Film

Freaks: One of us!

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Tod Browning’s Freaks, re-released this month, is a 1932 horror film about sideshow circus freaks that was banned in the UK for 30 years. Yet its treatment of disability is notably refreshing compared to most of what the contemporary mainstream media has to offer.

One of the film’s central themes is the concept of solidarity — rather than let themselves be divided and compete for acceptance by the “normals”, the freaks protect themselves against cruelty by adopting the principle of “an offence to one is an offence to all”.

We Are Many

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We Are Many tells the story of 15 February 2003 when millions marched against war in Iraq on the biggest day of protest in history. It starts with the terror attacks of 11 September 2001 and the decision of Bush within 24 hours to bomb Iraq.

The first half depicts the build up to the Iraq war with the bombing of Afghanistan and the lies told by the UK and US governments to the public and to the UN. There is also the corresponding Stop the War movement which grows in size and confidence.

London Road

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The murder of five prostitutes in Ipswich does not sound like a promising subject for a film. But following two sell-out runs for the stage production at the National Theatre the film adaptation of London Road reunites the original cast with director Rufus Norris, script by Alecky Blythe and music by Adam Cork.

The Look of Silence

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Adi is watching TV impassively, transfixed, as two ageing men describe in detail how they killed his brother, Ramli, almost 50 years before. They are laughing while they act out the murder in the exact spot where it took place by the Snake River in North Sumatra.

They describe how they repeatedly stabbed him but somehow he managed to escape. They had to drag him back to the river, where they made him crouch down so they could slice off his penis with a machete so that he bled to death. After recounting the story they pose for a photo waving “v for victory” signs.

Samba

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Samba is a comedy drama that traces the relationship between Senegalese illegal immigrant Samba (Omar Sy) and affluent, alienated charity worker Alice (Charlotte Gainsbourg). The film presents a confusing mix of drama and comedy, the drama being the better part of the film. Samba is caught by the authorities after ten years working illegally in France. Alice is assigned by an advisory charity to help Samba through his difficult journey through a detention centre, where his experiences are eye opening.

The Tribe

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The Tribe is an inventive and uncompromising film about a group of teenagers at a residential deaf school in Ukraine. There’s no spoken dialogue, translation or voiceover. The action takes place mainly in the school itself — a bleak and dilapidated institution with peeling walls and starkly lit long corridors. After new arrival Sergey’s initiation into school rituals, he is quickly co-opted into its dominant gang. They use charity goods, donated then sold to finance the school, as a front for robbery.

Girlhood

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Sciamma’s Girlhood (following Tomboy and Water Lilies) is an unforgettable piece of cinema, gripping from start to finish. The story gives an honest portrayal of the lives of young, working class, black women growing up in a deprived area of France. The film focuses on the struggle of 16 year old protagonist Marieme (Karidja Touré) after she is refused the opportunity to progress into further education. She lives on an estate in a neighbourhood dominated by men.

We Are Monster

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On the night of 21 March 2000, cell 38 of Feltham Young Offenders Institute (YOI) became the setting for a racist murder. Zahid Mubarek was the victim and fellow inmate Robert Stewart the murderer. Watching this film you understand why Zahid’s family spent six years campaigning for a public enquiry to discover why a violent, mentally disturbed and self-confessed racist was placed into a cell with an Asian inmate.

The Emperor's New Clothes

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Russell Brand makes no secret about whose side he’s on in his latest film, made in collaboration with director Michael Winterbottom. Taking up Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale of the same name, Brand invites an assembly of infants to judge on the fairness of a society riven with the most grotesque inequality. Scenes from this sequence are brilliantly juxtaposed with a host of great interviews with working mothers, New Era housing campaigners, UK Care and Your Choice Barnet care workers, a campaigner with cerebral palsy against cuts to disability benefits, and so on.

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