Saturday, March 03, 2007

Show trial

The girl dragged me to see Bamako last night. Its a Malian film (French subtitled) based around a trial of the World Bank and the IMF for causing poverty and death in Africa through their policies of forcing countries' to liberalise their markets. The trial is based in the courtyard of an ordinary house in Bamako, and normal life continues around and through it.

It's rare that you truly feel that the characters in a film are talking for you, voicing your thoughts exactly; but a piece of dialogue 2/3rds of the way through this movie did it for me. Two men are listening to the trial being relayed on loudspeakers, one turns to the other and says...

"Turn that thing off its annoying me... [pause] How long is this bloody thing going to go on for!"

God its dull!

Its the first time I've ever actually fallen asleep in a cinema (unfortunately the Girl insisted on prodding me awake). The annoying thing is that there probably is a good film (or more likely a good play) to be made out of putting western aid policy in Africa on trial. But this isn't it.

My rule with any piece of art with a political message is that they have to work as art first, before they get to preach at me. This doesn't.

Its pace is, to be kind, ponderous. One of the prosecution lawyers makes an over-long and histrionic closing statement, and then five minutes later (during which bugger all happens) another one does. We got you the first time. The IMF, Anerica and its lackays in Europe are evil and would eat babys for breakfast.

There are whole sub-plots and characters about whom there is never any attempt to explain who they are, why you should care about them or how they link to the rest of what is going on. As for the five minute Spaghetti Western short inserted in the middle? well the least said the better.

What really got my goat was the politics. As I said above a proper trial, in other words where both sides get to present evidence and argue their case, on this issue would be worth seeing. However this unbalanced polemic, whose only nod to fairness is allowing the defending barrister to voice his disgust at the court's bias, just bores. I'm sure that the denizens of the World Social Forum (where this was shown) would lap up its soggy socialism and unthinking anti-americanism. But as somebody who doesn't believe that capitalism is evil, and thinks that some great as wella s bad things have come out of the USA it just turned me off, and I came out more on the side of the IMF etc. than when I went in, mainly out of spite.


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