Nae Pasaran

Went for its last local showing out of a sense of duty – and it was so much better than that.
A desert war veteran and Rolls-Royce engineer realises that 8 engines for extensive and high quality renovation at the East Kilbride factory are for Chilean Air Force Hawker Hunter jet planes of the kind used to attack the seat of government in Chile during in the CIA inspired coup of an elected government. “They’re blacked”. And management can’t get him to change his position. And the engines are boxed and later sent out into the yard and not moved. This turns out to reduce the operational effectiveness of the Chilean Air Force, and possibly even see some of their planes fall out of the sky.
It’s a symbol of goodness, and most significantly, an indication of what having strong unions could mean.
Some great stories too of how what was done has since been celebrated.
The Guardian gives it 3 stars; (e:3; s:4; p:4).


They Shall Not Grow Old documentary

“an utterly breathtaking journey into the trenches” – The Observer. It is incredible to see old film converted and filled to the right speed and colourised. It changes how we see people. And then to see lip readers and voice artists and sound effects engineers bring it to a new level.

Amazing what you take from the new scenes. A gun blasting from a farmyard, and slates fall off a roof. A German prisoner losing his balance and a Tommy giving him a shoulder charge and a bit of verbal. A shell exploding within horse column bringing supplies.

The documentary ( ) starts with the optimism of the British going to war, and has quite a few quotes expressing the spirit of the Captain from “The Wipers Times”. This is not “Oh What a Lovely War”, or “The Monoculed Mutineer”, or “Blackadder Goes Forth”.

And the film is limited, perhaps by the source material. But no navy, no air battles, no hospitals, no Italy, no explorations of strategy, no news of revolutions elsewhere, no French army, no Americans, no Spanish flu, possibly no Empire and certainly no black and minority ethnic.

But what it brings, especially for those descended from British soldiers on the front, is something so special, that allows us a sliver of understanding, and a sense of what shock and awe might actually have been like. Cos as is explained, they never told us, or as the film asserts, many of us didn’t ask or want to know.

And a concern that maybe the last four years haven’t been used well enough to re-iterate just what a stupid war it was. Which just one quote at the end manages to impart.

And then a terrifically judged version of “Mademoiselle from Armentières” (ères ) to finish.

Fahrenheit 11/9

The most relevant political film ever is “The Wave“, and a sister version made in Germany.  Based on a true story, a sixth former in California asked how did German people ever become Nazis.  In later lessons, their teachers start to coach them in ways that ends up with them supporting despot ideas and sharing a wave sign for a zeig heil.

This in the end is the message of Michael More’s latest film, “Fahrenheit 11/9“.  But dialled to 11 through much of the film, ribalding “fake news” but with too many false endings, the film is too long.

Shelly Runyon (underhand Republican politician): “Take a magic marker, cross out the word “objectivity”. Your constituents want you for your opinions, your philosophy, for your subjectivity.”
from The Contender.

I’ve always been struck by this quote. It says loads.  Perhaps the filmmakers meant it as a condemnation, but I’m not sure.  I take it to mean energise people to vote for what you believe.  Just don’t take the quote to mean it’s OK to lie.

In this context, I take it as a reminder that Michael Moore makes editorials, not documentaries.  And I think his main conclusion is just wrong.

Anton Chigurh: “… If the rule you followed brought you to this, of what use was the rule?” – from No County for Old Men.

Cos at the end, he essentially says if the political system, many aspects of which he’s been celebrating for much of the previous 2 hours, brings us to Trump, of what use is it; and let’s get rid.  Another version of despotic exhortation.  I’m not putting him anywhere near Trump’s level, but it’s an uncharitable conclusion, which prompts me to say that I don’t accept his mea culpa at the outset for being soft on Trump when a tv programme asked him to.
And yet I do recommend going to see the movie.
(r:7.5; s:4; e:3; t:3)

Cos the episodes are interesting, often telling and at times very uplifting:
* that the Democrats have recently been losing winning hands; from a populace that is more to the left that you’d commonly understand;
* that Hillary Clinton hid from people in the 2016 campaign;
* that mainstream politics has created a new majority – of the uninterested and not voting;
* that the media loved the ratings boosts Trump’s appearances have given them;
* the extraordinary tragedy of polluted water supply to the city of Flint in Michigan; that Trump visited when the others didn’t; that Obama visited and upset people when they  were looking to him for salvation;
* the West Virginian Democrat making a strong showing cos of his direct style in an unwinnable district; (a showing that The Guardian reports has been harmed by professional advisors turning up to help him out, although I think the problem has been recognised);
* the student protests led by victims of a shooting in a Florida school, that saw teenagers organise massive rallies and actually trigger the downfall of a Maine state senator in a previously unchallenged seat;
* a new wave of women and BME candidates that are having an impact;
* a strike by West Virginian teachers, and other school staff, protesting against a more expensive health insurance that required. them to wear monitors, that grew from a few counties to all 55; and with it, an explanation of what being a “red neck” originally meant;
* how despotism took over the advanced and well-red Germany of the 1930’s;
* a tragic scene shot of a child separated from their parents in Nazi Germany.

Finally, again from The Contender –

Shelly Runyon: There’s a reason they call me honest Shell.
President Jackson Evans: Irony, Shelly.

Science Fair movie

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This is a documentary to watch in a cinema with serious young couples at one end, and a multi-family group – with teenagers engaging and laughing with the scence students – at the other. Clash of cultures.
Cos what I wanted most was to see the science excite.  The movie starts strongly as teenage students outline the ideas they have, but kinda fails to explain the outcomes.  So two teenagers from a small town of a Brazil at the epicentre of the zika virus outcome, and had identified a protein that could mitigate its speed through the human body.  The cinema was united in wanting them to win – they didn’t place.
I went to see this movie,  in part cos we have science weeks in Nottingham, but not I think along the competitive lines of the featured international event (the British were conspicuous in their absence), and in part cos with a science degree, I wanted to see what I should have been doing before I went to university (given a German won with an updated flying wing, I suspect I should have made models of ekranoplans (ground-effect vehicles)).
The makers did find some interesting teenagers to highlight.  And arguably a boring one.  An Amercian girl from a Bangladeshi family who didn’t particularly project, attending a school in South Dakota that focussed on sports (its American football team had just finished the season with 9 losses out of 9) and had to find a sports coach to mentor her cos the science teachers wouldn’t; so low-profile that fellow school students had no idea the high-achieving scientist was at their school.   This girl in a hijab was studying alpha and beta waves in the teenage mind.  The documentary failed to convey the outcomes, but did show her winning one of the 9 world wide categories, something which the school is said not even to have celebrated through an announcement (although I wonder about that really).
Again, credit to the Broadway in Nottingham for screening it.
(r:7.5; s:3, e:4, t:3)

Jack Jones documentary

Striking image for a documentary on Jack Jones, largely financed with union funds.
A reminder of a union leader whose political values and organisational capability led to him creating Britain’s largest union.
Often on the tele to get the values across and to ensure justice at the workplace was a media issue – kinda missing that in particular these days.
The documentary makes the point that low hours contracts are the casualisation of labour that was fought against for all those years.
Born in a deprived part of Liverpool, his commitment to the cause and for trade unions was “in your bones”, as Dennis Skinner put it.
Opposing fascism and fighting in the Spanish Civil War was celebrated, although his service as a Liverpool City Councillor (he was the youngest councillor) wasn’t.
Taking union organisation in the motor city of Coventry to a new level.
He was very well-known, and highly regarded by the public, and in retirement led the National Pensioners’ Convention.

For sons of 70’s trade unions activists like me, the documentary is not only a rehearsal of good values, but also an immersion in nostalgia as you recognise all the activists and leaders from the past.  Oh and Mike Yarwood.

It is surprising that documentaries like these haven’t already been made, especially by the BBC who had people like Michael Cockerill who could have done something with the life story.  This documentary has too many testifiers from now and not enough film from then.
Maybe something could then have been said about his time as a Councillor.  Maybe some recognition for advances made for pensioners by new Labour before his death in 2009.

Here to be Heard

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Never saw The Slits but the almost breathless start to their cover of “Heard it through the Grapevine” is a classic, applauded by a member of the audience who asked how it had come about to find that the reggae producer brought in from Island Records couldn’t get it right and a new producer on their first record brought it together.
The Guardian review of the documentary expresses disappointment with the film so I had gone for the experience of the event, including a Q&A like that.
My question was on the claim by a journalist (check) that ‘without The Slits, there would have been no Madonna’. “Were they disappointed with today’s music scene“?  Turns out the quote came from Madonna at the outset appearing to copy Viv Albertine‘s fashion sense.
The documentary is a bit of a mess, and the second half not good, but the first half is compelling, especially for the nostalgia.  And the Slits were part of that magic time when youth music was so good.