“All of Me”: Women feed migrants leaning from a train in Mexico, strictly out of faith

All of Me” (“Llevate mis amores” or “Take my Love”), by Arturo Gonzales Villasenor (Mexico, 2014, in Spanish), pretty much inverts the parable of the Rich Young Ruler.

A group of women at Patronas, Mexico, labor on homemade woodstoves to cook meals and gather water for migrants, who reach for it from the traveling freight train called “The Beast”. They’ve done it since 1995.   Most of the migrants come all the way from Central America. Some have stopped out of fear of getting in trouble with the law, but the group still goes on, 7 days a week.

Most of the film, besides showing the harrowing food pickup, comprises interviews with the women.  At the film’s midpoint, one of them relates an incident where a boy mangled his foot falling under a wheel. Although they stopped his bleeding, the women found no one would treat him until someone paid for his care. (Sound familiar?)  Eventually, the Red Cross took him to a hospital where the foot was amputated and a prosthesis provided.

The women, and a few men, describe the limited economic opportunities of agricultural and manual labor.  One of the men got a factory job, hazardous work welding inside pipes, and was still always in debt. One of the women is shown cleaning a pig sty, in front of farm animals who (like “Babe”) don’t yet know they will be eaten.

One woman’s daughter was about to go to college and wanted to become a journalist, but had to face the idea that if the local gangs didn’t like what she wrote, they would come after her and her family.

There are some night scenes, toward the end, in stark black and white, almost recalling the Holocaust.

This is a real food bank.  I’m reminded, of course, of Community Assistance (like at Mount Olivet Methodist Church in Arlington VA or the Arlington Food Assistance Center near Shirlington).  Volunteering in these activities is safe.  Volunteering along an illegal migrant rail route is only for men and women “of faith”, which others don’t have a right to define for them.  There is no debate.

All of this, of course, Donald Trump wants to stop.  So why can’t Mexico get its own house in order?  It’s the rich and the poor, as always.

Much of the film is within sight of Mount Popocapetel, the highest volcano in the country.  A high school friend climbed it in 1962 and almost dies on it.

Name:  “All of Me
Director, writer:  Arturo Gonzales Villasenor
Released:  2014; 2016 US theatrical; DVD pre-book 2017/3/14, DVD street date 2017/4/11
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Complimentary Vimeo Screener from Strand
Length:  90
Rating:  NA
Companies:  Strand Releasing
Link:  official

(Posted: Thursday, March 23, 2017 at 10:30 PM EDT)

“Beauty and the Beast”: in the end, “smooth” is still “desirable”

Beauty and the Beast”, directed by Bill Condon, has a simple enough moral:  physical beauty may be skin deep, but real love is soul-deep.  I’ve been there before.  I heard that speech in 1978.

The film is Walt Disney Studio’s remake of the 1991 play of the setting of the Broadway play, about 1990, by Alan Menken (lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice. That in turn is based on the fairy tale by Linda Woolverton.  So, we have children’s literature.

When I worked as a substitute teacher, I did an English class (10th grade) where the assignment was to write a fairy tale.  One of the boys wrote a tale starting, “Once upon a time there lived a banana”.  Imagine where that could go.

In fact, for all the artistry surrounding talking teacups and living heirlooms in a dark castle in medieval France, this sort of classic works better for me on stage, like “Wicked”.  Yes, the songs are wonderful.

As for the morality tale, the prince (Dan Stevens) gets transmuted into a beast after he turns away a homeless old hag.  He’s really worse off than “the Rich Young Ruler” in the New Testament.  In nearby towns (or maybe Paris), Belle (almost out of “Days of our Lives” in the past), played by Emma Watson, has to fend off a suitor Gaston (Luke Evans), who warns her about the fate of spinsters – they drop out of eternity.  She runs away to the castle (the climate transmutes from summer to winter without much change of altitude, just like in “The Shack”) and meets the prince, and of course falls in love with him.

So she looks beyond the obvious.  I could just pretend that she is attracted to hairy men (after all, Caucasians evolved in colder climates, where that sort of natural selection of a cis-gender manly-looking secondary sexual characteristic might be logical).  Maybe he just looks Neanderthal (and it’s possible that Europeans benefited from the best Neanderthal genes, as they took over).  Gaston will follow her, with guide Maurice (Kevin Kline), and Josh Gad will play LeFou (sounds like the name of a government teacher).  In the final scene, though, Beast changes back.  It seems that “smooth” (or “thmooth” – that is, immature) is what is “desirable”, even for men, after all.  David Skinner (author of the 1999 essay “Notes on the Hairless Man”) will celebrate in the world of conservatism.

I do recall in the early 1970s, before “My Second Coming” (Chapter 3 of my “Do Ask, Do Tell I” book) a couple of women tried to encourage me to adopt an “alternative” appearance to appeal to them — head shaving, hippy beads, body art — as if I could cover up my physical flaws and get away with it. That confounded my own idea of virtue.

Name:  “Beauty and the Beast”
Director, writer:  Bill Condon
Released:  2017
Format:  2.35:1  Imax, 3-D
When and how viewed:  Regal Ballston Quarter, 2017/3/21, afternoon, small audience
Length:  129
Rating:  PG
Companies:  Walt Disney Studios
Link:  official

(Posted: Wednesday, March 22, 2017 at 9:30 AM EDT)

“Life After Death”: the geography of the Afterlife (Martin)

I received, from author Stephen Hawley Martin, a complimentary review copy of his Second Edition (2017) “Life After Death: Powerful Evidence You Will Never Die”.  I think the first edition was in 1995.

The author believes that consciousness generates the Universe and permeates it.  Consciousness exists apart from matter and energy – you could wonder if it has anything to do with dark energy, or with unused dimensions in string theory.  Consciousness tends to aggregate into concentrates that seek some sort of physical vehicle for expression.  Since ultimate conscious entities can make choices, in theory conscious entities – expressed (on this planet at least) with reproductive life forms, oppose entropy, which would cause the Universe to degrade.

Human being (and animal) individual consciousness comes about as genetics and “morphogenetic” influences cause a “soul” or conscious entity to become expressed or “received” by a physical body.  Many other sources talk about “free will” and self-awareness as connected to microtubules within neurons able to deal with quantum uncertainties.

Martin’s book, which is a bit random in its presentations style, focuses most on evidence from “near death experiences” or NDE’s, and many examples of reincarnation.  He mentions AMORC, or the Rosicrucian Order, as well as the Monroe Institute (20 miles south of Charlottesville VA) which he says the CIA has used to train agents in remote viewing. He cites cases of intelligent people with very little cerebrum matter, and notes that even plants can “behave” despite not having brains.

I think there is a logical question.  Do most newborn babies develop a “new” soul, or are most actually reincarnations?  If the universe expands infinitely and has infinitely many centers of consciousness, there could be an “infinite series” of reincarnation – but then again, some series will converge! He mentions AMORC’s (Rosicrucian) teaching that typical reincarnation cycles last about 140 years.

The author suggests that homosexuality may result when the person was of the opposite sex in the previous incarnation (although this idea runs the risk of confusing sexual orientation with gender identity or fluidity, very different concepts).  It’s all too easy to imagine the “Putin” argument that acceptance of homosexuality can lower procreation (and give returning souls another chance).

He also talks about “life between lives”, as being “what you want”.  Some souls “get stuck” as “asylum seekers” and become ghosts.  The sites “Afterlife Knowledge” and Mike Pettigrew’s give a geography of the Afterlife.  Note the “hollow heavens” available to those with strict religious beliefs;  “Focus 27” seems to be the most advanced level.   The author notes that a lot of souls got “stuck” after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, but not after 9/11, because the deaths were more instantaneous. That would suggest that the way you die does affect your next course in the Afterlife.

The  soul life might be the “real life”, whereas earthly life is like a “dream” (as in the song “Row your boat”);  In a dream during sleep, you don’t remember how you got there, although you know who you are.  This is the concept of Christopher Nolan’s movie “Inception” (2010).  Other films worth mention here are “Cocoon” (Ron Howard, 1985), or even  the “Chiller”, “The Disembodied” (1957). The appropriate term for a person who has passed away is “discarnate”.  We could also ponder “Our Home: Astral City” (2011, Brazil), “What Dreams May Come” (1998, Robin Williams), and “Defending Your Life” (1991).

Martin mentions the “life review” that occurs at time of passage, that seems to give the person access to every moment in his or her life as if on a video.  The term reminds me of “content evaluation” in the POD book industry.

Martin also talks about Grace as a cosmological concept that matches up with that in the Christian and other faiths, as organizing nature.  He explains telekinesis (or maybe self-teleportation as with young Clark Kent in “Smallville”) as instances of “mind over matter”.

He does mention angels a couple times, and I’ve wondered if these are immortal physical beings, or maybe someone like Jason Ritter’s hero character Sean Walker in NBC’s series “The Event“, someone who doesn’t know he is an alien, and almost immortal, until the end.  In my own novel manuscript “Angel’s Brother” I play with the idea that a soul could experience another (younger) person’s body through “consolidation” (through a fictitious virus) but the process backfires when one of the persons separates as piece of ball lightning and then reconnects himself.

Martin mentions the Myers-Biggs personality charts (p. 173), and considers himself “INTJ” (introverted-intuitive-thinking-judging), about 2% of the population.  I fall into that category (“feminine subjective” by Rosenfels), and can be unpopular, viewed as a spectator rather than a participant.

I think the concept of relation between soul and living person can be put into analogy with a phonograph recording of a performance of a music work.  This concept may have been more applicable in the past before the Internet and digital age with cloud storage.  But an “instance” recording of a work can wear out (bad styli in the past) and need to be replaced, but the actual work and performance still lives forever.  You could even draw a comparison to object-oriented programming, with “classes” and “instances”, where rebirth is “instantiation” (or “construction”).

I have visited the grounds of the Monroe Institute (Aug. 2014), but you have to arrive very early for a one day event.   The long sessions with Hemi-Sync require a considerable time commitment.   I visited the Rosicrucian Museum in San Jose CA in 1975.

Author: Stephen Hawley Martin
Title, Subtitle: “Life After Death: Powerful Evidence You Will Never Die”
publication date 2017, 1995
ISBN 978-1543134322
Publication: Oaklea Press, Richmond Va; Paper, 13 chapters, 206 pages
Link: sales

(Posted: Monday, March 20, 2017 at 9:15 PM EDT)

“24 Snow”: visually stunning documentary traces the life of a Siberian horse farmer

Mikhail Barynin was in person for the QA for his stunning wilderness documentary “24 Snow” (produced by Egor Makarov), at the SC Environmental Film Festival, presented in partnership with Moscow’s ECOCUP.  He spoke only Russian, and a woman translated for him, before a full house at the Carnegie Science Center today.

The film introduces its hero, Sergei, in a remote wildnerness camp with just two wooden cabins, everything weighted with snow, and a temperature of -60 C.  We learn he breeds horses for a living, and spends a lot of time away from his family, like a nomad, occasionally visiting Siberian villages.

The dialogue is in Yakut, and the scenario is in the Sakha (northeastern Siberia).  The digital photography presents almost extraterrestrial scenery, with mountain ridges that look metallic in color and large lakes and rivers with flowing ice.  The ruins of smaller Soviet industrialized towns appear.  But there are festivals, and tents set up for kids to play in.  The cramped life within cabins and yurts is shown.  In the countryside, people do not have electricity

Toward the end there is a disturbing scene where Sergei has to kill some of his horses.

Vladimir Putin has provided economic inducements, including free land, to people who will settle Siberia and live off the land and have big families.  One of the biggest motivations for the 2013 anti-gay propaganda law was the idea that speech making homosexuality sound acceptable would further depress Russia’s birth rate.  Putin has even called for “procreation days”.


1 (director, in Russian)


3  (about journalism in Russia)

4  (climate change issue in Russia)

Amga River, typical scenery, Wiki.

Name:  “24 Snow”
Director, writer:  Mikhail Barynin
Released:  2016
Format:  1.85:1   (Yakut)
When and how viewed: 2017/3/19  DC Environmental Film Festival at Carnegie Institute of Science, full crowd
Length:  93
Rating:  NA
Companies:  ECOCUP
Link:  Facebook, UN

(Posted: Sunday, March 19, 2017 at 10 PM EDT)

“Spillover: Zika, Ebola and Beyond” looks at the peril of pandemics spread from animals to man

Spillover: Zika, Ebola, and Beyond” (57 min) , written and directed by James Barrat (and produced by Tangled Bank Studios), accounts for the histories of three dangerous zoonoses, that is, (viral) infectious diseases that move from animals to people.  The film was shown by the DC Environmental Film Festival at the Carnegie Institute of Science and was followed by a free sandwich reception.

The overall message of the film is that viruses can spread suddenly from animals (usually mammals but sometimes birds) to man and create devastating pandemics among humans not immunologically prepared for them.

The film focuses specifically on Zika (especially in Brazil), Ebola (West Africa), and Nipah (Bangladesh). The film has spectacular digital on location photography of many remote locations, some of it aerial from drones (including many slums and poor or primitive neighborhoods), and along with some very realistic rotoscopic animation.  This could have made good material for an Imax science film at the Smithsonian.

The narrative starts in Recife, Brazil, in 2015, as mild flu-like cases of Zika show up in young adults.  Soon people realize that babies from infected women are being born with microcephaly, with brains that will not develop normally.  In time authorities learn mosquito control, even infiltrating areas with males tjay will cause infertile offspring to be born.   Since Zika can be sexually transmitted, it theoretically could bring back some personal ethical and political conflicts that we saw in the 1980s with HIV, as I asked in the QA (previous discussion).

The movie also switches to West Africa,, mainly Sierra Leone, showing the impact of Ebola, and noting that of the 11000 fatalities in Africa, 900 were with caregivers and health care workers, exposed directly to body fluids hitting compromised skin.  One young man walks three miles to the hospital to avoid infecting people on the bus, and survives.  A female nurse survives.  But many are buried. One person is taken off a plane in Lagos, Nigeria (shown well by drone), and dies.  Very vigorous contact tracing in Nigeria prevents the epidemic from spreading.

The film mentions new vaccines for both of these diseases.  But it also says that contact tracing is essential to control epidemics.  That sounds unrealistic to me in practice – forcing people to maintain “social distance”.  The film does not get into the cases of people treated in the U,S., which there is much better chance of survival with supportive care.  Most deaths occur from body fluid loss and subsequent organ failure.

The recent epidemic in West Africa may come from a single case of a child eating the carcass of a particular wild animal.

The film also looks at Nipah, which surfaced in Bangaldesh in 1998 and then 2004.  It causes an encephalitis that can have a high mortality rate and lead to mental retardation in children.  The reservoir may be fruit bats who feed on date palms (there is a scene of workers “shaving” palm trees with machetes to get to the sap).

Sierra Leone road similar to film.

Lagos, Nigeria

Recife, Brazil.



1       (note that H7N9 bird flu in China has increased in recent months).

2  — my question on the politics of contagion

3  — Trump budget cuts

Fact sheet:

Name: “Spillover: Zika, Ebola and Beyond”
Director, writer:  James Barrat
Released:  2016
Format:  1.85:1  HDEF
When and how viewed:  DC Environmental Film Festival, Carnegie Auditorium, Washington, free, 2017/3/18, free, full, reception followed
Length:  57
Rating:  NA
Companies:  PBS, Tangled Bank Studios
Link:  PBS  official (July 2016)





(Posted: Saturday, March 18, 2017 at 10 AM EDT)

“Voices of Chernobyl”: Supplications from the family members of victims of the 1986 nuclear power plant catastrophe in the Ukraine

The documentary “Voices of Chernobyl” (2016, “La supplication”, or “The Prayer”), by Pol Cruchten, is actually based on a “novel” by Svetlana Alexievich)

But the presentation of the film is rather simple.  A number of people, especially family members of the Chernobyl nuclear plant workers and rescue personnel, stand in the ruins, or sometimes in the early springtime river, plains and forest country of northern Ukraine, and give testimonials to their personal losses.  Often the victims (mostly men) are shown, lying still, clothed.  The horrific symptoms of radiation poisoning are described verbally, but the men are usually left intact visually.  Some of the victims are children born about the time of the disaster who then develop leukemias.

The speakers (in French, with subtitles – the country of origin is Luxembourg) mention the upwind damage in other countries, most of all Belarus, where many abortions would then be performed.

Toward the end, a few women gardeners, indeed “The Babushkas of Chernobyl” (index) appear, working the soil fearlessly.

The actual “accident” led immediately, according to Wikipedia, to 31 deaths, but many more must have occurred gradually.

The film was shown at the DC Environmental Film Festival on March 16 at the Ring Auditorium in the Hirshhorn Smithsonian Museum (where I had seen  the “Infinity Mirrors” exhibition one week before).  The DCEFF program gives the title as “Voices from Chernobyl” as do some trailers; But imdb uses the preposition “of”.

Wikipedia coverage of Chernobyl disaster, many pictures including sarcophagus.

I remember the newspaper coverage of the Three Mile Island disaster in March 1979, when I was living in Dallas;  for a while a melt-down was feared.  When I worked with Dan Fry’s group “Understanding” from 1975 to 1979, I met a woman, in New York City, who wanted to start a national caravan to oppose nuclear power.  She was a one-issue person.

However, young inventor Taylor Wilson has argued that small underground fission plants for many utilities could make the power grids safer (from solar storms or EMP) by reducing the dependence on large transformers.  Taylor has actually written an article about Fukushima in 2011.  His work (in a book “The Boy Who Played with Fusion” — index) deserves a documentary film now.

Name: “Voices of Chernobyl”
Director, writer:  Pol Cruchten
Released:  2016
Format: 1.85:1
When and how viewed: Ring Auditorium, Hirshhorn, DCEFF, free, 2017/3/16, large audience (a lot of it young)
Length:  87
Rating:  NA
Companies:  Red Lion
Link:  film

(Posted: Friday, March 17, 2017 at 10:45 AM EDT)

“Fragments of Love”: a heterosexual woman in Colombia plays “catch of the month”

Fragments of Love” (“Fragmentos de Amor”, in Spanish with subtitles), directed by Fernando Vallejo and based on the novel by Hector Abad Faciolince, plays out an erotic fantasy with maybe tragic results.

The story is set in Colombia (the author’s home) but seems largely filmed (especially outside) in Puerto Rico.

A the film opens, Susana (Angelica Blandon) is making an impression mask of the face of her new lover Rodrigo (Jose Angel Birchir).  We learn that Rodrigo works as a piano tuner (I needed piano tuning until I switched to Casio) and actually has performed as a concert pianist and composed classical pieces.  In the background score, we hear him perform Chopin’s B-flat Minor Nocturne (accidentally missing from the credits) and an elegy by Faure, as well as some popular pieces.  But he had given up composing and performing as grief shut him up after his wife died.

But soon we hear that Susana is a serial lover.  Rodrigo is her “catch of the month”, one of a series of “fragmentary” or fantasy encounters.  She is rather like a heterosexual female version of Shane Lyons (Timo Descamps) from the film “Judas Kiss”.  She gets what she wants in the short run;  now she wants Rodrigo, just as Shane wants Danny.  Rodrigo starts go grow jealous as he learns he is one of many, and there is a mask for every lover.  She maintains what I used to call “the List”.  Yet, she realizes she needs her own skin in any encounter for it to satisfy her.  That’s true even of fantasy. The film will end in a putative tragedy.

There is an early scene of a street explosion at a business, that almost injures the couple, rather like the attack in New York City on 23rd Street in September 2016.

Somehow I am reminded of Jean Luc-Godard’s New Wave bifurcated experiment in 2001, “In Praise of Love” (“Eloge de l’amour”).

Name: “Fragments of Love”
Director, writer:  Fernando Vallejo, Hector Abad Faciolince
Released:  2016
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed: Complimentary screener on Vimeo from Strand releasing for review; DVD  street date 3/28/2017;  pre-book 2/28/2017
Length:  101
Rating:  R
Companies:  Strand Releasing, Wide Management
Link:  official

(Posted: Thursday, March 16, 2017 at 10:30 AM EDT)

“Logan” does his Run, in a comics film that, after the fact, pans the alt-right

After reading the (libertarian) Foundation for Economic Education op-ed “’Logan’ eviscerates War and Demographic Planning” by Dan Sanchez, I “gave in” and saw a late show of the Marvel film last night. Yes, even Anderson Cooper like the “X-men” franchise.

Sanchez summarizes the plot pretty well, and I’m not sure all of his parallels hold.  But it’s true, that the “corporate state” (Transigen) had created the mutants as weapons and now regards them as threats the way the all-right views both Hispanic and Muslim migrants.

Hugh Jackman(now 48) looks grizzled, and maybe ready to return from exile or retirement.  The plot of this 135-minute bash concerns Logan’s road trip to rescue his 12-year-old daughter Laura (Dafne Keen) with Wolverine-like powers.

Structurally, the film is a bit like my “Tribunal and Rapture” manuscript, a long road trip (finally leading to planetary evacuation on a spaceship) by a retired FBI agent, who finds he has some subtle powers of his own – I finally decided that this sort of story works better for me when told through the eyes of the younger heroes, whose “powers” aren’t usually obvious and whose appearance is wholesome (even if that idea betrays my own erotic prejudices).

The film journeys into Oklahoma, then sidetracks to Reno (I wanted to see Taylor Wilson make a cameo and pitch his plans to save the power grids), before getting to North Dakota, with some scenery that resembles the Teddy Roosevelt badlands – but actually a lot of the film is shot in New Mexico, with mountains in the background.  The mixture of old and new technologies is interesting (like the winch and pulley in the North Dakota scene.  The mutants, by blowing liquid nitrogen breath, can freeze opponents’ limbs and break then off.  So heads, arms and legs roll in this film. (In Dallas, Joe Bob would have said “check it out.”)

To appreciate the film, you have to know some of the pre-history, of characters like Trask, with their pre-occupation with the alt-right notion of “demographic winter” and the idea that “majority” people don’t have enough kids now.  (That’s why Vladimir Putin allows the persecution of gays.)  I’m reminded of Representative Steve King’s (T-IA) doubled-down comments that “we can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies” (story).

Patrick Stewart seems to impersonate me (as he usually does) as Charles, and Boyd Holbrook is notable as Pierce.

I’m reminded of another escapist adventure, “Logan’s Run” (1976), set around the Zale Building on Stemmons Freeway in Dallas, a building in which I worked in the 1980s, where you wonder how the twenty year-olds know think they can eliminate the thirties without facing the same fate themselves soon.

I guess that “Logan”, directed by James Mangold with story by him, was largely developed before Donald Trump won the election, but it seems well conceived as a response to the growing appearance of the alt-right during the 2016 campaigns.  The distributor, Fox, is probably closer to Ayn Rand-style conservatism.

The show opens with a “short film” (“Deadpool: No Good Deed“) about a Logan-like man challenged by a nearby mugging and a telephone booth, in the City.  I’m reminded of Joel Schulmacher’s “Phone Booth” (2002), and even of Timo Descamps and his “Phone Call” or even “Like It Rough” videos.  the 20 Century Fix fanfare then follows, along with TSG and Marvel, before the “feature” starts.  This sort of reminds me also of Dimension Films’s “Grindhouse” in 2007 (embedded double feature and connecting short).  The two short stories in my “Do Ask Do Tell III” book (2014) could be presented this way in film.

Name:  “Logan
Director, writer: James Mangold
Released:  2017
Format:  2.35:1 and Imax
When and how viewed:  2017/3/14 Regal Ballston Quarter, late, low crowd after snowstorm
Length:  137 including short
Rating:  R
Companies:  20th Century Fox, Marvel, TSG
Link:  official

(Posted: Wednesday, March 15, 2017 at 11 AM)

“Cries from Syria” is harrowing

The live-filmed documentary “Cries from Syria”, directed by Yvgeny Afineevsky and narrated by Helen Mirren, traces the brutality of the Syrian civil war(s), mostly focused on the atrocities committed by the Assad regime starting in 2015. The film was first aired on HBO Monday March 13, 2017 at 10 PM EDT.

The story is told by a variety of rebels, including women, and shows grotesque results of regime violence and prison torture, including starvation, and in one scene the aftermath of chemical weapons (even chlorine).  It is filmed in many locations in Syria (besides Aleppo, which Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson didn’t identify in 2016).

The film is prefixed by an animated history of Syria in the 20th Century, and with stunning images of ancient mosques and religious sites.

There are massed demonstration scenes, one with a flag several hundred feet long.

Slightly beyond the halfway point in the film, the attention shifts to Raqqa and the arrival of ISIS.  At the very first, ISIS was seen as “liberators” (relative to the Free Army).  Very quickly, the brutality and total control (though with law and order) of the ISIS regime is apparent.  The film shows both an ISIS smoking ticket and a prep for a beheading. The presentation is grittier and more graphic than in Fareed Zakaria’s films for CNN (“Blindsided: How ISIS Shook the World”, 2015, and “Why They Hate Us”, 2016).  But one spokesperson claims that Assad is still responsible for 98% of the civilian deaths in Syria.

Life in this world is all about street smarts and collective action and not much else.  Young men are shown operating machine guns fired from apartment living rooms.

The film then shows a meeting between Al-Assad and Vladimir Putin (“The Most Powerful Man in the World” – CNN special by Zakaria tonight) to control ISIS, as a pretext for controlling the rebellion.  The volunteer rescue group “The White Helmets” is shown.

The film moves into Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, into refugee camps.  Refugees pay smugglers, sometimes to take them across the Mediterranean, or sometimes directly into adjoining countries. Small children are found drowned on the beach.

Yet at the end the Syrian people parade through streets “united”.  The film ends with an aerial shot of a refugee camp.  600,000 people have been killed in the war, and 7 million displaced. More than 1 million are in Europe.  2.5 million Syrian refugees are children.  Well, actually the film ends with a tweet.

I do have to wonder if the president, White House, or members of Congress watched this film.  This has to be about the most violent and confrontational documentary film I have ever watched.  And I’m still a spectator.

Destruction after Homs Offensive, Wiki picture.

Pictures from Raqqa (Wiki images).

Name: Cries from Syria
Director, writer: Yvgeny Afineevsky
Released: 2017
Format: 1.85:1
When and how viewed: HBO, 2017/3/13
Length: 111
Rating: NA  (would be R for violent war images)
Companies: HBO documentary
Link:  official

(Posted on Tuesday, March 14, 2017 at 12:15 AM)

“A United Kingdom”: a lesser known history of a mixed-race marriage, affecting African colonial politics

A United Kingdom”, directed by Amma Asante, is a romantic historical drama that portrays a lesser known story of the social, political and legal aftermath of an interracial marriage.

In 1947, Sereste Khama (David Oyelowo), while heir to the throne of the tribal British protectorate Bechaunaland, marries a white woman Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike) while studying in London.  His marriage causes tremendous and varied controversy when he returns.  Some of his people think he has betrayed their collective identity “as a people”, while others are persuaded by his progressive arguments about equality. But the British government fears his marriage will disrupt the apartheid society forming in South Africa (which gained independence in varying stages starting in 1910).  Further, Sereste discovers that the Brits and other Europeans want to continue exploitation of future diamond or copper mines, under colonialist or mercantilist trade policies. (Maybe that rings a little harder now with Trump in office.)

It gets mean, as Sereste is exiled, first for five years, and then for life, even by Winston Churchill.

The film has some spectacular on-location photography of Botswana (an aerial view of a savannah town from a hill), and the real house the couple lived in was used for the film.

The post romantic film score composed by Patrick Doyle (Kenneth Branagh’s “Hamlet”, “Henry V”) is effective.

Typical scene in Botswana today (Wikipedia).

The title of the film seems ironic given the likely results of Brexit – that Scotland could break off the UK.

Name:  “A United Kingdom
Director, writer:  Amma Asante
Released: 2017
Format: 2.35:1
When and how viewed:  AMC Shirlington, 2017/3/12, large audience (near sellout, afternoon, small auditorium)
Length:  111
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  Fox Searchlight
Link:  official

(Posted: Sunday, March 12, 2017 at 7:30 PM EDT)