Monday, 26 July 2010

Review: Blackberry Stains

Watched this short film recently, and I must say, what a nice piece of work! Genuinely enjoyed every minute of it. An intense story with an emotional feel, but brought lightly and realistic, that gives this short film its charm and makes it convincing and credible.

In short: two boys are abused by their teacher, the parents do not notice anything. In the end, of the boys kills the teacher by pushing him off a ladder.

The actor who plays the teacher/pedophile does a very impressive job, especially the scene in the car when one of the young boys (the friend of the main character) is so nervous ("sir, sir, sir") and knows what is coming. Truly heartbreaking and you feel a genuine need you wish you could punch that old pervert in the face, so he does an amazing job and manages to convince the viewer he is value for money.

The camera team managed to reach a professional level with some amazing shots. A few scenes in particular: where the boy is washing his face in the white bathroom - at the end of the film - or when the camera slowly approaches the car from the side, very nicely done for a (relatively) small budget film like this.

You can tell someone did spend time thinking about the right music. It suits the different scenes - different feelings and emotions - very well. It is present, but not mostly not dominating and that gives the movie a great feel. In particular, the transition from the last scene to the credits should be remembered, the music and the images seem to become one.

The casting was pretty good. I must admit I had to get used to Matthew's character the first few minutes, but the way he expresses himself and his body language suit the film very well. Although the young boys are clearly not experienced actors, Matthew's friend (the main character's friend) manages to move the viewer. The teacher is a truly impressive actor, it is difficult to deny he portrays a true creep and he is someone you want to keep away from your kids. The interaction between the preys and the hunter feels natural and not scripted. You can perfectly imagine how uncomfortable the boys must have felt. You forget they are on a script, and they manage to make the viewer feel genuinely angry and disgusted when you watch the unhealthy moments they go through. The mother does a decent job as well. It is a pity - but nicely played - she does not really pick up what Matthew says or what he is going through.

The tragic end is very understandable. It kind of seems to answer the desire of the viewer ('pull the ladder under the dirt bag's legs'), without being over the top. And it is a smart end to a short story. No happy ending, no police involvement or a teacher who gets away with it, but the anger built within which eventually finishes off this failed and morally lost teacher.
One of One Eyed Dog's finest productions.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Latest radio 1 show

My latest radio show in Holland, about attempts by the Mayor to get more Londoners to cycle. Click on the link and my item starts straight away (in Dutch)

Sunday, 18 July 2010

South Africa celebrates: Nelson Mandela turns 92

Former South Africa President Nelson Mandela turns 92 today. Mandela, in South Africa better known as Madiba, released a statement asking people around the world to spend at least 67 minutes doing something useful in their community today, especially for the less fortunate.

In South Africa, and around the world, Madiba has become a symbol of equality, forgiveness and humanity.

The life and times of Madiba

1918: Born in Eastern Cape
1964: Charged with treason and sentenced to life
1990: Freed from prison
1993: Wins Nobel Peace Prize

1994: Elected the first black president of South Africa
1999: Steps down as president
2001: Diagnosed with prostate cancer
2004: Retires from public life
2005: Announces his son has died of an HIV/Aids-related illness
2010: Turns 92

Read more

Friday, 16 July 2010

Liberal confusion: why Nick Clegg is losing credibility

The Digital Economy Act (DEA), aimed at regulating digital media and reducing copyright infringements, officially came into force on 12 June. Although there was no reference to the DEA in the Coalition Agreement, it is known Nick Clegg opposes the Act in its current form.

On Sunday 16 May, the Liberal Democrat Party released a statement after its party conference, calling on the coalition government to repeal the website-blocking and three-strikes disconnection elements of the DEA. During the party conference, the party voted on a motion dealing with the DEA.

In its statement, the Party said ‘the Conference urges Liberal Democrat Ministers and MPs to take all possible steps to ensure the repeal of those sections of the DEA which are inconsistent with policy motion “Freedom, Creativity and the Internet” as passed at Spring Conference 2010’. The policy motion in question condemned website blocking and disconnecting internet connections as a response to copyright infringement. At the same conference, the Lib Dems denounced the DEA as a whole for ‘focusing on illegal file sharing rather than on nurturing creativity’.

Even though there is no political support for the DEA within at least one political party, it is unlikely the Party’s latest motion will change anything. Even the fiercest critics do not have the illusion the DEA - or parts of it - will be revoked anytime soon. Unless sudden action is taken by the Lib Dems Ministers - which does not seem likely - it is status quo for the DEA.

The party’s recent statement might bring hope among the DEA’s critics there is no longer credible political consent for these sections of the law within at least one government party, but whether that anticipation is genuine remains to be seen. It is unlikely the DEA - or parts of it - will be revoked anytime soon. Lib Dems Ministers do not seem too keen on making this a political hot potato, unlike their time in opposition.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Bastille Day

It is that time of the year again, Bastille Day, the 14th of July, formally called La Fête Nationale and known as le quatorze juillet (14th of July). It celebrate the storming of the Bastille prison on 14 July 1789, the start of the French Revolution, the beginning of the ‘liberte, fraternite, egalite (freedom, brotherhood and equality) era, which meant the end of the Kingdom of France and the beginning of La Republique Francaise. Today, festivities take place all over the country and the highlight is a parade with President Sarkozy in central Paris.

Yesterday I was on the phone with a colleague in Montpellier, Southern France, and he wondered “really, what is there to celebrate? French is disappearing as a world language and the new generation barely speaks English, the pension age unlikely to be changed anytime soon (currently 60, the lowest in Europe), the Culture Minister is openly a pedophile, and last weeks hundreds of millions of cuts were announced to the corps diplomatiques (their foreign ministry and army of diplomats), meaning France will unavoidably diminish its power worldwide. Not to mention how France was a complete joke at the world cup, its main players being haunted by stories they slept with a minor and only last week, the President was exposed as a corrupt out-of-control leader who takes cash in envelopes from old, rich ladies”.

When I tried to interrupt and was thinking of something positive, he continued “oh stop it, I did not even mention the banlieues nor France’s lovely Algerian community, or kids playing the healthy game Le Jeu du Foulard (intentionally cutting off oxygen to the brain with the goal of inducing euphoria).”

It made me wonder whether France (considers itself) to be in the worst state in decades. Perhaps it’s time to get the weapons out again?

“Aux armes, citoynes,
Formez vos bataillons,
Marchons! Marchons!
Quun sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons

Vive La France, Vive La Republique Francaise!
Happy Bastille Day

Thursday, 8 July 2010

FT: 'Dutch footballers shed moral superiority'

This morning an editorial comment in the Financial Times (page 10, World news section) caught my attention:

Dutch footballers shed moral superiority
It was partly the sight of John Heitinga blindly thumping balls out of the Dutch penalty area. Partly it was Khalid Boulahrouz passing back to his keeper whenever he managed to find him. Even though the Dutch scored three goals against Uruguay on Tuesday and reached the World Cup final, they were again pretty dull.

Dutch football used to strive for beauty, but has now shed its moral superiority. Off the field, so has the Netherlands itself.

The Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant phrased it well on Wednesday. “Good football is apparently no longer necessary to reach the World Cup final,” it said, and dismissed most of the team’s playing as “repugnant and irritating”. “Really nobody played very well, and that’s not many for the semi-final of a World Cup.”

Yet as these words were being written Dutch people were cheerfully waving goodbye to their tradition of beautiful football.

The tradition began at the World Cup of 1974. Admittedly the coach at that tournament, Rinus ‘The General’ Michels, cared only about winning, but he won with gorgeous attacking “total football”. The Dutch, who had never done anything at World Cups, surprised themselves by reaching the final. There they lost to West Germany, but won global praise. So Dutch football’s founding myth was glorious defeat.

In the next World Cup final, in 1978, a moderately glorious team suffered another defeat, and the tradition was cemented.

Gradually the Dutch came to glorify glorious defeat. Johan Cruyff, the star of 1974, was arguing decades later that the Netherlands had actually won that World Cup. How so? Well, said Cruyff, people still talked about their glorious football, and that represented a victory. While other teams competed to win the World Cup, the Netherlands pursued moral superiority. They were the one just man who would have saved Sodom and Gomorrah.

The Dutch breached their own tradition by becoming European champions with glorious football in 1988, but otherwise they competed only for moral awards. Before playing Brazil in the World Cup semi-final of 1998, the Dutch coach, Guus Hiddink, proclaimed from his pulpit: “Brazil, sadly, is no longer swinging and flaming. I see defenders boot the ball away shamelessly. Holland must never play like that. If we did, people would murder me, and they would be right to do so.” Brazil won on penalties.

In these decades the Netherlands was pursuing moral superiority off the pitch too. A favourite phrase in Dutch political discourse from the 1960s was “Netherlands, guide land”. It expressed the idea that the most perfect democracy on earth should be a light unto backward countries. Paul Scheffer, a Dutch political thinker, notes that it is easier for a small country to be good than strong. So the Dutch tried to teach foreigners euthanasia and gay rights.

But from about 2000, moral superiority withered. In football the Dutch suffered a few too many glorious defeats, most recently at Euro 2008. Hiddink, who supplanted Cruyff as father of Dutch football, began advocating the revolutionary notion that winning was nice. Moral superiority crumbled off the field too. In 2001 many Dutch began voting for anti-immigrant populists. The ideals-free technocrat Jan Peter Balkenende has been prime minister since 2002. In the parliamentary elections of June 9, the “Ban the Koran” man Geert Wilders won 16 per cent of he vote.

Today’s Netherlands is just another country, and its football team just another team. The players retain the Cruyffian qualities of passing and positional sense, but now they mostly defend.

Their only aim here is victory on Sunday. They need to win, because otherwise hardly anyone will remember anything about this team.

Please note: Financial Times 2010, written by Simon Kuper, published in the FT on Thursday 8 July 2010, page 10, World News section, 'Dutch moral superiority is shed on and off the field'.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Head coach orders Nigerians to stay at home

Can you imagine David Cameron suspending Wayne Rooney or John Terry for two years due to their bad performance, or Sarkozy ordering the French team to stay at home after losing a couple of games? Well, In Nigeria it is certainly possible. That is where Presidents are not leaders, they are still rulers, the Head Coach of the nation's national sport.

President Goodluck Jonathan has suspended the national players from international competition for the next two years after they performed so badly at the World Cup in South Africa. The ‘Super Eagles’ – who turned out to be everything but super – were eliminated in the first round, finishing behind South Korea, Greece and Argentina with just one point.

A Spokesman for the Nigerian President released a statement this morning, saying ‘the President has directed that Nigeria will withdraw from all international football competition for the next two years to enable Nigeria to reorganise its football. 'This directive became necessary following Nigeria's poor performance in the ongoing FIFA World Cup'. So how will these guys be fit and ready for action if they cannot participate in the Africa cup nor play any friendly matches? Perhaps Goodluck has given Nigerian football the final push by his decision today.