Ralph Fiennes on Coriolanus

I watched Ralph Fiennes’s superb directorial debut Coriolanus last night. It is one of my favourite Shakespeare plays and Fiennes does it justice with a gritty adaptation, using a documentary camera technique. Like Orson Welles’s Julius Caesar, the play is transposed to modern times while retaining the Shakespearean language. The questions of power, representation, umbilical bonds, and the conflict between liberty and security are given a contemporary relevance. The adaptation is artistically bolder than Julie Taymor’s excellent Titus, even if Taymor’s adaptation was more creative and seamless in incorporating modern motifs into an ancient, rather more fantastic story. The performances, particularly Fiennes’s and Vanessa Redgrave’s, are outstanding. The only quibble I have is Coriolanus’s strutting. Shakespeare’s Coriolanus is confident of his own physical and moral superiority, he has nothing to prove. Whereas Fiennes’s Coriolanus is often stiff and affected, as if he feels the need to keep reminding others of his strength. The tattoo on the neck was just out of place. Gerard Butler is far more relaxed in his role, even if his performance is somewhat lacking in conviction. Lubna Azabal, last seen in the Canadian film Incendies, is convincing as the intense and rebellious Tamora.

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Winds of Change: Cinema from Muslim Societies

The Institute of Contemporary Arts in London is hosting a film festival starting tomorrow. The festival begins with the discussion – ‘Is there a Muslim world?’ Panelists include Hamid Dabashi, Ziauddin Sardar, and me. Of the films being shown, I strongly recommend Salt of this Sea, a Palestinian film starring Suheir Hammad and Salah Bakri, and Hatem Ali’s The Long Night, on Syrian political prisoners and their families. I’m introducing that one. The ICA blurb is below. I hope to see you there.

The Arab Spring is the starting point for films selected for a festival at the Institute of Contemporary Arts from 21 September that, like this year’s mass demonstrations for democracy across Arab regions, is concerned with civic freedom; human rights; gender and social equality; the challenges of modernity; and the place of religion within social structures.

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September 11

The following is Ken Loach’s contribution to 11’09″01 September 11 a film in which French director Alain Brigand invited leading film makers from 11 different nations to provide their own impression of the September 11 attacks in 11 minutes, 9 seconds and one frame. Loach’s contribution won the the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) Prize for Best Short Film.

HotDocs and CoPro: Entertaining Palestinian Voices

CoPro and HotDocs

Since the second that I’ve realized that the only political action left for people who wish to see Palestinian rights realized is Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, it’s been immediately clear that the Palestinian produce and services, and culture and narrative would have to be simultaneously promoted. This would prove to be tricky after 60 years of ongoing ethnic cleansing and simultaneous economic buildup. The systems that have formed in Israel for the benefit of the Palestinian population have often artificially separated the “social” from the “political” and created institutions that are unable and unwilling to truly improve Palestinian lives. Without political analysis, we are left with institutions that’s sole purpose is to serve as a fig leaf, depicting Israel as a state which promotes Palestinian social care and voices, when in fact, all they do is pat themselves on the back for boxing the Palestinian population into a perpetual state of dependence and forced gratitude.

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Of Niqabs, Monsters, and Decolonial Feminisms

By Huma Dar

A woman in niqab being arrested in Paris, April 12, 2011, copyright EPA

Of Civilities and Dignities

On 22 June 2009, Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, asserted that burqas (or the burqa-clad?) are “not welcome” in France, adding that “[i]n our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity” and that “the veils reduced dignity.” France’s Muslim minority is Western Europe’s largest Muslim minority, estimated at six-million-strong.  And this is just an approximation, as the French Republic implicitly claims to be post-race and post-religion via a prohibition on any census that would take into account the race or religion of its citizens. (This anxiety mirrors the brouhaha in Indian media àpropos the much-contested enumeration of OBCs or Other Backward Castes in the Indian census surveys of 2011, or the urgency to declare some spaces post-caste, post-feminist, and post-racist while casteism, patriarchy and racism continue unabated.)

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A musical blast from the past

H/t to The Nation’s Greg Mitchell for finding this rare gem and posting it on Twitter.

This is from John Lennon’s documentary “Gimme Some Truth.”  It features a young Tariq Ali, Robin Blackburn, Regis Debray, and the legendary Miles Davis … shooting hoops with Lennon. Classic.

Onward!