The NBA players’s wildcat strikes—particularly the Milwaukee Bucks players’ strike—called higher-ups to the table for social change. This week’s Popula Film Club is about oppressed and neglected people around the world who decided to do something when they saw the rich and powerful doing nothing.
La haine (Matthieu Kassovitz, 1994)
via Criterion Channel ($10.99/month subscription)
La haine means “hatred,” an appropriate title. Kassovitz’s boiling, furious film caused an uproar and angered Paris police. Over the span of 24 hours in a working-class French neighborhood, the growing resentments and frustration with life shared by three young men begin to boil over into action. La haine channels French revolutionary history into a modern tale of disillusionment and revolt. Shot in black and white and featuring a volcanic performance from Vincent Cassel, La haine has become more relevant than ever in its portrayal of police brutality, government neglect, and the rage of the working poor.
The Criterion Channel is a subscription streaming service from The Criterion Collection offering classic and art cinema; a more refined and adventurous alternative to the corporate streaming services.
I Am Somebody (Madeleine Anderson, 1969)
via MUBI ($9.99/month subscription)
The women of the Hospital Workers Union Local 1199 in Charleston, South Carolina strike for higher pay in this vivid documentary. It’s one of the most unfiltered and directly representational views of what it means to risk your job and possibly your life in order to unequivocally declare your human value. Marches, strikes, skirmishes with police, arrests, and counter-protests combine in a deliriously edited montage that takes the viewer into the heart of the frenzy and exhaustion of revolt. It also takes on a question that is deeply relevant today, viz., the tension between social movements predicated primarily on race, and those predicated on the oppression of the working class as a whole.
MUBI is an independent website with a self-proclaimed “ruthless” approach to streaming. They present a new film each day, it lasts for 30 days, and then it goes away.
Route 1/USA (Robert Kramer, 1988)
via Film at Lincoln Center ($10.00 rental)
America’s forgotten souls, documented via Route 1 from Canada to Key West. Kramer handles the camera while his long-time collaborator Doc McIsaac interviews a wide variety of Americans, most of them working to enact change. The politics and religious views on offer veer from empathetic to dangerously conspiratorial. Route 1/USA paints a strangely familiar portrait of America, from a vantage point 22 years on: A diverse nation that appears superficially united, full of lost, wandering ghosts struggling alone.
Film at Lincoln Center is a major exhibition house for artistic and independent cinema.
Emergency Ward (Leo Hurwitz, 1952) with a foreword by Peter Bargov
via George Eastman Museum (free)
A few weeks ago, I recommended Williams Greaves’s Emergency Ward (1959). Here’s its predecessor. Leo Hurwitz’s Emergency Ward is widely considered a groundbreaking work for its multifaceted approach to documentation and ‘fly-on-the-wall’ style of observation, which later became hallmarks of cinema verité. The sensations of the hospital fluctuate between an almost soporific downtime and a night frenzy. It’s a real, raw, and engrossing ancestor of the modern American documentary, encompassing images of birth and death, and how they can be brought unforgettably close to us through cinema.
The George Eastman Museum is a non-profit institution, the world’s oldest photography museum, and one of the oldest archives specializing in film and photo preservation.
I Am Cuba (Mikhail Kalatzov, 1995)
via Milestone Films ($5.99 rental)
If Route 1/USA is a definitive account of the American experience, I am Cuba is that for Cubans. A Cuban-Soviet collaboration film, I am Cuba paints a wild and colorful portrait of the country and its people. It’s a work of fiction, deeply informed by the historical reality of a country whose people have long been, and remain, the victims of an endless series of geopolitical snares. Four stories revolve around the disruptions of daily life on a small island containing whole worlds of philosophical thought, tragic history, and the complicated aftermath of revolution.
Milestone Films was started in a one-bedroom apartment and has blossomed into one of America’s leading film restoration and rare-cinema distribution houses.
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