Sunday, September 29, 2019

ARJUN REDDY AND KABIR SINGH

Both "Arjun Reddy" and "Kabir Singh" have garnered a lot of attention, but seemed a bit scary for me.  Nonetheless the marketing seemed too much to ignore.  And it just happened that Netflix carried both of them.



First up for me was "Arjun Reddy, " the original and at times I wasn't sure I saw what I thought I saw.  The ultimate proof was that "Kabir Singh," the remake had many of the same things in pretty much the same sequence.  A number of the items must have been testing censor boards.

One scene had the protagonist scooping up ice cubes and putting them in his pants so that he appeared to have wet his pants.  Another scene depicts using an electric razor to cut off male pubic hair.  There seems to be a steady dose of drinking, smoking, cocaine and morphine.  Swearing (in multiple languages (English, Hindi, Telegu, Kannada, Tuli) were constant.

The hero in both films was egotistical, obsessive and had an explosive temper.  Not the typical hero.  From time to time this behavior contrasted with deep concern for patients and an acknowledgment of logic.  The heroinne in both cases was attractive, modest and somewhat resistant until the inevitable capitulation to the hero.  Their first encounter was mind boggling in that the hero (I am using this term loosely) interrupted a class, centered out the heroinne who he had no previous contact with demanded she move to the front, then selected an overweight girl to sit beside the heroinne saying such girls made the best friends and throughout this experience spoke in a language not known to the instructor basically telling the rest of the male students that she was his girl and they were not to interfere with this relationship.   Before too long they were living together despite college rules against such things.  She became very attached to him and vice versa.

It took awhile but her father who had met the hero rejected the idea forcefully and arranged an almost immediate marriage for his daughter.  The father was concerned about caste and the immoral behavior.  From there the movie follows the moral downfall of the hero into drugs and drinking.  At the same time he is so talented as a doctor that all is forgiven, or mostly forgiven.  That is, until he falls so far his medical licence is taken from him.  Although will tell anyone his love is undying is not against straight sex.  One dramatic scene is when a major movie star offering sex declared she loved him, but he very harshly rejected her as he was not looking for love.  After all this drama (and more not related) the movie has a happy ending.  In some ways it seemed like a big cheating, but its saving grace was the powerful homage to undying love.

Is it realistic?  Not in my reality, but by its dramatic thrust it makes for compelling viewing.

The common link between the two films is Sandeep Reddy Vanga who wrote and directed both.  To be allowed such artistic freedom and a big budget it was really surprising this was his first film as writer and lead director.  His background is in the Telegu film industry but he did study at the International Film School in Sydney, Australia.  He did work as an assistant and associate director  in two earlier films.  While filming "Arjun Reddy" his son was born and his name became Arjun Reddy.

The lead actor for both films is very critical as he has to be believable, but not go overboard with a very violent, but nuanced character.   Both versions found such an actor.

Vijay Deverakonda had done a few Telegu movies starting in 2011, many of them comedies and he was credited with being a natural.  He has been a playback singer in two subsequent movies.  His career seems to have taken off.

Shalini Pandey played the Telegu heroinne as her first film.  She has followed the path of many southern actresses and has gone on to do movies in Telegu, Tamil and Hindi.

Shahid Kapoor was given the Bollywood lead by the director after viewing Shahid in "Udta Punjab" but one of the financers had wanted someone else.  Shahid was a very good choice.  He had been in a lot of romantic comedies, including "Jab We Met," a master piece with ex girl friend Kareena Kapoor. In contrast to "Kabir Singh" he appeared in "Vivah" where he played a young man whose father arranged a wedding with the full blessing of both families and Shahid's character.  Shahid had established a reputation as perhaps the second best male dancer in Bollywood, but it wasn't enough to sustain his career and he played in a few duds.  In the last few years his acting was recognized more and more.  He was excellent playing the troubled Kabir Singh.

Kiara Advani played the heroinne.  She had established her reputation in "M.S. Dhoni:  The Untold Story."

Both versions of the story have been top financial successes.  There are plans for a Tamil version.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Impeachment

What a dilemma!  Doing the right thing could backfire with disastrous consequences.

Assuming the Democrats finally go ahead and publicly impeach Mr Trump and carry the House of Representatives it is further assumed that Mr Trump will retaliate and unleash even worse measures and very possibly get re-elected as we also assume the Senate will reject impeachment.  Meanwhile he will stall as much as possible thereby strengthening the case for obstruction.  He will try to run out the clock.

The merits of the case are very obvious.  It also seems that many people will ignore them in favor of what they believe Trump has done on their behest.  Stood up against the Mexicans, minorities of all sorts, reset the judicial system to abolish abortion, legistlate tax deductions and maintain their gun rights.  Not impeachable, but very troubling was dropping out of both the Iran agreement (which more people can appreciate was counter productive) and the Paris Climate agreement.  It is obvious these decisions were not in the interests of Americans.  Less obvious to many is that the deficit is on track to increase dramatically.

The retaliation seems very likely, but an examination might be worthy.  For the Republicans who dared to vote against him--they will be primaried and likely to lose their positions to Trump's rabid base.  On the other hand this may further tip the balance against Trump and the Republicans.  His base seems to be somewhere around 30%, fairly well situated to take advantage of the electoral college, but that includes a lot of voters who are concerned about his morals but like his results/efforts.  And there are also the apathetic voters who felt their vote wasn't worth the effort but now many will be upset and fearful of what the president might do.

Some Democrats are in sketchy territory.  They are the ones where Trump triumphed in 2016 and they squeaked by in 2018.  Some of them might well lose, but again other factors will play a role.  Trump supporters that have been disillusioned and the apathetic voter now realizing their vote could make a difference.

A frightening possibility is a civil war.  Trump will claim his enemies are acting against the constitution.  An election loss was rigged.  I have been impressed how his base overlooks all his many faults.  They really believe there is a conspiracy of established corporations, poliitical powers  and anti-Trump media.  The electorate has been polarized more than ever and it is difficult to imagine that either side would accept any outcome.  There doesn't need to be organized warring armies to do permanent damage to American ideals.

What are the Democrats to do?  They will be hated by Trumpists and upset their followers who fear the result.  If not sooner the issue will come to a head this Thursday when information legally required is to be delivered.  Maybe it will and maybe even it might exonerate the President.  At best any evidence legitimizing Trump will be suspicious.   The context that is already known is pretty damning.    The Mueller Report, despite being dismissed actually already contains impeachable evidence.

A lot of big money (especially fossil fuels, private prisons pharmaceuticals, gun manufacturers) will have to make a decision that may be increasingly difficult.  Do they support the president who represents their vested interests or do they take a longer view and support the good of the country which might be necessary to maintain consumer support.

It boils down to how well the Democrats present their case.  It is likely they will develop an audience comparable to that for the O.J. Simpson trial, but important to remember although the evidence was pretty damning he got off.  One concern has to be not to appear partisan.  The Corey Lewandowski hearing was handicapped with grandstanding of elected politicians while the best points were made by legal experts whose efforts had little public awareness.  So far he escaped contempt of court.

Television can attract a bigger audience than did the Mueller Report.  There is sure to be clever and loud objections to the evidence.  Unfortunately nothing will be accomplished during the trial and that will of course be blamed on the Democrats.

In a matter of hours this blog can be outdated.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Comparing Two Grannies Korean and Telegu

A few years back a Korean film, "Miss Granny" was available on Netflix and got my attention.  An interesting story with some pleasant music, but what really I remember is how the main character reminded me of my wife's Grandmother, known as Nanny.    More recently saw another version, this one in Telegu and titled "Oh Baby."  Starting to research the two movies it was learned there are several versions I suspect because of the interesting story.
You can find the story in Korean, Telegu, Mandarin, Filipino, Indonesian, etc.

Nanny sold us our house, babysat my two children and hosted many family gatherings.  I used to shovel her sidewalk and dig her garden.  Mind you, she is not exactly the same as the two grannies in this film blog, but she was a strong woman. and a superb Italian cook. Enjoyed life and her grandchildren and great grandchildren.  A porch companion was Uncle John, a widower formerly married to her sister who was a handy man saving us tons of money and made our home more livable.  In a real sense Nanny is an inspiration for this blog

Similarities between the two films.  A 70 year old, meddler, loved deeply by her son, upsets her daughter in law.  Her son can't bear to ask her to go, but his daughter is blunt to let granny feel unwanted.  The Granny works with and has a widower friend from her childhood.  He is thought of as an uncle.  When through a fantasy intervention she gets the body of a 20 year old.   She has a beloved grandson with a somewhat screechy band that she takes over and turns out to be a big hit.  She is approached by younger men and in the Telegu version is responding and doesn't want to give up her new life, but does tell her old friend, the widower next door as he is about to bring in the police when he thought the young woman had kidnapped the older woman.  The family looks for her while the band reaches the finals and the grandson on his way has an accident.  Both movies use the same mechanism in dramatic fashion to restore her to herself.  If you are inclined to cry at sad movies you probably will shed a few tears towards the end, BUT it ends with a big laugh

In both movies a blood transfusion fills the role of a fulcrum. The need for one forces a life changing decision.  Still a part of the overall fantasy, but changes the mood temporarily.

Another element from both films is discrimination of old people.   The younger version criticizes a young man criticizing an older man who was flirting with the young granny.  The whole film projects the idea that it is better to be young, but it also points out that elders deserve respect.

I remember the basic story from the Korean version, but inevitably have forgotten a few details although the newer version helps bring back some memories.  The difference in film time is over 30 minutes so it seems more details were added in for the Telegu version.  The Telegu version has a more extended romance with a younger man and more family conflict  In the Korean version her grandson attempts to attract the young granny and in her thoughts his grandmother says they are the same lines used by her husband.

Music is important.  The old granny feels she could have been a singer, but never got the chance. In her youthful version she becomes a popular singer.

In the Korean version, the music is by Mowg who won an award for "Miss Granny."  Also provided music for "Burning" and "Masquerade."

Mickey J. Meyer did the music for "Oh Baby"  His musical career began with symphonies and piano pieces, but he admired Hans Zimmer, Enio Morricone and A R Rahman and gravitated to films, mostly Telegu and Malayalam.  His music is described as slow moving, lacking thumping beats, but popular.  The background music was much appreciated.     

The original writer is Dong-ik Shin and he is credited with some of the new versions of his script, but not for "Oh Baby."  Dong-hyuk the director and co-writer, sometimes also gets credit with newer versions.  He wrote and directed "Silenced," one of my highlighted movies from 2018 blog.

"Oh Baby" was of course adapted, with Laksmi Boopal handling the Telegu dialogue and song lyrics.  Gopimolan supervised the script and director Nandini Reddy also was involved in the writing.

Nandini Reddy has overcome barriers to be a female director.  Started with a children's film and then found it difficult to get work until a year later directed a movie in the Kannada language. 

Cinematography in "Miss Granny" was handled by Ji-yong Kim.  He had been a camera assistant for a joint Korean-American film "Okja"  Other films of  his included "The Age of Shadows" and "Silenced"

Editing for "Miss Granny" was done by Na-young Nam who had also done "Mother" and "The Good, the Bad the Weird."

"Oh Baby" had Richard Prasad in charge of cinematography and Junait Siddiqui handling editing.

In both cases the actress who played the younger more active version of Granny  was central to the plot while the original Granny was played by a veteran respected actress.

Eun-Kyung Shim played the rejuvenated Oh Doo-ri  won a few best actress awards for this film--did her own singing--also appeared in "Train to Busan" and "Masquerade."  Oh Mai-soon, winner of several national awards played the original Granny.


Laksmi, a verteran actress played the older grandmother.  She has done 400 films including Tamil, Telegu, Kannada, Malayalam and Hindi.  She turned her back on Bollywood as she felt she would only get female stereotype roles and preferred more socially relevant roles available to her in southern India.  Her daughter Aishwarya ironically has the role of the beleaguered daughter in law.


Samantha Ruth Prabbu played the young Swathi.  As is common in India she has a backup singer, Nutana Mohan taking care of the songs very well while Samantha lip synched and danced in some cases.  First noticed her in"Eega "(most unusual story line involving a lover reincarnated as a housefly as her lover, but very popular).  Samantha is bilingual with Telegu and Tamil and has won awards acting in both languages.  She has made money as a brand endorser and model and since 2012 has channeled much of her money through a charitable trust to help pay hospital bills for young children, pay for patient flights to the Taj Mahal and to meet film celebrities and boost awareness of haemophilia.  She is a delight to watch.

The story requires you to take a leap of faith, but if you are willing, either film will make you laugh and perhaps cry.  It might also remind you of some older person who meant a lot to you.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Article 15

Ayushmann Khurrana has always added to the value of any of his movies I have watched.  One element is a cheerful outlook and comic timing.  In Article 15 he puts forth a different demeanor.  He is in  a position of authority, even privileged and assumes an air of confidence.  He also explodes with expletives (more on that later).

The focus of the movie is discrimination against Dalits, formerly known as Untouchables.  For me there were new details on the caste system.  Article 15 of the Indian constitution makes discrimination based on race, religion, caste, sex and place of birth illegal.  The law can only force so much compliance and attitudes will always influence outcomes.

There is a bit of a mystery, but really the audience has a pretty good idea of the guilt and the real heart of the story is a conspiracy to shut down an investigation.  Ironically some Dalits have achieved higher status (perhaps as tokens) including one of the police officers (who is part of the conspiracy).  There are political efforts paralleling the investigation that focuses on a political alliance between the Brahmins and the Dalits.  Ayushmann says that India consists of 30% elite castes being supported by 70% of lower castes.  During a few setups us outsiders realized that there are many gradations of caste hierarchy that allow even low castes to feel superior to those even lower.

The movie ends strangely when Ayushmann gathers a bunch of his crew around to celebrate the success of the investigation and served out some food.  The men and women were of different castes, but the key was when the cook was asked her caste and the answer was obliterated with a horn blast. after which there was laughter.

Regarding the expletive, it is the English form of the F word.   When first uttered in a fit of disgust one staff when asked by a naive non English staff what it meant he was told "get out" which in effect it did.  However when uttered under different circumstances (more annoyance than disgust) the same non English speaker started to leave .  The original explainer retrieved the man who thought he had been commanded to leave.  My understanding of Hindi is confined to about four words and I have often wondered when the subtitles offer an euphemism if they were hiding the F word and on the other hand when the F word or its many variations have made it to the subtitle if it was actually not as strong a word in Hindi.  

Director,/writer/produceer Anubhav Sinha is known for his interest in social issues.  In his previous movie, "Mulk" the focus was on discrimination against Muslims.  Several IMDB reviewers commented on negative political trolls for this movie.  Prior to this some of his film credits included "Ra.One," "Gulab Gang" and Tum Bin...Love will Find a Way."

 Mangesh Dhakde handled the music.  He had grown up with a father who operated a music school and at an early age met many musicians and was familiar with jazz, Western and Indian classical as well as Brazilian.  Prior to this movie Mangesh did the music for "Mulk."

Ewan Mulligan, the cinematographer got his career started in England where he did a number of shorts with the occasional movie and tv series.  He has been involved with a number of Bollywood movies and made contact with Abunhav Sinha and worked on "Tum Bin 2" and "Mulk"

Yasha Ramchamdai, the editor got started with shorts and location editorial jobs.    As an editor he as mostly involved with tv series..

Ayushmann Khurrana seems to select good movies.  See http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/12/ayushmann-khuranna-actor-to-watch.html  This movie represents 3 big hits in a row from "Andhadhum" (one of my top 3 for 2018), "Badhaai Ha" and now "Article 15."He now notices he has less time with his family and with 4 more films to be released over the next year there will be no relief.

Ayushmann was ably supported by Manoj Pahwa, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Sayani Gupta (enjoyed her in" Margarita with a Straw"), Kumud Mishra and Isha Talwar among others.

This has proved to be a very relevant movie.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

A masterpiece film and a very good remake.


Bollywood churns out a lot of movies, some of which are very enjoyable.  "Badla" got really good reviews and lived up to them.  I learned that it was a remake of a Spanish movie,"The Invisible Guest" ("Contratiemp") and as usual many claimed the original was the better. Learning it was also available on Netflix a viewing confirmed it was well worth watching and instructive.

Both versions are full of twists, some of which you will not guess.  Both are professionally done.  "The Invisible Guest" was released in 2016, while "Badla" came out in 2019.

A few differences:  One is set in Glasgow and the Scottish countryside while the other is set in the Catalonia region of Spain.  There is a gender switch with "Badla" having a female accused murderer while the original was male.  The lawyer preparation expert  for "Badla" is a male while "the Invisible Guest" has a female actress.

Both movies use a prosthetic devise to entrap a murderer.  The lawyer in both cases is able to cut down on lies and force the accused to be more truthful.  They assure the accused that they can work better with the truth, even when it seems incriminating. 
 
Oriol Paulo is credited as a writer for both movies.  Born in Barcelona (in Catalonia) he has been involved in short films and tv series.  His breakthrough came with "Julia's Eyes" as a co-writer.  Produced by Guillermo del Toro who later also produced "The Invisible Guest."  Oriol has also directed a number of movies including "The Invisible Guest." Another of his movies is being remade in Bollywood, "The Body."

Sujoy Ghosh adapted the script and also directed and produced.  He is most famous for directing, writing and producing "Kahanni" which is at the top of my list for twist endings.  His next project is a tv series, "Suspect X" based on my favorite mystery book, written by Japanese author, Keigo Higashino.

Music for "The Invisible Guest" was by Fernando Valazquez.  I should have recognized his name as I had bought a clip from "A Monster Calls" and had seen "The Impossible" both English films.

The Hindi version has three responsible for the music with a notable absence of the normal Bollywood song and dance routines. Amal Mallik and Anumpam Royl shared composing and playback singing.  Clinton Cerejo was a score producer and playback singer.  All three have backgrounds in composing and playback singing.

Cinematography was sited as a strength for "The Invisible Guest"  Xavi Gimenez also did "The Liberator," "Agora" and "Transsiberian."  He has won 10 awards for his work.   On one occasion when forbidden to use a helicopter for a shot he developed  a remote controlled mini helicopter. 

Cinematographer Avik Mukhopadhyay was revealing to research as I encountered a few of his interviews.  He started in Kalkutta where lighting equipment was not as available as in Mumbai so he was forced to innovate.  He began with commercials and to date has done over 1,500 and was lured into films by Riturno Ghosh.  Filmed over 25 Bengali films mostly indoors as Riturno thought people more interesting than outdoors.  Avik learned to use lighting to be effective in confined spaces.  His first Bollywood film was "Bunty and Bablij" that had decided to film on location.  They had been warned that Amitabh Bachchan  (see link below) would draw too many people to a railway station and in fact over 50,000 people showed up and the train schedule had to be dropped.  The madness of the crowd was conveyed to the film.  Other notable films for Avik included "Pink" (http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2016/11/pink-sensitive-film-to-deal-with-consent.html ), "October," and "The Violin Player."

Jaume Marti has edited "A Monster Calls" where he was also the production manager.  He had edited a number of films including "Transsiberian."  He was the production for "The Impossible"  He was brought in as an additional editor for "Jurassic World:  Fallen Kingdom."

Monisha R Baldawa has edited "Neerja," "Begum Jaan" and "Margarita with a Straw." 

Ana Wagener played the lawyer in "The invisible Guest."  She won a supporting role award in "Biutiful." An earlier movie I watched was "Dark Blue Almost Black."  She was the Spanish voice for Felcity Huffman with "Desperate Housewives."

Amitabh Bachchan (http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/05/amitabh-bachchan-living-legend.html) in a gender switch played the lawyer specializing in preparing witnesses in "Badla.".  A versatile actor he has the role of preparing the accused.  If you check out the link you will see he has been not only the most popular actor in India, but also in Britain.  Along the way has won multiple awards.

Mario Casas played the accused who supposedly killed his lover in "The Invisible Guest."  Born in Barcelona he performed in videos at age 9 and at age 18 he moved to Madrid for roles in tv series and his family moved with him.  In 2014 he won award as the most searched {Spanish} performer.  Busy with a variety of tv series and movies including, the English language, "The 33."

Taapse Pannu is an upcoming actress who plays the accused in another gender switch.  She had shared screen presence with Amitabh in "Pink."  She started her career with Tamil and Telegu films including opposite Dhanush in "Aadulkalam."    Learned martial arts for some of her action films.

Barbara Lennie played the murder victim (shown frequently in flashbacks).  She was born in Spain, but moved to Argentina with her family at a young age and moved back to Spain in 1990.  Appeared in many Spanish movies including "The Skin I Live In" and "Everybody Knows" winning numerous national awards.

Tony Luke played the murder victim in "Badla" with another gender switch.  He started with Malayalam films making "Badla" his first Bollywood movie.  He is considered one of the top male models in India.

Jose Coronado plays the father of a second murder victim in "The Invisible Guest."   He is the winner of multiple national awards having started with films in 1987

Tanveer Ghani plays the father of a second murder victim in "Badla."  He was born in England and has mostly appeared in British films with one other Bollywood movie to his credit.

Amrita Singh plays the mother of a second murder victim in "The Invisible Guest."   She must be unique in having been the leading lady for Dharmendra and in later years played the leading lady for his son, Sonny Deol.  She had been married to Saif Ali Kahn although he was much younger.  They had two children who are now both in Bollywood movies.  A few years back she was in "2 States," one of my favorites.

Have I left someone out?  Maybe.  They are both movies that build tension and several times you feel you are onto something, but you aren't.  Most everyone will find the ending a big jolt--but poetic.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

CAPERNAUM: I didn't ask to be born

A lot of young people have complained they didn't ask to be born.  As a youngster their life is controlled by adults who do not always have their best interest in mind.

"Capernaum," was a winner at Cannes and different film festivals around the globe plus received an Oscar nomination for best foreign film.

Set in Lebanon.  A young boy has his handcuffs removed and requested to move closer to a judge  We soon learn the boy has been imprisoned for stabbing someone, but he is here with a lawyer because he is suing his parents. From this point we are taken by flashbacks to the events that led to this.

There is a lot of physical and verbal abuse from his parents who seem to have "lots" of other children mostly younger.  Zain is most attached to a young sister whose marriage is being arranged by his parents.  Soon after Zain runs away and before long comes to an arrangement with an illegal Ethiopian refugee.  She is a key supporting player and we learn there are others speaking Amharic (subtitled as Ethiopian).  Illegals are at a disadvantage and are exploited.

At some point after some serious problems Zain returns to his home in order to get "papers" so he can leave the country, but learns there are no papers as his parents were afraid to leave any traces.  He also learned that his beloved sister had been married and died as a result of being too young for sexual activity.  He grabs a knife and does stab the man who killed his sister and is sentenced to five years in prison after his parents testify against him.  Zain generates some publicity and is given support from a radio station allowing him to sue his parents.  I am reluctant to discuss the end result.

The film is a really good story and fortunately there was a creative and professional crew to tell it in the best way possible.

Nadine Labaki is the driving force behind this movie as director and writer.  Born in Lebanon, she directed short films starting in 2003 and 2007 was included in Variety's top ten directors to watch. First noticed her as lead actress in "Where do we go from here" that she also wrote, directed and produced.  She started as an actress and often takes a role, even in her own movie including "Capernaum." Fluent in Arabic, French and English she has been in a lead role in a French movie.  A big breakthrough was in "Caramel" that she acted in, directed and wrote.  She earned respect from the industry as had been asked to participate as a jury member at film festivals Venice and Cannes.

Co-writers Jihad Hojeily (also for three other Labadki scripts) , Michelle Keswarny (1st script) and Georges Khabbaz (his third script).  Georges had 9 credits as an actor including "Under the Bombs"

Khaled Mouzanar, the composer, married to Nadine had done music for a few of her films plus a few others.  For "Capernaum" he is listed as a writing collaborator and producer.

Michel Merkt, the producer has an international experience as producer, associate producer and executive producer.  His resume takes him to France, Germany, United States, Britain, India and Lithuania.  Includes such films as "Elle," "Toni Erdman," "Miles Ahead" and "Photograph."

Danny Glover, the famous actor from the "Lethal Weapon" series was listed as an executive producer and surprised to learn he had 47 credits as a producer.including for American, Bollywood, Thai, and now Lebanon films.  As a often time action star it was surprising to learn he comes from a civil rights background and has done humanitarian work.  At one time he was a Goodwill Ambassador working in Ethiopia.  He also had been a jury member at Cannes.

Christopher Aoun, the award winning cinematographer had done films in Germany as well and in India (Tamil),  He had done filming in the Mid-East. 

Two editors listed.  Konstantin Bock has done films in English and German..

Laure Gardette was the other editor.  She has done mostly French movies, including "In the House," "Potiche"  and "The New Girlfriend."    In 2007 she edited "Caramel." where she may have met Nadine Labaki.

Zain Ali Rafeea played the main character also named Zain and really stole the show.  He was discovered by the director, Nadine roaming the streets of Beirut as a Syrian refugee.  There are also references to the Syrian refugees in Lebanon.  In the script Zain fantasizes about moving to Sweden, but in reality his family moved to Norway.

Yordonas Shiferaw played Rahil, a woman who for a time supported Zain and trusted him with her baby.   She spoke both Arabic and Amharic.  She made the trip to the Cannes Festival.

Elias Khoury who plays the judge was a writer who wrote a novel turned into "Bab el Shams," a well regarded film.

Most of the remaining actors were inexperienced before this film.

At one time children worked in mines, but eventually that ended.  Poverty and violent conflicts have caused child abuse. to this day. 

Monday, September 2, 2019

Unions and their role

The decline of unions is a major factor in increasing inequality.  A union represents the worker to the employer.  Unions tend to get involved in the larger political process ideally representing the interests of their members, but some times the individual members have a different vision. Individuals do have power, but using their power collectively synergizes their efforts and frightens the owners of capital.

I grew up in a union town, Oshawa and later settled in another, Hamilton.  But my father in particular did not seem to like unions.  He was an independent trucker and was aware of hard tactics by the Teamsters.  My maternal grandmother was a great admirer of unions and I learned later that her husband, my grandfather Marshall Coakwell had taken part in a significant historical strike at General Motors.  From my father (and others) I heard stories of lazy protected workers and hard tactics of such groups as the Teamsters, but he also thought his father in law was a conciliator.

I had some union connections as I had worked for the Children's Aid Society and as a supply teacher for only about 3 days.  The Teacher's Union tracked me down more than 30 years later to give me my accumulated contributions with interest pension.  Most of my life I have been non union and never really felt hard done by.  On one job I actually received a call from a co-worker trying to form a union and turned it down as I felt I was in a semi management position.  The very next day I was forced out (I don't think the phone call was a factor) with a moderately generous settlement.  I did feel cheated as very misleading statistics (link)were used against me and I had felt my work was above and beyond.  read about my involvement in newspaper circulation: http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2012/08/my-career-in-circulation-part-3-winding.html

I cringe when I hear of union corruption.  It justifies anti-union rhetoric from those representing the interests of the wealthy.  Unfortunately human nature lends itself to the adage "Power corrupts, Absolute power corrupts absolutely."  The problem includes all groups, union, political, NGOs, families and even social relationships.  Leadership requires followers and historically there have been natural restraints that have been diminished. see:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2014/07/selected.html

It seems on both sides of the border efforts have been made to weaken unions.  More success in the United States where right wing philosophy supported by large amounts of money legislated against them.  It is a critical factor explaining increasing inequality.  Corporations have consolidated their power at the expense of workers and with co-operation of voters.  Wages had stagnated while union membership has diminished.  Ronald Reagan was pleased to break up the Air Traffic Controllers union. and had a lot of efforts to boost inequality.

Divide and conquer was one strategy employed.  We were always told how lazy and overpaid union workers were with the implication it was at the expense of hard working non union members. Ironically it was the power of unions that kept wages and working conditions up for non union workers.  One of the best examples was provided in my adopted city of Hamilton where Stelco would go on long strikes that once settled almost immediately set the wages and benefits for their rival Dofasco who avoided the costs of strikes.

An argument is made that high wages, unreasonable benefits  and restrictive regulations are what has killed manufacturing in North America.  That certainly is a factor, but a few other factors should also be considered.  Cheap energy and international trade agreements allowed corporations to shift jobs to cheap labour and looser regulated countries.  Another factor is rapidly creeping up and that is automation supported by computerization.

German companies recognize there are other stakeholders than the owner.  Unions are encouraged and listened to.  Union managers hear and are heard.  The company benefits.  Peter Drucker made me aware of the concept of stakeholders.  Workers and their communities are often more committed than the owners who will pull up stakes if a better opportunity is perceived.

The world will have to make some adjustments to avoid increasing tensions towards more violence.  Inequality will not disappear ever and automation will increasingly take away the need for workers of all types.  We could easily evolve towards societies depicted in such books as "1984" or "The Time Machine" where basically a few elites control the masses.  That is a clear possibility

While a lot of attention is publicly given to corporations and investors and what it takes to motivate them, little attention is given to consumers, citizens and labourers.  We won't be needed to produce the goods and services to nearly the same extent as historically.  We will be wanted as consumers, but with fewer people controlling the distribution of goods the rules will be set by them.  Democracy seems to require a lot of money and so those with lots of money will control that as well.

At one time it was suggested that the poor would vote in the own self interest to the point of being counter- productive..  I can see that, but it is not working out that way.  Voters regularly vote against their own self-interest.  Social interests are manipulated by those with the power and who are more comfortable with the status quo.  Unfortunately many voters feel apathetic, i.e. their vote is not worth the effort. link to proportional voting

An alternative would be for the 99% to assert their rights.  Of course there are too many conflicts of interest to keep track of (unless you have lots of money for the task).  Education is basic to the idea and will be resisted by those in power.  I don't mean just job skill education which will be supported, but how to think critically, how to enjoy life and how they fit into the global reality.

Corporations are global.  Capital can shift to any corner of the globe that promises better returns with out concern for other stakeholders.  Unions need to match that power more closely or they will just be played off against one another.

The photo is of a Worker's Art and Heritage Centre in Hamilton, Ontario.