Film

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.

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.

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 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.

The Hard Stop

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In August 2011 the taxi 29 year old Mark Duggan was travelling in was forced to stop by police on Ferry Lane, Tottenham, in north London. Four seconds later he lay dying on the pavement, shot in his arm and chest by a firearms officer.

This killing of a black man lit a tinderbox which saw mostly young people riot around the country. Fighting pitched battles with police, they were condemned by Tory prime minister David Cameron as “thugs”.

Versus: The Life and Films of Ken Loach

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“If you say how the world is, that should be enough”, says Ken Loach at the start of this documentary, adding that “politics is essential”. His is a kind of politics which wants to show how working class people live, find their humanity and resist.

This is exemplified in films such as Kes (1969), which demonstrates how a young working class boy is able to develop his own unique personality through his relationship with a kestrel.

Fire at Sea

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Fire at Sea is a powerful and moving documentary about refugees on the Italian Mediterranean island of Lampedusa. So far 400,000 migrants have landed on the island and 15,000 have died making the dangerous journey by sea. The film depicts migrants in dinghies at the mercy of border patrols who exercise complete callous authority over the refugees.

Where to Invade Next

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Michael Moore’s new film is not, as the title implies, a film about overwhelming US military might and another ill-conceived imperialist war. Instead the more bizarre premise involves Moore “invading” various countries himself to take the best from their societies and return to an America he characterises as dysfunctional.

The Complete Alan Clarke at the BBC

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The films of writer/director Alan Clarke are some of the most forceful, passionate and challenging in the history of British cinema and television.

Most of his acclaimed work has been unavailable to the public ever since his untimely death in 1990. Thankfully, the British Film Institute has released a definitive reissue of 23 BBC television dramas spanning Clarke’s remarkable 30-year career.

Our Kind of Traitor

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The secret world of tax evasion and dirty financial dealing revealed by the Panama papers is the setting for this adaptation of John Le Carre’s 2010 novel.

Specifically, Our Kind of Traitor delves into the realm of Russian mafia and oligarchs and their connections to British financial institutions — and politicians.

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