First it was the film Behind Enemy Lines, and then the studios hit us with with Black Hawk Down. If, like me, you are sick of the jingoistic, racist and chauvinistic films coming out of Hollywood at the moment then Tigerland is a breath of fresh air. Don't be surprised if you haven't heard of this film-it had a very limited release in UK cinemas.
It graphically portrays a time when the people of Vietnam humbled US imperialism 30 years ago. This grainy film, shot mainly on hand-held cameras, follows Private Bozz and his platoon during their eight-week training course. They are preparing to fight in Vietnam. Previous Vietnam War films like Platoon, Full Metal Jacket and Apocalypse Now were set in 1967-8, just as things started to go badly wrong for the US. Tigerland is set in 1971, when the US army was disintegrating.
In the film new recruits are desperately trying to get discharged. According to US government statistics over 150,000 GIs went absent without leave in 1971. At one stage Bozz is seen reading and discussing the anti-war novel Johnny Got His Gun. He takes every opportunity to rebel against the military machine. Recruits are shown how to torture captured Vietnamese freedom fighters. When an officer tells them, 'When you get to Vietnam, shoot first and ask questions later,' a grunt replies, 'Like My Lai, sir!' My Lai was a village where US troops massacred 300 unarmed civilians in 1968.
Even the top brass in the film don't believe they can win the war. In one scene you see an army training officer addressing the recruits. He tells them, 'Some of you have heard that we have lost this war and think that we don't have the support of the people-we can discuss these questions when you get back home.'
Next time you pop into your local video shop, you could do a lot worse than renting the video of Tigerland.
Bread and Roses
KEN LOACH'S acclaimed film Bread and Roses had a shockingly limited cinema release. Thankfully it is now out on video. It tells the story of Mexican workers in Los Angeles. They have entered the US illegally in search of a better life. Instead of the American dream they find poverty and exploitation.
Ken Loach shows how these vulnerable, often female, office cleaners find confidence when they begin to organise in a trade union and raise their own demands. Some of the funniest parts of the film are when these 'invisible' people begin to challenge the rich and powerful whose offices they clean. Ken Loach says he wanted to expose the hypocrisy of politicians towards the immigrants and asylum seekers who are 'used and abused as cheap labour on both sides of the Atlantic, and treated as if they are a blot on the landscape.' Bread and Roses shows how such workers can stand up against exploitation, racism and sexism.
This film is an inspiration to workers and socialists everywhere. Get it now.
By Helen Shooter
By Judy Cox
IRIS MURDOCH was one of the most successful and widely read British women novelists of the 20th century. She was one of the leading philosophers of her generation. She was also very attractive to both men and women, a capacity which she exploited to the full.
Yet today her life is remembered best for its end – her tragic battle with Alzheimer's. This disease destroyed a sharp, bright and witty mind. Its progress was recorded in a biography written by her longstanding and deeply loving husband, the Oxford don John Bayley.
This story is told in a new film starring Kate Winslett, as a young, vivacious Iris, and Judi Dench as the dying older woman. Jim Broadbent has already won awards for his portrayal of John Bayley. A film about the lives of Oxford academics will seem uninteresting to many. And the film has been criticised for not focusing on Iris's brilliant career. But is a beautifully acted and moving story of enduring love and loyalty.
MONSOON WEDDING is a colourful collision between Indian and European cinema. Directed by Mira Nair, it is set around the arranged marriage between Hemant, an Indian living in Houston, and Aditi, daughter of a well to do Delhi family. The film weaves together a tapestry of different subplots.
The themes covered include the impact of the Western world on India, child abuse, and the good and bad sides of arranged marriage. There is a tension between duty and desire. The way the film treats these themes is not always as effective as it could be. The lives of ordinary Indians hardly feature in this film. The director concentrates on the drama and comedy of the middle class families.
The film is most successful when it highlights the contradictions of modern India. Aspects of Western culture are everywhere, symbolised by the universal use of mobile phones. At the same time Aditi's father risks bankruptcy to arrange the perfect 'traditional' Indian wedding for his daughter.
The use of traditional and modern Indian music, song and dance works extremely well, and makes this film delightful to watch. Colour explodes from the screen throughout the wedding ceremony. This is a dazzling, witty and joyful film, and an interesting comment on modern Indian life.