Blacks Britannica

Blacks Britannica is a 1970s documentary interviewing working class Black Brits, exploring their analysis of race, class, colonialism and capitalism. It was initially banned on its release for the reasons you’d expect.

It’s kinda depressing how much of it remains relevant half-a-century on. And it flags up gentrification, back before it even existed in the form we now know it, as a tool to disrupt united communities from forming power blocs, whether that be centred around class or race. In some ways it’s grim, because the issues they flag in 1978 about the curtailment of union power, it’s nothing close to the complete gelding that has taken place by the 2020s. Horrifyingly, there was stronger tools to fight for these goals back then than there is today, and we have all the same issues writ into extremes they couldn’t imagine. The conglomeration of wealth that existed in the hands of a few in 1978 would be nothing to the explosion the 80s would bring, and it has risen exponentially ever since, the planet-destroying levels.

On the bright side, it’s nice to see Darcus Howe and Gus John speaking in their youth, talking about how what the National Front propose, the Tory party platform and the Labour party pass. That if you don’t know your history, you think the racism you’re experiencing is because Margaret Thatcher is evil – which is correct and accurate – but if you know your history, you understand that putting a nicer person in that position, or putting a black representative in that position, wouldn’t change anything. Because this didn’t begin now, it’s been going for centuries, and it replicates generation after generation because of structural racism, which will not end until the system is dismantled.

Coming from one of those generations that followed, it does feel like watching people waving from the deck below you on a sinking ship. Their voices were banned because their message was so vital, and we still struggle to find a way to mobilise a response today.

Getting Away With Murder(s)

Getting Away With Murder(s) asks the question why were the people who carried out the holocaust not brought to justice? Less than 1% of the people who participated in this mass murder were ever brought to trial. Of those, fewer were convicted, and even fewer adequately sentenced. It takes thousands of people to commit a genocide, why were they allowed to go free?

The TLDR of the film is lots of reasons, but primarily indifference. Whether antisemitism because it was Jews, or simply because it wasn’t *me*, the living were more concerned with their lives than the dead. Plus, history is always marching forward, and in the century of infinite war, the next one started almost before the old ended, with the Cold War absorbing everyone’s attention. And because the dead can do nothing for you, whereas the living can still be made useful. So those with power are not only able to kill their victims, and attempt to erase their crimes, but also benefit from the knowledge and skills they acquired doing so, to make themselves attractive to future employers and benefactors. Plus also, the state will always be very reticent to prosecute people for carrying out the orders of the state, no matter which state it is.

After watching this absolutely fascinating and utterly horrifying film, you are almost more impressed that they even prosecuted the ones they did. Because it was all uphill, with only surface-level shows of support, and resisted at every level of civil and political society. And it was seemingly mostly driven by pressure groups, activists, and a few well-placed firebrands like Fritz Bauer, Simon Wiesenthal, and Benjamin Ferencz. Literally without those pushing, absolutely nothing would have been done at all.

Politicians, civil servants, and police don’t like the idea that they might be prosecuted for the actions they carry out. Americans resisted the notion of prosecuting based on the violation of human rights, because they knew it might open themselves up for prosecution for the mistreatment and lynching of African-Americans. Ditto Britain for the many of its own subjects it had massacred and abused. There was a fear that by holding Nazis accountable, they were picking at a thread which might undo themselves.

But also, this is about widespread public outrage, and how the public appetite for justice is instrumental in seeing it done. Nothing gets done without it. This film shows how it takes thousands of people to make a genocide with their own hands, and how it takes thousands afterward to raise up to demand justice. No on does either alone.

The filmmaker notes that some occupied territories did try mass-resistance to extermination attempts, such as in Denmark where every gentile wore a yellow star so as to make Jews indistinguishable on the streets, and evacuated almost all Danish Jewry to Sweden, or in Albania where the predominately Muslim population hid and protected almost all the country’s Jews. But equally, there were places where antisemitism ran so strong that there was willing, and even enthusiastic participation in the genocide, such as in Slovakia, which actually paid the Germans to take Jews off their hands, and in Lithuania, which saw massacres of Jewish communities ahead of the Nazi invading front, in anticipation for what would become permissible under their reign.

The truth was, it would take money to prosecute thousands of war criminals appropriately, and there was not the inclination in many countries to do it at all, and a squeeze for resources even when public support would permit it. Europe was in ruins after the war, and everyone wanted to think about a brighter tomorrow, rather than dwell on the darkness of the past.

But justice delayed is justice denied. It has been often said, but is never truer here. Because Jewish calls for prosecution were told to quiet while the country rebuilt. Then quiet while the Cold War enemy was at the door. Then quiet when they were told it was too long ago to be tried now. All the while slowly waiting for them to die off, and become as quiet as the dead they defend. And now the last remaining Nazis and their prosecutors are reaching 100. And time silences the issue once and for all. Justice delayed is justice denied.

All throughout the film, the warning rings clear, if people get away with murder, it shows everyone you can get away with murder; and if people get away with mass murder, it shows everyone you can get away with mass murder. Most people who carried out the killing of 6 million Jews died old, comfortable, and surrounded by their loved ones. What fear has anyone of carrying out the next genocide?

Belle

I never saw Belle when it first came out coz I thought it looked gash. But since seeing it analysed in The Psychosis of Whiteness, I’ve been a little interested in what the complete piece looked like. And tonight it was being shown as part of Black History Month with a panel from CRER to provide some much needed context.

To be honest, this was the best way to see it, in an audience fully aware of its inadequacies, and treating it as Jane Austen fanfic more than anything approaching historical truth. Everyone booed the baddies, clapped the goodies, and gave a fierce snap whenever an eviscerating line was laid down. Treating it as escapist fantasy with a black female lead is probably the best way to watch this.

In some ways, I don’t know what to really add to what you can probably imagine about Belle just from watching the trailer. It is very loosely based on the life of the real Dido Belle, the biracial daughter of a Scottish aristocrat and an enslaved African woman, acknowledged despite illegitimacy, and raised in her father’s family estate. But I imagine all resemblance to the actual life of Dido Belle ends about there. Directed by one of the few Black British female filmmakers out there, it is understandable to want to make a happy story full of romance and courtroom drama and period costume, that reflects the little girls who adore this genre and are Black. But maybe if there were more Black British female filmmakers out there, who were allowed to make big budget films with Black British female leads, this film could be allowed to settle amiably into the period drama romance genre without needing to, being criticised for, and ultimately failing to fulfil a story which is made to carry such weight in terms of representation of racism in British society.

Much like I spent the duration of North and South shouting at the television, “Bastard! Bastard!”, and cheered when the strikers looked to be about to stone to death the capitalist cuntoes, so too did I spend the entirety of Belle with a sharp smirk at every white person, muttering under my breath, “Wow, what a hero(!)”. Seriously fuck all these people. This is another movie in which white people use the only black character as an opportunity to grow and learn. This film is barely about Belle, it’s about the uncle who raises her, and is eventually persuaded to act like less of an arsehole about having a biracial ward. Belle is merely a mirror for the white characters to see themselves in and congratulate themselves on what they see.

It is, of course, totally whitewashed and sanitised, with the actual suffering of black people erased. Slavery is discussed but never seen. The court case Belle’s defacto father presides over is about the murder of 130 African slaves, but the names of these people is never used or known. Belle’s mother is entirely absent from the film, and no one even thinks to ask whether there was consent between her father, an aristocratic naval officer, and her mother, an enslaved woman.

I didn’t go see this first time round because I knew it would stick in my craw. So I recommend only watching it as escapist fantasy. Maybe pair it with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Know that what you are seeing is Black representation within the British tradition, and a challenge to absolutely nothing.

The Man Who Sold His Skin

The Man Who Sold His Skin is based on Delvoye’s Tim, an artist who tattooed his work on a guy’s back, a man who now sits in exhibit halls displaying it. In this film, the canvass is Sam Ali, a Syrian refugee who sells his back to a famous artist to gain safe passage to Europe.

This film is chocca with themes. It’s about art and its commodification, the devaluing of human life in comparison with the arbitrary value placed on status symbols, religious metaphor with the visa as salvation, and Faustian deals which bring you closer to Hell as you approach an imagined Heaven.

It also has a very human story at the centre of it, that of Sam and Abeer, two young people in love at the start of the war. Sam is impetuous, impatient, eager to get married. Abeer reveals that she loves him while they sit together on a train, and Sam passionately declares to the carriage that he loves her and asks for a sheikh to marry them there and then. Unfortunately he also in his exuberance adds a few words about the optimism for a new age through the Revolution.

Thus they are separated. Sam is arrested by security forces, and has to flee to Lebanon. As war approaches, Abeer marries a man who is a foreign diplomat who can take her abroad to safety. Maybe Hell is just being given time to sit with your mistakes.

Sam cannot accept that their love is doomed, and meets a famous artist who says he can take him to Belgium where Abeer is. He can make him rich. He can bring him out of the margins of society and make him famous and valued. “Call me Mephistopheles,” he says.

He tattoos Sam’s back with a visa stamp, turning him into a work of international art. As a human being he could do nothing and go nowhere. As an object, he has international passage and is valued as precious.

But will it actually get Sam what he wants? Or will being in Belgium only bring home just how out of reach a married woman is? Will this visa free him or mark him for permanent ownership?

Sabaya

Sabaya means girl, but under ISIS sabaya refers to the women and girls raped and used as slaves. They are trafficked and sold and brutalised. When ISIS invaded the Yazidi homeland in northern Iraq, in the Sinjar province near the border with Syria, they slaughtered boys and men, abducted and raped girls and women, and did their best to eradicate the Yazidi as a people.

This is the fight back. Sabaya follows the Yazidi Home Centre as they track down and recover trafficked Yazidi girls. It is incredibly dangerous.

5 years on from the ISIS invasion, Kurdish forces have managed to bring them under control. Many are being held in a prison facility, and the rest are in the Al-Hol camp. Like any defeated side, who rush to hide the family silver when the army is at the gates, ISIS started to hide the Yazidi girls they had took, seeing each one as money they could use, something to be sold.

Enter the volunteers at the Yazidi Home Centre, Mahmud, Ziyad, Siham, Zahra, and countless women who go undercover in the Al-Hol camp. These undercover agents must go into ISIS-controlled territory, pretend to be ISIS supporters, and relay back to Mahmud and Ziyad any information they can glean about Yazidi girls stashed around the camp.

The nerve of these folk is unreal. They are not an army. They are not going out there in a tank or with a SWAT team as back-up. Mahmud is a middle-aged man with a handgun. Most of the women working undercover are freed sabaya working to save their sisters. Any of them would be killed without hesitation if caught.

It is a real testament to the bravery of these women, to have endured so much, and be able to face down that fear, and return to one of the most dangerous places in the world. And the dedication of people like Mahmud, who has his wifi router tied up to a car battery to ensure these women can always reach him.

And yet that awe mingles with the mundane. This vital work often just looks like an idle man glued to his phone. As a recently freed girl sobs in the back bedroom, Mahmud’s wee boy skites around the floor on a pillow. Siham feeds the chickens, then takes the girl’s chadors and niqabs out back and burns them in a cleansing bonfire.

The tone of the film can change dramatically from scene to scene, emphasising the precariousness of the relative safety the Yazidi Home Centre. In one scene it can be of Siham and Zahra nurturing liberated women to recovery with gentle familial affection, and in the next a phone call to Mahmud means everyone piling into the van to run a midnight raid in the camp, kicking their way into tents and pressing traffickers into revealing the whereabouts of their victims, and making a dash home with a found survivor under pursuit and gunfire from ISIS.

Each life saved feels like a victory. A woman freed. A loved one returned. And a part of the attempted genocide of the Yazidi thwarted.

Censor

In Thatcher’s Britain, at the height of video nasty fever, Enid, a buttoned-down film censor who sincerely believes that her work protects society, comes across a film which challenges her sense of reality. Having lost her sister many years before, the lack of resolution to her disappearance causes Enid to believe one of the actresses in a low-budget horror is her sister, now grown into adulthood. As she plunges into the murky world of the very thing she despises, she begins to lose herself in her quest to regain her sister.

Loved Censor. Within the frame of the tv screen, all the horror is bright red, shrieking with screams, and sumptuous in its gore . In the real world of Enid’s life, everything is grey, with muted, humming lights, and terse and impersonal dialogue. This contrast seems to bleed together, as Enid’s dreams take on this Argento-esque soporific quality.

Enid’s character, in both her personal and professional life, is about self-control, about the repression of extremes of emotion, and keeping a firm grasp on her trauma and grief. By contrast the violence in the videos seems ecstatic, glorying in its own gratuity, a joyful release of the darkest kind.

In some ways it’s a strange choice to use the world of the most explicitly violent horror movies, to show a slow-burning, largely unarticulated, psychological horror. On the tv screen you have all this gore, but the film’s story is of slow internal descent, of all the screws coming loose on a personal’s character, of a break-down of what has pinned them together up until this point.

And the trauma that Enid is grappling with is so massively the opposite of all that tv violence. Her sister went out to play in the forest with Enid, and Enid returned alone. Those are the only facts we have. There seems to be no tangible evidence of what happened to her sister, not by accident or foul play or anything else. Far from bombastic gore, this huge and life-changing thing seemed to happen without leaving a mark.

But a child herself at the time, Enid cannot remember what happened. And it is this hole that frustrates her the most. Because how can she not remember something that important? The greatest frustration is that the answer she seeks most in the world, might somehow be buried inside her, and she can’t see it.

Obviously for anyone who’s ever seen a horror movie before, you go straight to the trope of ‘maybe she did it and doesn’t remember’. But that’s explicitly put on the docket by Enid herself, she’s aware of that as one of her deepest fears. In reality it wouldn’t actually change a whole lot, because whatever happened, Enid blames herself. She was the older sister, it was her suggestion to go play in the woods, whether by her own hand or another’s, it’s her fault her sister is gone. And that sense of responsibility for protection, and fear of a duty failed, drives her character.

Both the character of Enid and the video nasty moral panic feel the need to externalise the terrors concealed in mundane life, in the fragility of mortality, of sanity, and security, so that they might be vanquished. However in crusading against them, it only denies looking deeper into their causes, and that which in ourselves and our lives is unknown and unknowable.

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Night of the Kings

Fucking beautiful!

Night of the Kings focuses on a night and a day in a maximum security prison in Ivory Coast. While a token force of guards remain, the prison is really run by its king, Blackbeard. In this brutal, modern setting, the most traditional of stories plays out – an ailing king is falling, his princes vie for his crown, and to stave off oncoming death and war, he holds a night of ritual storytelling. A new inmate is picked to be storyteller, and his life and the king’s, and maybe everyone else’s as well, relies on keeping his story going until dawn.

Exquisite cinematography combines with evocative design to create this world, a city within a jail within a jungle, just as the film is about stories within stories. The sound and music transport and punctuation journeys through the prison and through the stories. A Thousand and One Nights meets the griot tradition as the storyteller’s voice calls out, and the audience respond, and some in the crowd participate in acting out, dancing, and enhancing the story.

The storyteller, Roman, tries to tell the story of his friend, Zama King, a street gangster who is caught and killed by a mob on the day Roman is arrested. In it, he tries to weave it together with ancient fairytales of sorcerer kings and queens, tying his short, violent life to the history and mythology of his country. As he does so, he tries to reach back to the falteringly remembered traditions of the griot, striving to recall from before his life as a thief.

So much is done in this movie with so little. The use of the space to give a sense to a sprawling, cut-throat city, within prison walls half lost already to the encircling jungle. The ability to convey an impending sense of threat and danger with very little actual violence. It’s amazing how breathlessly merciless the world feels, when so little takes place on screen. Roman asks what awaits him at the end of the evening’s entertainment, and is told to look up the stairs, where a hook hangs from the ceiling. The implication and dread don’t need anything more explicit than that. When Zama King is captured by the mob, in a crescendo of anger, you only see them put the tyre around his neck, then you see flames from behind the backs of the crowd, and don’t need to see more. A lot is down with very little.

The only thing I’ll say is, I would have liked the ending to have been more rounded, pulling more together from the threads within and without the stories. But it ends, as everything in this world ends, punctured by loud, bright, violence. And the abruptness of that, the lack of satisfaction in that, kinda reflects the lives of the people this film is about. It is Zama King, dead at 19. It is the inmates, who live in brutal conditions where the threat of death is ever-present. It is the story of revolution and war in Ivory Coast where the satisfying ending to its story is lost in unfinished and unfinishing violence.

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Bhaji on the Beach

Went to Bhaji on the Beach as part of the Film4 classics season. I never saw this as a kid, coz I would have been 7 when it came out. But it’s great!

A bunch of Brummies go on a trip to Blackpool through the local South Asian Women’s centre. There’s wee auld grannies clucking their tongues at all the weans. There’s Asha, who’s going half mad in her joyless domesticity and is having visions of the cinematic romance she once envisioned for herself. There’s the teenagers who’ve come to try and get a snog away from parental eyes. There’s Hashida, the neighbourhood’s golden girl who’s found out she’s pregnant to her secret black lover. And there’s Ginder, who’s scandalised the community by running out on her husband to become a single mum.

I loved this film. It starts out a bit rocky, with some of the scenes a bit ‘Eastenders acting’, but as the film goes on everybody seems to hit their stride.

It’s so weird to see something from a time I lived in, and see it look so dated. I kept going – Look, Woolworths! Look, I had that plaid shirt! As a seaside film, it already has a level of twee nostalgia baked it, but if anything, time has lent it an increased sweetness.

It’s just a good time. Just as the characters are on a nice day out, the movie is just a feel-good ride. For all the issues hit on – domestic abuse, racism, abortion – it’s never grim, because the nucleus is of a strong community of women, sometimes in conflict with each other, but fierce to defend each other.

P.S. My favourite was granny Pushpa. She reminded me so much of my own granny, who, whenever she had to mention a controversial subject, spoke through her nose. Them down the street were “Cah-thlah-s” and they two lassies across the road were “leh-sbeh-s”. Pushpa does the same thing except she breaks into Hindi whenever she’s saying something dodgy. I loved her so much!

Last Man Standing: Suge Knight and the Murders of Biggie and Tupac

It was a fucking lovely day outside today, so I went and got a Tango Ice Blast and went to see Last Man Standing.

What to say man, fuck.

So, last night I rewatched Nick Broomfield’s first documentary on this subject, Biggie and Tupac. I had a vague memory seeing it back in the day, but it was out when there was so much stuff about this being put out, it all kinda merged together. In the trailer for Last Man Standing, Broomfield says that before a lot of stuff folk wouldn’t go on the record about, whereas now with Suge Knight put away for a long time, people were coming forward to talk. I wanted to remind myself about what exactly the gaps had been.

Because 20 years is a long time. Right after it happened, the line was that Bad Boys put out a hit on Tupac and Death Row put out a hit on Biggie. Then it started coming out naw, it was a gang thing, Tupac had beat up some guy from a rival gang, they’d hit Tupac, and then Tupac’s gang took out Biggie in retaliation. Broomfield’s first film came in about here in the timeline of stories, when word started going that the LAPD had been involved in Biggie’s murder. Now, LAPD covering up shit, or deliberately not pursuing shit wasn’t a surprise to anybody. What the Broomfield documentary laid bare was there were LAPD cops on the books at Death Row, being paid as protection (“security”), who dressed in gang colours, who were heavily involved with gang members, and who were there while all the crazy illegal drugged-up shit was going down at Death Row.

Biggie and Tupac is a very different documentary to Last Man Standing. It’s not just made 20 years ago, it’s made by someone with 20 years less experience. I watched Biggie and Tupac and was struck by how naive Broomfield seems. As experienced as he was at doing documentaries even then, he just rocks up at all these places in Compton, asking people what they know with a massive camera on his shoulder. He seems completely unaware of what it means to bring a white face and camera into Compton and start asking about gang affiliation and links to organised criminal activity.

I find his language kinda ill-considered too. Like, he talks about Snoop Dogg being terrified of Suge Knight getting out of jail, on that occasion for parole violation. It’s like, you can’t talk about Snoop Dogg being terrified, quaking in his boots at Suge’s shadow, are you crazy? That is the least diplomatic thing you could fucking say in what was, at that time, still an ongoing gang war.

Also, a lot of people he interviews speak differently to him than they do when speaking to each other, or recalling a conversation. A lot of that code-switching, which kinda showed to me they weren’t really comfortable with him. Your interviewees should be telling, not translating.

Also, he didn’t seem to have any backing from anyone in Tupac’s side of things, no support from the family. He kinda painted Afeni Shakur as a deadbeat mum, who ditched Pac to do drugs his whole childhood, but showed up to cosy up with Suge when Tupac’s royalties were up for grabs after his death. I think everyone would agree, that’s not a fair and accurate portrayal of Afeni.

It’s always really suspect when something doesn’t have the family’s backing. But Violetta, Biggie’s mum really took to Broomfield and felt she got a lot out of the movie. Broomfield put her in touch with Russell Poole, the whistleblower who uncovered the links between LAPD officers and Death Row, and they shared information and support. As a result of some of the things uncovered in the documentary, Violetta sued the LAPD.

So why go back 20 years later and make the film again?

Well, for one, because no one has been arrested or charged in the murders of Tupac Shakur or Biggie Smalls. In Tupac’s case the killer confessed, and boasted about that shit all over the neighbourhood. He could have been picked up any time, but he was killed in the subsequent waves of gang violence 18 months later. In Biggie’s case, you had enough evidence that Russell Poole wanted to proceed with charging officers David Mack and Rafael Perez, among others, and was shut down by the chief of police. It’s not like these cases are a whodunnit. There are extremely viable suspects. And you’d think with two of the biggest celebrities at the time being murdered on the street in public in the centre of the city, you would *think* that would warrant pull-out-all-the-stops, no-stone-left-unturned investigation.

It’s weird now, to communicate to someone who wasn’t even born at the time, to this generation, like how big of a thing this was. Tupac got killed on the Las Vegas Boulevard, right on the fucking strip! The night of a Mike Tyson fight. You could not have more eyes on you. I dunno what the equivalent today would be, but in terms of fame and money, imagine Beyonce getting shot in Times Square on New Years’ Eve. For nobody to be caught for that kinda crime, you have to be determined not to catch someone.

Anyway, Last Man Standing. I wondered if it would simply be retreading old ground, basically the same documentary as Biggie and Tupac with some of the holes plugged. But it’s not. It’s its own seperate thing. Biggie and Tupac is very much the story about Biggie and Tupac, their rags to riches story, their talent and their friendship, destroyed by needless violence. Last Man Standing: Suge Knight and the Murders of Biggie and Tupac is about Suge Knight. It’s his story.

Because in Biggie and Tupac, all roads led back to Suge Knight, violence surrounded him like it was circling a drain, yet he remains illusive throughout the film. He does one interview, it is the film’s last scene, and he refuses to comment on the murders, but makes a not-so-veiled threat against Snoop Dogg and labels him a snitch.

In Last Man Standing, we begin with Suge Knight. Who he is and what he did are the central questions of the movie. As Biggie and Tupac ends on Suge Knight making death threats, and Broomfield wondering if Snoop is going to be next in what was, at that time, a seemingly never-ending list of rappers losing their lives to this cycle of violence, you are left with the distinct impression that Suge Knight is a dangerous man, that if he gets his way, the killing won’t end. As Last Man Standing starts, we begin with the scene of Suge Knight’s most recent murder, the killing of Terry Carter. It seems the ominous assessment held true to its grim promise.

The film traces Suge Knight from his fairly comfortable upbringing, his good home life, and his promising scholarship to college, and his career in college football, and briefly at a professional level. His origins are about the furthest you can get from where he ends up. He was never involved with the Bloods, although he knew people in the gang, even a couple of friends. He wasn’t involved in any street violence.

After his football career doesn’t take off, he uses his heavy set frame as a bodyguard, and manages to work for celebrities like Bobby Brown. He makes connections and sees a good business opportunity, becoming a black-owned label putting out the work of black artists at what was the birth of the rap genre.

And if it had stopped there, Suge Knight would be a millionaire, Tupac and Biggie would be old and be living off their investments like Jay-Z, and an untold number of ordinary kids on the street would still be kicking about the neighbourhood.

The gangsta image that sold so well, went from something that was projected to something that he wanted to live. You know how they say don’t get high on your own supply? Suge Knight sold an image, and he began to buy into the shit he sold.

Some of the shit they detail as going down in Death Row Records is insane. If it was happening in a corrugated tin and concrete shack in the back of a vacant lot, it would still have been a crazy place for all this shit to go down. The fact it’s a working business office, a place where people were trying to record tracks and put an album together, during daylight working hours. In-fucking-sane. To intimidate folk, Suge Knight used to keep a opaque tank full of black piranhas in his office, like a fucking bond villain. They talk about having bitch fights, like dog fights but with women. Have two women beat the shit out each other for the crew’s entertainment. There’s orgies right there on the red carpet, over the Death Row logo.

And he just sucks everyone else into his own vortex of madness, and power, and belief he was untouchable. When he signs Tupac, he draws Tupac from his goal to make socially conscious music influenced by his mother’s Black Panther activism, to this Thug LifeTM money machine, convincing him that only he had his back. The drugs, the paranoia, and the whole too-muchness kinda destroys Tupac, drawing him into increasingly self-destructive behaviour, especially lashing out at Biggie, an old friend who he feels betrayed and abandoned by, due in large part to Suge’s manipulations.

Last Man Standing holds Suge Knight morally responsible for the death of Tupac. You can’t invite your mate out to play on the motorway, then hold yourself blameless when he ends up dead. The shit that gets Tupac killed, is Suge Knight’s shit. It’s his poison that he stirred.

As far as Biggie is concerned, it’s not even that far removed. It’s as simple as Suge pays David Mack and David Mack shot Biggie. End of. If you can’t draw a line between that few dots…

When Biggie and Tupac ended, you felt that the story was unfinished, that the killing might continue. Suge Knight is now serving a 28 year sentence. He’s 56. He won’t be eligible for parole until his 70s, and he’s not gonna make it to his 70s because he’s had blood clots and all other sorts of shit. It’s over. He had to kill one more person, but yeah, he’s finally been stopped.

Last Man Standing is the story of how one egomaniac caused so much violence, loss and misery. And all the people caught in the crossfire.

The Killing of Two Lovers

The Killing of Two Lovers is the exact opposite of what you think it’s gonna be.

From the trailer, I thought it was gonna be a tense atmosphere thriller, which it is, but my big worry is it would be a sympathetic portrait of a wife-murderer, yet another tender look at the pitiable state of a white man denied his right to domestic bliss, and avenging what was his. You know, the usual toxic masculinity bullshit.

But it’s not. Or, it is about toxic masculinity, but it’s about grappling with it, not engrandising it. It starts at the place I expected it to end. It starts at the height of the crescendo. The main character stands before his sleeping wife and her lover, a gun in his hand. But this moment is not a culmination of tension looking for ecstatic release in violence. It is shown as the precipice of horror as the main character realises this is what’s become of his life.

And so the rest of the film is of him trying to find another way to deal with this problem. Not by kicking off his baggage and going to a counsellor to hug it out, coz life’s not like that. But you see him trying make more effort with his wife, trying to make more effort with his kids, and the whole time that tension is in the background. Does he know any way to handle this that doesn’t come cascading down in rage?

Because the film follows him through these cycles. As he tries to find some way of expressing the cacophony of emotions he’s feeling. And how, with frustration, it always ends up being funnelled into anger. Because that is the only emotion men are actually taught how to express.

So the structure of the film starts from this place of horror, and spirals through these attempts to pull away from it and finding its draw once more, each time the tension rising as you become more and more invested in the characters you’re getting to know.

Masterful build in tension, beautiful cinematography, wonderful acting, and actually surprising for what is such a by-the-numbers cliche of a premise. Will surpass your expectations.

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