Political Film Review #546

In 1979, mass demonstrations in Tehran welcomed the Ayatollah Khomeni, and the Islamic State of Iran was born. The American Embassy was seized that year, and hostages were held inside for 444 days. In 1980, an American attempt to free the hostages failed when a helicopter crashed. Meanwhile, the Iranian authorities began to round up Arabic-speaking residents of northwest Iran as traitors; many were tortured for supporting the Democratic Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of Arabistan.

Salim (played by Ben Turner) soon decides on an odd plot: He and fellow Arabic comrades will storm the Iranian Embassy in London, take all inside as hostages, and then demand that Britain must pressure Iran to release their friends. 6 Days, directed by Toa Fraser, is the story of the 6 days in April when some 26 persons (Brits but mostly Iranians) were held hostage.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, recently elected, is determined not to accede to the demands and to deal harshly with the terrorists. Nevertheless, there are two options: One is to storm the embassy with a specially trained unit of soldiers, and much of the film is devoted to plans of that unit. The other option is negotiations, and Max (Mark Strong) seeks to calm the situation, promises help, secures the release of a few hostages, and delays action to tire out the terrorists, who become increasingly desperate to the point of killing one of the hostages. On the sixth day, the first option unfolds, key terrorists are shot, and hostages not already killed are released. At the end of the film, the fate of the principle characters is revealed in titles, and a propagandistic statement appears that the Thatcher response remains British policy in dealing with terrorists.

Yet during the negotiations, one option is to allow the terrorists to board a bus headed for the airport, where a plane would supposedly take them to Iraq, whereupon the bus would be stormed instead of the embassy. For unexplained reasons, the bus option is rejected, evidently by Thatcher herself. Instead of allowing the bus to go to the airport, the route could have been barricaded to lead into a trap outside London, where the terrorists could have been contained in the vehicle until their surrender. Thus 6 Days, with all the loud music to hype the feeling that much was at stake, leaves filmviewers puzzled. Clearly, 6 Days celebrates obstinacy and violence. MH

At the beginning of Gook, a title on the screen defines the term as a derogatory reference to anyone from East Asia or Southeast Asia; the term gained currency among Americans during the wars in Korea and Vietnam. When the film begins, April 29, 1992, a jury has just exonerated the police who beat up Rodney King, a scene that clearly shows unnecessary violence against someone being placed under arrest. Somewhere in South Central Los Angeles, a neighborhood of African Americans, there are two Korean businesses—a shoe store and a liquor store. The latter is run by Mr. Kim (Sang Chon), whose first customer years ago proved to him that he must be armed to stop shoplifting. The former, which Kim started with the father of Eli (played by director Justin Chon), is managed by Eli because his father has died. But Eli also employs another Korean, Daniel (David So), as well as Kamilla (Simone Baker), a six-year-old African American who enjoys working with the Korean duo much more than living with her father Keith (Curtis Cook, Jr.). Most of the film demonstrates that the Koreans often do not yet along, and their profanity toward one another is abundant evidence. The film also shows that Blacks will assault them as “gooks” if they are alone on the street. While the riot takes place, though not in the neighborhood of the two Korean businesses, Kamilla tells her father how she prefers to associate with the Koreans, leading to a violent confrontation. The film acquaints filmviewers with how younger Korean Americans experience the “better life” that their parents wanted for them in moving from Korea: For economic survival, they set up shop wherever they can afford and reap the hostility of enranged African Americans who cannot advance to their level. MH