Edinburgh Cinema

Edinburgh’s cinemas have their own, different feel. When I visit them, I’ll be writing about both the film and the place, giving you the organic experience. Film critics on the big scale can’t really cater for this, so I hope my reviews bring something extra in this respect.

BlacKkKlansman

blackkklansman_poster_2

 BlacKkKlansman

In an age of the absence of subtlety, BlacKkKlansman is arguably the perfect movie to tackle the issue of racism in America. It presents a black-and-white world of good versus evil, of racism and its opposite, in a clear-cut binary relationship. The cops – with one clear exception – are reasonable, anti-racist people, while the KKK are obnoxious and generally a little backward. Turning the tables perhaps on the now-infamous Birth of a Nation – the 1915 silent movie which both contributed to dehumanizing African Americans while revitalizing the KKK and their cross-burning motif – BlacKkKlansman is sufficiently a Manichean popcorn movie to leave no one in doubt that racism against people of colour is wrong.

In fairness to the movie, there are moments of ambiguity that serve as talking points – but only a few. Mainly, this involves African American cop and protagonist Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) and his relationship with Black activist Patrice (Laura Harrier); how he navigates this relationship with someone ideologically opposed to the institution he serves carries a tension. Yet not much tension: Stallworth gets around this complexity by simply not telling her his undercover-cop status. They talk, but we never see Stallworth agonising over loyalties, his loyalty to the police force remaining unfazed.

This superficial treatment of their relationship is indicative of the main flaw of the film for me, namely a weirdly simplistic depiction of let's-all-get-along. For one, the representation of the police as generally good eggs - evident in their office celebrations at the end - surely fails to represent the systemic targeting of African Americans by the police in the US – brilliant documentaries like 13th indicate the much greater scale of racism in the institutions of law enforcement. To cite some issues ignored by the film, the profit-making policies of mass incarceration in the U.S. appear designed to marginalize African Americans while filling U.S. prisons with profit-churning labour. Politically too, being tough on crime is the kind of electoral issue that Republicans and Democrats appear desperate to embrace, from Nixon to Clinton, and more broadly, law enforcement policies which implicitly target African American communities are what made the Republican Party the dominant power in the southern states of the U.S. Presenting the police as containing a few bad apples does nothing to address or represent this deeply embedded structural racism.

Of the KKK, meanwhile, I do also wonder at the value of showing racists in such two-dimensional terms. As a contrast, I felt Edward Norton's complex performance of a neo-nazi in American History X (1998) was both much more convincing and a better starting point for a discussion on racism and its relationship with power and violence, as well as economics. But then, perhaps times are different now: with Trump in the White House and Fox News and online media having contributed to the polarizing of political and racial discourses like never before, director Spike Lee may well be trying to reach out to a decent 'majority' for whom Manichean Marvel movies are the order of the day. Like a Marvel movie indeed, the film's main characters Ron Stallworth and his trusty white partner Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) emerge as a likeable duo with all the complexity of Captain America and his all-American shield. President Trump is bad, goes the message in the news footage at the end, and let's not allow a few bad apples – and the weird madness of racists holding torches – to spoil the party. It says much about our age that such a simplistic message carries its own weighty profundity, one that I found myself applauding with much of the audience as the credits rolled.
A Star Is Born
My Week in Netflix: Denial and The Stanford Prison...
 

Comments

No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment
Guest
Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Captcha Image

My Latest Posts

August 21, 2019

Hearty by Emma Frankland

Hearty by Emma Frankland Raw and dripping with punk aesthetic, this one-woman-show's one-woman emerges in ripped tights and a T-shirt that paraphrases loudly the words of anti-trans theorist Germaine Greer: Lop Your Dick Off. My first impression of Emma Frankland is edgily uncertain and in awe, her Lady-Gaga-looks combined with Heath Ledger's mesme...
August 21, 2019

Pronoun, Pass, & Amnesty International

Transgender drama: Pronoun To be clear at the outset, this was the production of a youth theatre group, not a highly resourced team of experienced, professional career actors – although some of the performances left a powerful impression, and the show as a whole achieved some remarkable moments. Pronoun , written by Evan Placey, follows the transit...
August 13, 2019

Transgender Dance: Sound Cistem

Transgender Dance: Sound Cistem It starts with a heartbeat, the dancer-directors Lizzie and Ayden in slow-motion entry, setting the scene of a nightclub featuring two young transgender bodies who are in fact multiple. Sound Cistem is theatrical dance set to a series of pulsing, dance-floor rhythms and the voices of several trans interviewees projec...
August 04, 2019

Drone by Harry Josephine Giles

Drone by Harry Josephine Giles The blurring of human and machine reiterates here in a comedically surreal, startling performance by the performance poet Harry Josephine Giles. Drawing on visual and aural effects, Giles presents the disturbingly evocative middle-class arc of the life of an electronic, military drone. With Giles as both narrator and ...
August 03, 2019

Burgerz by Travis Alabanza

Burgerz by Travis Alabanza Playing currently at the Traverse Theatre is Travis Alabanza's poignant and comic one-person show, a thought-provoking meditation created out of a jarring personal experience. Back in 2016, Alabanza, a non-binary person of colour, was abused in a London street, with a burger thrown at them by a stranger. The show's series...
August 03, 2019

While transphobes get more hateful, I become more freckly

While transphobes got more hateful, I became more freckly Written weeks after the conference Transgender: Intersectional/International There's nothing good to say, even the films I enjoyed watching this past week, Midsommar and Apollo 11 , I've lost the Sunday will to write. Perhaps Brexit Britain will become like the village cult in Midsommar , bu...
June 09, 2019

Dark Phoenix, John Wick 3, Godzilla: my reflections

Three fantasy movies within three days: X Men: Dark Phoenix; John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum; Godzilla: King of the Monsters The Lacanian feminist Kaja Silverman says about cinema, we go because we need the affirmation, to see the things we hope to see and fail to see in the real world. In Lacanian-speak, Silverman says we go because 'the desire ...
June 02, 2019

Personal Reflections on Transgender: Intersectional/International

Personal reflections on the conference Transgender: Intersectional/International (28-29 May) ​​Note: these reflections do not represent anyone else who contributed to Transgender: Intersectional/International I got involved with Transgender: Intersectional/International in order to create an LGBT/queer space that accommodated discussions on racism,...
April 28, 2019

Gina's Moving Castle

Saturday afternoon 27.04.19 Enough with marking papers. Enough about conferences. Outside is a blue sky. There's a book shop nearby, my temple, its owners are trying to remove stickers of transphobic messages pasted on their door. Yesterday I met a guy who'd been set upon by a group of 17-year-olds. He still had the scars, and the trauma. They saw ...