Culture

I, Daniel Blake

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Ken Loach’s new film is an unflinching exploration of the reality of government welfare reforms. The powerful performances illustrate the effects on people at the receiving end of this Orwellian nightmare. Their stories, though fictional, find parallels with many who have found themselves at the mercy of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) in recent years.

The Free State of Jones

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This film is quite unlike other recent movies about the American Civil War. It’s not about heroes and victims. It’s the true-life story of poor whites and black slaves coming together to fight a common enemy: the Southern plantocracy.

The film opens with Confederate soldiers being mown down by Union troops. The pointless death of his terrified young press-ganged nephew spurs Newt Knighton (Matthew McConaughey) to desert the Southern army. So do many others, as the Confederate generals demand economic sacrifices to pursue the war they are losing.

Abstract Expressionism

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At the close of the Second World War, the Western art world pivoted from Europe to the United States. The great wave of artists influenced by the Russian and German revolutionary movements had crashed in the 1920s when socialist realism became only art style sanctioned by Moscow.

In New York a collection of ambitious young emerging artists was producing work that escaped the confines of representation and sought to interrogate the feelings and emotions of the age. Some were natives of the city, some were escaping the horrors engulfing Europe.

Cleverman

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For any politically engaged viewer, the fierce social criticism at the core of the television series Cleverman will be immediately apparent. The series pulls no punches in its attack on the Australian government’s racist policies towards Indigenous people and asylum seekers, while commenting on very real debates among these communities and their allies over how best to resist them.

Blonde

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Frank Ocean is a 21st century enigma. His ability to surround himself in mystery is impressive, given that we are in a time where celebrities’ personal business is aired freely among all channels of social media and the television.

It has been a feat, especially after the breakthrough success of Channel Orange (2012), his debut studio album, earned him a shed load of award nominations and a top 5 spot in various end of year album lists. So the extraordinary hype surrounding Blonde has been justified.

Embrace of the Serpent

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This remarkable film, set in Amazonian Colombia in the early 20th century, achieves what so many fail to — it transports you not only to another time and place, but to a different mind-set and approach to storytelling.

It is at once dreamlike as the shaman Karamakate leads his western travellers down the river in search of a hallucinogenic plant, but also political and angry in its depiction of colonialism and the social and environmental destruction it brings.

The Plough and the Stars

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This production of Sean O’Casey’s The Plough And The Stars, written in 1926, marks the centenary of the Easter Rising in Dublin.

The action in the first two acts takes place in November 1915 and the final two are set during Easter week 1916, with the uprising as the backdrop. The mood of the play changes with the shifting time. The opening scenes have a lighthearted humour that is absent in the final tragic and heartrending moments.

The Clan

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Based on a true story The Clan is about a criminal family in 1980s Argentina, a period when the military dictatorship was coming to an end and democracy was reinstalled. The Clan follows the Puccio family’s antics in kidnapping rich neighbours for a ransom.

It is a politically turbulent period, with their first victim having already been kidnapped before. It is never made explicit, but it is implied that father Arquimedes learned the tactics of extortion through working for the state.

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