Wadjda – a Film Review

Lincoln Green 

Image © Arria Belli

[The review contains plot details.]

The child’s perspective provides the film director with an opportunity to observe and implicitly comment on a situation with an unencultured and potentially critical eye.  This device has been used in films such as Offside (2006, dir. Jafar Panahi ) where an Iranian girl attempts to watch a World Cup qualifying match between Iran and Bahrain, Pan’s Labyrinth (2006, dir. Guillermo del Toro) where fantasy plays alongside the horrors of war in 1944 fascist Spain, and numerous others.

In Wadjda (2012) the female writer and director Haifaa Al Mansour employs this technique to comment on cultural norms, particularly those affecting women, in present day Saudi Arabia.  The film is the first official Saudi Arabian submission to the Oscars and the first feature length film made by a Saudi female.  To avoid problems when filming with mixed genders Al Mansour had to direct some outdoor scenes via radio when concealed in the back of a van.   Read more of this post

Pilgrimage with Simon Reeve, a Review

Lincoln Green  

Image © Weglinde

Simon Reeve’s series of 4 programmes broadcast on BBC2 attempts to explain why pilgrimages take place, particularly in an age of scientific rationalism and relative medical competence.  The presenter is deeply affected by the physical beauty of the holy sites, the architecture of our great buildings and the hospitality of pilgrims and their supporters.  Nevertheless the programme frequently appears little more than a travelogue broken up with interviews and meetings with kind and courteous eccentrics.  Despite the superficial treatment of its content the programme does however introduce a number of issues and helps the viewer to understand why huge numbers of people of many faiths have felt the need to participate in what could be potentially a very onerous and life-changing journey. Read more of this post

Miliband, the Mail and antisemitism, some points arising

Robin Richardson

Image © CC-BY

Antisemitism, it has often been said, is a light sleeper. Sometimes, though, and in certain places and circumstances, it slumbers for quite a long time, and is not immediately or widely recognisable when it wakes up. For whilst dormant it was taking on new tones and colourings, was acquiring a new repertoire of signals and cues, new nods and winks, it was fashioning new dog whistles. Those who give voice to it when it wakes after a longish sleep may not be consciously aware of what they are doing, or of the effect their words, references and imagery have on others. Read more of this post

Review of Simon Schama – The Story of the Jews Episode 5: Return

LeftCentral Review

This final episode deals with the creation of the state of Israel, it begins on Yom HaShoah. We hear a siren wail; symbolically life comes to a stop, busy traffic, hospitals, colleges all the bustle of daily life grinds to a halt. People desist from chatter, as they are filmed standing in complete silence, attempting to remember an event which as Simon Schama says, is beyond words. He then explains that the state of Israel contains 50% of the world’s Jewish population, six million people, each survivor representing a defeat for the Nazi programme of total extermination. The Holocaust, argues Schama, finally made the moral case for the creation of Israel. Not only because of what the Nazis did but what everyone else failed to do. Read more of this post

Review of Simon Schama – The Story of the Jews 2: Among Believers

Lincoln Green

Image © Michael D Beckwith

Holidaymakers towing caravans towards the Lincolnshire coast via the A46 will notice Lincoln Cathedral at a high point to their right.  The image, in bright sunlight or possibly glowing in the dark, will mean different things to different people.  Simon Schama’s account of the Jews in medieval times under Christian and Islamic rule, first broadcast on BBC Two on 8 Sep 2013, will change perceptions of that building and its art in a manner suggested by Schama’s Landscape and Memory (1995).  In this earlier work he discusses the interrelationships between culture and landscape, how the one informs and is a reinterpretation of the other. The TV programme, which is still available on BBC iPlayer, promotes reinterpretation through Schama’s identification of the less emphasised and indeed misrepresented impact of Jews on life in medieval Lincoln. Read more of this post

The Wind That Shakes The Barley…Directed by Ken Loach.

Image © Terence wiki

Nora Connolly

I first saw this movie in 2006 and recall people leaving the cinema in tears. A powerful film directed by a master of the craft, Ken Loach. The last fifteen minutes deeply moving, as Teddy O’Donovan (Padraic Delaney) fails to persuade his brother and former brother-in-arms Damien (Cillian Murphy) to join the ranks of the pro-Treaty forces and give up his anti-Treaty comrades. Teddy O`Donovan orders Damien`s execution, granting the condemned man time to write a letter to Sinead (Orla Fitzgerald). In the early hours Damien meets his death, Teddy O`Donovan dressed in his Free State uniform, commands the firing squad to kill his brother. A scene of betrayal realistically portrayed. We then see Teddy go to Sinead with the letter; Sinead breaks down (a beautiful performance by Fitzgerald) and orders O`Donovan off her land. Sinead becomes a metaphor for Ireland, the Cathleen ni Houlihan of the film (TWTSTB has more in common with O`Casey than Yeats). It deserved its critical acclaim but as a piece of history it`s flawed. Read more of this post

Dreaming of One Nation – Labour, multiculturalism and race

Image © Alexander Kachkaev

Robin Richardson

Review of The British Dream: successes and failures of post-war immigration by David Goodhart, Atlantic Books 2013, 381 pp, £20

David Goodhart hopes there will be a Labour government, or a Labour-led coalition, from 2015 onwards. He himself belongs, he says, to the ‘political tribe of north London liberals’ and is ‘a journalist of leftish sympathies’. His subject-matter in this book is immigration policy, and the extent to which Britain can be a multicultural One Nation. It is possible to imagine Britain, he mentions, ‘little by little becoming a less civil, ever more unequal and ethnically divided country – as harsh and violent as the United States’. In such a Britain the welfare state will have largely withered away, for white British people will be increasingly unwilling to pay taxes to support people who belong to (one of Goodhart’s favourite (phrases) ‘visible minorities’. He sees his book as a wake-up call to prevent such a dystopia. Read more of this post

EQUALITY AND THE DRAFT HISTORY CURRICULUM

Katherine Edwards 

Image© John Addison, Print, Government Office, East India Co St Helena

At the recent memorial service to mark the twentieth anniversary of the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence, the Prime Minister spoke of Stephen’s death as having brought ‘monumental change’ to British society.  Those of us concerned about the implications for equality and multiculturalism in the proposed new history curriculum found the irony of this comment hard to take.

One of the recommendations of the 1999 Macpherson Report on the Stephen Lawrence case was a ‘National Curriculum aimed at valuing cultural diversity and preventing racism, in order better to reflect the needs of a diverse society’. Yet although there are good grounds for thinking that this aim has been taken seriously in the education system up to now, we need to be clear about what a stark reversal the new draft national curriculum for history represents.  If it comes into force, it is very likely to set the recommendations of the Macpherson Report back by at least a generation.  Read more of this post

The UK is hungry for change…

Legal Eagle  

Image© Derek Harper

You will eat by and by, in the glorious land in the sky, way up high, work and pray and live on hay, you`ll get pie in the sky when you die…

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of EP Thompson`s The Making of The English Working Class, which Phillip Dodd recently described as a formidable account of class development. This is rather ironic, given that in 2013 we are witnessing the pauperisation of this very same, once proud class. Last Saturday, the Guardian ran an excellent piece on `The human cost of recession` by Chris Menon and Sophie Robinson-Tillett. The article dealt with the seemingly paradoxical situation of comparatively low UK unemployment levels coinciding with a drastic drop in the standard of living for many in work. People it seems are in employment, though frequently engaged on temporary contracts, usually part-time with sporadic adjustments in hours. Workers are increasingly denied a contract of employment. If an individual is paid an income which barely meets their needs, what are they expected to do if they are denied further support? Read more of this post

Robert Kee: History of Ireland Episode 4 FAMINE

Nora Connolly 

Image© illustrated London News, December 22, 1849

 It’s so lonely round the fields of Athenry…

Robert Kee focuses on the emotive issue of the Irish Potato Famine from 1845 to 1849. Explaining why the population in the West and South West depended on this food for nutrition, outlining the organisation of land and tenancy arrangement`s. Other crops abundantly produced sold to pay rent, encapsulated by the following contemporaneous observation reported in Hansard, `not a bit of bread have I eaten since I was born, nor a bit of butter. We sell all the corn and the butter to give to the landlords [for rent] yet I have the largest farm in the district and am as well off as any man in the county`. The population which increased to eight million was linked to the peculiar organisation of land tenure in Ireland, `land was divided into smaller and smaller plots – the number of those depending on the potato grew larger and larger`. In Kee`s written history he demonstrates an in-depth understanding of issues i.e. the impact on agriculture post Napoleonic Wars such an analysis not always possible in a fifty minute television overview. Read more of this post

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