Sian Ruddick

Poetry of the Taliban

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Edited by Alex Strick Van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn

There has been a fair bit of media interest in this collection of poems from (almost entirely) men fighting the US-led occupation of Afghanistan and it's easy to see why. The Taliban are presented as sub-human stereotypes in the mainstream media - religious fanatics steeped in prejudice and hatred.

Poetry of the Taliban shows a much more complex set of ideas, and the brilliantly informative though poorly written foreword helps to educate the uninitiated reader in the culture and poetry of Afghanistan.

Breathing

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Director Karl Markovics

Release date: out now

Breathing is the debut film written and directed by Karl Markovics - the Austrian star of The Counterfeiters.

Breathing centres on the story of Roman, a 19 year old man in a youth detention centre. He has been institutionalised his whole life after being abandoned by his parents as a baby. As his parole date approaches his social worker is keen for him to hold down a job to increase his chances of release.

Les Enfants du Paradis

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Remastered edition out now.

The classic Les Enfants du Paradis has been reworked by the British Film Institute, and as a result is reaching new audiences. The film was made in 1945, based around a huge street scene set spanning half a mile.

It is filled with noise and life. The restoration has salvaged fuzzy scenes and turned them into sharp, lively visuals that fixate the viewer.
The making of Les Enfants du Paradis is as fascinating as the film itself. It was made under the Nazi occupation of France and for ordinary French people it was a call to arms against the dehumanising effects of fascism.

Heartbeats

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Director: Xavier Dolan
Release date: 27 May

Heartbeats is 22 year old Xavier Dolan's second film, and a beautiful one at that. It is set in modern-day Quebec and centres around three 20-something people finding their way through love and self-identity.

Marie (Monia Chokri) and Francis (Dolan) are best friends. Nicolas (Niels Schneider) arrives into their lives through a mutual friend; he is referred to as Adonis at first mention and fulfils the typical role of beautiful boy, who is used to having people falling over him.

Essential Killing

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Director Jerzy Skolimowski
Release date: 1 April

This film is a stark portrayal of one man's desperate struggle for survival. This may sound like a cliche, but here it is done well.

The story begins in Afghanistan, where the US-led occupation means the constant arrest and brutalisation of its people. The population are terrified of the US soldiers. Mohammed (Vincent Gallo) is captured when discovered by a US patrol.

Dispatches from the Dark Side

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Gareth Peirce, Verso, £9.99

Torture has become synonymous with the "war on terror" and allegations of torture have rocked the British political establishment. Gareth Peirce's new book charts the increasing criticism of the US and British states on the issue. Peirce is a formidable force. Her commitment to justice has led her to take on many cases of the wrongly accused and imprisoned to clear their names, including the Guildford Four.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

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Director Niels Arden Oplev; Release date: 12 March

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the film adaptation of the first book in Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy. The book has fascinated millions of readers, including myself, so I was nervous that the film might taint that memory. But it did not.

The intricate narrative is pared down for the film - it could have been six hours long otherwise - but the feel of the characters and their interactions are faithfully represented.

Raising my Voice

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Malalai Joya, Rider Books; £11.99

Malalai Joya is an Afghan campaigner for women's rights and education, and an outspoken critic of the US occupation, the Taliban and warlords. She's also an elected MP. Joya's autobiography tells the story of many people in Afghanistan. It's a story of occupation and resistance, of displacement and isolation.

The State of Resistance

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Ed: François Polet, Zed Books, £16.99

The State of Resistance is a collection of articles and reports from across the Global South. From familiar struggles such as those in Venezuela and Bolivia to those rarely heard of, as in Senegal and Cameroon, this book gives an international, if politically inconsistent, account of the global movement.

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