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Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Left I at the Movies: "The Wind That Shakes the Barley"

Last night I got to watch a movie that has been touted in progressive circles - "The Wind That Shakes the Barley," about the struggle in the early 20's to free Ireland from British rule, a subject about which I acknowledge only rudimentary knowledge. The film was difficult to watch, not because it was poorly made, but because of the opposite - because it was so well made, a seemingly realistic portrayal of the very harsh reality of a brutal war.

What is particularly interesting about the movie, and, from reading some reviews, of other movies by director Ken Loach, is its overt thought-provoking nature regarding questions facing all those who struggle for revolutionary change - when to fight and when not, when is a compromise the "best you can get" and when is it a "sell out," is it possible to fight to end an occupation without fighting to institute a new social order at the same time, what do you do when the struggle changes stages and those who were previously on the same side find themselves on opposite sides? To me, without trying to force the parallel, the Irish struggle in this film, and particularly the struggle within the revolutionary forces, is the struggle between Hamas and Fatah in Palestine, the fight between those in Iraq who have now taken American money to fight for the Americans and those who still fight against the Americans, and no doubt many other examples as well.

Curiously enough, none of the reviews I read (post-viewing) mentioned this timely relevance of the movie, but in one quite interesting review, I found the director himself making the point:

"There is a pattern you see again and again - this kind of manipulation by the ruling power, how different interests will unite in the face of a common oppressor and then ultimately how those contradictions inevitably have to work their way out. I’m sure you can see it in places like Iraq now, where the opposition to the US and Britain brings together a lot of people who will find that they have different interests when the US and the British are finally forced out."
I'm pretty sure that was written by Loach before the creation of the "Awakening Councils" in Iraq, which makes the parallels with the movie even more striking.

Two thumbs (all I've got) up.

Side note on the DVD: thank God for subtitles! No way I could have understood all that thick Irish brogue without them! Also the extras (a feature on Ken Loach and the director's commentary) are both well worth watching.

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