Culture

Black and British: A Forgotten History

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As part of the BBC’s Black and British season, running throughout November, historian David Olusoga presents this four-part documentary on the black presence in Britain.

The programme opens with repeated images of the quintessentially green and pleasant British landscape. Olusoga’s aim is to project black presence not onto but into this scene. In a sweep from Roman Britain to the present, he describes how black and British history are intertwined.

Revolution: New Art for a New World

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This is a great film for socialists with an interest in art. Written, produced, directed and narrated by Margy Kinmonth, the film focuses on the artistic avant-garde that flourished in advance of and following the 1917 Russian Revolution.

It moves on to discuss the changes in art subsequent to Stalin’s consolidation of power. The film gives a basic political history of the 1917 Revolution and the events that followed.

One Night in Miami

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One Night In Miami captures the extraordinary night of 24 February 1964, after Cassius Clay — soon to be known as Muhammad Ali — won his first heavyweight world title.

To celebrate, Clay spent the night with his closest companions, in the form of activist and minister Malcolm X, American football player Jim Brown and soul singer Sam Cooke, all influential men all in their own right. This fictional take on what occurred that night is played out in a motel room and makes for an intense viewing experience.

Oil

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This is a hard hitting, often quick witted and thought-provoking production. A play with the title “Oil” interested me. That it managed to span the arrival of kerosene in the 1800s all the way to a post-apocalyptic future, while taking in questions of race, gender, class, colonialism and family relationships, left me mind-blown. If you are planning on going to see the play — and I would recommend you do — it might be best to stop reading now. The less you know what to expect the better.

Feminist Avant-Garde of the 1970s

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This is a timely exhibition of art from second wave feminism, which emerged in the 1960s. By the 1970s artists were using photography, performance and installations as tools for activism. Women’s emancipation and gender equality became a visible part of a wider movement for liberation. Famously the personal became the political.

This is very much in evidence at the exhibition which takes an unflinchingly intimate view of female representation in art and society. Over 200 works by 48 international artists are shown on two levels of the gallery.

The fierce humanity of Dario Fo

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Lina Nicolli recalls a memorable preformance by Dario Fo, the radical Italian theatre maker and Nobel prize-winning playwright, who died last month. His excoriating farces, such as Accidental Death of an Anarchist, satirised the corruption of the Italian state.

When an unassuming man walked onto the bare stage, I was ready for the kind of worthy evening that you know is probably doing you good, but is not exactly fun — a bit like bran for breakfast.

But as soon as Dario Fo started talking, gesticulating, moving around, totally in control of the connection he was making with his audience, it was obvious that I was very wrong. Eating out of the palm of his hand doesn’t even begin to capture it.

American Honey

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Sasha Lane as Star

This is a film about a class we don’t often see in movies but are all too aware exists behind the shiny images of the American dream.

American Honey follows a group of young people on the road. A classic road-trip you might think, but the film rejects the predictable beginning, middle and end. We first meet its focus, Star (newcomer Sasha Lane), dumpster diving, scoring a plastic wrapped chicken, which she tosses to the kids with her. We are left wondering who they are. All we see is Star’s existence in a grimy home and grubby town dragged down by poverty.

Five things to see or do this month

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“We Are the Lions”
19 October 2016-26 March 2017, Brent Museum and Archives, London
An exhibition commemorating the Grunwick Strike of 1976 to 1978. Forty years ago a group of workers led by Asian women stood up to their bosses and started one of the most important industrial disputes in British history, changing the face of the trade union movement in Britain. With photographs, testimonies, posters, banners and exclusive archive material.

AIM

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MIA’s fifth album is fresh, vibrant and bold, encapsulating everything that is unique about her as an artist. Her songs are infused with politics and are as relevant as ever.

Throughout the album there is a consistent theme of opening borders and explicit references to the ongoing refugee crisis that has yet to be resolved in Europe and across the world.

MIA has been criticised for her writing but any fan knows that lazy lyrics are part of her style. She aims to be simple, to the point and in your face.

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