Thursday, October 20, 2016

Sonita (2015)

We Americans have automated and commodified war. We’ve done this so thoroughly that even out of the meager 12% of Americans who can even find Afghanistan on a map (26% for Iran), our instincts cause us to dismiss Iran and Afghanistan as those places we want to raze because “they hate us.” But what if someone in Iran or Afghanistan wants to make life better for both Americans and Iranians, but repressive cultural traditions, a totalitarian government, and the constant threat of suicide bombers reduces her to a statistic before she even can?

Sonita, a documentary by Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami (who comes to play an active role) tells the powerful story of Sonita Alizadeh, a budding Iranian rapper whose socially conscious lyrics aim to end the tradition of forced marriages and the struggles of families living in abject poverty. For any of a dozen reasons—none her fault and few under her control—Sonita could have become a statistic, just another battered teenage housewife of a wealthy Afghan man, a living deed sold off by her own family, for the price of a used car, so they could put food on the table or afford a daughter-in-law of their own. Through a long succession of miracles—including the creation and release of this film (courtesy of the feminist non-profit Women Make Movies)—Sonita has a chance to take control of her life and to make a difference for the people of Iran.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

To Live and Die in L.A. (1985)

William Friedkin’s To Live and Die in L.A. inspired me to start Turban Decay. Growing up Arab in rural America meant (among many, many other things) that seeing any images of “people like me” in a film felt like finding Waldo. I’d just feel so excited at seeing anyone in any film from the same part of the world as my ancestors.

Then I watched To Live and Die in L.A., a movie that opens with Friedkin using the language of film to sing the praises of Ronald Reagan and his tough talk on taxes. Before the film’s actual plot even started, an Arab showed up for a handful of seconds only to summarily detonate himself. It hit me that what I just saw has become not the exception but the rule. I’d feel so excited about representation that I willed myself to ignore the hateful propaganda within. I might feel different if much had changed for racial politics in the 31 years since its release, but, well, Donald Trump.…

Thursday, April 21, 2016

God's Not Dead (2014)

Yes, I know I haven’t updated this blog in months. Sorry. I have a day job. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s do this.…

My girlfriend recently talked me into hate-watching God’s Not Dead. I really didn’t want to. Frankly, only one thing about this turkey ever interested me: the irony that this film exists to gainsay atheists… but technically, atheists agree with the title. Of course, the film fully lived down to my expectations of wholesale incompetence. God’s Not Dead probably unseats Buffalo ‘66 as the most spectacularly oblivious display of psychological projection in film history.