Another week in which distraction will be extremely welcome to us all.
This week’s Popula Film Club is a mix of the inspiring, the tragic, and the zany: we’ve got a documentary on a late great civil rights leader, a love letter to Japan and the history of cinema, and a crazy story from South India about a runaway buffalo.
with best anti-plutocratic wishes for your “weekend”,
John Lewis: Good Trouble (dir. Dawn Porter, 2020)
via BAM ($12.00 rental)
By advising citizens to get into “get in good trouble, necessary trouble,” the late congressman and civil rights hero meant taking action that creates real material change. Porter’s documentary traces Lewis’s path through American history, from Bloody Sunday to the March on Washington, and is warmed by the inclusion of personable conversations with those closest to him.
BAM, or The Brooklyn Academy of Music, is a multi-arts venue in Brooklyn, NY.
Black and Blue (dir. Hugh King & Lamar Williams, 1987)
via Third World Newsreel (free)
This classic historical account of systemic oppression is difficult to watch, and it’s supposed to be that way. Told almost exclusively through archival footage of police brutality against black residents of the Philadelphia area, including news stories and on-the-ground accounts by reporters, Black and Blue pulls zero punches. More than three decades later, far too little has changed. Sobering and essential viewing.
Third World Newsreel (TWN) is an alternative media arts organization that fosters the creation, appreciation and dissemination of independent film and video by and about people of color and social justice issues.
Jallikattu (dir. Lijo Jose Pellissery, 2020)
via Einthusan (free)
The best movie of 2020 so far. One night, a rogue buffalo escapes from a group of men preparing to butcher it, and the town goes into a frenzy. What follows is something of a mix between a war film and an old western, served with a generous splash of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Old feuds and rivalries bubble up as groups of villagers address the emergency. Gang wars erupt, love triangles emerge, and wait… damnit, that damn buffalo just ran through and destroyed a house. Confident camerawork and zany editing keep the heart-pounding cat and mou- uh – man and buffalo chase on a full nerve-wracking edge the entire time. Jallikattu (translation: “bull-taming”) is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
Einthusan is an online streaming channel of South Asian cinema that offers a wide variety of movies and TV in various regional languages.
Labyrinth of Cinema (dir. Nobuhiko Obayashi, 2019)
via Japan Cuts Festival ($7.00 rental)
Three men enter an old movie theater and find themselves transported back to 1945 Japan right before the bombing of Hiroshima. While the plot deals with familiar anti-war themes that have absorbed so many Japanese artists since the end of WWII, Labyrinth of Cinema also functions as a self-referential essay-film on the art of movies. Obayashi is a master of entertainment; at heart, he is a circus ringmaster with a madcap visual style, and here he gives comedy and panache to a story that loses none of its gravity in the telling. Obayashi passed away in April this year, and Labyrinth of Cinema was his final film. It’s a testament to a career dedicated to pushing the boundaries of cinema and fully committed to keeping its magic alive.
Japan Cuts Festival is North America’s largest film festival celebrating contemporary Japanese cinema. This year, the fest is a fully online experience with on-demand streaming.
Emergency Ward (dir. William Greaves, 1959)
National Film Board of Canada (free)
Black filmmaker William Greaves’s pioneering and influential work is generally concerned with the segmented nature of collaborative professions. His most well-known film, Symbiopsychotaxiplasm, Take One was a landmark documentary that held a mirror to the art of filmmaking as collaborative process, splitting it into groups of people – directors, writers, crew, cast, etc. In Emergency Ward, he applies the same technique to hospital workers. Piece by piece, he puts together a string of jobs and functions in a Montreal emergency ward that lead to a successful operation. It may seem basic, but Greaves’s cinema significantly shaped the way documentary filmmaking came to be understood.
National Film Board of Canada is a public producer and distributor which aims to finance and cultivate unique and nationally significant works by Canadian filmmakers and storytellers.
The Popula Film Club brings you worthwhile options to stream, chosen with a view to quality, and to withholding as much money as possible from the oligarchs and monopolists of Amazon, Netflix, YouTube and the like.
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