Tuesday, 16 November 2010

A Graphic Movie About Auschwitz, Really?

By Candice Carboo-Ofulue

As far as adaptations of real life go, Hollywood, or the motion picture in general, has pretty much scraped the bottom of the barrel. Alive, Munich, Hotel Rwanda, Blood diamond, Joan of Arc....Nothing is above cinema. It’s almost easier to list what hasn’t been done.

Some subjects, however, do seem to be beyond certain genres. I couldn’t tell you what they are, but I know they exist. And until last week, few of us could have imagined a graphically gruesome, horror flick about Auschwitz. But you tell that to Uwe Boll, known for his gory adaptations of video games, who feels it’s time to cinematize the "full horror" of Auschwitz, no matter how controversial. Well Uwe, I guess somebody had to do it, in the same way that some idiot has to pull the alarm-lever on the tube in the middle of rush-hour.

The critics, however, do not appreciate Boll's unique tribute. In fact, they are hyperventilating in outrage, accusing it of being distasteful and disturbing, with some even pledging a boycott. This is probably water off Boll’s back. In the end, it’s us, the box-office tickets, who get the final verdict. So what do we think? (Speculatively talking, since it’s scheduled for release next year). There is, apparently, a YouTube teaser, which I have to admit I'm too chicken to watch, so feel free to read this ponder with a pinch of salt.

Boll’s justification for this picture, apart from enlightening us to the excruciating horror of Auschwitz, is that we’ve been somewhat nullified by the “special story films”, such as Schindler’s List. Hmmm, sorry Uwe but I struggle to see your point; Schindler’s List was pretty good.

In my opinion, depicting every murderous tentacle in its full, graphic inhumanity is about as helpful in conveying the harrowing crimes of Auschwitz as a pumpkin. Did you watch the “Passion of Christ”? I did, or at least I tried. Yes, it captured the violence, but did it invoke any profound awareness about the plight of Christians, the persecution of religious minorities, or even the state of humanity? Err, nope. Well, at least not in my immediate circle of intellects. I did, however, hear discussions akin to: Did you watch it to the end? Wasn’t it horrible? Did you see the part when......?

Where's the benefit in simply sensationalising the violence? Here’s my question Mr Boll: How exactly do you expect to communicate the torturous agenda of Auschwitz, if people are too afraid to peer over their popcorn box, or beyond their partner’s jacket? I think you’ll find you don’t need violence to convey violence. Any wife beater will tell you that much. The nightmare of Auschwitz, and thus the Holocaust, is embedded in its inhumanity, which cannot be reduced to gas chambers. Why have a scene of gruesome experiments performed on twins capture the nuances of fear and despair of the Holocaust, when a closed door can have the same effect?

In fact, in an era where films such as Saw and The Hostel have normalised murder and brutally, I would go so far to suggest that it is an overly violent movie, which is desensitising

Uwe, I’d be more inclined to embrace your movie if you were tad more honest. Try: “I’m an uninspired Director, partial to exploiting people’s amygdales for a cheap scare, and what better material than Auschwitz, I don’t even have to invent the violence. After this, I’m considering a torturous spectacle about Nelson Mandela’s years in an apartheid prison”. Or something like that.

Of course, this is just my opinion; I’m open to other perceptions. What do you think about this latest production about Auschwitz? Are some subjects just too taboo for Hollywood, or at least some genres? Or is nothing above being interpreted (or exploited) by film, or Art?

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Should Prisoners Get The Vote?

By Euclides Montes (@Gatulino)

The British broadsheets are reporting that the government is poised to bring the UK in line with most European countries and allow prisoners to participate in the electoral process by voting.

This is one of those heated topics that usually divide people throughout the country regardless of their political leanings. So, should prisoners get the vote? And what does this question in itself mean for the role of the prison system in modern society?

On the one side, there are those that would argue that prisoners have excluded themselves from the rights law-abiding citizens enjoy, including the right to take part in participatory democracy. Those on this side of the debate often liken voting to undertaking jury duty and they argue that a person who has been given a prison sentence has also effectively given up their right and that this is a privilege of sorts that can only be regained once the prisoner has paid their debt to society. This disenfranchisement of prisoners is very much in line with the way the prison system worked in British society for most of the 19th and 20th century where a prisoner was understood to have lost their citizenship rights.

This is a view that has been disputed for a long time and the other side of the argument has gained a real foothold of the debate in modern society. Those in favour of giving prisoners the vote usually argue that rather than a right, voting should be seen as a civic duty and giving prisoners the opportunity to join in with wider society is a useful tool in their process of reintegration. Beyond that, an argument that has driven this debate over the last decade is that by giving prisoners the vote and raising their electoral capital in the process, politicians would pay closer attention to our prison system as it would mutate from a problematic field of policy into a possible source of important votes during an election.

Although it’s quite clear that there is probably not a right or wrong answer, allow me to have a go at answering the question of this ponder.

My personal feeling is that it really depends on how we view prisons and their role in society. Whilst it is a very valid view that prisons should remain a place where those who have transgressed against society pay their penance, I personally believe that prisons should instead be a place where prisoners are rehabilitated and given the tools to rejoin and be able to participate fully in their society. An eye for eye is a bit outdated for my liking and a prison term should not be seen as a payment for faults but as a system that helps our fellow citizens to gain the skills needed to be integral parts of their society. I believe voting, or rather having the choice to partake in participatory democracy, is a key part of this rehabilitation. As such, I personally welcome this move. How about you?

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