Political Film Review #326

MILK IS THE BIG WINNER FOR 2008
The best film in raising public consciousness about the need for greater democracy and improved human rights is overwhelmingly Milk, the biopic of openly gay San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk. In a close contest for best film on peace, Stop-Loss, edged out Gran Torino. Gus Van Sant will receive the award as director of Milk, and Kimberly Peirce will likewise be conferred a Stanley Award for directing Stop-Loss. In 1999, she won another Stanley Award for best film exposé as director of Boys Don’t Cry. No consensus emerged for the best film exposé of 2008, so no award will be given in that category.

POLANSKY, UNAUTHORIZED TRIES TO EXPLAIN WHY THE DIRECTOR WENT OFF THE DEEP END
From 1978, Roman Polansky has lived mostly in Paris, where he escaped to avoid a court order for a psychiatric evaluation before a trial to defend himself against several crimes. A sympathetic biopic, Polansky, Unauthorized, tries to explain his complex personality, including drug use and womanizing. In the independent film, directed by Damian Chapa (who plays the title role), the scene shifts back and forth in time to link events in a creative manner. The basic premise is that his escape from the Nazis as a boy in Poland shaped his view of politics and society. The film comes at a time when a motion to quash all charges was filed in court so that he might return to Los Angeles for this 75th birthday. MH

TEACHERS LEARN FROM STUDENTS IN THE CLASS
A French film, The Class (Entre les murs) seeks to portray the difficulties of instructing early teenage immigrant students in a Paris middle school. Based on the book by the director, Laurent Cantet, the main focus is on French language instructor François Marin (played by François Begaudeau) and his multicultural students, who were recruited from Françoise Dolto Junior High in inner-city Paris. New to the school, Marin is immediately challenged by articulate, verbal students who challenge his pride based on French values in several ways. Among those featured are a bright Chinese student, Wei (played by Wey Huang); a talkative Caribbean, Carl (played by Carl Nanor); a Mali macho guy, Souleymane (played by Franck Keita); Arthur, a Goth (played by Arthur Fogel); and Esméralda (played by Esméralda Ouertani), who challenges him the most. The story comes to a crisis when Souleymane accidentally hits another student while exiting from the classroom in anger, as a disciplinary hearing follows, with the principal and other teachers struggling to find an appropriate response. The paradigm presented, an ethnocentric teacher who treads on the values of students from many cultures due to lack of prior cultural sensitivity training, could apply to inner-city schools in many Western metropolises. The film, clearly a must-see for students in Colleges of Education, was in contention for an Academy Award for best foreign film of 2008. MH