Tuesday, November 28, 2023

The Railway Men

 The Bhopal disaster has been described as the world's worst industrial disaster.  It set off a long legal wrangle.  It all started on December 2, 1984 when there was a dangerous chemical leak with the Union Carbide plant.  Over 600,000 were exposed to the chemical that nobody knew how to deal with.  Accounts differ regarding the number who died at the time, but many more died from injuries or were disabled afterwards. 

The series available dubbed or subtitled on Netflix. tries to depict some background.  Poor equipment maintenance and that there had been a warning about a possible catastrophe.  The Union Carbide factory was located in the middle of a large city about 800,000 people at the time.  Union Carbide tried to brush off the seriousness.  People dying on contact with one dramatic example of a medical person trying to apply mouth to mouth resuscitation dying within seconds.  Panic and desperation were in all directions.

There were courageous railway people who despite contrary orders came to Bhopal to help.  Others tried to coverup their role in the disaster.  Apparently a toxicologist did bring an antidote, but was sent away.

A top notch cast and crew make it seem real.

Shiv Rawail was director and dialogue writer.  Before directing this film he had 3 credits as an assistant director; including "Dhoom 3" (2013), "Befikre" (2016) and "Fan" (2018).

Ayush Gupta was the main writer.  He has two film credits.

Aditya Chopra was a key executive producer.  Aditya Chopra is a name attached to many enjoyable Bollywood movies, often as a director or writer.  At age 23 his first directing and writing effort was the longest running movie "Diwale Dulhania Le Jayenge."   He comes by it honestly as his father was the well established Yash Chopra.  Aditya also got my attention as he married Rani Mukerji,   He has continued to write and direct. but is now more involved in producing where in a sense he is even more creative.   With 84 credits producing hits include "Mohabbatein" (2000),  "Veer-Zaara" (2006) "Fanaa" (2006), "Rab Ne Bana  Di Jodi"  (2008), "Sultan" (2016) and "Fan" (2016). 

Sam Slater, is a sound designer and provides music. .He has won two Grammy awards.  Some of his credits include "Mother!" (2017),  "Chernobyl" (2019), "Joker" (2019) and "Women Talking" (2022).  See http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2021/04/chernobyl.html

Ankit and Sanchit Balhara provided some music.  Their credits include "Padmaavat" (2018),          "Panga" (2020), "Gangubai Kathiawadi" (2022) and "Pathaan" (2023). 

Rubais, the cinematograher has 7 film credits.

Yasha Ramchandani, editor   She has 17 film credits including "Article 15" (2019), "Thappad" (2020) and "Anek" (2022).  See http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/09/article-15.html

Kay Kay Menon played the station manager in Bhopal.  He has a degree in physics as well as an M.B.A.  He started his career in advertising, but soon got involved in theatre, television and films.  He has been in films in Hindi, Gujarati, Tamil, Marathi, and Telegu.  His film credits include   "Bhopal Express" (1999), "Main, Meri Patni...Aur Woh" (2005), "Gulaal" )2007)  "Sarkar Raj" (2008), "Mumbai Meri Jaan" (2008),  " (2015), "Rahasya" (2015) "The Ghazi Attack" (2017) and "Farzi" (2023).  See http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2023/03/farzi-or-fakes.html

Madhavan plays a conscientious manager about to be let go.  At age 18 his college entrusted him as cultural ambassador to Canada representing India.  He had won national public speaking awards and is fluent in English, Hindi and Tamil.  He has appeared in such other films as "Rang de Basanti" (2006), "Guru" (2007) and "3 Idiots" (2009) which were all exceptional movies.   Another film was the American, "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" (2012).  My first awareness of him was with "Kannathil Mutthamthal" (A Peck on the Cheek) (2002), but I assumed it was a Bollywood film and much later learned it was a Tamil film, opening another door for me.   See http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2022/11/dhokha.html           

Juhi Chawla played another conscientious rail manager.  She is very deft with comedy, but has also done well in dramatic roles.  She is very subtle, which might be appreciated when she does charades both at a party, but also jailside.  As a former Miss India she once played the romantic lead in a number of movies.  Her hits include "Yes Boss" (1997), "Duplicate" (1998),  "3 Deewarein" (2003) "My Brother...Nikhil" ( 2005) "Ventilator" (2018), Ek Ladki Ko Dekha TohAisa Laga" (2019 and "Sharmaji Namkeen" (2022).  She formed a partnership with Shah Rukh Khah that led to Red Chillies Entertainment.  Lately her talents seem to be used mostly in comic roles, although she had had some involvement as a producer and has selected some socially relevant roles.  Her presence is a good reason to watch a film.  Check:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/07/ventilator-serious-movie-with-comic.html

Divendu Sharma played a character known as Constable.  He graduated from university with a degree in political science.  Before movies he appeared in ads.  He has 28 film credits including "Paar Ka Punchnama" (2011) and "Toilet:  A Love Story" (2017).

Babil Khan played one of the railway men.  He had bit roles in "Slumdog Millionaire" (2008) and "Life of Pi" (2012)that starred his father Irrfan Khan.  He was a camera assistant for "Qarib Qarib Single" (2017).  He has 3 film credits including "Qala" (2022).

Philip Rosch played a Union Carbide manager  who tried to cover up the disaster very meanly.  He has 61 film credits including "The 100 year old man who climbed out the window" (2013) and "Florence Foster Jenkins" (2016).

Connor Keene played an American toxicologist who was ignored by Indian authorities.

In this world run by corporations there is always danger of a disaster, but films such as this set up counter measures.  Well done.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Trump and the Middle East continual crisis

There are many factors involved in the current Middle East Crisis with some people wanting to bomb Gaza out of existence and others rioting to give Palestinians independence.  Trump definitely has played a role, but really was a tool for other interests.  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2022/07/trump-as-tool.html

 As part of his election campaign Trump would cut Muslim immigration and helped stir up anti Islamic sentiments and gain many votes.

Once elected his first foreign visit was to Saudi Arabia which is a bit of mystery.  They are a big oil producer and exporter, but have not been a big ally of United States.  During the Trump reign efforts were made to create new ties between Arab nations and Israel which on the surface should be welcome by everyone.  On the negative side one of the understandings was that they were expected to accept the Israeli perspective on Palestine.

Later on the Trump administration made efforts to please Israel perhaps the biggest effort was to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.  This pleased evangelical voters and Sheldon Adelson, the casino owner, but not so much Muslims who see Jerusalem as one of their holy cities.  Going back to Harry Truman each American president has protected Israel through their many attacks by their Arab neighbors.

Getting out of the Iran agreement apparently was done to please Israel and one casino donor.  Iran did not do anything against the agreement.  The effects are hard to measure, but are mostly negative.  Iran felt it was acceptable to edge towards the nuclear bomb which by itself would cause anxiety to its Arab neighbors.  They sought to find new friends.  More on Iran's role:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2022/10/the-iranian-dilemma.html

 Somehow when the Russians got stymied in trying to crush Ukraine, Iran decided to supply some military supplies such as drones.  They are natural enemies, but they both hate the U.S.  

Iran has been implicated in doing small things to aggravate the U.S.  One of their projects has always been to support the Palestinian cause.  Some suspect they have given military aid to Hamas.

Putin needs a distraction.  Already some factions in the U.S. are wanting to cut back military support for Ukraine.  Trump denies any Russian support for his election campaigns, but that is very difficult to deny.  It is also difficult to deny that for one reason or another Trump did Putin's bidding.  See  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/06/house-of-trump-house-of-putin.html and       http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2022/10/freezing-order.html

Benjamin Netanyahu has been focused on changing Israeli law to protect himself.  Many are accusing him of being distracted from signs of Hamas planning a major attack.  The attack seemed aligned with another Arab country, Saudi Arabia signalling they were willing to make an agreement with Israel.  Apparently Hamas did see an opportunity.  

President Biden is locked in to past U.S. commitments and feels obligated to maintain a relationship with Israel.  He noted there have been provocations from settlers on occupied land.  He also suggested he hoped talks would get back on track for a two state solution.  This seems to be a small step in the right direction.  Americans have given Israel several billions of dollars of military equipment and have used their veto at the United Nations to squash any votes that might hurt Israel.

Nobody can be certain what happen in the next weeks or next few years.  Has mankind learned to better deal with the cycle of violence?   More thoughts:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2023/11/can-we-stop-cycle-of-violence.html

 Hatred is a powerful force that makes it almost impossible to understand how your interests have been subverted.  I keep hoping a disaster will open the truth, but hatred always seems to have the upper hand.  How can you trust your enemy when they don't trust you?

Monday, November 20, 2023

Daily Dose of Sunshine

 For a few episodes of "Daily Dose of Sunshine" I thought it was verging on a rom-com, but it is a more than satisfactory drama.  There are a few relationships to follow, but the setting in a hospital psychiatric ward gives mental health a focus.  All sorts of mental disorders are brought to our attention.  

A Colo-rectal doctor with a patient in the psychiatric ward has his own OCD problem.  His rival for the attention of Jung Da-eun has a panic disorder which affects his ability to get a good job.  Patients with schizophrenia and suicidal tendencies are among those requiring care from psychiatric doctors and nurses.  Some of the staff are detached or at least apparently so, but many put in long hours and get attached.

There is prejudice against mental illnesses.  The main character Jung Da-eun goes through a serious bout of depression and when she goes back to work has to endure strong distrust from the relatives of patients that would demoralize anyone.  Staff is mostly supportive, but when hospital directors learn of the re-hiring they become concerned for the hospital's image.  We see that she and those she cares for are better off for her experience.

Among the general public depicted there was embarrassment associated with mental illness.  Discrimination was pretty blatant.  A supervising nurse pointed out that anyone could become mentally ill and we should not be judgmental.  An end theme was that everyone is balanced between normal and abnormal.

Rosalynn Carter died while I was watching the end of this series.   One of the her many accomplishments was her work bringing mental health to the public's attention.  There was an unhealthy stigmatism in America which she helped to alleviate.  We need more like her.

A personal beef.  IMDB gave more coverage to the dubbing actors than the original actors and I believe was misleading.  Nonetheless they gave it a higher than average rating and some very favorable reviews.  I watched the subtitled version, but the actual actors even in the dubbed version deserve the major coverage.  Dubbing is important to more fully appreciate the story for those who are turned off by subtitles, but the original actors are more critical to understanding.

There is a plot with a few sub plots and romance and humor, but likely you will remember the theme surrounding mental health and perhaps ponder how you might fit in.

The series was based on a webtoon by Lee Ra-ha who was a nurse drawing on her personal experiences.

Jae-gyu Lee is the director.  He actually has 9 film credits as an actor and only 2 as director.  I would say he does a pretty good job presenting the actors credibly. 

J. Q. Lee, writer has 9 credits as director, but this is first credit for writing.

Music was by Mowg.  He came by that name as a corruption of Mowgli of "The Jungle Book" when friends in New York noticed a resemblance.  He had fled to New York to get away from his parents who disapproved of his musical interests.  He plays different instruments, but is well established as jazz bass guitarist.  With many awards he has over 66 film credits including "Masquerade" (2012), "Miss Granny" (2014), "The Age of Shadows" (2016) and "Burning" (2018).   While checking http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/09/comparing-two-grannies.html bear in mind I actually bought two selections of Mowg's as well another of his from a different movie.

Min Kyung-Shin was the editor with at least 4 film credits.

Park Bo-young played the lead who went through a period of serious depression.  While in high school she did a television ad.  She got off to a fairly good film career, but got tangled with legal issues and was not in films for a few years.  She went on to be a leading lady with prolific awards in major hits.  She has 26 film credits including "The Werewolf Boy" (2012).  She has also been prominent in several charitable projects.

Yeon Woo-jin played the colorectal doctor with the obsessive compulsive disorder.  He started as a fashion model and went on to have 30 film credits including "Thirty Nine" (2022).  See http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2022/07/korean-mini-series-to-watch.html which includes Thirty-Nine was well as a few other interesting series.

Jang Dong-yoon played the man with a panic disorder.  He has 18 film credits.

Lee E. Dam played a nurse colleague who didn't really want to be a nurse.  She has 5 film credits.

Chang Ryul played Dr. Hwang who provided good advice.  He has 11 credits including "My Mister" (2018).    See http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2021/01/my-mister-is-slow-drama-with-emotional.html

"Lee Jeong-eun played a supervising nurse.  She was an assistant director in theatre and later got involved with musical theatre.   She also had been an acting teacher.  An early film of hers was a small role with "Mother" (2009) her first collaboration with famous director Bong Joon-ho.  A few years later he gave her a role as the pig's voice in "Okja" (2017).  Then he gave her most famous role in "Parasite" (2019) which won a lot of big awards including for her.  She has 46 film credits also including "The Attorney" (2013), "The Wailing" (2016),  "My Holo Love" (2020), "Hometown Cha-cha-cha" (2021), "Juvenile Justice" (2022) and "Our Blues" (2022).  See http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/09/parasite-breaks-oscar-tradition.html

Mental health is portrayed in many worthy movies and series.  As a series this one is easy to follow and understand.  I highly recommend it.

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Peace by Chocolate

 This is a Canadian story, but brought to my attention by an American friend, Janet Gefre.  It is really not just a Canadian story, but sets a good example for the world.

Chocolate is one my weaknesses.  How about you? 

Syria has been in the news.  The point for this story is the huge numbers of refugees created.  With the help of Russia Syria has maintained chaos in the Middle East.  In this case the Hadhad family was non political.  The father, Isham had a love of chocolate that resulted in building a factory employing fellow Syrians.  They were in business for 30 years and shipped all over the Middle East.  When the Arab Spring started, the Syrian government in 2012 openly suppressed parts of the country.  Bombings and deaths were too close for comfort including their own factory.  The Hadhads headed for Lebanon where they were safe, but restricted.

The eldest son, Tareq had studied medicine and was only about a year from graduating.  He managed to be identified as a possible immigrant, but to Canada, a place he had never considered.

In the meantime Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had declared that Canada was going to accept Syrian refugees.  That upset some, but he felt that they would help to offset demographic changes in the country.  A church group in the small town of Antigonish decided they wanted to participate and started organizing.  Most refugees imagined they would be better off in the big cities.

Finally Tareq was given the go ahead with the promise that he would be able to have his parents come later.  In the middle of December he was confronted with Canadian weather and found himself shoveling snow.  He learned that his medical education would not count towards being a Canadian doctor.  He would have to start to scratch. 

He focused his energy on the chocolate business and set high standards for quality.  His father Ishem soon arrived and helped move the idea forward.   Realizing their cultural and language limitations they worked with This is Marketing.  It was Neil Stephen who came up with the name Peace by Chocolate.  Christian Allaire came up with the slogan "One peace won't hurt."

Before they had a factory going and quickly needed a bigger one. which they decided to stick with Antigonish.  They have achieved nation wide distribution.  Justin Trudeau told the world about the contribution of this Syrian immigrant.  Shortly Tareq not only met Trudeau he also met with Barrack Obama who was impressed.

Tareq also had siblings brought over and they each adjusted to the cultural differences.  There were few hijabs around, but Antigonish also got used to it.  

They were grateful for Canada and the citizens of Antigonish.  3.5% of their profits go to Peace on Earth Society.  The idea came after the Fort McMurray wild fires and they held fundraising to help the evacuees.  In 2018 they registered the name with the Nova Scotia government to support other projects across Canada and further to help the cause of peace.

 Jon Tattrie, the author has a Master's Writing degree from University of King's College and is a journalist at CBC Halifax.  He has written two fictional and 5 non fiction books.  Subjects have included Cornwallis, and Mi'kmaq history.  Recognized that likely some of the women to be interviewed held back arranged for his wife (also works for CBC) to interview them.  I had wondered how authors claim to know the feelings of their characters, but in this case he is reporting what they told him.  

My own experiences with Syrians has been recounted elsewhere.  My regular mechanic had repeatedly tried to deal with a tire leak.  At a gas station I was steered towards a man who claimed he could fix it.  True enough the problem was solved and the next tire problem I had was taken directly to him.  I learned he was a Syrian.  When Canada treats immigrants right we all benefit.

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Crashing Eid

Two reasons why I stuck with "Crashing Eid" (2023).  First, popular CBC star Hamza Haq (more on him later).  Second, a unique situation--prejudice revealed as a British Pakistani wants to marry a Saudi divorced mother.  If such things don't appeal to you feel free to skip this.  It is mostly light and enjoyable to watch.

We first see Razan leaning her head on Sameer's shoulder in what we learn is a London movie theater.  Then we see a 15 year old girl, Lamar sneak off.  Razen decides this is a good time to propose marriage.  The daughter comes back as a sort of cheerleader.  Sameer is surprised, but not at all upset.  He was only concerned that her parents would not approve of a British Pakistani to marry their Saudi daughter.  

Razan flies to Jeddah to prepare her parents and Sameer decides to follow unannounced.  In Jeddah we meet her brother Sofyan who just divorced and is trying to gain greater rights to visit his son.  We also meet Razan's aunt whose son had married (and abused) Razan.  We meet the ex husband and his new wife and new child.  Her parents are against the match and a phone call to Sameer's father brings yet another objector to the match.  

Although both Pakistanis and Saudis are Muslim they each look down on the other.  There are a lot of Pakistanis (and other Muslims) working in Saudi Arabia and it seems likely prejudice is easing.

You might imagine it has some sort of happy ending, but there are a few obstacles and side issues confronted.  Eid is the end of Ramadan when relatives gather to share a meal together.  There is quite the mix and "crashing" will be better understood.

 I have had the honor of attending an Eid meal with my sister in Brossard, Quebec.  It is a big deal among Muslims and I felt humbled to be included.  A little earlier my sister had made a dinner for me while she, her husband Ali and two daughters Samia and Leila fasted.

Ali Alattas is the creator, director and writer with two film credits.

 Said Zagha is the second director with two other credits.  He is based in the United Kingdom of Palestinian background.  Studied film and English at Kenyon College in Ohio and went onto earn a master's degree in screenwriting at the London Film School.

Nora Aboushousha is a co-creator, writer, show runner and producer.  She has 3 credits as a writer,  but also for producing and directing.   Has been involved writing scripts

Sara Al Ghabra was producer.  She was a co-writer and show runner for television series on pan Arab networks.  

Suad Bushnaq was in charge of the music.  She has been strongly praised by Hans Zimmer.  Has 44 film credits.  An international award winner.

Hamza Haq plays Sameer.  Not recognized at first because I am used to him speaking in a thick Arab accent on a favorite tv series, "Transplant" (2020-2023).  In that show he plays a Syrian refugee who is a doctor in Toronto.  Here he is playing a British Pakistani with a definite British accent. speaking both Arabic and English.  He was born in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia of Pakistani parents who moved him at age 9 to Ottawa, Ontario.   He is listed as speaking Urdu, English and French, but I would guess he also speaks Arabic.  Graduated from Carleton University.  Has 43 film credits including "Bon Cop Bad Cop" (2006).

Summer Shesha played Razan.  She has 7 film credits mostly in Saudi Arabia.

Khalid Alharbi played Hasan, Razan's father.  He has 4 credits as an actor and 6 as a writer.  He is one of the few Saudi actors to cross over to other Arab nations.

Yasir Alsaggaft played the brother, Sofyan.  He has four film credits.

I would like to add one actress to the list--Bateel Nabeel who played the daughter.  She was delightful.

We are used to seeing lots of films about racial and religious prejudice and perhaps they help break down some ignorant attitudes to benefit everyone.  Prejudice is universal and a little self reflection incriminates us all.  "Crashing Eid" brings our attention to another example of prejudice (which just means pre judging), but does so with a light hand.  It is available on Netflix subtitled, but also including a fair amount of English dialogue.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

The Wind Blows

Do you like tear jerkers?  Some do, many don't.  "The Wind Blows" (2019) is a tear jerker, but is also a true love story.

Kwon Do-Hoon and Soo-jin appear to be a happily married couple, but  it turns out she wants to have a baby and he doesn't.  Behind the scenes we learn he had been diagnosed for early onset Alzheimer's and doesn't want to be a burden to his wife who he deeply loves.  He decides it is best to get divorced and disappear.  He doesn't tell anyone.  He pretends he doesn't want a child and that becomes the excuse for a divorce.  Through a sort of a flukey set of circumstances she gets pregnant with his child, although not conscious of it until after their divorce.  

A very close friend from childhood, Hang-seo  stumbles on the truth, but is pledged to keep the secret and comes to believe it is best for all.  We scoot ahead six years and this time Soo-jin is the one who stumbles on the truth.  She is hurt that she was kept from her husband's real reason for the divorce.  After some fumbling the two are reconciled.  He had inherited money from his estranged family and had arranged for the bulk to be set aside for Soo-jin, but didn't want her to know.

The rest of the story boils down to his gradual deterioration supported not only by his wife,  but his new child, Ah-Ram who adores him and two couples.  He gets to the point where he has trouble recognizing any of his supporters or remembering parts of his life.  His daughter inspires him to develop a type of chocolate that has no sugar.  The formula is stolen.

Love is also displayed by the two couples who become very involved with Do-hoon and Soo-jin.  They have some of the misunderstanding common to romance, but are united in their support for the main couple.  Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's is frustrating.  Not recognizing you is one thing, but through misunderstandings they can hurt the ones they love.

 Key figures that helps to leave a strong story.

Director Jung-hwa Chung has 8 film credits.

Joo-Ha Hwang wrote the script for his first screen credit.

Ha-neul Kim plays the wife who thinks her husband agrees to a divorce because he doesn't want children.  Several years later she feel cheated, but also obligated. The personification of love.  She modeled before getting involved with films.  She has 34 film credits.

Woo-seong Kam plays Kwon Do-Hoon who decides to sacrifice his happiness for his wife's.  He plays a man in decline very well.  Studied Oriental Art.  He has 14 film credits including "The King and the Clown" (2005) for which he won some national awards as best actor.  He was a big fan of Celine Dion and was one of the announcers when she did a concert in Seoul.

Kim Sung-cheol plays Brian Jeong a friend of Soo-jin.  He has 15 credits including "Vincenzo" (2021).

Kim Ga-eun plays Brian's girlfriend, Son Ye-rim  both are friends of Soo jin.    She has 22 film credits.  "King the Land" (2023) got terrible rating because of an organized effort to punish unfair role of Arab.  She also appeared in "The Queen's Umbrella" (2022).

Lee Joon-Hyuk plays Choi Hang-seo, Do-hoon's oldest and most faithful friend 54 film credits including "Itaewon Class" (2020)

Ji-hye Yun plays Baek Soo-ah, who was a master chef at Hang-seo's restaurant and later moves in with him.  She has 23 film credits including "Navillera" (2021).

Jeon Gu-hyang  played Soo-jin's mother.  She has 17 credits including "Masquerade" (2012) and "Vincenzo" (2021).

Patience is required, but I believe rewarded.  Not because it turned out the way one predicts, but because you see some very likeable people in love.  Available as a series on Netflix with subtitles.  Highly recommend for those who love tear jerkers and might be worth an effort for the rest of us.

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Cigarette Girl

I hate smoking, but "Cigarette Girl" (2023) got my attention because of where it came from, but also learned it is part of their historical roots.  It is very well done and will have to be included in my top films viewed in 2023. 

The smoking issue is problematic for me, but accept it is part of history and culture.  The directing team, husband and wife do not smoke.  One of the main characters is a doctor and is shown to take cigarettes out of the hands of her patients.  The series shows both powerful people and the poor enjoying smoking.  Women are liberated enough to also enjoy smoking. http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/06/smoking-and-movies.html

Indonesia is the fourth most populated country in the world.   The Dutch brought tobacco to Indonesia.  The availability of cheap labor made it profitable. 

 We start with what appears to be a death bed request.  The youngest son, Lebas is expected to find a person with few clues.  He finds a tobacco museum and gradually uncovers old letters.  He is helped by a young (and attractive) woman, Dr. Arum who at first appears annoyed with him, but soon the search becomes a personal mystery for both.  The viewer makes some assumptions and tries to predict how the underlying mysteries will turn out.  Some prediction may be close, but there are quite a few twists that will catch us off guard.

The focus is on two times 1960's and 2001 with a few times in between.  In the 1960's we follow Dasiyah who we come to realize is the person requested by the ill Soeraja labeled Jeng Yah, a term of respect.  Although as the eldest daughter she has been used by her father as the tobacco factory manager.  She is very competent, but restricted from working with flavors.  Soon we meet the younger Soeraja in the 1960's who at first is recognized as an honest educated man with some experience.  Over time  he rises in responsibility as the owner sees him as the manager when his daughter would be forced out of the business by an arranged strategic marriage.

Viewers quickly realize this is the romance set up to perk our interest.  A key is that Soeraja respects women and supports Jeng Yah  in her efforts to mix flavors behind her father's back.  There is a myth that women touching tobacco in the mixing stage will make it sour.  They do become lovers and she declares against the arranged marriage.  This upsets family plans and he is dismissed and has to work hard to get back in contention.  The man picked as the groom, Seno figures in the story mostly as antagonistic towards Soeraja.

Up to 2001 Lebas and Arum realize neither knows their family history as much as they thought.  We learn soon enough that Arum's father was Seno, but he died before she was born.  There are a few other surprises for them and us.  Not only are there business decisions being made, but around 1965 the military staged a coup that involved the deaths of some 500,000 people affecting the lives of our main characters in unexpected ways. 

On the way to the end mixing tobacco to make it more flavorable plays an important role.  The unique flavor from Indonesia was based on cloves.  Currently in the United States there is some legislation meant to curb the cigarette flavor by eliminating menthol.  Of course there is resistance and getting back to this script, the flavor does make a difference.  Indonesia is a great source for herbs with unique odors. 

One interesting interlude was a black and white movie shown as a promotional tool to launch a new cigarette.  Movies have been recognized for their power to motivate.  The Indonesian cinema has been limited by the number of theatres and the relative lack of appropriate education.

This series is very professionally done indicating Indonesia is set to flex its muscles in the international film marketing game.  Here are a few contributors.

One half of the directing team is Ifa Isfansyah who learned of the novel by Ratih Kumala as it was finished in 2011 or 2012 but not yet published.  He realized the scope would require more cinematic expertise and a lot of financing.  Over the years he developed his own expertise starting with short films, but also education.  Indonesia developed its own cinema and by 2022 they were able to make an arrangement with Netflix that allowed the idea to be turned into a five episode series.  Ifa had become a director for an Asian film festival.  He with other Indonesian film makers made a breakthrough at the Busan International Film Festival with "Cigarette Girl" being the only non Korean film entered into the competition segment.  He has 20 film credits.

The other half of the directing team was his wife, Kamila Andini who was the daughter of famed director Garin Nugro.  She is an international award winner with 7 credits as a director and 6 as a writer.

Ratih Kumula wrote the original novel which covered the colonial period as well the changes occurring during the 1960's.  She was descended from a kretik cigrarette factory owner.  She was involved with writing for films with 6 credits plus one as a creative supervisor.

Ricky Lionardi provided the music.  He has 83 film credits.

Batera Goempar Siagian was the cinematographer.  He has 33 film credits including "ali & ratu ratu queens"  (2021) which was mostly set in New York City.

The editorial functions were handled by Ahmad Fesdi Anggoro with 16 credits and Helmi Nur Rasyid with 18 film credits.

Dian Sastrowardoyo played Dasiyah, also known as Jeng Yah.  In 1996 she drew public attention as a cover girl.  Her film career included international awards.  She has 24 film credits as an actress including the lead in "Kartini:  Princess of Java" (2017).  She also has been a producer, writer and director .http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/11/kartini-princess-of-java-feminist.html

Ario Bayu played the young Soeraja.  He has 39 film credits including an American film, "Java Heat" (2013).

Arya Saloka played Lebas.  He has 12 credits.

Putri Marino played Dr. Arum.  She has 12 credits.

Ibnu Jamil played Seno.  He has 31 credits including "ali & ratu ratu queens"  (2021).

Sheila Dara Aisha played Purwanti.  She has 24 film credits.

Rukman Rosadi played Idroes Moeria, a tough business man.  He has 47 credits including  "Sokola Rimba" (2013), "Kartini:  Princess of Java" (2017) and "Photocopier" (2022).

Available on Netflix with either dubbing or subtitled.  It is a 5 part series.  Indonesia is joining with other nations to be a serious producers of globally interesting films.

Sunday, November 5, 2023

Can we stop the cycle of violence?

 Most would agree that there is a lot of unfairness in the world.  Many would agree that there must be a better way of dealing with it.  A few might agree that revenge in the long run hurts us all.  

A lot of us are focused on the Mideast and its endless cycle of violence.  The rest of the world has been sucked in through immigration and religion. 

Thousands of years ago the Jews under Moses found and settled the promised land.  Some centuries later the Romans dispersed the Jews.  There were other people still living there.  Muslims conquered The Arabian Peninsula, much of northern Africa and southern Europe.  Some centuries later the Muslims were forced out of southern Europe.  More recently the colonial powers fought among themselves.  One deal made was that some Arabs helped the British defeat the Turks with an understanding on freedom and land.  Other promises were made.  The Jews were severely discriminated against as were Muslims in some quarters.  During World War II Hitler exterminated 6 million Jews.  Many of the survivors wanted a new home and there were immigration restrictions in most of the world.  

The United Nations set up homelands for the Jews and the Arabs and declared Jerusalem an international city.  

Hatred is spread around the world as we take sides.  Best not to take sides, but demand a closer look at the roots.  Aside from political military history we need to examine human nature.   http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2012/02/payback-why-we-retaliate-redirect.html

Pleased to hear Joe Biden attempt to balance the conflict--acknowledging past U.S. mistakes --criticize settlers abuse of Palestinians, loss of two state momentum.

With a major war in Ukraine it seems the Russians are cheering on the conflict in Palestine.  Are we going to let them?

Dir Spiegel has an excellent analysis that takes the whole world to account:  https://www.spiegel.de/international/world/deepening-fault-lines-middle-east-conflict-tests-the-postwar-world-order-a-c0561eff-792a-4fa2-a22d-d2aa99e6f37c

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Movie Odds and Ends

 My blog choices are sometimes random.  Movies affect me by their quality, by their subject and sometimes by a personal connection.  A lot of good and interesting films slip through the crack.

In a one week period I watched a few that I wold like to say a few words about

I don't spend a lot of time on animated films, perhaps they are too easily associated with children.  Children are important.  Fairy tales and Walt Disney were things I grew up with.  "Shrek" (2001) is amusing and well put together.  Some would not even notice that it mocks fairy tale conventions.  One was of the sleeping princess patiently waiting for Prince Charming to kiss her.   Instead she is confronted with an ogre, Shrek in a mask.  He does try to protect her, not so much to kiss her.  Over time she comes to appreciate him and realizes that Prince Charming is not so charming.  In the meantime we learn that her beauty is lost in the evening, so she endeavors to hide this fact from him and of course there is a misunderstanding that all romances require.  Many other cliches were amusingly dealt with.I  I think many youngsters would enjoy it and as they age would increasingly understand more of the satire.  In short,  entertaining even for adults and with a point.

 My Father's Violin" (2022) comes from Turkey and mixes  traditional street Turkish music and classical as two brothers indulged in one or the other.  Of course there was a misunderstanding going back to their unhappy childhoods that set them on separate paths.  The older brother never got out of a poverty rut, but made street music to make a living, involving his young daughter.  He dies and the other brother who is an arrogant violin master disdains his orphan niece.  The daughter is supported by three musician friends of her father, but they admit their finances are not sufficient to ensure her future.  The younger brother agrees that he will take temporary custody and then hand over his niece to them.  It doesn't quite work that way.  First his wife becomes attached to the young girl and eventually the brother does as well.  There certainly are complications and misunderstandings. Critics were not too kind, but you can anticipate a warm happy ending with some enjoyable music along the way and the young girl is delightful.

"Kantara" (2023) I read about when researching "Kaala Paani" (2023).  It also dealt with an indigenous tribe in India, but was originally filmed in the Kannada language.  On Netflix I saw a Hindi version which could be dubbed in English and later on Prime the original version was available with English subtitles.  In many ways it was a vehicle for action.  An indigenous group makes an agreement with the town citizens and will protect their environment.  As we move up to more modern times the citizens wish to revoke the agreement, but the hero springs into action.  Richab Shetty is the director and leading character.  Very popular and adopted for several languages.

"The Burial" (2023) was an American movie which I seldom do blogs on, but felt it was interesting.  Starring Jamie Foxx and Tommy Lee Jones.  Dealing with the funeral business which like many others has been targeted for corporate takeovers.  Based on a true story about how a (Canadian) conglomerate took advantage of financial difficulties of a Mississippi business owner.  The funeral owner is put in touch with a personal injury lawyer who has never lost and always goes for big dollars.  Still the corporate team that specializes in contract law is very well prepared.  Based on a true story.  Interesting black history for example we saw what seemed an empty field, but learned it was a black cemetery when headstones were not considered for slaves.


"The Last Word" was a German series about a woman who after her husband's death decided she wanted to be an eulogist.  We run into a few episodes with strange requests and the eulogist has an interesting approach.  On one episode she encourages the daughter of a deceased mother to express her outrage at the way her father had treated her, although very highly regarded.  There are a few relational problems and to add a different perspective her ghost of a husband reveals something of himself. 

Movies offer a view of the world.  These selections were all different from one another, but they all had conflicts and relationships