Culture

Document of Brutality

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Review of 'Footprints', director Ben Hopkins

'Footprints' is a documentary film about cluster bombs, concentrating on their effect in Afghanistan today and Laos in 1969. That year Laos, a small country bordering Vietnam, had an amazing 19 million cluster bombs dropped on it, more than those dropped on all countries during the Second World War. The characteristic of cluster bombing, besides directly killing people on a vast scale, is that up to 30 percent do not detonate, but settle underground and last for decades.

Voices to be Heard

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Review of 'Imprint', Young Writers Programme, Royal Court Theatre, London

The Royal Court Theatre is currently running its biennial Young Writers Programme. 'Imprint' features ten scripts chosen from the original 400 submitted by playwrights aged between 13 and 25 who need not have had any previous writing experience. The programme aims to 'open up theatre to the most exciting and diverse range of new voices', offering the chance to attend writer groups and summer schools in support. It is working closely with young homeless and disabled writers, and has previously had some success in producing established writers.

In Defiance

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Review of exhibition 'Anthem for Doomed Youth', Imperial War Museum, London

I am making this statement as a wilful defiance of military authority... I have seen and endured the suffering of the troops, and I can no longer be a party to prolong these sufferings for ends which I believe to be evil and unjust.' Siegfried Sassoon's rejection of the First World War is one of many moving tributes to soldier poets killed in that conflict in the Imperial War Museum's 'Anthem for Doomed Youth' exhibition.

Plenty to Shout About

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Review of 'The Quiet American', director Phillip Noyce

Upon its 1956 release Graham Greene's original novel, 'The Quiet American', was attacked for its anti-American sentiments. Despite this, Hollywood pressed ahead with a film adaptation two years later, simply changing its ending to accommodate McCarthy-charged expectations and champion Western ideology over Communism. Now a new film version, directed by Philip Noyce, is having the same accusations levelled at it as the original.

World of Pain

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Review of 'Dirty Pretty Things', director Stephen Frears

Okwe is a Nigerian refugee trying to get by in London. He's an illegal immigrant. He was once a doctor but now has two low paid jobs, as a minicab driver and a hotel receptionist, and takes drugs to stay awake. He is a quiet, intelligent, proud man, forced to live as a hunted animal, forever on the lookout for the authorities. He lives in the tense, hidden world of the migrant worker--the world of sweatshop labour and prostitution, exploitation, misery, isolation and pain. He's resigned to this desperate situation, knowing that as an illegal, he is 'nothing'.

Music Time

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Review of the London Film Festival

Amid the choking fumes, overcrowded tube and ludicrous house prices the London Film Festival is a welcome reminder of the benefits of living in the capital. A chance to see many films weeks, if not months, before their general release, it features works from most nations and every genre.

A Gathering at the Funeral Parlour

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We live our lives as we dispatch the dead.

Once a year families in Mexico gather at graveyards to eat with the dead. It's a strangely joyous occasion. There is a flower that the Aztecs called sempixóchitl, the eternal flower, that people arrange in white sprays before they sit down to dinner at the graveside. On that day people give each other sugar skulls with a name label crudely pasted on the forehead. For weeks beforehand the skulls sit piled high at all the local markets, in bright colours, arranged in a pyramid.

Personal and Political

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Review of 'Sweet Sixteen', director Ken Loach

Ken Loach is a master film-maker, so a new release by him is something to look forward to. For over four decades Loach has celebrated the heroism of working class people. His films always draw from ordinary working class lives extraordinarily moving and relevant stories. Sometimes they feature militant collective struggles that shake the system and its apologists. In other films Loach centres on intimate family dramas that reveal the politics of everyday life.

Tehran Taxi

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Review of 'Ten', director Abbas Kiarostami

'Ten' is the latest film by Abbas Kiarostami, one of the many talented Iranian directors making their mark on world cinema. Kiarostami has received critical acclaim for a number of his past films, and is a previous winner of the Palme D'Or at Cannes. I doubt he will repeat the same triumph with Ten, but nevertheless this latest offering is a revealing social insight into modern day Iran.

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