THE NEW film Frida explores the life of Frida Kahlo, the Mexican artist and socialist. Frida was an artist of startling power, and was married to the artist Diego Rivera.
She died tragically early at the age of 47, nursed by Rivera. The film shows that during her short life Frida was artistically and politically active. The phase in Kahlo and Rivera’s lives when they take the exiled Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky and his wife into their home is only briefly touched upon.
Trotsky is depicted as a courageous and intelligent socialist who stood on the right side of history. His anti-fascist and anti-Stalinist politics are sympathetically portrayed.
Kahlo’s part in Rivera’s life in the US, where he is commissioned to paint a mural for the millionaire Rockefeller, is explored with depth. She longs to paint and live alongside ordinary people in Mexico, and warns Rivera away from his luxury-loving, commission-seeking side.
When his mural is going to be pulled down by Rockefeller owing to the portrait of Lenin on it, she states that ‘if you lie with dogs, you will catch fleas’. Kahlo’s unflinching honesty as a socialist and artist comes through with force in the film.
However, the political references in the film might be lost on someone who doesn’t know about the political period Kahlo lived through. The excellent performances from Salma Hayek as Kahlo and Alfred Molina as Rivera make the film a pleasure to watch. I felt inspired to learn more about Frida Kahlo’s politics and art.
By Jacqui Freeman
THE MAGDALENE Sisters is a powerful film, based on the true story of the Magdalene asylums in Ireland. Run by the Catholic church, these asylums were often worse than prisons. Any young woman deemed to have ‘sinned’ was sent there to repent. Some 30,000 women passed though their doors. The last asylum closed in 1996.
The socialist Peter Mullan wrote and directed the film. He sets out to expose the injustice of the asylums and the hypocrisy of the Catholic church.
The film is set in the 1960s, a time of growing sexual freedom. Yet the women are forced to work long hours in the laundry, are beaten for any disobedience, and have their heads shaved for trying to escape.
The plot focuses on four women – Margaret, who is raped by her cousin, Rose, who has an illegitimate child, Bernadette, who is labelled a ‘temptress’, and Crispina. Crispina is sexually abused by Father Fitzroy and sent mad by the asylum.
Mullan shows how the whole system is to blame, not rotten individuals. The women are not just victims. This film will have you raging at the brutality of the church and the sexism of society. It will have you cheering every bid for freedom the women make.
A quietly evocative film
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