This week, I’ve had time – or, rather, taken time – to go to the cinema twice.
On Sunday, I went to see the new Danish documentary, Guerilla Girl. Two young Danish filmmakers were allowed access to one of the secret training camps of the Colombian Marxist Guerilla known as the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia).
This is the first time that a film crew has been allowed to film the way that the guerillas are trained, and it is quite fascinating. The film centers on a young girl, Isabel, who has left her life in the city behind – university studies, family, boyfriend, security – in order to fight with the FARC.
It is a well made film, and it fulfills a lot of the criteria set by anthropological film making as I’ve been introduced to it in Manchester: No speak, no interference from the film crew, no mediating or interpreting (only through basic cinematic means such as various montage techniques). Almost all of the words spoken are from dialogues between the relevant characters. And some of the images from the Colombian jungle are both breathtaking and disturbing.
Especially one scene where the experienced guerillas are trying to harden the young recruits to a life of violence by making them slaughter a cow. From a phenomenological view point, the scene is brilliantly done. The guerilla soldier shows Isabel where to stab the cow with the machete. She gives a weak try which only fuels the panic of desperate, tied-up cow. They make her try again. Same result. As a viewer you literally feel like you’re in Isabel’s position: Feeling the blade against the throat of the poor animal. Would you ever be able to kill something like that?
Isabel realizes that she hasn’t even considered that she might one day have to kill somebody. You’d think that would be the first thing you’d consider before joining a military guerilla group. Yet she persists.
It is very strange to watch such a film, because it seems to be strangely anachronistic: Here we have a group of people fighting for Simón Bolívar‘s vision of a Grand Colombia – though coloured in a Marxist hue. And I can’t help but think: Didn’t this sort of thing stop with Che Guevara? Are people really still doing this?
But after a bit of thought, I came to the conclusion that even though we ought to be in the age of flying cars and telepathic internet, most of the world is still stuck with semi-feudal societies, where people are indirectly bound by debt or tradition to a few rich families. Still, as the film carefully avoids taking sides and only shows the sheltered life of the training camp, it is very difficult for the viewer to know exactly what moved these young people to go to such extremes.
Last night, I saw Serenity which I have heard a lot about from the Internet geek grapevine where it had been hailed as the new king of Space Opera – continuing where the original Star Trek and Star Wars left off. It’s based on the tv-series Firefly which I haven’t seen – but it was apparently very good, even though it still got cancelled after one season.
The film is thus an extended episode of the series, much like the old Star Trek films of yore. All the cast from the tv show are here, but there are so many of them that there’s hardly room for any character development. I find it interesting, though, that the main characters are so much like the ones from Alien Resurrection which, incidentally was written by Joss Whedon who also did Firefly and Serenity (and Buffy the Vampireslayer (*rolls eyes*)).
Apparently, Whedon is becoming the new king of geek, and it is already possible to buy the shirt that confirms it.
The film manages to follow some celebrated clichés and still be a lot of fun. And, as is often the case with this kind of films, the bad guy was definitely the most interesting character. On top of that, there’s some nice cinematic effects and action scenes, as well as clear political stab at anti-depressive medicine.
Both films are recommended.