City of God

city of god

A despairing thought that pops into my mind every so often has to do with the plague of violence that has been overrunning my country for over a decade now. My nation, which shall remain unnamed, harbors similar social and financial conditions as to those displayed in City of God. As the camera cut from one subject to the next, unrelenting in its energy, I had that thought again.

It goes like this. I do not think that the violence and crime epidemic of my country will ever go away because it is much easier to point a gun at someone and steal a pair of shoes in a matter of minutes, than it is to work five times a day for a meager salary in order to afford one.

More than any other movie that I can remember, and probably because it was made in Latin America, where the devils they fight are much more different than the demons of the United States, City of God perfectly illustrates the culture of death and corruption that is so ingrained in our poor, destitute nations.

A+

Last Days in Vietnam

Last Days in Vietnam

One of the passages of Scripture that I keep coming back to again and again is Genesis 18:25. “Will not the judge of all earth do what is right?” It is the trump card Abraham plays when trying to get Him to spare Sodom and Gomorrah; God agrees, of course.

I bring this up because one of the talking heads in Last Days in Vietnam says they had no way of knowing whether the refugees that were being airlifted out of Saigon were deserving of rescue. They were just doing the best they could.

When I think that justice on a massive scale is impossible, it’s because there is no way of gauging every individual human experience. For instance, the Vietnamese ransacked the embassy once they realized the Americans had betrayed them and left them behind. They could not know how the Americans were risking career, and in some cases even life, to get as many locals out as they could.
I don’t think there’s a right or wrong side to this scenario, but then where is justice? Both sides have equally valid and weighty arguments, so what gives?

Multiply that on a global scale and you see what I mean when I talk of the nonexistence of justice. It is not pure bleak and despair, however. Since believers in the resurrection know that the judge of all the earth will eventually do what is right, we can rest and do the best we can, for ourselves and others.

B+

Miss Sloane

miss sloane

Most regular folk, regardless of political affiliation, would love to stand before congress and bravely denounce how broken the current political system is. And I am not only talking about American politics; I have a feeling citizens of all over the world would love to take this opportunity, if presented to them.

So I forgave the 11th hour speech on “democracy is broken”, masterfully delivered by Madeline Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain), before a Senate panel committee. It is cliche to the point of cringe, it is right before the plot takes a turn to the extremely silly, but heck if it ain’t noble.
In times such as these, we could definitely use more of that.

B

Hell or High Water

hell-or-high-water-filming-locations-poster

One week after the election that saw Donald J. Trump chosen as the 45th President of the United States, me and my two best friends took a road trip from California to North Carolina.

We drove across miles and miles of barren landscape. We passed through ghost towns, more deserted than the ones that make up the heart of Hell or High Water. We heard stories, sad stories, about poverty encroaching entire regions and turning its inhabitants poor in a nation that is the richest in the world.

The magnificent Hell or High Water is not only a Western, but a document on the extinction of a way of life. You see it with the cowboys running from a fire, driving their cattle to safety across the highway.
“No wonder my kids don’t want to do this as a living”, one of them yells at no one particular.
You see it with the waitress who refuses to give up her tip, made up of stolen bank money, because otherwise she will not be able to afford her mortgage and keep a roof on top of her daughter’s head.
You even see it with bank robbers themselves, when an old diner patron mentions that robbing banks in the 21st century seems entirely out of place.

The film appears to indict the capitalist financial institutions of the United States, who have been given carte blanche to wager with other peoples money, and don’t have to worry about losing it because uncle Sam will bail them out. But who is behind the banks, if not people themselves?

One of the character bemoans the fact that the land they are on used to belong to his ancestors before conquistadors arrived and slaughtered them all. He then says the same thing is happening to small towns across the country, but this time violence is not the culprit, but greed.

Near the end of the film, an old bank worker is reluctant to fax some documents over to a lawyer. The documents state that the loan the bank had given out has been paid in full just in time, so the property will remain in the client’s possession.
Why does the old man do this? What does he gain, besides maybe a bonus for delaying the proceedings? The property, and all the oil on it, will not go to him, but to an unknown person, or group of people, who thrive to make money.
So perhaps it is not the banks that are to blame, but every single human being who would choose money over culture, profit over dignity.
Foreclosures rise, despair sets in, and people end up voting for the billionaire who promises to make their sad, pathetic little towns great again.

A+

Che

cheThe first brush I ever had with the Che Guevara myth arrived at a very early age. In my country, it is not rare to see buses with Guevara’s visage emblazoned over the large windows and doors, or see throngs of people wearing him at political rallies and demonstrations.
And because those political rallies were held by the Communist party, my ignorant mind made the association that if the Reds were bad, and the Reds liked Che Guevara, it meant Che Guevara was bad.
It is surprising that it took me this long to actually know about the man.

This past summer, I read Karl Marx’s The Communist Manifesto. What I learned in that work was such at odds with what the Communist party at home, now the ruling party, proclaimed about Communism that I began to wonder what else had I been misled about.

Enter Steven Soderbergh’s Che.
The film neither romanticizes nor demonizes the titular Che, which is perhaps one of the reasons it is so engrossing. Soderbergh is not making a political statement as he is documenting the rise and fall of the extraordinary life of a figure many consider one of the greatest revolutionaries to ever exist.
Do I agree?
Throughout the proceedings, Che mentions many times the lousy conditions in which peasants live and the ignorance in which its own government has mired them in. He aims to topple the rulers and replace them with people who actually care about people. His goal then, was a noble one and I doubt there are folks out there who would say that caring for our neighbor is a bad thing to do.
Does that mean I’ll be wearing his face at the next political rally?
There is a short scene, set right after the rebels have taken control of Cuba, which summarizes the hypocrisy of political ideologies perfectly.
Che is riding in a jeep with his soldiers on his way to the capital, when a sleek red sports car speeds right next to them, carrying more soldiers. The red car belonged to a now deceased member of the opposition, the driver says, so it is okay if they take it.
Che makes them turn around and get a ride in a jeep like everybody else.

People use the image of Che Guevara as a rallying cry in the name of the poor and destitute, but I look at the Communists now in power and I see the very thing Guevara would have fought against. They do not really know the story of the man, but have grasped on to the legend and mold it to serve their purposes.
That is why, I believe, there is no perfect political ideology, for in the end most of us will become what we once despised

“I believe in man”, Che says before he is executed.
And that is the problem. Trusting in man got Guevara killed and is what continues to perpetuate parties like the one in control of my country in power. People keep believing in other people and everybody’s forgotten that cursed is the man who trusts in man.

B+