Political Film Review #348

BEST POLITICAL FILMS OF 2009
Hotly diverse balloting that began January 1 to narrow nominees to five per category and continued through February 28 to decide on the following winners for 2009:

Best film exposé: Fifty Dead Men Walking
(directed by Kari Skogland)
Best film promoting democracy Invictus
(directed by Clint Eastwood)
Best film promoting human rights District 9
(directed by Neill Blomkamp)
Best film promoting peace The Hurt Locker
(directed by Kathryn Bigelow)
Special Award Cider House Rules
(directed by Lasse Hallström)

Framed certificates of the award will be sent to the directors of the honored films.

WHY DID SHE DO IT? THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN TRIES TO ANSWER WHY
In 2004, a late teen Gentile French girl cut herself superficially, used marking pens of swastikas on her body, and told the police that she had been attacked by a group of anti-Semitic boys. The Girl on the Train (La femme du RER), directed by André Téchiné, tries to provide a fictional explanation for the incident on the premise that Jeanne (played by Émilie Dequenne) felt aimless and unloved. The film begins with a description of her home life, her work site, and a love life that involves her with a boyfriend who is stabbed while trying to stop a drug pusher. In contrast, there is a description of a happier Jewish family, consisting of relatives on one side of her family who take the incident in stride. The suspense in the noir film is how a false statement to the police will be punished by the French justice system. MH

BLOOD DONE SIGN MY NAME RECONSTRUCTS EVENTS IN OXFORD, NC, DURING 1970
How did racial equality emerge from segregated Southern towns? The Civil Rights Act of 1964 provided legitimacy but not reality. In Oxford, North Carolina, the transformation began with cruel death of a Black man who was the brother of Ben Chavis (played by Nate Parker), who later headed the NAACP. That inspiring story, based on the 2004 book by a White preacher’s son, now Professor Tim Tyson of Duke University, is recounted in Blood Done Sign My Name. The film, ideal for explaining to the current generation how that transformation occurred throughout the South, begins with Ben’s arrival in town (Shelby is the filming location) to teach third grade in the town’s segregated school, as well as Vernon Tyson (played by Rich Shroder) as the pastor of the town’s Methodist church along with his family, including 10-year-old Tim (played by Gattlin Griffith). Whereas Ben has decided to forgo pursuit of a doctorate to return home and reopen a Black restaurant that would serve as a lively community center of sorts, Vernon almost immediately asks a Black preacher, Dr. Samuel Proctor (played by Gregory Alan Williams) to give a sermon one Sunday over objections from the church’s executive committee. One night Boo Chavis (played by Sahr Ngaujah) compliments two Black females on the street, but a White man nearby misinterprets the remarks as directed to two White females, whereupon a scuffle results in his death, an arrest of those accused after a Black witness courageously comes forward to file a police complaint, the dispatch of community organizer Golden Frinks (played by Afermo Omilami) by Ralph Abernathy to the town, a trial, and a verdict not unlike that of the so-called Rodney King Trial decades later. What is not covered in the biopic, and is perhaps the most crucial in the retelling of the history, is what happened from that point (after Frinks and Tyson leave town) to the election of the town’s first Black mayor. Directed by Jeb Stuart, the Political Film Society has nominated the inspiring Blood Done Sign My Name for best film on democracy and on human rights of 2010. MH