Welcome to part two of our discussion about Charlie Chaplin with film director, screen writer, and producer, Martin Brest. Few individuals did more to shake modern cinema than the actor, director and producer, Charlie Chaplin. One of the greatest of all comic mimes, he also pioneered cinematic techniques and story telling. His films were this iconic roles as the belligerent Little Tramp with baggy trousers, mustache, cane, and bowler hat were not only comic masterpieces, but unflinching looks at poverty, unemployment, capitalist exploitation, the callousness of authority, the search for meaning and dignity in a hostile world, and the yearning for love and acceptance.
Films about war, shorn of the bone crushing fear, the putrid stench of the corpses, the deafening noise of explosions, the constant exhaustion and the nervous anxiety that comes with trying to understand what is happening in the terrifying chaos, are pale and inadequate reflections of the vast enterprise of industrial slaughter. And these are the good films, of which there are only a few. Most feature war films and documentaries, from The Sands of Iwo Jima to Saving Private Ryan, are war pornography. They romanticize those wielding the terrible instruments of death. They justify the unjustifiable. They pay homage to the war machine.
A few days ago, Emily Atkin posted a reaction to Michael Moore’s latest film, Planet of the Humans (directed and narrated by Jeff Gibbs), in which she began by admitting that she hadn’t seen the film yet. When writers take that approach, you know there’s already blood in the water. (She has since watched the film and written an actual review. Full disclosure: I’m in the film, included as one of the “good guys.” But I don’t intend to let that fact distort my comments in this review.) The film is controversial because it makes two big claims: first, that renewable energy is a sham; second, that big environmental organizations—by promoting solar and wind power—have sold their souls to billionaire investors. I feel fairly confident commenting on the first of these claims, regarding renewable energy, having spent a year working with David Fridley of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to assess the prospects for a complete transition to solar and wind power.
This is a very effective but flawed film, which already has been seen on YouTube by 2.5 million when I saw it on April 26. To sum up my review, it combines a very welcome biting critique of “green” capital-driven renewable energy creation and big capital funding/influence on the agendas of major U.S. environmental groups with a reactionary message calling human population growth the driver of an unsustainable planet. The film’s conclusion is that there is a “human presence far beyond sustainability”. It argues that scientists all agree, at least the ones interviewed, that overpopulation is at the root of our environmental crisis. Well, I am a scientist among many others who strongly disagrees with this conclusion, rather that the “cancerous form of capitalism” identified in this film is the root cause.
I slept pretty well last night when I found out that the film, "American Sniper" did not win best picture at the Academy Awards. I also believe that 58,000 American soldiers who were killed in Vietnam also slept well. "By every standard, Fallujah was a crime." Chomsky also had this to say about the Vietnam War during the same interview. "The entire Vietnam War was an atrocity. The My Lai Massacre was just an afterthought." This is the great truth that has great silence, as far as what really happened in Vietnam and Iraq. This is what the American people cannot face, because it would dismantle their belief system. Whenever the truth threatens one's core beliefs, there is an urgent instinct to deny its reality. Clint Eastwood's film, is a continuous betrayal of all I felt when I came back from Vietnam. Lying is the most powerful weapon in war. This is the internal hemorrhage that almost killed me. It so often reminds me of the words of Malcolm X: "The only thing worse than death is betrayal." More Vietnam veterans have committed suicide than were killed in Vietnam. Many of my friends did not die in Vietnam, but as a result of being there. A very close vet friend of mine hung himself in a motel room several years ago.
Cyber Security experts have come out with strong arguments for why a group of disgruntled Ex Sony employees were most likely responsible for the hack. Further more, famous ex hacker Sabu (expert in the field) thinks that the volume of files stolen couldn’t have been downloaded by North Korea over the course of days without anyone noticing; it would have taken years and a bigger connection to the internet! So why do so many people believe North Korea is the culprit. The hackers strategy, all be it an obvious one, was to frame someone else… but who would have believable motive? North Korea accused the U.S. that allowing The Interview to be screened was “an act of war” at the U.N. a month before and this could have been the Hackers perfect opening to Frame someone. Many Cyber experts found it very strange that any country would approach cyber warfare by creating a catchy name like the “Guardians of Peace” and communicating demands to Sony directly. And even the Wall Street Journal was suspicious these messages were from North Korea. The FBI has made the weakest case that North Korea is responsible. and the FBI’s argument has been point by point refuted as being far from conclusive with writer Bruce Schneier saying “This sort of evidence is circumstantial at best. It’s easy to fake, and it’s even easier to interpret it wrong. In general, it’s a situation that rapidly devolves into storytelling, where analysts pick bits and pieces of the ‘evidence’ to suit the narrative they already have worked out in their heads.” And yet the FBI still believes that it was North Korea because the Obama administration has already used the incident to justify North Korea’s presence on the list of countries who Sponsor Terrorism.
The Yes Men Are Revolting chronicles the past five years of pranksters Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno (not their real names), the infamous activists known for duping the media with their impersonations of corporate shills and government stooges. At this stage of their career, the Yes Men have climate change at the top of their agenda, which takes them to Washington, Copenhagen, Uganda, and the Albertan tar sands. Laura Nix and the Yes Men team up as directors, recording every step of Bichlbaum and Bonanno's journey as they meet with collaborators and pull off their witty stunts. Their planning and execution is filled with anxiety and improvisation, some pranks fizzling while others turn into media whirlwinds — and one case brings a threat of legal action more serious than any the Yes Men have ever encountered before.
SHIFT CHANGE is a documentary film by veteran award-winning filmmakers Melissa Young and Mark Dworkin. It tells the little known stories of employee owned businesses that compete successfully in today’s economy while providing secure, dignified jobs in democratic workplaces. With the long decline in US manufacturing and today’s economic crisis, millions have been thrown out of work, and many are losing their homes. The usual economic solutions are not working, so some citizens and public officials are ready to think outside of the box, to reinvent our failing economy in order to restore long term community stability and a more egalitarian way of life. There is growing interest in firms that are owned and managed by their workers. Such firms tend to be more profitable and innovative, and more committed to the communities where they are based. Yet the public has little knowledge of their success, and the promise they offer for a better life.
“Parents of the Revolution” is a feature length documentary that follows a group of activist parents in the Occupy Wall Street movement who believe that it’s their democratic duty to teach their kids to speak out against injustice. The purpose of the film is to create a national conversation about how we can get our kids to be more civically minded. The film premieres in all formats on May 15th. If your organization is interested in having a screening of the film, please visit http://parentsoftherevolution.com/host-a-screening/
The film’s central premise is important—and asks us to imagine what it would be like to have a government that serves workers, the poor, and the elderly and disabled as devotedly as it serves corporate interests. Along the way, members of Congress, good government activists, Occupiers, and regular folks speak to the camera. Lovell lets viewers formulate their own answer. His point, however, is underscored by Common Cause spokeswoman Mary Boyle. “The American Dream is in trouble,” she says, leaving many people with little chance of achieving the modest comforts they thought were a birthright. Shortly thereafter, Lovell himself weighs in: “Dreaming the American Dream is not about left or right. It’s about right and wrong.” This simple statement is meant to jolt us into doing something to support policies that benefit the body politic over Wall Street and corporate interests. In addition, he and a coterie of other interviewees assail the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, which separated commercial and investment banking, and the Citizen’s United decision that allows corporations to give unlimited funds to elected officials and political aspirants who are carefully screened for their pro-business tilt.
Utopia by John Pilger is both an epic portrayal of the oldest continuous human culture on the planet–indigenous Australia–and an investigation into a suppressed colonial past and rapacious present. One of the world’s best kept secrets is revealed against the great Australian ‘mining boom,’ showing how the country’s racially divided past and current-day media collusion play their parts in a system that is apartheid in all but name. The film examines the exploitation of the Aboriginal population, both as a people and of the land they have lived on for centuries, and how so many institutions have profited while people continue to suffer. The injustice stretches across countless generations and stories. Utopia reveals this universal story of power and resistance, driven by old imperatives, in a media age of saturation which is profoundly silent and complicit; a call to continue resistance.
However stirring the images of Arab Spring idealism might seem to Western audiences, “The Square” is often painful viewing for those who lived through it, a heartbreaking reminder of hopes deferred and fears fulfilled. The film, made by the Egyptian-American director Jehane Noujaim and shot before she knew how the story would end, chronicles a handful of young rebels struggling to save their revolution from larger and more cynical forces: the military and the Muslim Brotherhood. Seemingly everyone here who has seen “The Square” has some complaint about omissions or distortions. The current military-backed government, possibly displeased with the depiction of the army, has not yet allowed it to be distributed in Egypt.
The Turkish government is pursuing a criminal investigation into a documentary film on last year’s nationwide protests originating in Istanbul’s Gezi Park. On January 2, the film’s director, whom the government regards as a “suspect,” is scheduled to testify in court in Istanbul. Serkan Koç, director of the documentary The Beginning, was notified on December 25 that state authorities would examine the film for “objectionable content” and determine whether there was reason to file charges. According to a press release by the film’s production company 49/51 Film, “The documentary is charged with assault to the Prime Minister and instigating public hatred and animosity.” Koç has been named a “suspect” and will testify at the January 2 hearing. 49/51 Film posted announced on its Facebook page that it would request that prosecutors open an investigation against Prime Minister Erdogan instead on the same charge of inciting hatred. It cites a statement in which Erdogan boasts that a thousand protestors in Taksim Square are no problem: “…we will put five thousand, ten thousand youth against them.”
Too often Hollywood glorifies war, puts forward myths of history and the biased reporting of current news as if they were fact and plays their role to propagandize for the falsehoods on which destructive American exceptionalism stands. They seem to have done it again on behalf of the Wall Street bankers who collapsed the economy and destroyed the economic prospects of millions of people. Or as McDowell writes: "You people are dangerous. Your film is a reckless attempt at continuing to pretend that these sorts of schemes are entertaining, even as the country is reeling from yet another round of Wall Street scandals." It is not coincidental that this propaganda film comes out just as pressure is building up to finally hold Wall Street accountable for their economic crimes. Hollywood is playing its role as one of the pillars that holds a corrupt economy and dysfunctional government in place. After-all -- who often finances Hollywood films?
Mike Gray one of the people who made the film below, The Murder of Fred Hampton, was someone I worked closely with for many years on ending the war on drugs. He was a writer, documentary filmmaker and activist, sadly he died this year, but his work lives on. We discussed Fred Hampton and his murder multiple times. He explained what made Hampton so powerful, so scary to power structure. It was the sense you got when you were near him, Mike said, you felt he was not compromised, he stood and said 'this is my space and the truth will be heard. I will stand up to the power structure without fear.' KZ The Murder of Fred Hampton began as a film portrait of Hampton and the Illinois Black Panther Party, but half way through the shoot, Hampton was murdered by Chicago policeman. In an infamous moment in Chicago history and politics, over a dozen policeman burst into Hampton's apartment while its occupants were sleeping, killing Hampton and fellow Panther Mark Clark and brutalizing the other occupants.