in Rio.  Alicia agrees to fly to Rio and soon Devlin and Alicia begin a passionate affair unaware of the details of the task.  However, Alicia must use her female charms to get herself into the close circle of Alexander Sebastian placing her love and her life at risk.

According to the BFI website Hitchcock was often demanding and cruel to his actresses.  His on screen portrayal of women and the brutal treatment of females led to charges of misogyny.  Ingrid Bergman, remembered most famously for her role in Casablanca, acted for Hitchcock three times (in Spellbound (1945) and Under Capricorn (1949).  However, due to an affair with Rossellini, Bergman was effectively banned from Hollywood for a number of years.  

A number of Americans were prosecuted following the end of the Second World War for treason following their participation in the Third Reich.  For example, Mildred Gillars and Rita Zucca, known as Axis Sallys, were American broadcasters were employed to disseminate Nazi propaganda.  They were arrested and prosecuted for treason. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

50. Princesas (2005)

yo se que un dia
vendra mi suerte
un dia me vendrá a buscar
a la salida un hombre bueno
dando la vida y sin pagar
mi corazon no es de alquilar
me llaman calle

Fernando Leon de Aranoa's movie about prostitution in Madrid is a realistic and hard-hitting insight into the world of sex workers in the capital.  Caye (Candela Peña) a young Spanish woman is a prostitute, working to save up money for breast implants.  She befriends the beautiful Zulema (Micaela Nevarez), an undocumented migrant from the Dominican Republic, working to send money home to her family.  Through their friendship Caye soon learns the vulnerable position of those without papers in Spain.  Zulema is tricked by men offering her false documents for sex, beaten up, has no protection from police officers who will deport her, and works at night in Casa de Campo, Madrid.  As a migrant without documentation, Zulema must offer sex for less and without protection, she ultimately pays a high price.  

The Director wished to shed light on the 'invisible women' of Madrid who are have a triple quota of persecution and pain, because they are women, because they are illegal, and because they work as prostitutes.  He wanted to show the risks of their profession and also call attention to the lack of their voice.  The film is about these women and their dreams and expressions of hope. 

Manu Chao's song 'Me llaman calle' is played throughout the film.  It won the film, best original song, at the Goyas.  He has other songs about prostitution in Spain including Malegria about la Calle del desengaño located just behind Gran Via on the way to Malasaña.  

From a human rights perspective, the film deals with multiple issues including, discrimination, race, HIV, gender based violence, intersectional discrimination and migrant worker's rights.   Recommended.

Monday, August 20, 2012

49. 13 Rosas (2007)

¡No pasarán!

It has been two days since the three Russian women, known as the punk band 'Pussy Rioters', were sentenced to two years imprisonment for hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.  In a trial which has captured global media attention, provoking protests around the world (including the arrests of protestors in Marseille, France for wearing Balaclavas and breaking French law for having their faces covered in a public place), the right to freedom of expression and female political activism have taken centre-stage.  The woman, who carried out their protests in coloured balaclavas, faced the judge in every day clothes.  Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, the 22 year old philosophy student pictured above, wore a T-Shirt with the slogan 'No Pasasran!' throughout her trial and during her closing speech.  

This slogan recalled a movie I had seen a few months back about 13 young women in Spain who were prosecuted and convicted without evidence for political activism in the aftermath of the civil war (1933-1936).  The women were politically active before Franco came to power, protesting  through the dissemination of leaflets and through advocacy.  They were arrested, interrogated, and jailed in las Ventas prison, until their execution in August 5, 1939.  The film directed by Emilio Martinez Lazaro follows the stories of seven of these young women, who sing and play in the jails until their show trial and subsequent deaths by firing squad. 

The reason I linked Pussy Riot to the women was due to the 'No Pasaran' slogan.  During the Spanish Civil War, one of the leaders, Dolores Ibarruri Gomez, also known as 'la Pasionaria', used it in her famous speech during the Siege of Madrid as a rallying call to resist Franco's forces. 

Women are often depicted as the victims of war, raped and forcibly displaced, with little room for politically agency.  The Pussy Riot band and women in history such as la Pasionaria and 13 Rosas demonstrate the fundamental roles young women have played in calling for a more just and free society. 

Television Lawyers

 Who inspired you?

Today the Guardian Newspaper has a feature on lawyers on the television screen.  The article lists twelve top lawyers from programmes including: Silk, North Square, Kavanagh QC, The Good Wife, Rumpole of the Bailey, Perry Mason, Ally McBeal, The West Wing, The Wire, Breaking Bad and Engrenages.  The authors argue that 'Lawyers don't only join the profession for the intellectual challenge, the chance to right wrongs, and the money. They also do it because it looks good on TV'.  

The Guardian published a similar article in 2008 - Take 10: TV lawyers - featuring mainly the same lawyers and programmes.  The list included Barry Zuckerkorn from Arrested Development, Petty Hewes (Glenn Close) from Damages and a couple of other lawyers from Boston Legal and Law and Order.  

The list contains a healthy number of lead female lawyers.  It would be nice to see more Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Asian lawyers on the list as Lucy Liu seems a little lonely as the lawyer and ferocious judge in Ally McBeal. 

Representation on screen matters since fictional legal systems and worlds often shape our notions of the law before we become law students and practionners.   According to Orit Kamir, in her book, Framed:  Women in Law and film, films (and television): 

create on-screen fictional legal systems that execute judgment, pursue justice and construct social subjects and communities both on and off-screen.  At the same time, such law films may pass cinematic judgment on these “legally constructed” individuals and communities and on the judgment and justice their fictional legal systems demonstrate and execute.  A film can be read as passing such cinematic judgment when, in addition to portraying an on-screen fictional legal system, it offers alternative cinematic constructions of subjects and societies, of justice and judgment.  In its cinematic judgment, a law film may echo the worldview encoded in its fictional legal system, allowing legal and cinematic mechanisms to reinforce each other in the creation of a community and worldview.  Alternatively, a law film may constitute a community and value system that criticizes or undercuts those supported by its fictional legal system.  Moreover, as a rich, multilayered text, a law film can perform both these functions concomitantly, through different means and on different levels, evoking complex and even contradictory responses toward social and legal issues presented on screen.

Law films and the depiction of the law on screen are therefore of import to lawyers interested in the interplay between popular culture, images and the law.  But representation on screen not only relates to fictional legal systems but also to social categories such as gender and race.  This has been a key focus of feminist film studies, and in the works of authors such as bell Hooks.  Films and televised depictions of female lawyers help to construct this category.  The absence of certain men and women from these programmes is therefore problematic, meaning young people may not be able to envision themselves in those positions. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

48. The Night of the Pencils (1986)

La Noche de los Lapices

During the Argentine 'Dirty War' from 1976-1983 the military forces carried out a systematic campaign against certain parts of the civilian population.  As a part of this systematic attack, on the 16 September, 1976, ten students aged between 16 and 17 years old were kidnapped in La Plata.  This event is known as the 'night of the pencils'.  The the students were tortured, raped and subsequently 'disappeared' comprising the estimated 30,000 persons disappeared by the military.  

Hector Olivera's 1986 film is based on the testimony of Pablo Diaz, one of the two student survivors.  In 1985 Diaz gave his testimony during the Trial of the Junta in Buenos Aires.  This trial prosecuted those most responsible for crimes committed by the Junta (including Videla recently prosecuted and convicted of crimes against humanity).  Diaz's testimony was then turned into a book, which formed the basis of the movie. 

The movie tells the story of Diaz and three other students held in illegal detention centres by the military.  The film graphically depicts their plight (including the rape as torture of one of the female students).  An important movie which forms part of the collective memory of the Dirty War in Argentina.  Recommended. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

47. In my country (2004) *

A South African Story of Truth, Love and Reconciliation 

How does a country deal with mass atrocity?  How does it transition from military dictatorships or apartheid to a democracy?  How do victims receive justice for the crimes committed by regimes of terror?  In South Africa, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission was set up so that victims could tell their stories and that the perpetrators could ask for forgiveness in return for amnesty.  Perpetrators had to fully disclose their crimes which had to be committed under superior orders and for a political motive.  

In my country, gives the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings the Hollywood treatment. Starring an international cast including, Samuel L Jackson (as Langston Hughes the Washington Post reporter), Juliette Binoche (as Anna Malan, an Afrikans poet), and Brenden Gleeson (as De Jager, a perpetrator) the film was directed by Englishman, John Boorman.  Adapted from the book of the same name by Antjie Krog, the movie is based on some of the stories of the 21,800 victims who testified during the hearings.  

Using the relationship between Hughes and Langston as a vehicle to explore different aspects of the trials and the idea of 'truth' following their affair, the movie provides outsiders with an introduction to Ubuntu, the hearings and some of the horrendous crimes perpetrated during apartheid.  

Thursday, August 16, 2012

46. Alexandra (2007) *

Alexandra is a slow moving Russian film about a grandmother (Galina Vishnevskaya) who travels to visit her grandson, posted in Chechnya.  Denis, an officer in the Russian army, has been engaged in fighting for the past seven years.  Through the old woman's wise and discerning eyes, the film illustrates the youth, loneliness and futility of war.  Young boys become men, in masculine, dirty and violent environments devoid of love or comfort.  At one point, Alexandra leaves the stifling heat of the barracks to visit a local market and befriends some Chechynian women. A woman called Malika invites Alexandra to her house to rest.  She states that whilst men can be enemies, women when they meet are immediately like sisters.  The two women become friends in the short period.  

The film is touching and the barren landscape is strangely beautiful.  Highly recommended.  

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

45. Divine Intervention (2002) *

Yadon Ilayeyya

Life in Palestine is not all martyrdom, gunfire and poverty.  Elia Sulieman's Divine Intervention provides us with an insight into everyday life in Palestine in an ironic and comic manner.  Santa Claus runs up mountains, a man waits for a bus that he knows will never come, lovers meet at the Israeli checkpoint for dates, a female assassin combats and defeats a host of soldiers in a ninja-esque scene (awesome), neighbours throw garbage into each others lawns and so on.  These are just some of the snippets of life Sulieman (who stars in the film) presents to us for contemplation and amusement.

An art film, silent in parts, sad and funny, this cinematic depiction of Palestine is unique.  

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

44. Death in Gaza (2004) *

Death in Gaza tells two stories.  The documentary opens with the tragic death of the director and cameraman  James Miller.  In the final days of shooting in Rafah - on the southern strip of Gaza - Miller was shot and killed by the IDF.  The film ends with the footage of the killing taken by a local TV crew.  At first the IDF claimed that the journalist had been caught in cross fire, however, they retracted their statements following clear video footage showing that there was no gunfire coming from the Palestinians.  Waving a white flag, with TV clearly marked on his vest and helmet, Miller died in his attempt to bring the stories of the children of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.  

The second story and the objective of the documentary is about the effects of the conflict on children.  Miller never got the chance to interview Israeli children, however, through interactions with children in the West Bank and Gaza, the film provides an account of the everyday lives of some of the poorest children caught in the conflict.  Some of the children have lost many members of their family, whilst others have a desire to be martyred for the cause. 

A sensitive film on the effects of war on the children of Palestine. An Emmy award winning documentary running 80 minutes the film is worth watching.  

Friday, August 10, 2012

43. West Beyrouth (1998) *

Tarek (played by the Director's brother Rami Doueriri) is a young guy attending the French School in Beirut.  After giving the teacher cheek he is sent out of class and witnesses a massacre.  Its 1975 and Beirut is divided into two parts - East for Christians and West for Muslims - as a war begins.  

Ziad Doueiri's movie is a story about growing up, its a love story to the city and to super 8 film.  Its funny, touching and the characters Tarek, Omar and May are very likeable.    This fictionalised account based on Ziad's own experiences of the war illustrates how cinema can be a much more effective way of conveying a message than a documentary.  A movie to watch over and over again.  

I end with this quotation from Doueiri:
“My advice to other filmmakers is if you want to replicate a war, do it in Beirut. The army supplied me with troops and even a helicopter to shoot scenes. Sometimes, I would be risking my life hanging out of the copter with a camera and Beirutis would climb onto their roofs and wave. We would frantically radio to the crew below to ask residents not to be so hospitable and stay inside.” 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

42. The Relief of Belsen (2008) *

Elie Wiesel has stated that 'Auschwitz cannot be explained nor can it be visualised' (1978).  Certain philosophers and scholars believe that the Holocaust is unrepresentable and cannot be screened or captured by film (to simplify drastically the idea of ineffability).  According to Libby Saxton in her work Haunted Images scholars have more recently come to discuss representation, not in terms of prohibition, but rather in terms of challenges and obstacles.  Agamben for example argues that to state that the Holocaust is 'unspeakable' may result in victory for the perpetrators, stripping witnesses of credibility and rendering them speechless.  

Whilst the debate about representation of the Holocaust continues numerous movies have been made about the Holocaust and the different concentration camps.  Some of these movies, The Relief of Belsen, uses footage taken by the British when the camp was liberated in April 1945.  The camp was liberated before the war ended due to an outbreak of typhus which threatened to kill the 40,000 or so inmates still alive in the camp.  Roughly three-quarters of the survivors were women and children, dying from starvation and disease.  The movie tells the story of 20 doctors who set out to save the lives of people in the camp.  Through first hand accounts left in diaries and medical reports, the film narrates the struggle of British army doctors, personnel and former camp survivors like Dr Bimko, who set up a make shift hospital in order to contain typhus.  The film therefore highlights the aftermath of the liberation and the continued struggle to ensure survival of those who were not exterminated by the Nazis.  

Perhaps the Holocaust cannot be adequately represented, however, movies like Belsen cast light on some of the experiences of those who witnessed the horrors first hand. Written by Peter Guinness and Justin Hardy, the film emphasises the need for medical care in the field to be humane.  Doctors and nurses must treat their patients with humanity for patients to survive.  The film notes the difference made by adding paprika to Bengal famine mixture at the request of the Rabbi, holding people's hands throughout the night, not using syringes without explanation.  It also alerts us to the many young men and women who volunteered to work as medics and nurses after the liberation of the camps.  A well made docu-drama worth watching.  

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

41. War on Democracy (2007) *

War on democracy (2007) is a documentary on the relationship between the United States and many countries in Central and South America. John Pilger interviews Venezuela's controversial leader, Hugo Chavez, and travels around countries including, Bolivia and Chile, illustrating how US foreign policy has resulted in oppression and in some cases crimes against humanity.  In Chile, for example, the US supported General Pinochet, who has since been indicted for crimes against humanity.  In other circumstances, the US (in particular Nixon, Reagan, George Bush) have pushed policies solely for their own economic benefit.  Pilger argues that despite US imperialism people power in the region will win.  

The documentary reminded me of some of Noam Chomsky's work.  By covering a whole region in 96 minutes there were nuances that Pilger overlooked.   Chavez may represent an alternative to the US, however, his recent announcement to withdraw Venezuela from the Inter-American system is a reminder that his government are not respecting fundamental rights.  Moreover, those familiar with the region will not find the documentary particularly shocking.  Made for a Western audience, this film is for those who remain ignorant or willfully blind to the roles of US and British empire in subjugating and exploiting people in other countries for the purposes of economic gain and capitalism.  

Directed by Christopher Martin and John Pilger, the documentary can be viewed online here.  It has a good soundtrack including a song by Chilean activist Victor Jara.  

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

40. The Circle (2000) *

Her only crime was being a woman

Irani movies are popular in the ICC library.  Alongside the movies by the Makhmalbaf family, Marzieh Meshkini and Bahman Ghobadi, the library boasts a number of films by Jafar Panahi (including Offside which I previously posted about).  Panahi is part of the Iranian New Wave Movement which began at the end of the sixties.  This new wave of national cinema offers visually poetic and intellectual movies considered to be a form of neo-realism, focusing in Panahi's own words, on the 'humanitarian aspects of things'.  

The Circle begins with the circle of life.  A woman gives birth to a baby girl in hospital much to the chagrin of the grandmother.  The rest of the film follows the stories of three other women who met in prison and have escaped.  One woman seeks an abortion, another attempts to go back to her home town, a third is re-arrested. In one day we witness the women encounter a multitude of societal practices and barriers which prevent them from having equal status with men.  

When the woman seeks an abortion in the film she is told that it is unavailable without the consent of the father or without the consent of both grandparents.  It interested me to see that in Iran, often demonised in the Western press as one of the most oppressive societies for women (and other fundamental human rights), abortion is available, albeit in limited circumstances.  Women in Ireland, a democratic country and member of the European Union, do not have access to safe and legal abortions having to travel instead to England where an abortion within the first 9 weeks costs around 300 euro with Marie Stopes.  

A thought provoking movie on women's lives in Iran and more generally. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

39. The Peacekeepers (2005) *

This short documentary provides an insight into the internal workings of the UN and its peace keeping missions.  Focusing on the military observers first deployed to the DRC, members of the UN Department of Peace Keeping Operations attempt to find the necessary political support from member states and the security council in order to prevent another humanitarian catastrophe.  As the Ituri region nears explosion point, with armed groups swapping gold for arms, the UN desperately needs resolutions allowing the UN to deploy a robust force to fight the war lords and combatants from Uganda and Rwanda seeking to exploit the rich mineral resources in the region and town of Bunai.  

The documentary contains interviews with leading UN personnel and illustrates the importance of principles such as the Responsibility to Protect (R2P).  Its simply not good enough for the peacekeepers to go in once the atrocities have been committed.  If enough media attention, public opinion and political will exists, these atrocities can be prevented.  

Shot in high definition, the film is easy to watch and informative.  

38. Tokyo Trial (2006) *

What I fear is that neglect of the past will bring future sufferings
Mei, International Military Tribunal for the Far East (2005) 

The Tokyo Trial (2006) is the work of Chinese film maker, Gao Qunshu. The movie focuses on the experience of the Chinese Justice, Dr. Mei Ju-ao. The film was a box office success in China, taking in 1.25 million US dollars only ten days after its debut on September 1, 2006. A number of scenes illustrate the leading role taken by Judge Mei. 

The first of these scenes sees Dr Mei fight against the colonial seating arrangements first proposed by the Australian President of the Tribunal, Sir William Web. The Chinese Judge refuses to have the Australian, US and British judges take prime position in the trial when the Chinese fought and suffered the longest and hardest against the Japanese. In another scene, the Judge Mei takes a prominent role in asking the other justices to allow for the death penalty for the defendants. Article 16 of the Tokyo Charter provides that ‘The Tribunal shall have the power to impose upon an accused, on conviction, death or such other punishment as shall be determined by it to be just’. In the movie, the Judges agree to the death penalty by 6 votes to 5, with the film declaring that these deliberations remain a secret to this day. 

Alongside these judicial deliberations, the movie recreates the trial, including the examination and cross-examination of witnesses and the accused individuals. It also has a parallel story line of a love story, drama and murder linked to the aftermath of the Second World War (This part reminded me of a Korean dorama, very dramatic!).  

In Bing Bing Jia's chapter on the 'Legacy of the Tokyo Trial in China' in Beyond Victor's Justice? The Tokyo War Crimes Trial Revisited eds. Yuki Tanaka, Tim McCormack and Gerry Simpson, he comments that the perception of the Tokyo Trial has been predominately positive.  However 'Things unsaid, deeds unadjudicated, persons unindicted, and damages unrepaired in the trials all combine to leave a sour taste for many Chinese survivors of the war'.   This description accurately reflects the mood of the film which illustrates that Tokyo Saiban was more than victor's justice, it was also necessary and important for the Chinese people.  

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

37. Bamako (2006) *

Mele is a woman in a failing marriage.  In her courtyard, which she shares with her neighbours, a court has been set up.  This court in Bamako, the capital of Mali, sets out to denounce the IMF and the World Bank for the 'pauperisation' of Africa. Abderrahmane Sissak, the filmmaker and director gave IMF and World Bank documents to real life lawyers and judges, who make statements on the unequal effects of globalisation and the current capitalist system for African States. 

In an interview with Offscreen.com available here he states that he wanted to raise consciousness on these issues, choosing a trial form to make visible the issues:

Moreover when one is brought to speak about the crisis of a continent in the form of a trial, it means quite simply that the word of the other is not heard. A true trial against institutions is improbable, not for saying that they are wrong, since a trial basically seeks the truth, but because nothing was set up to say that the policy imposed by these institutions for 25 years have failed. They agree themselves to say that they are a failure because Africa is increasingly poor and more and more ill. The fact that one cannot dispute these policies, shows already a certain form of injustice and that an artist must invent this trial.

An intellectual movie interweaving the realities of every day life in Mali.