Showroom Cinema: A political heavy-hitter
As we drift towards the autumn season and the weather cools down, cinema inevitably kicks up a notch. The summer escapism and the blockbusters offering fun for all the family subside, making way for slightly more topical fare.
Two major releases this week - one from the UK and one from the US – although vastly different, are both political heavy-hitters.
First up is the true(ish) story of the first Black police officer in Colorado Springs, a man who despite the colour of his skin, managed to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan.
It’s the latest Spike Lee Joint, produced by Jordan Peele - the director behind last year’s racially-charged horror hit Get Out.
The film takes place in the 1970s, punctuated with Spike Lee’s signature quick-wit, sizzling style and generoussprinkling of Blaxploitation references.
It spends a good portion of its time looking back (it’s sort-of biographical after all), but it utilises its view of the past, to point its lens firmly at the present. To take fire at the racism, nationalism and right-wing politics that we have seen rise and rise in recent years.
In the opening sequence, we see Alec Baldwin, shot in black and white, as a caricature of the white supremacist.
With its tongue firmly in cheek, it draws clear parallels to Baldwin’s Saturday Night Live sketches, where he parodies Donald Trump. This scene sets the tone for the rest of the film - there are laughs-a-plenty, but also the uniquely bitter sense that this is not all fiction and it doesn’t only exist in the history books.
Vastly different in tone, plot and themes, but carrying equal political relevance is our second major film on the big screen this week. The Children Act, an engrossing and compassionate adaptation of Ian McEwan’s novel of the same name stars the formidable acting-powerhouse Emma Thompson as high court judge who specialises in the ethically-complex topic of family law.
Building on the themes laid down in Apostasy earlier this month – a debut British feature about a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses – The Children Act follows Thompson’s character as she decides whether to rule against the parents of a young boy in need of a blood transfusion, an act that will go against their religion, but save his life. Both Apostasy and The Children Act deal with the moral debate surrounding blood transfusions, the right of appointed people to rule against a family’s wishes – to force a life to be lived. The films choose not to take one moral high ground, instead shedding light on the issue and allowing the viewer to make their own decisions. Apostasy was released in early August but is still screening at the Showroom.