Theaters are beginning to release films, but there’s better and more urgent ones on streaming. This week’s Popula Film Club continues in the theme of the world’s citizens rising up to challenge austerity and oppression in their own ways. Black lives in the South, prisoners on a ship, a dreamlike docudrama of Jamaican history, and citizen revolts in Chile and Mexico. Never stop believing something better than now is possible!
What You Gonna Do When the World’s On Fire (dir. Roberto Minervini, 2018)
via National Gallery of Art (free)
Roberto Minervini puts to rest the primitive notion of the Southern US as the monolithic white racist capital of America. It’s a compassionate and achingly realistic documentation of the reaction to yet another murder of a Black man at the hands of police, and people coping with their grief. There are activists, families and kids just trying to hang onto the innocence of childhood—some turning to anger, and others to one another. Filmed in stunning black and white cinematography, Minervini’s film redefines what “the South” means in today’s America.
The National Gallery of Art is a Smithsonian-funded museum in Washington D.C. showcasing great works of art.
The Brig (dir. Jonas Mekas, 1964)
via Tënk (6€ rental)
Jonas Mekas is known for his “home video” style documentation, but one of the director’s earliest works is this filmed stage play, in which prisoners on a ship are subjected to hard labor with almost no sleep. The Brig is an exhausting experience, trapping the viewer with the prisoners on the lowest decks of the ship under the control of merciless oppressors. A cacophony of yelling, banging, slamming, and running assaults the viewer, keeping the suspense at a feverish pitch as the the seconds tick relentlessly away.
Tënk is a subscription video-on-demand platform from the Cinémathèque Français dedicated to auteur documentary cinema.
The People’s Revolt!: A Showcase of New Chilean Experimental Cinema (various filmmakers, curated by Anto Astudillo)
via Maysles Documentary Center (pay-what-you-can, $12 donation suggested)
As austerity wears a population down, the smallest event can spark a massive revolt. When public transportation fares increased in Santiago, Chile, the people took to the streets to make their discontent with the country’s neoliberal model known—and artists’ communities recorded and interpreted the protests in myriad ways. This collection of experimental visual shorts showcases the wild, revolutionary, and anti-establishment side of Chile’s urban classes. There are films on military coups, police brutality, inventive compilations of social media posts, and memories of a childhood spent under Pinochet’s fascist regime. The program is 97 minutes long, and features 23 experimental shorts curated by queer non-binary filmmaker Anto Astudillo.
Founded by Albert Maysles in 2008, Maysles Documentary Center is dedicated to the exhibition and curation of documentary cinema.
Black Mother (dir. Khalik Allah, 2018)
via Grasshopper Film ($4.99 rental)
Khalik Allah’s much-heralded experimental feature Black Mother is a movie worth going back to again and again. The expressionist cinematography flows like the Caribbean tide. Vignettes and portraits of Jamaicans alongside a gospel-like narration paint a deep historical and political portrait of the island. As Allah describes his own visits: “My mother’s from Jamaica, and I’ve been going there my whole life…. it was like I was in a monastery or in a temple.” A tribute to black mothers, and to ancestry and identity.
Grasshopper Film is an emerging independent film distribution company.
El Grito (Leobardo López Aretche)
via Church of Film (free)
When the 1968 student protests erupted in Mexico, university students recognized the moment and took out their cameras. Aretche (who committed suicide in 1970) arranged their footage in an arresting and urgent call for grassroots movements and collective organization. From the early moments of a fight breaking out between two students during a futbol match to the subsequent crackdown by police which resulted, eventually, a student uprising, El Grito (“The Scream”) is an unflinching portrayal of the moral conviction and courage required to push for change in authoritarian systems.
Church of Film is a Vimeo-based film distribution group which promotes, in a word, ‘cinema’.
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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