MonthNovember 2017

Dolores review – powerful portrait of Mexican-American activist

The feminist and workers’ rights crusader Dolores Huerta, who invented the slogan ‘Yes We Can’, is the star of Peter Bratt’s inspiring documentary This documentary nails its case for legendary status to be instantly conferred on the Mexican-American labour activist and feminist Dolores Huerta – the woman who invented the slogan “Yes We Can”, or, as she coined it, Sí Se Puede. For years, Huerta has been overshadowed by Cesar Chavez, the man with whom she had a testy working relationship as they fought David-and-Goliath battles against big business for the rights of exploited labourers in California. Using powerful archive material, the film chronicles Huerta’s life and triumphs. Now 87, she is surprisingly gently spoken for someone described as a “hard as nails” negotiator. Film-maker Peter Bratt also sensitively interviews some of her 11 children, who talk with pride and pain about the sacrifices they made as kids while their mother was on the other side of the country persuading 17 million people to boycott grapes (“She really didn’t belong to us,” says one son). Continue reading… [hmp_player]

Cult punks Glassjaw return: ‘It was offensive. You don’t talk to a woman like that’

The post-hardcore band were loved for their knotty, emotional songs – and despised for their misogynistic lyrics. As they release their first album for 15 years, are they changed men? It has taken 15 years for Glassjaw’s Daryl Palumbo and Justin Beck to make a new album. In between, there have been health troubles (Palumbo’s struggles with Crohn’s disease have cancelled many a UK tour), side-projects with ex-Gorillaz mastermind Dan the Automator, business endeavours, marriage, children, life. Finally, as 2017 wound down, they planned to announce their oft-rumoured third album, a thank you surprise to their loyal, patient fans. Then Amazon ruined the surprise by posting the album listing online. “We were a little bummed because Amazon kind of spoiled the ending,” says Beck, calling from a tour bus, describing it “like watching The Sixth Sense and somebody telling me [the ending] within the first five seconds of watching.” The frustration is audible in his voice, but it’s delivered with a what-you-gonna-do shrug. Related: Worship and Tribute: the difficult world of Glassjaw fandom Continue reading… [hmp_player]

Most Beautiful Island review – New York thriller cranks up the suspense

A woman working in low-wage jobs takes what looks like an easier gig involving wearing a black dress at a party in this award-winning drama Spanish actor Ana Asensio multitasks as star, writer-director and producer of this arresting feature, a gritty, ominous thriller that’s winning awards on the festival and independent film circuit. Like a million other immigrants in New York City, Luciana (Asensio) feels she can’t go back to wherever she came from (hints are dropped about a tragic accident involving a child). But she’s not exactly thriving, working two or three cruddy low-wage jobs, from handing out flyers in the street while dressed as a chicken to babysitting bratty posh kids. Chicken-costume colleague Olga (Natasha Romanova) asks whether she could cover for her at an evening gig where all she has to do is stand around looking pretty at a party in a black dress, but it turns out there’s rather more to it than that. Asensio adroitly ratchets up the suspense over what happens next behind the locked door at the scuzzy warehouse, working with little more than her cast’s and her own subtle features and a few tiny, creepy-crawly props. However, beyond the unease driving the plot, there’s a real affection here for the city where it was shot and its fundamentally decent denizens, many played by obvious non-professionals, while the digital cinematography captures the sweaty textures of this world. Continue reading… [hmp_player]

‘They’re usually either enemies or victims’: the refugee crisis on screen

It’s one of the biggest challenges facing humanity today. But film-makers from Michael Haneke to Ai Weiwei have struggled to represent this highly sensitive issue There’s a moment near the (not particularly happy) ending of Michael Haneke’s new film, Happy End, where a group of African refugees turns up uninvited at a posh, exclusively white restaurant in Calais, to the surprise and embarrassment of all concerned. It’s the type of predicament Haneke enjoys: the bubble of European bourgeois smugness punctured by a sobering dose of reality. For cinema audiences in affluent parts of the world, it is an equally discomfiting experience. Aren’t we just like those restaurant diners, trying to enjoy our leisure time and forget about what’s going on outside? Happy End isn’t specifically about Europe’s migrant crisis, but as Haneke put it in a recent interview: “Calais has become a catchword for all our ignorance about what is happening in the world… We focus so much on our own navels, what’s going on all around us is only of peripheral interest.” For European cinema in particular, this is a challenge: how to faithfully represent the migrant situation to people who don’t necessarily want to hear about it? The influx of refugees and migrants to the continent over the past five years is surely the biggest upheaval Europe has experienced since the second world war. It has altered the landscape in every way – politically, socially, demographically, even physically, when one thinks of the new borders and fences and refugee camps, such as Calais’ notorious “Jungle”. Europe’s film-makers have begun to respond, to the extent that a nod to the migrant crisis is almost becoming obligatory at the awards-friendly end of the business. On the face of it, the personal stories of immigrants and refugees are often highly dramatic and therefore ought to make great cinema, but new modes of cinema may be required. Continue reading… [hmp_player]