Saturday, August 03, 2013

In Guns, Narco Cultura, and Blackbird

Another short pulled me into a Melbourne International Film Festival session for Tuesday night, which turned out to be the 12 minute piece before the full length Narco Cultura. Oops! Ha!

In Guns We Trust was a vignette about Kennasaw, the US town in Georgia, where a law was passed that stated that every head of a household must have a firearm. Talk of the Second Amendment and the right to hold arms, and the right to defend your family was voiced. Thomas Jefferson’s assertion that every American should have the means to overthrow the government, their “right to revolution” was thrown in…wow. Also crime statistics were touted, as reportedly dropped since the introduction of the law, claiming to be a place of one of the lowest crime rates in America.

They did not, however, mention how many accidental deaths or injuries were sustained by gunshots within the town during the same period, which would have helped with a more balanced view in my passivist mind!

The film was mainly black and white stills, with a clever use of movement within a picture, on occasion. Confronting for this Aussie in the audience was the images of children firing weapons at a firing range – an abhorrent scene within the context of our country’s careful gun control.

Set in Juarez, Mexico, Narco Cultura depicts the current violent murder capital of the world, the drug wars and also the music movement coming from this dark and scary element happening in these parts. Graphic images of the murdered are confronting and shocking, as we follow the crime scene investigators going about their jobs and responding to the horrific volume of deaths in the streets of this small city – just across the border from the most peaceful and safe American city of El Paso, Texas. We hear of the fear, and also the pain of the families of those often in the wrong place at the wrong time. We follow as this team of investigators deal with their very real concerns of being targets themselves, the underground corruption impacting their work, and then of the powers behind the killings. The money, the drugs, and the current most wanted man in the world.

Out of all this horror and pain, there are rappers producing music about the violence – and it is becoming a musical movement sweeping Central and Northern America, with an astounding popularity. “We will be the next Hip Hop”, one artist tells the audience, as lyrics tell of murder, methods, weapons and hero statuses are sung, preformed, and worshipped. We see packed out concerts and fans excited to see their musical heros. All emulating the killings in such graphic ways.

Disturbing on so many levels, this film stuns with the very real and frightening state of this town, and this music movement.

Blackbird is a film which would rank within my top 5 so far for the Festival, which was a Wednesday morning session at ACMI. Set in Canada, it’s a story about a misfit teen dumped into a small town to live with his father, after being rejected by his mother and her new husband. A self-proclaimed goth, he is unpopular and a target for bullying; but develops a strong friendship and growing romance with one of the most popular girls at school.

The usual teenage difficulties proceed, leading to a point where Sean is threaten by his new friend’s boyfriend, and makes an equal threat in return over an online chat with her later than night. The difference is that his was made in a format that was recorded, such is our online lives these days. He also made mention of having the means to do it, in relation to the collection of firearms his father kept at their home.

This online chat throw-away threat is then used to accuse Sean of plotting a school massacre in the post-Columbine North American fear, and amazingly he is sent to juvenile detention centre to await a formal trial for these charges. Here, his awkward misfit ways are a target for the violent inmates he is thrown in with, and this becomes the most dangerous of situations for him.

The acting performance and script leads you the viewer to completely sympathise with Sean, a victim of fear and circumstance. The portrayal and evolution of Sean and his father’s relationship throughout the film is a powerful side story, adding to emotion of the story, and added depth to the movie.

In Guns… mentioned the old turn of phrase that guns don’t kill people, that people kill each other, and that is of course true – people with guns! These three stories on film show this, from several different angles.

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