Culture

Culloden/The War Game

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At a time when historical programming consists almost entirely of royalist sycophancy and “celebrities” ambling around ruins, it is instructive to recall the early works of radical film-maker Peter Watkins. Both Culloden (1964) and The War Game (1965) were commissioned by the BBC under the aegis of Huw Wheldon, then head of the BBC’s Documentary Film Department when BBC 2 was still in its infancy.

Anomalisa

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This is a beautiful and distinctive looking stop-motion animation written by Charlie Kaufman, who also wrote the films Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It captures the struggles of an alienated man battling through the big questions of life: What is it to be human? What is it to be alive?

Hail Caesar!

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The Coen Brothers’ latest movie tells the story of a day in the life of Eddie Mannix, the real life MGM studio executive and “fixer”. He covered up scandals and dealt with the press, as the movie shows. He also beat his partners and helped business contacts escape rape charges.

This side of him is missing from Hail, Caesar!, which both fictionalises and sanitises the man. Instead, Mannix (Josh Brolin) is an unresting force of organisation and quick thinking, absurdly good at his job.

Dinh Q le: The Colony

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Thirteen miles off the coast of Peru lie the Chincha Islands, three small islands inhabited by large numbers of seabirds. These birds produce what became an incredibly valuable and sought after natural resource among competing imperialist powers during the mid-19th century. Large deposits of bird excrement, known as guano, built up over the islands. This guano is rich in nitrogen, phosphate and potassium and therefore makes a great fertiliser.

Hieronymus Bosch: visionary of change

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Hieronymus Bosch was known as “the devil maker”. In honour of the 500th anniversary of his death the exhibition Hieronymus Bosch: Visions of Genius is taking place at his birthplace in the Netherlands.

His paintings are inhabited by all kinds of wretched creatures and monsters. People sometimes assume the artist was on some kind of medieval acid because of his overwhelming web of illusions and hallucinations. Yet his works are filled with a deeper meaning. Bosch presents a piercing vision of society for everyone to see.

Songs for Our Mothers

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If you haven’t yet been exposed to Fat White Family, they are a South London six-piece that have gained prominence in the last two or three years, mainly through their energetic (and very, very messy) live shows.

Known for their low-fi, dirgy sound, they seem to aspire to the filthy style, shocking lyrics and chaotic atmosphere of bands such as The Fall, Nick Cave’s The Birthday Party, Butthole Surfers and certainly Industrial pioneers Throbbing Gristle. If that’s what you’re into, they do it pretty well.

Taxi Tehran

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Jafar Panahi, the Iranian director, has made many films, challenging class, gender and ethnicity inequalities in Iran. He has been threatened with imprisonment and has been banned from travelling abroad and making films.

But he has continued his work unofficially. His latest film, Taxi Tehran, won the Golden Bear at last year’s Berlin Festival. He also acts in this film, playing an unofficial communal taxi driver in Tehran. These taxi drivers are one example of a large informal workforce.

Mavis!

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Mavis! is an enjoyable, feel-good documentary that depicts the successful and ongoing career of soul and gospel singer Mavis Staples. The documentary follows Staples as she tours and reminisces about her remarkable career. It includes archival footage of her family group The Staple Singers performing in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.

Although the film’s main focus is on the musical career of Mavis rather than the political activism of the Civil Rights era in which she and her family were centrally involved, it does touch on the friendship between Mavis’s father and Martin Luther King.

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