Monday, May 3, 2010

On Storm

I finally watched M.I.A.'s 'Born Free' video clip tonight, having already had a moment of disbelief in response to somebody else's reaction to a description of it. US 'soldier' figures are depicted breaking into houses, beating people up, rounding up redheads and driving them into the desert where they are forced to run away, and shot down by the truck driving alongside them. A boy is shot in the head at point blank range, another young man's body explodes as he runs into a grenade.

They round up redheads in a kind of genocide. How horrible! Well.. yes. It's horrible, as genocide tends to be. It's confronting, but it's tame, and I'm glad that it exists and has been the centre of such controversy. I do wonder, though, how people are still able to take it at face value and consider it a statement against redheads.

'Redheads? That's horrible! That's.. that's so awful! How ridiculous.'
'.. I think it's making a broader political statement than that.'


Having unintentionally missed all but the last day of the German Film Festival, I went with D to see Storm on what was a deliciously dreary Sunday afternoon, and crossed to the wrong side of the river for the pleasure. Apart from the handful of girls accompanied by parents/grandparents, I was the probably the youngest there by oh, 20-30 years, and felt it accutely. South Yarra makes me feel so uncomfortable in my own skin. There's a palpable difference that side of town, which I can't properly articulate, but which is uncomfortable enough to keep me away as much as possible.

The movie highlighted the usual disconcerting themes of justice vs. the law, which are particularly salient in cases of such gravity and abhorrence. What is fair, right and just, and what is the legal outcome? What are the options when political motivations and potential consequences have to be considered in choosing how and whether to prosecute? What should be done when properly prosecuting a case will lead to political upheaval and potentially reignite newly dormant conflict? What if justice in one case leads to catastrophe elsewhere

Perhaps the deal swindling in international criminal tribunals is more shocking due to the acts it deals with, or more visible for the same reason. A witness's story uncovers a rape camp that had been established at a hotel in Srpsca during the Yugoslav war, but the court is unwilling to hear this testimony due to time constraints and the witness having been found midway through the defendant's hearing. The defence and prosecution counsel do a deal, as I imagine often happens; a reduced sentence in exchange for some tesimony or other.

It's a brilliant film that has been considered by an ICTY prosecution lawyer to be an accurate representation of the process that goes on in The Hague at the ICTY, (as mentioned in the pre-screening talk). While obviously dramatised, the film is suspenseful and challenging without being dramatic or remotely sensationalist. It's difficult to watch, as, I would argue, the best films are.