Bowling for Columbine
directed by Michael Moore
On 20 April 1999 two students at Columbine High School in Colorado shot and killed 12 fellow students and a teacher. On the same day the US conducted its largest bombing in the Kosovo war. US satirist Michael Moore takes the school shooting as the starting point for his new film, Bowling for Columbine. But he also shows how racism, the media and government policies against the poor all contribute to explaining why guns kill 11,127 people every year in the US. Moore's film-making style makes his story extremely compelling. By putting himself in front of the camera he makes it seem disturbingly real.
We see him talking to a member of a militia group who claims that a US citizen is in dereliction of duty if he isn't armed. It would be funny if you didn't know this man was deadly serious. A great part in the film is when Moore shows the power of protest. He goes to the head office of the K-Mart superstore with two of the Columbine survivors. K-Mart sold the bullets that were used in the massacre.
Moore is visibly shocked by the protest's power, as K-Mart announces it will ensure that all bullets are removed from all stores within 90 days. He lays a great deal of the blame for the climate of fear on the media. It suits the government to make people think 'the enemy' could strike at any moment.
After 11 September this has been quite easy, but it can't do it without the media. Moore talks to a reporter who says he would always choose a story involving a gun over a drowning child.
He also talks to Marilyn Manson. The media blamed him for the Columbine shooting because the students responsible liked his music.
He discusses how he was made a scapegoat because it suited the way the media tries to portray society. Crime in the US is decreasing but media coverage is increasing. As a result fear of crime is increasing, and with it gun consumption.
It is great to see such a powerful indictment of our society on the big screen. Moore shows how ordinary people suffer, but also that we are the ones who can change society.
Anita and Me
Directed by Metin Hüseyin
Meena is a young girl growing up in Tollington, a pit village in the Black Country. It's the 1970s and she is typical of most girls her age. She reads Jackie magazine, dreams about boys, and loves going on adventures with her mates. She wants to be blonde and glamorous when she grows up, and there's only one thing that stops her from doing it - she's born to Punjabi parents. Anita Rutter is Meena's hero - she is blonde and glamorous.
Meena manages to be a part of Anita's gang by being daring and rebelling against her parents. The two strike up a friendship in Anita and Me which is tested by the racism in society at the time.
Meena is forced into an impossible situation. On the one hand she wants to be like Anita and reject her family. On the other hand her family provide a feeling of belonging that she strives to find elsewhere. Things get serious when a family friend is beaten by local lads who are clearly influenced by Nazis. Meena's parents wonder why they ever came to Britain.
Her struggle to grow up as a normal girl in a society that doesn't see her as normal is both comic and sad. Meena's story is based on author Meera Syal's experiences as a child. Syal says the film is about a shrinking world and how people adapt in it.
That's definitely true, and the film is worth seeing, just as the book is worth reading. But it isn't just about people adapting. It's about people struggling.
Black & Proud
The Soul of the Black Panther Era
Music can reflect political movements. That was true of the late 1960s and early 1970s, when soul and funk became the voice of the civil rights and Black Power movements. Two new CDs, Black and Proud volumes one and two, chart the music of this period.
The Black Panthers and Malcolm X created a movement so powerful that even mainstream artists such as Marvin Gaye and the Temptations produced political records. Included on these CDs is the track 'You're the Man' by Marvin Gaye. It is about his growing frustration with the limitations of the civil rights movement and despair at the Vietnam War.
There is the inspiring 'Ghetto Child' by Curtis Mayfield, and some more obscure numbers which are equally as soulful, including 'James Brown' by Ghetto Reality and 'Get Involved' by George Soule. Several songs are an open call to revolution, none more powerful than Gil Scott-Heron's 'The Revolution Will Not Be Televised'.
The Socialist Workers Party has managed to get hold of these two brilliant albums. Everyone should own them both.
To order your CDs write to CD Offer, PO Box 82, London E3 3LH. They cost £12 each plus £1 postage and packing. Please state which volume you require. Make cheques payable to Sherborne Publications Ltd. Phone credit card orders to 020 7987 1919.