Some notes on cinema in 2016

Blogpost, Film education, Film reviews, Uncategorized

I saw 416 films for the first time in 2016. I saw 237 of these at the cinema. I saw 128 online. I saw 27 on DVD or from a file. I saw 13 on an aeroplane. I saw 9 in a gallery. And I saw 3 on television.

I do not know how well qualified I am to judge anything like Films of the Year, although I suspect that I have seen more films than a number of people who have offered up their thoughts on the matter. But as a result of the number of films that I have seen, I can at the very least draw upon a wider knowledge base – if not a stronger understanding of what I have seen – than those others in order to summarise the year.

In my view, there were two films that really stood out for me at the cinema. The first is Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade), which I understand many other people also greatly to have liked. The second is We Come as Friends (Hubert Sauper), a documentary about South Sudan.

Beyond this, I was very much taken with Actor Martinez (Mike Ott and Nathan Silver), Güeros (Alonso Ruizpalacios), Under the Shadow (Babak Anvari), Baden Baden (Rachel Lang), Mustang (Deniz Gamze Ergüven), L’Avenir/Things to Come (Mia Hansen-Løve), Nocturama (Bertrand Bonello) and I, Daniel Blake (Ken Loach). So these films might constitute my Top 10 of sorts.

Films that then get a kind of proxime accessunt might include: The Revenant (Alejandro González Iñárritu), The Big Short (Adam McKay), Spotlight (Tom McCarthy), Rams (Grímur Hákonarson),  Chronic (Michel Franco), Obra (Gregorio Graziosi), Les Habitants (Raymond Depardon), Desde allá (Lorenzo Vigas), Notes on Blindness (James Spinney and Peter Middleton), Heart of a Dog (Laurie Anderson), Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas), Sieranevada (Cristi Puiu), Sweet Bean (Naomi Kawase), I am Belfast (Mark Cousins), Divines (Houda Benyamina), Hell or High Water (David Mackenzie), Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Taika Waititi), After the Storm (Kore-eda Hirokazu), Ma’Rosa (Brillante Ma. Mendoza), Minute Bodies: The Intimate World of F. Percy Smith (Stuart A Staples), Ta’ang (Wang Bing), Paterson (Jim Jarmusch), Les Innocentes (Anne Fontaine) and Your Name (Makoto Shinkai).

I feel that I ought not to given the hullabaloo about it, but I also found Birth of a Nation (Nate Parker) and Snowden (Oliver Stone) to be quite curious films that I cannot claim to understand, and yet the verve and self-confidence of which still remain with me.

Other highlights of the year included the British Film Institute’s retrospective of the work of Jean-Luc Godard, which provided me with the opportunity to see a bunch of films that I had not seen before. I was also especially taken with the retrospective of Kidlat Tahimik’s work that took place as part of the Essay Film Festival organised through Birkbeck.  This involved a rare opportunity to see Who Invented the Yo-yo? Who Invented the Moon Buggy?Why is Yellow the Middle of the Rainbow? and Balikbayan #1: Memories of Overdevelopment – all of which are excellent.

MUBI continues to offer numerous pleasures, including a wee season of Jacques Rivette films (especially Out 1: Noli Me Tangere) that I enjoyed immensely, with an ongoing retrospective of Lav Diaz (whose Heremias (Book One: The Legend of the Lizard Princess) I also saw for the first time) also taking place. Meanwhile, MUBI also allowed me to see Pedro Costa’s In Vanda’s Room and Horse Money. Furthermore, I enjoyed getting to know a bit the work of Joseph Morder and Jean-Paul Civeyrac through MUBI, while also being taken with White Dog (Sam Fuller), Mikey and Nicky (Elaine May), Los Hongos (Oscar Ruiz Navia), and Mes séances de lutte (Jacques Doillon).

Beyond MUBI, the internet also provided me with various other pleasures, including an introduction to the work of Paolo Gioli, about whom I spoke with John Ó Maoilearca at the Wilkinson Gallery, and Beyoncé’s Lemonade extended video. The BBC iPlayer allowed me to see Adam Curtis’ provocative HyperNormalisation, while I was also very excited to see Michael Chanan’s Money Puzzles online. The latter two are thought-provoking and wonderful films, with Chanan working on almost a zero budget to investigate the workings of contemporary capital.

Meanwhile, three fantastic gallery exhibitions were John Akomfrah’s solo show at the Lisson Gallery, William Kentridge’s Thick Time at the Whitechapel Gallery, and The Infinite Mix at the Hayward Gallery. I also enjoyed Tacita Dean’s Event for a Stage at the Frith Street Gallery, with Stephen Dillane’s performance being one of the most exciting things I have seen in a while. Finally, Hito Steyerl’s How Not to Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File, which is showing at Tate Modern as part of their Media Networks exhibition, is well worth seeing, too.

With regard to actors, I did keep noticing Finnegan Oldfield cropping up in lots of French films; perhaps one to watch out for. The films in which he featured all seemed to draw upon a nexus of anarchic sex and/or violence from young people.

In a year of celebrity deaths, Brexit, Donald Trump, Homs, Aleppo, Mosul, Andrey Karlov and more, it struck me that there were a lot of films about child birth, lost babies, stolen babies, abortions and so on – from Nocturnal Animals (Tom Ford) through to Blue Jay (Alex Lehmann). I have commented in my last post on Le corbeau on how I query that this relates to creeping fascism in our time.

There also seemed to me to be a number of films about the difficulty of distinguishing between life and death – including The Girl with All the Gifts (Colm McCarthy) and Swiss Army Man (Daniels).

I read a couple of student essays while teaching my World Cinemas class towards the end of the year, in which it was claimed that Bollywood recycles ideas, is thus unoriginal, but also unrealistic in its story lines – while the West is more invested in originality and realism.

My reply to the students who said this was to ask them to look at the highest grossing films of 2016. These include Captain America: Civil War (a sequel), Finding Dory (a sequel), Zootopia, The Jungle Book (a remake), The Secret Life of Pets, Batman v Superman (a sequel), Deadpool (based on a comic book), Suicide Squad (based on a comic book) Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (a sequel) and Doctor Strange (based on a comic book).

If the West is so invested in originality, then why does the Top Ten list consist of eight sequels and/or  adaptations based on existing material? Furthermore, if the West is so invested in realism, then why are all 10 of these films either about talking animals or flying humans (or both)?

The point is not simply to demonstrate how the young Western mind continues regularly to have little to no idea about its own cinema, its own reality, its own originality, its own understanding of what realism is or might be and so on – such that it can make such sweeping claims. Rather, the point is also to show that it is outside of the mainstream that the most interesting, the most original, and perhaps even the most realistic work might be found.

All of this said, I think I am still hoping for something really quite extraordinary from contemporary cinema – be that its makers (if it does not yet exist) or programmers/promoters (if it does exist, but we simply do not get to see it). Perhaps I am too beholden to cinema as a form (and really the most exciting stuff is circulating outside of cinema). I completed three films in 2016 – Letters to AriadneCircle/Line and St Mary Magdalen’s Home Movies, and I am proud of all of them (which is not to mention the compilation film that I have curated, Roehampton Guerrillas (2011-2016), with which I am deeply proud to be associated). It is a shame that there seems not to be an audience for these films (blanket rejections from festivals so far); I am not sure that there is much out there like them, and yet I personally (being biased) of course feel that there is much to like about them. What I mean when I say that I am ‘hoping for something really quite extraordinary,’ then, is that it would be extraordinary but wonderful to find some films that chime a bit with mine – however arrogant, narcissistic, stupid and plain twattish that might sound.

Ade, Sauper, Kidlat, Lang, Ott/Silver, Ruizpalacios, Depardon, Chanan, Mendoza, Rivette, Costa, Morder, Cousins, Lang, Steyerl, Hansen-Løve, Diaz, Dean (and Khavn de la Cruz, whose Goodbye My Shooting Star I also got to see this year, with Ruined Heart: Another Lovestory Between a Criminal and a Whore lined up for viewing shortly): perhaps they all have in common a sense that they don’t care about imitating the cinema of other people, and are instead making the films that they want to make, often disregarding the so-called rules – and regularly working on tiny budgets.

Far from being (overly) alienating as a result of its weirdness and difference, such filmmaking paradoxically becomes all the more exciting for it. It is in some senses a cinema of poverty, then, or a cinema of commiseration, that is most exciting to me. And I should like to see that pushed further. I certainly find it more exciting than the unoriginal mainstream stuff being churned out and which dominates the box office. I hope that makers, programmers, distributors, promoters, reviewers, audiences and others alike can encourage this other cinema – this micro-cinema, what Steyerl might characterise as the poor image, or the wretched of the screen, and what I might call non-cinema – to proliferate.

I, Daniel Blake (Ken Loach, UK/France/Belgium, 2016)

Blogpost, British cinema, Transnational Cinema, Uncategorized

A brief thought about I, Daniel Blake, including **spoilers** (for which apologies).

The film is about the title character (Dave Johns), who has recently had a heart attack. Although his doctors advise that he does not return to work, the company contracted by Blake’s local employment bureau in Newcastle deems him fit for work.

As a result, Daniel must go in search of work – at least nominally – in order to get benefits and thus economically to survive.

One day in the employment bureau, Daniel meets Katie (Hayley Squires), a single mother relocated to Newcastle from London by the housing association, who misses her first meeting at the bureau, and so who thus does not receive benefits.

The two strike up an unlikely friendship, with Daniel helping to keep Katie’s home warm, helping her out with food and more.

In some senses, I, Daniel Blake is a large-format, narrative version of the famous ‘Computer says no’ sketch repeated in various ways on Little Britain (Matt Lucas and David Walliams, 2003-2006): it is about the inflexibility of systems that are dominated by information technology.

It is not that information technology is necessarily bad. It is the internet and a direct link to a show manufacturer in China that gives Daniel’s neighbour, China (Kema Sikazwe), a chance of getting out of his own employment misery.

But, through Daniel’s unfamiliarity with computers, it does speak of a generation of humans who are being left behind by the insistent computerisation of all aspects of life. If one does not know how to use or speak to the computer, then the computer will inevitably say no.

As per Ken Loach’s Kes (UK, 1969), Daniel’s answer is frustratingly right before his (and our) eyes, and yet he does not act upon it. In Kes, Billy Casper (David Bradley) demonstrates at length that he is excellent with animals. And yet at no point do any of his teachers or the employment office suggest that Billy might make a good zookeeper, say, with Billy himself also fairly resigned to working down in the Barnsley pit.

Likewise, carpenter Daniel fabricates beautiful wooden mobiles – suggesting in some senses that he might also simply endeavour to work at a pace that is not stressful or necessarily detrimental to his precarious health, and to sell his wares at least to supplement his benefits lifestyle. At one point, Daniel even turns down an offer to buy some of his work from a man (Stephen Halliday) who otherwise buys up all of his furniture.

Something of a tangent: when Lewis Mumford writes in The Myth of the Machine: Technics and Human Development that the surplus labour force provided by slaves in the USA basically led to a stagnation in technological development (no need to create machines to do work that humans will do for free), he also would seem to suggest that it was only when machines were created that could outperform slaves that slavery was abolished.

It is a controversial claim, but one might even say that the American Civil War was in some senses brought about for economic reasons: advances in technology and thus the ability to make profit without slaves is what made some people comfortable with the idea of abolishing slavery – while those who did not have the same technology (the South) were forced to accept the ‘privileged’ perspective that slaves were (now) deemed to be a Bad Thing… and ended up going to war over this.

And so it might be with computerisation: the privileged, technologically advanced people can force their technologies on to everyone else, thereby consigning to misery those who cannot really afford or get access to them.

(Read in terms of a technologised elite imposing its privileged perspective on the masses, one can in some senses account for both Brexit and the election of Donald J Trump as a negative reaction against precisely such a process – however ‘misguided’ or otherwise one might consider both Brexit and/or Trump’s election to be.)

There has been a lot of hoo ha in the reactionary press about I, Daniel Blake being contrived (I think of reviews by the likes of Toby Young). And yet, its contrivances are what make I, Daniel Blake most powerful.

For, there is a sense in Loach’s film of making absolutely clear at all stages that this is a film: the ‘naturalness’ of the acting (which can sometimes seem ‘amateur’), the somewhat forced nature of the script. It would seem that Loach is not trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes that this is a film.

This is also made palpable as a result of Daniel’s death at the film’s end: Daniel cannot deliver the speech that he has written about his experiences and how he has been handled, which instead Katie reads out at his funeral. If Daniel lived and delivered the speech himself, then the contrivances of the film would be hidden. Instead Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty place them front and centre. Daniel Blake must die.

This is not to say that we should dismiss I, Daniel Blake simply on the grounds of being manipulative. What else do you think that cinema is if it is not manipulative? Acknowledging its own manipulations, the film nonetheless brings its viewers into a position of having to think about why the film is doing this – not simply for the sake of fooling viewers. On the contrary, it is so that we might take seriously what the film has to say.

The final confirmation of this is when Daniel and Katie enter at first into Daniel’s hearing (if I remember correctly). Looking directly at the camera – for the first time in the film – both speak not to the assembled assessors, but also directly to us.

I, Daniel Blake contains warmth and nightmarish visions of life on benefits in equal measure, with Katie’s display of hunger at a food bank (where she opens and begins to eat directly from a tin of cold baked beans) being in particular harrowing.

We are all implicated in this world. We all should take on the collective responsibility for our fellow citizens. Through the false, Ken Loach encourages us to confront the real.

Notes from the LFF: The Selfish Giant (Clio Barnard, UK, 2013)

Blogpost, British cinema, Film reviews, London Film Festival 2013

Clio Barnard’s new film, a loose adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s short story of the same name, tells the story of Arbor (Conner Chapman) and Swifty (Shaun Thomas), two kids from Bradford who, when Arbor finds himself excluded from school as a result of his poor behaviour for which he takes pills, decide to make money for themselves gathering up scrap for recycling, and in particular finding, even stealing, copper, a very valuable resource.

As has been mentioned, The Selfish Giant is a film strongly in the tradition of Ken Loach’s Kes (UK, 1969): young boys wandering the countryside that surrounds a northern town/city, from impoverished/broken homes. There are also some visual nods to Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank (UK/Netherlands, 2009), primarily as a result of the presence of horses in both films, with horses taking the place of the kestrel that Billy looks after in Loach’s film. Here, Swifty in particular is good with horses and hopes to take part in unofficial/illegal horse-and-cart races along the local A roads at some point.

(One might also mention Pawel Pawlikowski’s Twockers (UK, 1998) as a precursor to The Selfish Giant, not least because Pawlikowski won Best Film at this year’s London Film Festival with his film, Ida (Poland/Denmark, 2013).)

Overall, then, there is a sense that nature is good for children – a thesis that seems to be the moral of Wilde’s story as well. For, in Wilde’s story  a giant is deemed selfish for not letting children play in his otherwise walled garden.

In Wilde’s story, the giant finds redemption when he eventually opens up his garden to the children – although this is motivated by the fact that his garden is permanently in winter.

Wilde writes:

But the Spring never came, nor the Summer. The Autumn gave golden fruit to every garden, but to the Giant’s garden she gave none. ‘He is too selfish,’ she said. So it was always Winter there, and the North Wind, and the Hail, and the Frost, and the Snow danced about through the trees.

The giant of Barnard’s film is, presumably, Kitten (Sean Gilder), the owner of the local scrapyard, who employs Arbor and Swifty, but who also is constantly ripping them off.

In Wilde’s story, the giant eventually finds redemption, in particular for having spoken to and embraced a little boy who still is enshrouded in winter, even though spring has arrived elsewhere after the opening up of his garden.

This does transpose on to the film when Kitten, ultimately/*spoiler* (of sorts) takes the rap for a misdemeanour involving Arbor and Swifty. But Kitten’s ‘redemption’ is prison; and while Arbor may learn from this experience, Swifty will not.

In other words, while we can try to fit Wilde and Barnard neatly together, ultimately we cannot. And the main reason for this is that Barnard, in the tradition of British social realism, does not attribute the metaphorical winter (i.e. poverty) of her characters to the selfishness of Kitten, even though Kitten is a ‘selfish’ character (because struggling financially, it would seem; his is not the life of Beemers and Cristal).

Rather, Barnard wishes to address systemic failures that lead to poverty, the need for children to work in order to help their family makes ends meet, a failure for schools to look after children like Arbor, and how economic desperation will drive people to take desperate, ill-advised measures.

Perhaps one way in which Barnard’s film does not quite match Loach’s is the way in which Loach analyses the education system in some depth. Repeatedly we see Billy Casper (David Bradley) in classes, with teachers overlooking him and so on. In The Selfish Giant, moving as it is, it is hard to get a sense of where Arbor and Swifty’s exclusion from society comes – except the oblique reference to the fact that Arbor has psychological problems and is from a broken family. In other words, Barnard does seem to suggest that the family is at fault for Arbor’s behaviour, while Kes suggests that the education system as a whole lets down good kids, including Billy Casper.

This slight shift in emphasis perhaps reflects different times; but it also seems to suggest that responsibility lies perhaps more with individuals than with institutions in terms of people leading ‘better’ (i.e. more economically secure) lives. Perhaps this is also a result of using Wilde as the guiding text; Wilde squarely places the long-standing winter on the giant’s shoulders. The claim might be: who in the contemporary world of economic hardship cannot afford not to be selfish? But a) this potentially reaffirms the ideology of selfishness; and b) it does not get to grips with the causes of selfishness – which are only alluded to, almost namedropped here, rather than explored in detail.

Stepping away from Wilde, The Selfish Giant is also a treatise on electricity. We notice early on that the electricity in Swifty’s house has been cut off and that the family is eating cold beans on bread.

This is a family that is not hooked up to the grid, that is not connected to society. And as Arbor and Swifty seek copper – that most conductive element of electricity – we get a sense that they are also thereby seeking inclusion in society. And, ultimately, it is electricity that will be their downfall, that will cast out and permanently exclude Swifty and Arbor, be it not for Kitten’s decision to ‘save’ Arbor from his own fate.

There is a muted hope, then, in Barnard’s new film. But one that is tempered as a result of us never really knowing where the suffering of these characters comes from (is it a given that people are excluded for no reason?), meaning that we cannot know how to help this suffering (apart from via blythe sayings like ‘we need to redistribute wealth’ – against which I have no objections, but for which concrete plans need to be made). If Loach pointed to shortcomings in education in particular in Kes, I am not sure what we can take from The Selfish Giant – except a bleak vision of a bleak part of the UK.

We should be reminded that the UK is not a garden shrouded permanently in spring and sunshine and that there are many excluded people here about whom we should collectively be doing something. But  a film that points this out only achieves half of what film might achieve; the other, harder half of proactively addressing the issue of ongoing poverty and desperation in our society, seems to remain invisible here – as if Barnard herself had no hope. Muted hope, then, verging on hopelessness. A moving, but for me a ‘philosophically’ difficult film.

Brief thoughts around Iñárritu and Loach

Blogpost, British cinema, Film reviews, Spanish film, Transnational Cinema

Both Biutiful (Alejandro González Iñárritu, Mexico/Spain, 2010) and Route Irish (Ken Loach, UK/France/Italy/Belgium/Spain, 2010) hinge upon moments of great unbelievability. Or at least, moments that don’t, to me, quite add up.

In Biutiful, the film reaches its apex when Barcelona-based fixer Uxbal (Javier Bardem) buys some cheapo gas heaters for the illegal Chinese workforce of a local associate. It turns out that the heaters are dodgy, and as a result the immigrants stuffed into the basement all suffocate and die.

Without wishing too sound inconsiderate, this sequence pushes belief. Having idiotically left on overnight a gas hob connected to the mains (as opposed to a gas limited to the contents of a single tank), and in a space significantly smaller than the basement in Biutiful, and having lived to tell the tale, I find it hard to believe that this would happen. Not least because the basement in Biutiful has windows and a door, and the place does not seem as though it would be devoid of drafts.

That is to say, whether for reasons of ill judgement or otherwise, I found/find myself incapable of believing this twist in the film’s plot. And yet, as is perhaps to be understood, the accidental deaths of the Chinese workforce, indirectly Uxbal’s own fault, are supposed to be a defining moment in the film.

Hereafter, we are given a ride into Uxbal’s feelings of guilt. And herein is the fundamental problem, or, for me, weakness of Iñárritu’s film. For, the death of the Chinese labour force seems to be an excuse for Uxbal to exercise his sense of redemption and to exorcise his demons as he heads towards his own death. This is arguably made most clear by the conceit that Uxbal can see the dead – and that he can guide them through limbo to Heaven. That is, by seeing the dead, Uxbal arguably needs dead people to live. Rather than the film considering the dead Chinese workers as people, then, Biutiful treats them as an excuse for the journey of one man towards his own death. The film, finally, is Uxbal’s fantasy, then, perhaps even his own Heaven in that he is already ‘dead’ – and he needs the dead bodies of others to find his own way to Heaven.

Similarly, Route Irish sees the plot hinge upon a voicemail message left on a landline that, given the prevalence of mobile phones in the film, really should have been left on a mobile. Harim (Talib Rasool), a singer and translator, leaves a message for Fergus (Mark Womack) on his landline. In it, he explains/translates the voicemails and text messages left on another mobile phone belonging to a now deceased Iraqi boy. This mobile phone was sent to Fergus from his also deceased best friend Frankie (comedian John Bishop), and it contains evidence, in the form of a video, that could potentially lead to the conviction of a private security contractor, Nelson (Trevor Williams), who killed the Iraqi boy and whom Fergus also suspects of killing Bishop to save himself from investigation.

The coincidence is that the voicemail is discovered by Nelson as he goes through Fergus’ stuff in a bid to stop the story going any further.

As such, it is not that the voicemail on the landline is beyond the realms of possibility, but it is overtly functioning in the film as a plot driver, and as such sees the intrusion of artifice – much like the deaths of the Chinese workers in Biutiful – in a film that, even more than Biutiful, tries to ground itself in realism.

That the film then leads to Fergus enacting a prolonged revenge for Frankie’s death – killing Nelson, his two bosses Walker (Jeff Bell) and Haynes (Jack Fortune), and their secretary (whose name I cannot find) – suggests that Route Irish is similarly set up as Fergus’ own revenge fantasy.

Unlike Biutiful, Route Irish does see Harim explain that he should have released on to the internet the video on the phone of the assassination of the phone’s owner, his friend, and a taxi driver carrying a family in his ride. In this sense, more than Biutiful, Route Irish does try to emphasise the loss of life that its key incident entails.

However, both films seem to use the death of innocents as a reason to justify a narrative centered upon Western characters to put right wrongs that they have done. That is, the films both to a certain extent demean loss of life for the sake of Westerners’ redemption for their own wrongs.

To be fair to Route Irish, this is not the film’s only ‘purpose’ as I see it. It does also take swipes at the cowboy status of independent security contractors in Iraq, in that they are a law unto themselves, while also bringing to the fore the complexity of their job, in that they are under fire from local militants who do often look like civilians, and who do also use devices such as mobile phones to set off bombs. That is, in Iraq – and especially on Route Irish, the road that leads from Baghdad Airport to the Green Zone – one can easily lose one’s own life if one does not act in an overly cautious, but perhaps too aggressively a cautious, fashion. In other words, Route Irish does point out the lucrative and exploitative nature of independent security contract work in places like Iraq, while at the same time grounding what work those contractors do in real-life circumstances of kill or be killed – with ‘collateral damage’ a reality of this.

Furthermore, the film is also a critique of Fergus, a former soldier who saw a get-rich-quick opportunity in joining an independent security contractor firm, in that he cannot easily adjust back to normal life, is haunted by his own demons, and who cannot seemingly escape from the cycle of violence that going to Iraq commences. He is not ‘right’ in enacting his revenge, either, for he also kills the secretary, who is more or less marked as ‘collateral damage’ in the film beyond the ‘bad guys’ Haynes and Walker.

As it is, then, there are no easy answers offered by Route Irish. Even though Fergus talks about the poor behaviour of Americans in Iraq, the video track in the film sees him in flashbacks beating up Iraqi families, suggesting that he is at best being economical with the truth in his spoken account of events there. Fergus, then, is not beyond criticism.

However, the fact remains that both Biutiful and Route Irish take on heavy topics – contemporary migration and the war in Iraq respectively – and offer a predominantly ‘Eurocentric’ take on such matters. As such, the films are open to critique, for by being fantasies of redemption for their Western protagonists, they do not necessarily get to grips with the effects of the protagonists’ actions, and particularly those of others around them. Migration and Iraq, then, remain relatively unexplored in these films, which prefer instead to confer a central place to the paranoia and instability of their central characters.

This does not make the films ‘bad’ – and offering such a judgment is not necessarily the point of this blog. But it does perhaps point to the difficulty that filmmakers can have in offering up a truly balanced portrayal of contemporary events and concerns.