Showing posts with label racism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label racism. Show all posts

28 July 2021

Film review: A Thousand Pieces of Gold, by (1991) by Nancy kelly ****

Synopsys


Lalu (Rosalind Chao) is a young Chinese woman who is sold by her impoverished family and transported against her will to the American West in 1880. Upon her arrival in California, she meets Jim (Dennis Dun), a Chinese "wife trader" who sells her to Hong King (Michael Paul Chan), a successful Chinese merchant who lives in an Idaho mining town. The two set off on the long journey to Idaho and eventually strike up a friendship along the way.

When they finally arrive in the rough, isolated town, she is distraught to discover that she is not going to be Hong King's wife. Instead, she is to work in his saloon as his newest prostitute under a new name, "China Polly". She is further dismayed when Jim abruptly disappears, leaving her to fend for herself.

The following night, when Hong King tries to sell her virtue to the highest bidder, Lalu violently refuses to submit to her would-be suitors and successfully avoids becoming a prostitute, thanks in part to the intervention of a kind stranger, Charlie Bemis (Chris Cooper), who turns out to be Hong King's Caucasian partner. She placates a furious Hong King and convinces him to allow her to be his servant and saloon maid in order to repay the cost of her purchase. Hong King agrees to let her buy her freedom for the impossible sum of a thousand pieces of gold.

Polly, as Lalu comes to be known, endures great hardship. At one point, she is sexually assaulted by Hong King. However, she refuses to give up. She works hard and makes friends with the local townspeople. She also grows closer to Charlie, who begins to fall deeply in love with her. Meanwhile, Hong King is beset with financial problems and decides to sell Polly to the highest bidder. In a rare stroke of luck, Charlie wins her in a game of poker. She moves in with him but insists they remain platonic and keep separate quarters.

Jim comes back and wants her to be with him but he then leaves her again when he finds out that she is living with Charlie. The "white demons" begin to run out the Chinese people from their town so it will be a purely white town and the Chinese will stop getting all of the gold.

Polly works in many jobs and saves money to go back to China and her family, but ultimately ends up falling in love with Charlie. She marries him and lives the rest of her life with him in a different area so she will not be harassed by the white demons anymore. (Wikipedia)


Review

A brilliant film set up as a love story but in fact a telling history of racism in America. Right after the end of the Civil War, when blacks became free, it was the Chinese who were discriminated against in California, where many had come in search of fortune.

The film in itself is not the best structured one you will ever see, but it is a most interesting historical novel about a part of American history many forgot.

Read my other reviews of books about China here in this blog.

01 July 2021

Film review: The Butler (2013) by Lee Daniels, *****

Synopsys

Historical drama directed by Lee Daniels and starring Forest Whitaker. The film tells the story of Cecil Gaines (his real name was Eugene Allen)'s 34-year career working as head butler at the White House. 

Beginning his tenure under President Eisenhower (Robin Williams), Cecil would see another seven presidents come and go throughout his career and was present at the highest level of the state during some of the most tumultuous periods in the 20th century including the American Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War. The ensemble cast includes John Cusack, James Marsden, Liev Schreiber, Alan Rickman and Oprah Winfrey.

Review

An incredible story, though not completely a real one, about racism in America during the XX century. One African American boy, born a near slave in Virginia, rises to win the respect of successive presidents. He even lives long enough to see a black person become president for the first time. Much progress has been made, but it is not yet enough.

21 May 2021

Film review: The Help (2011) by Tate Taylor, *****

Synopsis

The #1 New York Times bestseller by Kathryn Stockett comes to vivid life through the powerful performances of a phenomenal ensemble cast. Led by Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and Bryce Dallas Howard, The Help is an inspirational, courageous and empowering story about very different, extraordinary women in the 1960s South who build an unlikely friendship around a secret writing project — one that breaks society’s rules and puts them all at risk.

Filled with poignancy, humor and hope — and complete with compelling, never-before-seen bonus features — The Help is a timeless, universal and triumphant story about the ability to create change.

Review

We are taken by our hand into the southern USA in the 1960s, when the civil rights movement was reaching its peak. Black helpers at home are treated little better than their slaves grandparents, but in their small way these ladies begin to change things.

Unfortunately the problem just won't go away, and there is still much racism in the southern US fifty years after Martin Luther King, even after a black American has been elected president. 

You an also buy the book.


29 August 2017

Film review: A United Kingdom (2016) by Amma Asante, *****

Synopsis

From director Amma Asante, starring David Oyelowo (Selma) and Rosamund Pike and set against the breath-taking backdrops of the African savannah and period London, A United Kingdom celebrates the inspiring real-life romance of Seretse Khama, King of Bechuanaland (modern Botswana), and Ruth Williams, the London office worker he married in 1948 in the face of fierce opposition from their families and the British and South African governments.


Review

A historical narrative of one sad page of the decline and fall of the British Empire after WW II. There are two levels to the story: a personal tale of love and a non-fiction account of the birth of a new African country.

Churchill is depicted for what he was: an anti-democratic imperialist, who would go back on his promises to try and salvage the decomposing British empire. But the prejudice of blacks against whites is displayed as well at length.

In the face of all these difficulties, it was a remarkable feat for the young leader to pull off a national reconciliation that would make Botswana a unique success story in post-colonial Africa. One of very few examples where the leaders who took over power from the colonial rulers actually improved their nation's lot and did not squander national resources for personal gain.

Highly recommended movie to understand a very special part of Africa.










11 December 2016

Film review: A Perfect World (1993), by Clint Eastwood, ***

Synopsis

Academy Award winners Kevin Costner and Clint Eastwood confront each other from opposite sides of the law in A Perfect World, an acclaimed, multilayered manhunt saga (directed by Eastwood) that rumbles down Texas backroads toward a harrowing collision with fate. Costner plays Butch Haynes, a hardened prison escapee on the lam with a young hostage (T.J. Lowther in a remarkable film debut) who sees in Butch the father figure he never had. Eastwood is wily Texas Ranger Red Garnett, leading deputies and a criminologist (Laura Dern) on a statewide pursuit. Red knows every road and pothole in the Panhandle. What's more, he knows the elusive Haynes – because their paths have crossed before.





Review


A film about America's south in the 1960s, its gun culture and trigger-happy police. The story unfolds against the background of pre-civil rights movement racial relations. A culture that is still to a large extent there, half a century after the time when this movie is set and despite eight years of a black American president.

Clint is his usual hard-nosed expression-less man, and Costner plays very well the role of an equally tough criminal who reveals his inner kindness, even to the child he loves and who eventually contributes to his death.

The movie is a succession of apparently casual events that decide the life or death of people, seemingly by fortuitous coincidences. In a perfect world, there would have been a happy ending, or rather this story would not have started at all!



Choose your favorite Clint Eastwood movies here.

In the US buy it here



Buy other movies by Clint Eastwood here.

03 November 2014

Book review: South Africa: A Traveller's History (2003), by David Mason *****

Travel to multi-colored South Africa
Synopsis

A Traveller's History of South Africa is intended as a comprehensive single volume survey of one of today's most popular and exciting destinations. Lifting the lid on this most multi-cultural of societies - and its chequered past - the book will begin by tracing the evolution of South Africa from prehistoric times, taking into account the most recent archaeological and anthropological findings. It will then chart the penetration of the region by European explorers and traders; the political, social and economic developments that follow on from this, and finally, the complicated descent into state repression of the majority black population after the Second World War. Bringing the story up to date, the book will also include practical information for the visitor, as well as a full compendium of historical facts and data.


Review

Well written brief history of South Africa, will be a friendly companion to travelers there and will help appreciate the country better than a guide book.

Racial issues of course are prominent in this book, and the white vs black juxtaposition is described in a wealth of details. But the history of South Africa is one of parallel struggles amongst the white colonizers, one the one hand, and among indigenous Africans, on the other. English and Dutch settles (less the French) fought each other as much as Zulu fought Xhosa.

Interesting to learn that the NNC (forerunner of the ANC) supported segregation because it saw it as a way to acquire power over African tribal rulers. Yet, as Mandela put it, segregation developed over time to become " the codification inone oppressive system that was monolithic, diabolical in detail, inescapable in reach and overwhelming it power".

See other books and films about South Africa I reviewed in this blog.





16 December 2013

10. - 16 Dec.: Knysna golf and dining

Tour of downtown Knysna. It's a wonderful late Spring day and it is obvious that Summer is knocking at the door. Lots of people strolling about, eating in the numerious terraces, drinking and shopping. Inevitable in an upmarket area like this, most shoppers and diners are white while many of the workers are black.

As I walk aimlessly around I meet a painter of dogs. A man in his mid-sixties perhaps, kind of short (even by my own 1.69 cm standards) and sporting a long graying beard almost down to his chest. His thick mustache do not completely hide a sweet greagarious smile. A pair of rectangular glasses with a thin frame combine very appropriately with a black beret to produce a perfect blend between a carefree XIX century bohémienne and a modern alternative street artist.


Yes, Teddy is a painter of dogs. He has a dog with him, a small hairy dog called Jock. I know the dog's name because it carries a bright golden badge around its neck with the owner's phone number, in case it should get lost. Teddy paints Jock a lot, it is his main subject, but he also paints other dogs. Occasionally, he paints something else, mostly when he gets motivated by a commission for a specific subject, he told me. But dogs is what he likes to paint.

Just a few steps from his position a couple of sturdy guys are playing their guitars while singing country music. It is a rich mix of Southern country, with some occasional blue-grass overtones, and other local street music. They both wear black T-shirts, a thin necklace, dark sun glasses and a hat that reminds me of Indiana Jones.

Our walk continues to the local supermarket, where Yan and I fall in love with the most colorful baskets of tropical fruits. You can buy it as it comes from the tree, or for a small premium they will serve it nice and peeled in small trays. Prices are incredibly low, at least for our strong Euro, but Yan tells me these delicacies would be far more expensive even in Beijing.

Afternoon back to golf practice. Trying to hit the ball into a more or less straight trajectory toward some flags planted at varying distances into a huge field. I aim at the 50 and 75 meters flags, with mixed results, but who cares? Mike, Lifang and I have a fun and relaxing time while the sun gently sets behind us.



Dinner with local friends at Cafe Mario by the Waterfront. There are no black or colored patrons. My local friends say it's normal because blacks like different food and each of the peoples of South Africa keep to the company of their own kind. Just like Germans and Italians. Well, maybe. It is true, when I live abroad I tend to have more Italian friends than others. But here other considerations come into play: safety, a backlog of racial distrust, if not hatred, that has not yet been completely overcome.

I ask them a question that I will ask a number of times when talking with white South Africans old enough to remember apartheid. The question is: All whites now say they are for racial equality, but what did you think then? (Actually not all whites would agree, there are yet some factions of overtly racist white South Africans, but they are marginal.)

The answer I get today is that they did not know much of what was going on during apartheid because there was no tv in South Africa until the 1980s and a strong censorship prevented news from spreading even within the country and even among rich whites. It is true that there was no TV in South Africa until very late, it started broadcasting only in 1976 to be precise, and then only one channel was available and it was strictly controlled by the government.

And yet I find it hard to believe they did not know, there was so much noise around the world, they certainly knew of Archbishop Tutu winning the Nobel peace prize in 1984 for his anti-apartheid activities. I come out of this conversation with a belief that while most whites were, and are, honestly open and not racist, they acquiesced with apartheid at least, and feared change.

In a way this reminds me of Italy and Fascism: most of my compatriots supported it as long as it was successful and made them feel special, but after 1945 it was virtually impossible to find anyone who would admit to having been a Fascist. And of course many claimed a role in the Resistance, just like many South Africans now say they operated to end apartheid for what they could and were never racist to begin with.

Be that as it may, the restaurant serves very good, real Italian, ossobuco, the best I can remember having outside my beloved peninsula! Italy is well known here for the food, of course, but not for much else. My friends are an exception: they are highly sophisticated lovers of the arts and know Rome as well as any bona fide civis romanus.

When I ask, however, I am surprised no one remembers another Italian who made South Africa known around the world in the 1970s: Marcello Fiasconaro who almost accidentally broke the world record for the 800 meters wearing the blue Italian shirt with a tricolor in the middle. The world record was gone three years later but the Italian record still stands forty years later and counting...

Back home, just after midnight, Mike pops a bottle of bubbles. It is now 17 December and it is officially the day of my 54th birthday.