Haitian filmmaker and writer Raoul Peck recently released a four-part documentary on HBO titled Exterminate All the Brutes focusing on the violent history of colonialism and imperialism while connecting it to our contemporary political moment.
An ideological counter-insurgency against the official historical narrative, Peck’s film centers the famous colonial watchwords of novelist Joseph Conrad (“Exterminate all the brutes”) as the most succinct summary of European colonization across the Global South. With his usual alpine clarity, Peck realized that he was also a subject of this film and included personal videos from his youth and centers his family which moved from Haiti to the DRC to New York, having escaped the brutal US-backed dictatorship of François Duvalier. Bursting history asunder is a common practice for Peck, his films Lumumba (2000), Sometimes in April (2005), I Am Not Your Negro (2016), and The Young Karl Marx (2017) – not to mention his future films on John Brown and Frantz Fanon – have often pushed the bounds of acceptable discourse and provided an easy approach for those who wish to learn from his work. Exterminate All the Brutes is a must-watch for everyone concerned with how we arrived at the latest rupture in US history and will undoubtedly be an educational reference-point for a new age of historians who wish to move beyond the reactionary lies of American exceptionalism. Watch his statement of intent here: https://youtu.be/dQ4r3Qdrqmo
I have been really getting into Tracy Chapman’s self titled album lately, at the suggestion of a friend. I am a big fan of folk music, and this is such a classic that I can’t believe it took me this long to get to it! The album is beautiful, radical, and hopeful. Highly recommend checking it out, and reading this Pitchfork review of the album to get a broader perspective on its (and Tracy’s) story.
Recently I watched the film Terms of Endearment, a movie that follows a mother and daughter for a few decades. Based on a book by Texas author Larry McMurty, who died earlier this year, the film is partly set in Houston. Audiences received it well, and it became the second highest grossing film of 1983. This shocked me, though, because I didn’t think the film was that great. But I sometimes have a hard time watching 80s movies (even though I really loved them as a kid) because I came to notice that the characters’ relationships come off as half formed. For example, as Terms of Endearment’s two hours rolled on I never saw any evidence that the mother and daughter main characters shared anything resembling a close bond.
These hit 80s films (like Ghost with Patrick Swayze) depict cold and/or awkward relationships, and if you don’t know what I mean, I suggest you go watch them and search for it. The only aspect of this movie providing me with any comedic relief were the two men of the film, a husband named Flap, and an astronaut played by Jack Nicholson. Both are weird. Why is the guy named Flap? It is almost certainly a nickname but this is never addressed. He ends up being a loser professor who cheats on the daughter, but the storyline does not transcend beyond this tension. The Nicholson character is a wild one, and there is one scene in particular I’m thinking about. The love interest slash neighbor for the mother character, he takes her to lunch and gets her drunk before taking her to Galveston (#Galvy1983). In Galveston, they splash in knee deep water until, for no reason whatsoever, he latches onto her breast after kissing her. The fondling freaks the mother character out, and she rejects his advances after struggling. I thought this was a scene that aged badly, because its clear that the point of the scene is to develop some cutesy flirtation between the two. Then I learned that Nicholson improvised the scene, and I felt uncomfortable knowing what I witnessed.
So while I’m talking smack about the film, I do think trash films and TV are fun for people – please watch this!
This month has been revelatory for me. My first time fasting during the month of Ramadan as a Muslim has been wonderful. I’ve been listening to a lot of The Alchemist’s stuff this past month and I’m really enjoying the new project This Thing of Ours. I just picked up Cira Pascual Marquina and Chris Gilbert’s Venezuela, the Present as Struggle and I’m beyond hyped to start reading that after finals finish up. Also been watching the first season of Invincible, a great show for fans of DC’s animated films that is both hilarious and absolutely brutal.