theradishpress

Wednesday, April, 29, 09

Rachel – 16 March, 2003

by theradishpress

I went to see Simone Bitton’s documentary Rachel at the Tribeca Film Festival last night. I almost did not go, was in a weird already slightly depressed mood, but I did it. I stood in the rush tickets line, first there, but ended up buying an extra student ticket off some girl. The ticket scanner – all tickets have a bar code – could not read it at first and I was about to have to hunt down some NYU girl and take back my money, but it was their machine and I got in.

I am really glad I decided to go. I got into the theater about 30 minutes before the film started and sat myself all the way in the back at the aisle. The theater slowly filled and I knew that the director was present because a woman standing behind me in the rush tickets line was pulled out of line by an older white man to go meet Bitton. I was on the phone with Teejay at the time and we were slyly making jokes about getting in for free. (Total side note: Meg Ryan walked out of the cinema while I was in line. She has a movie playing at Tribeca).

According to the synopsis on Tribeca’s site, Bitton uses an objective direction to reveal the story of Rachel Corrie. For those who do not know, Rachel Corrie was a 24 year-old USer from Washington state who had gone to Palestine and worked with the International Solidarity Movement to take direct action against the Israeli government destroying Palestinian homes. On 16 March, 2003 she was bulldozed to death by Israeli military. The Israeli army claims that Rachel Corrie’s death was an accident, while her ISM peers as well as the Palestinian man whose home she was trying to defend from being bulldozed, state that the bulldozer driver saw Rachel Corrie and intentionally killed her. When I read the synopsis I thought to myself: There is no such thing as objectivity, so does this mean the movie is going to be blatantly pro-Israeli? In my experience when people or corporations or entities claim objectivity, it is not the case. Fox News, for example, makes the bold statement that they are “fair and balanced,” when they are in fact very clearly one-sided. I have nothing against them being one-sided, I do however, take issue with lying to my face. Perhaps their statement is not so bold, because it is more laughable. But objectivity is something that we are taught to pursue, at least here in the US. That there are always “two sides” to every story and both can be equally represented, when in fact there are always multiple sides. Hearing the various renditions and takes of a story does not mean we have to compromise our beliefs or our ideals or our principles. It takes great courage and intelligence to be able to hear what others have to say, particularly if it is in regard to something so serious or heavy. And when I say intelligence, I do not mean some sort of higher degree of education, let’s be clear.

Because my experience with the media as “objective” has generally meant that the media are in fact in support of things like Zionism, invading Iraq, etc., I thought that this supposed non-bias view would be pro-Israel. The movie, however, is anything but pro-Israel. I was pleasantly reminded that this is not a US film or a US filmmaker. This is not someone who seems to feeding a larger corporate agenda. This is a filmmaker who has her own personal views, political and social, and seeks to expose what she knows to be the truth. There is no objectivity in life or in death.

Bitton interviews Rachel Corrie’s ISM peers, an Israeli soldier stationed in Rafah where Rachel was killed, at the time, the military policeman who conducted the investigation, an Israeli military spokesperson, the Palestinian families ISM folks lived with, four of Rachel Corrie’s professors in Washington, an Israeli social justice activist who provided a space for some ISM folks, and others. Bitton’s intentions are clear: she is not here to say Palestinians are always in the right and Israelis are always in the wrong. She is however telling the story, one story of many, of a continuous invasion and destruction of lives by a government aware of their own lies and hypocrisy.

The Israeli soldier interviewed keeps his back to the camera and is filmed in shadows. He was not there on 16 March, 2003, but he was stationed in Rafah at the time and relates stories of shooting homes “for fun” as a scare tactic, destroying water coolers, and killing sometimes “innocent” people. (I am always amazed at the distinction made between those who are killed, that women and children are somehow more valuable than men, that civilians are more valuable than soldiers. Imagine being a soldier and knowing that your life is considered less than. Granted, they are in a profession of murder). As the soldier shared his experiences I expected to be angry at him. I expected to hate him. But I did not. He took part in some terrible things, and yet, he is also part of a larger system of destruction that takes place on a daily basis. I pitied him. Perhaps that is worse.

Rachel’s friends from ISM relate what happened and actions they took before Rachel’s death. Two of them read from Rachel’s diary, giving Rachel voice to herself. It is amazing to hear the insights she had and to also know the pain and guilt she felt regarding her own privilege, but the strength her experiences in Palestine gave her; it made her want to continue to work for social justice. She said she would love to date boys and go dancing, but she was not ready yet to leave. And she could not understand how we all did not take action to end such violence. The young Israeli activist who sheltered some of the ISM folks similarly states that he cannot imagine living in Israel, but anywhere really, and not taking action to stop and battle injustice. Bitton asks if one can strive for social justice without hope, and he says yes. I wish I could remember his exact words after that, but he basically says that one can work without hope, but that does not mean it has to be negative or in vain either.

The film unfolds in a mostly linear frame, after a brief review of Rachel’s death and two diary entries read aloud. Bitton chronicles Rachel’s experiences with stories from those she interviewed and reviews or “recaps” from the military. I was fascinated by the interviews with other ISM members. Some are still clearly shaken, one a little disillusioned, and some remain active in social justice work. As they move from talking about their general actions to Rachel’s death, there are pauses and lulls in words, there are quiverings voices and wandering eyes. They watched the friend get murdered. They carried her body. They traveled with her body.

There was a naive feeling, but also a privileged one, that as internationals, and as white folks, they – the ISM workers – would not be harmed.

As I watched the movie I realized that the accounts detailed by Israeli soldiers were read aloud over images of documents and photographs. Granted, Bitton revealed in the Q&A that getting Israeli military folks to agree to be on camera was difficult, but I also read it to show that these voices do not deserve a face to face personal account (though that could really be my own prejudice, after all, one soldier does share his story, just not face to face) and ultimately represent a larger system of oppression. There is one person responsible for driving the bulldozer and crushing Rachel Corrie, but again, this one person and the people stationed in Rafah are all part of the Israeli Army and the Israeli government, which systematically murders Palestinians.

I enjoyed hearing Rachel’s diary entries, getting to know her internal and moral struggles, her honesty, her commitment. It really struck me how easy it is to judge a situation we are outside of. I have my political and social ideas about Palestine and Israel, but as Rachel Corrie said, you cannot know until you are there. I spoke to a friend of mine about my sometimes annoyance at folks of privilege going to places in need and acting as saviors, but the truth is I have a hard time with large organizations or religious organizations presuming to know what is best for others. I could see the truth and commitment in Rachel Corrie and her colleagues, and they did not act as if they were saviors. There is an older Palestinian man who talks about the gratitude he felt towards Rachel and other ISM folks for coming to Palestine to help out. That he begged to help them in any way he could, and it made me think about the fact that I project my own feelings as a Muslim, Iranian, and Irish heritage person, someone who comes from people who have been colonized, and that my initial reaction to those in privilege reaching out is “I don’t want your handout,” but the truth is, I am not in the same situation as those Palestinians. And I have not gone over there to help either. I sit and watch and listen from a distance. I can only know so much from my perch.

Once the movie was over Simone Bitton was asked to come to front of the theater for a Q&A. The moderator asked her how she heard about Rachel Corrie’s story and her process in making the film. Bitton first welcomed Rachel Corrie’s parents to join her. Most viewers, myself included, were surprised and I began to cry. I heard the person seated next to me crying as well. That older white man who got the lady in line behind me in for free, that was Mr. Corrie.

The Q&A session was brief and I was so glad that Bitton was very gracious and asked Mr. and Mrs. Corrie to speak and answer questions. They all talked about still waiting for a formal investigation into Rachel’s death, the fact that so many Palestinians die without going noticed, that they (the Corries) participate in direct action in Palestine as a result of their daughter’s work, and Bitton talked briefly about her process interviewing people and her desire to investigate the investigation.

It was an overall great experience. Unfortunately I do not think I will be able to make any more screenings at Tribeca this year, but I am grateful to have made this one.

Wednesday, April, 22, 09

New York took me by surprise

Filed under: a moment in my head — theradishpress @ 9:55 pm

by theradishpress

I expected to be gone within 3 years. It has been 2. I expected to have that plan laid out like Bale laid out that DP. I expected to be soon packing my bags and getting rid of my things and finding homes for those cats where I could visit but they would not be able to travel with me. And your grasp is tight, New York.

This city was made for me. I can walk without speaking and speak without talking and I can stare right into your eyes without ever engaging in a single exchange of Hello How Are You Fine Okay Great.

This city with its buildings that try to block the sky and its sidewalks that swallow souls and its endless streams of music and scents is just one big testament to who I am and where I stand and that my identity resides within me and no one else and no other thing.

New York, you think I was made for you, but no, you were made for me. For me to conquer and for me to enter and leave as I please. Take your grasp and press against another. Take your laughter, your cackle, your mockery and find someone else. I get the last word and the last laugh and the last hurrah. I get it New York. Not you.

Tuesday, April, 14, 09

Yes, Who Watches The Watchmen?

by theradishpress

This is what happens when I wait forever to post something…it loses momentum, or is no longer relevant. Oh well, I am posting this anyway. I was not done with all of my thoughts.

I think it would really be wonderful if attention were taken away from Dr.  Manhattan’s penis and maybe focus were given to I don’t know…the movie. As Kim Voyner points out in “The Big Blue Elephant in the Corner of the Room” why is there such an outcry over Dr. Manhattan’s genitals and not the barely dressed female characters, or the rape scene, or the gruesome blood and broken bones? Apparently naked women is totally fine and expected, but a blue penis, woah! Not that this is news.

I do not want to focus on the need to steer clear of the penis, rather I want to focus on the movie, as an adaptation, as a piece of stand alone art independent of the graphic novel, its politics, social commentary, cinematography, and all of the other things that it has to offer aside from or in addition to a blue penis.

As an adaptation I have to give Zack Snyder serious credit for doing an amazing job of translating the graphic novel to screen. I know, I know, Alan Moore does not approve, but as much as I like him, I do not always agree with Alan Moore, and does he ever give his approval?

Snyder took a complicated story with multiple layers and multi-dimensional characters and created a beautifully sculpted piece of art. The opening credits serve as a background story of who the Watchmen are and how history has played out, including the endless presidency of Richard Nixon and a US victory in Vietnam.

The Watchmen are a group of people who over the years took it upon themselves to serve as protectors, enforcers of order, bringers of justice. Some retired, some were killed, some went crazy. Finally, their vigilante justice was stopped by the US government. The idea of a “regular” person, that is someone without powers like Superman or Spiderman, doing heroic acts and fighting injustice, is not foreign to the world of comics. And Moore seems to have a dislike for vigilantes like Batman, regular folks who take it upon themselves to enforce order, or what they know to be order. Now, I am a huge Batman fan. I have been since childhood, sucked into the Adam West series early on, and I do not know that Moore has a dislike for all regular folks fighting crime, so to speak, but in general finds it to be a bad idea.

After all, it is only people so ego-maniacal, so self- righteous who could possibly think that they alone, or even as a collective – even then this collective is so shattered and often times the Watchmen are left working in isolation – could take it upon him or herself to be a saviour. The only non-crazy member, Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley), is the craziest member, and the hero and narrator of the story. It is through Rorschach’s memories and present experiences that the majority of the story is told. Rorschach is not so stuck on himself, what he does is not about him, but about everyone. Ozymandias (Matthew Goode) and The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) are certainly self-serving characters. Okay, Ozymandias thinks he is working for the greater good, but George Bush thought attacking Iraq and Afghanistan were for the greater good too. And that is Moore’s point, well one point anyway. Who determines what the greater good is, and why do some people think that they have the right to enforce certain actions, thoughts, and behaviours? And why do we stand by and allow them to? The Watchmen are a complicated group. They fight for what they believe in, but often what they believe in is in alignment with the very system and enforcers who have created chaos. The Comedian and Dr. Manhattan use their power, strength, abilities and so on to help the US government. There is no question from either of them on whether or not that is right, and in the case of The Comedian, his assistance is for wealth and celebrity. Rorschach, on the other hand, sees an injustice, such as rape or murder and acts accordingly. He does not do this for the US or any other larger system. He does it because it is right.

As I watched the movie it struck me that yet again, here are heroes who are all white. The only black character is the psychiatrist Malcolm Long, whose screen time is minimal (and I could not locate the name of the actor who portrayed him), and frankly, he is a somewhat obnoxious and particularly cowardly and ignorant character. Then it got me to thinking – mind you, this in no way justifies the lack of people of color in this movie – only folks in places of privilege would think that they literally and figuratively have the power to save others. So, here are these white characters, several of whom are wealthy, and they have taken it upon themselves to save the world…or at least the United States. And people want to talk about a blue penis! Really? Come on. Here is not one great white hope, but many. They represent the idea of spreading democracy and liberty to people who apparently do not have it, that is anyone who is not from the US and especially everyone who is poor and brown. And those folks being liberated are supposed to be eternally grateful. The fact that the Watchmen are not these unquestioned heroes is what makes it so complex. Yes, Spiderman is questioned, as is Batman, but this story takes things to a whole new level. Batman/Bruce Wayne has his darker moments, but at least as far as the film adaptations are concerned, until Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, Batman was presented primarily as a hero, the good guy. I for one, want my good guys and my bad guys to be complex. I want to question their motives. This is why I cannot stand Superman. He is too perfect.

I like my Bruce Wayne with a side of guilt and a pinch of remorse topped off with some revenge.

It’s the 80’s and Nixon is still president. That is just depressing. Almost as depressing as the reality of George Bush Jr. taking office without the majority of votes. The actor playing Nixon (Robert Wisdon) looks like a man in a mask. The make-up is so obvious. Nixon did look like a guy in a mask after all. And the fact that so much attention was paid to every last detail of the film, from the costumes to the make-up to the opening credits, I cannot imagine that Nixon looking so superficial was a mistake. So here it is, the 80’s, an alternative 80’s to what we know, nevertheless a significant mirror for today. Just because there is a new body in the White House does not mean that the US is far from a colonizing empire. Why are we in Iraq and Afghanistan, again? (I say “we” because while I am not there and you are not there, we sure as hell are a part of the system that is there, whether we like it or not). Why does the US have bases around the world? Oh right, protection. Democracy. Homeland security.

Watchmen, like other futuristic or alternative history tales is a reflection of current states and future issues, that is when change does not occur. The 80’s were not exactly as Orwell or Moore imagined them, but that does not mean they were perfect. And that does not mean the current state of the world is perfect either. I think it is easy to see works like 1984 or Watchmen and view them as strictly fiction. The fact that they are not banned proves that the powers that be, or “they,” think “we” are too dumb to realize the truth, that these works of art are not only art but truth. These are not just imaginative worlds and words, but based on fact. Voltaire, Swift, and other satirists got away with their work because it was viewed as humourous and harmless, unable to incite deep thought or riots. That fact of the matter is, there are plenty of us who can see the parallels between the realities we live in the imaginations of artists.

Zack Snyder is not an idiot, nor are his producers and distributors. 300was released at a critical time, when Iran and the US were at each other’s throats. Watchmenis a part of that same world. So, Iran is not the focus, nor is the Middle East, but there is still this supposedly unstoppable EVIL out there (and really, Russia has been getting it bad since the 50’s). The US cannot see its own evil, the Watchmen cannot see their own flaws. Every superpower, whether individual person or government, views itself/himself/herself as on the side of good. Ok, fine, some admit to having purely villainous motives.

I was intrigued by the commonalities between the Watchmen and the government that banned their activities. On the one hand, the Watchmen help people who cannot wait fora  fire truck to show up or a slow police investigation. On the other hand the Watchmen, at least some of them, are employed by a tyrannical government.

I am publishing this. I can’t keep putting it off then coming back.

Sunday, April, 12, 09

These are not pets or beanie babies

Filed under: a moment in my head — theradishpress @ 2:35 pm
Tags: ,

by theradishpress

Look, jumping into a polar bear habitat means you deserve to get bitten and possibly eaten. Unless this woman has some sort of mental illness, she is an idiot. I am inclined, given the stupidity of some folks, to believe that she just wanted to pet some bears. Come on!

Tuesday, April, 7, 09

Really?!

Filed under: Uncategorized — theradishpress @ 6:25 pm
Tags: , , ,

by theradishpress

This is cut and pasted from imdb.com

Anna Faris was horrified when she shot her sex scene with Seth Rogen in new movie Observe And Report, because she had to be unconscious, naked and covered in vomit.

Rogen’s mall cop uses tequila to lure Faris’ character into bed in the new comedy.

The actress only agreed to go ahead with the scene because she was convinced it would never be approved by studio censors.

She tells Starpulse.com, “(Director) Jody (Hill) was like, ‘Okay, you guys are having sex and you’re going to have some vomit come out of your mouth, you’re passed out and your boobs are jiggling all over.’

“I was like, there’s no way (they’ll let this pass)’. There’s no way. I’ll do it, sure, because I don’t want to be a stick in the mud but there’s no way this is going to make it in the movie.”

But the scene did make the final cut – and now Faris has seen the footage, she’s had a change of heart: “I’m grateful, I’m grateful. I’m grateful that the movie is unapologetic.”

here is the link: http://www.imdb.com/news/ni0737777/

You call this a sex scene? This is actaully called rape, but thanks for playing. When will the media stop acting like violence against women is something to be laughed at?

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