Saturday, September 13, 2008

Photo Essay: How do you make food security sound exciting?

Take a look at my photo essay which I regretfully titled Food Security in the Luangwa Valley. I promise, it's more interesting than it sounds.

In other news, I'm pretty awestruck by Melita's Toronto Film Festival blog and of course Carley for helping create the site. I've spent about twenty thousand kwacha on internet time reading the thing.

On that note, I saw Taken last night and it was incredible. Offensive, yes, but also awe inspiring for its focus. The trailer has the ex-CIA dad on the phone to his daughter's kidnapper saying "I will find you and I will kill you" and SPOILER ALERT that's exactly what happens. I can't remember if he killed thirty or fifty people: there are no gray villains (Albanians), just evil ones and each deserves to die. It's an amazingly manipulative film and, I'm convinced, completely tongue in cheek.

I got into a debate afterwards with a German friend about the message of the movie which he argued, like any good sociology student, promotes American militarism, racism, sexism or whatever. In fact, the movie turns Albanians exclusively into violent sex-traffickers, the French into corrupt weak-kneed bureaucrats, Arabs into pervert sheiks and Paris into a kind of bourgeois sex-dungeon from which the incorruptible American male must save his daughter while passive aggressively battling his nagging ex-wife.

But this isn't just another dumb, racist thriller: it's either very clever parody or incredibly cynical. For example why does Liam Neeson (known for other trashy films like Schindler's List) play an American super-spy with a James Bond accent even when he's impersonating a French policeman and nobody notices.

The French stereotypes are particularly funny. This is a French film after all, produced and written by Luc Besson (I love The Fifth Element). Theres a scene where Neeson, impersonating a French police officer lectures Albanian sex-slavers on the immorality of immigrating to a country and leaching off the system, all the while demanding a bribe before he proceeds to torture the leader using electric shock therapy.

So French filmmakers cynically making a better no-holds awful American movie or actually a very good movie which most people will not see past the violence. Most reviews I've read think the first. I'm not sure.

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