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Social Justice Films

The modern moral guardrails are presented by the visual media today.  Due to the dramatic fall in church attendance, people get their ethical guidance through social media. 

Leviathan

Russian writer/director Andrey Zvyagintsev’s social satire wallows in the mire of Soviet bureaucracy, following one man’s desperate attempt to retain ownership of his home in a small seaside town. Leviathan is a stinging critique of Putin-era politics, though the story would translate equally well in a capitalist setting.

In fact it is based on a legal dispute in Colorado in the 1980’s.  A muffler repair business sold off the front of his large block of land to a large company who then denied him access to his business.  Efforts through the legal system failed to resolve the conflict, so in desperation he resorted to buying a large bulldozer, built a bullet proof cab on it, going on a destructive rampage on the court house, the local government offices, causing about $7 million.  When his bulldozer fell into a basement, he simply shot himself.

The Russian government funded the film believing it would shed a poor light on American Justice, and were furious when Zvyagintsev applied it by transposing it to Russian situations.

Production values are buoyed by a beautiful Top of the Lake -like coldness dictated by the coastal setting, the water infusing the drama with a vaguely existential aura – as if acknowledging everybody’s troubles will one day be washed away. Angry, mournful and bitter, Leviathan is a vodka-dowsed David versus Goliath story told with tremendous control.

An Ordinary Woman, a Netflix serial gives us another vista to see how Putin’s Russia has become so corrupt, citizens do not trust the Justice system and revert to their own survival instincts to make their way through vigilante tactics.

Spotlight

Spotlight is the true story of a team of Boston Globe reporters who launch a fearless investigation into child abuse allegations against the Catholic Church. What they eventually uncover is a shocking citywide scandal; almost ninety priests, guilty, but never convicted, legal settlements done in private, and a systematic cover-up of the abuse by church leadership. 

Most worrying is the prevailing justification; “because of our sacrifices we are entitled to some perks”.

Truth

Newsroom drama detailing the 2004 CBS 60 Minutes report investigating then-President George W. Bush's military service, and the subsequent firestorm of criticism that cost anchor Dan Rather (Robert Redford) and producer Mary Mapes ( Cate Blanchett) their careers.

The entire Justice system was rigged against any possible fair consideration of their case.

I, Daniel Blake

Winner of the Palme d'Or at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, the latest from legendary director Ken Loach is a gripping, human tale about the impact one man can make. Gruff but goodhearted, Daniel Blake (Dave Johns) is a man out of time: a widowed woodworker who's never owned a computer, he lives according to his own common sense moral code. But after a heart attack leaves him unable to work and the state welfare system fails him, the stubbornly self-reliant Daniel must stand up and fight for his dignity, leading a one-man crusade for compassion that will transform the lives of a struggling single mother (Hayley Squires) and her two children. Graced with humor and heart, I, Daniel Blake is a moving, much-needed reminder of the power of bureaucrats lacking empathy or compassion from one of the world's greatest living filmmakers.

Over the course of the film, Daniel’s life becomes intertwined with that of a young woman and her two children. The family is also struggling to get financial assistance from the government. As a result of poverty and hunger, the young mother is driven to prostitution.

In a scene from I, Daniel Blake, Blake’s young friend responds to his efforts to seek assistance from the state by saying: “Dan, they’ll fuck you around – I’m warning you. Make it as miserable as possible. No accident, that’s the plan.”

Blake answers: “Well, they’ve picked the wrong one if they think I’m gonna give up. I’m like a dog with a bone me, son.”

The greater the truth, the greater the libel.  The greater the libel, the greater the liability.

Vice

Some issues

The Republicans appeal to the working class by promising to restore the forlorn American Dream of rags to riches.

Fox News is the most watched of all opinionated News Media in America.  Surveys indicate Fox viewers are the least informed of all Americans.

Cheney the most powerful of all VP’s and used it to get oversight of Military, and cut regulations (Red Tape) for big companies.  With his $26 Million pay out from Halliburton and its massive contracts for the Iraq War, he made sure its overbloated accounts were approved without scrutiny.  This outsourcing was one of the greatest transfers of public money into private hands in the history of the world.

His advocacy of the Unitary Executive Theory was a ruse to concentrate absolute power and authority into the office of the President during any war, and as he explains the George Bush, “People love a wartime President”.  It is the duty of the President to protect the nation at all costs, justifying extreme measures.  The President does not share power.

The open stacking of the Supreme Court is reinforced by the subliminal messages lingering on the ironic logo of its motto:  “where the law ends; tyranny begins”.

Cheney’s distrust of democratic exposure was an ineradicable trait. It showed already in the congressional minority report he wrote in 1987 to defend President Reagan’s extralegal actions in the Iran–Contra deal: Cheney looked on the covert channeling of money as a legitimate exercise of prerogative by the executive branch.

The wildest ideas were normalised by reasoned, temperate and measured language:  Prisoners of war became enemy combatants to avoid the Geneva Convention, torture became “enhanced interrogation, or extraordinary rendition, breaching privacy laws justified by surveillance needs to combat terrorists, Estate Taxes became demonized as “death taxes”………. Conversely to intimidate and cower people, he had no qualms about vulgar language telling one critic to go get fucked, while others are derogated as assholes.

Peterloo

An epic portrayal of the events surrounding the infamous 1819 Peterloo Massacre, where a peaceful pro-democracy rally at St Peter’s Field in Manchester turned into one of the bloodiest and most notorious episodes in British history. The massacre saw British government forces charge into a crowd of over 60,000 that had gathered to demand political reform and protest against rising levels of poverty. Many protestors were killed and hundreds more injured, sparking a nationwide outcry but also further government suppression. The Peterloo Massacre was a defining moment in British democracy which also played a significant role in the founding of The Guardian newspaper.

In 1832 The Reform Bills broadened the franchise to all regions of England to land owning males.  Universal franchise took a lot longer with many more protests.  “The tree of liberty needs constant refreshing by the blood of both protesters and tyrants”.  Thomas Jefferson

Significant expansion in human rights became evident during Victoria’s reign, no doubt stimulated by the French Revolution, the 1848 revolutions and the threat posed by the rise of Marxism and several other “isms” in its aftermath.


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