After the fluff of the previous days, when themes were about singing cowboys and sibling relationships, there has arrived a much darker, more serious subject matter: white supremacy, the alt-right, white terrorism…Call it what you will, but there seem to have been a plethora of angry white men shooting their mouths and guns off at this festival. The most notable and notorious is Steve Bannon. He appears in Errol Morris’s American Dharma, in which the interviewee gets to air his racist rubbish and tries to make out it’s protectionism rather than racism. What is so troubling about this film is the subject’s clarity, intellect and culture.
This isn’t some red-neck deplorable spewing rubbish; this is a smart individual who has the means and the desire to put his money where his mouth is. Morris admits to being scared of his subject matter, and well he should be. We should all be scared. However, being scared doesn’t mean not being brave. I would like to have seen Morris ensnare his interviewee, but like a serpent, Bannon manages to slink away.
American Dharma was screening between two other films that looked at the sad, pathetic men Bannon mentions, the ones who spend their time playing video games, who feel powerful in their imagined parallel universe and who think that their unhappy lives are somehow due to foreigners rather than themselves; the ones who read Breitbart and vote for Trump. We had Brady Corbet’s Vox Lux, which opens with a mass shooter taking down his classmates in an American high school. This was followed by this morning’s screening of 22 July, Paul Greengrass’s account of the terrorist attack by a white supremacist on the island of Utøya in Norway. The film is a reminder of Norway’s immense civility and humanity in the wake of an inhumane act that saw the death of so many young lives.
Roberto Minervini’s What You Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire? gave voice to black people living in New Orleans and we see the aftermath of a mass shooting. The N word is carved into a tree and spray-painted onto a school sign, yet the police seem disinclined to view the shooting as race related. The oppression of the Indians and the blacks is depicted as an intertwined history. We hear the voices of black people disenfranchised and usually ignored. Yet in this film they are given a voice, dignity and power, albeit on film.
When I interviewed Minervini, he talked about the need for “rightful extremism” in order to fight for equality. He also stated that by not taking action, and by not participating in righting these wrongs, we are like cancer cells that feed the cancer. And he’s prepared to change career in order to be more active. These films screening over the last few days will hopefully galvanise us into taking action and fighting injustice when we see it. While we should applaud these films for at least starting the discussion, I would like to quote Jacques Audiard (who was talking about 50/50 at his press conference) when he said: “Don’t applaud. Act.”
Dear Diary #1: So, what makes this old lady of the festival circuit so special?
Dear Diary #2: Fly me to the Moon. Ryan Gosling and the Neil Armstrong’s legacy
Dear Diary #3:It wouldn’t be a festival if there weren’t a few complaints…
Dear Diary #4: Crooning cowboys and mad monarchs take over the Lido
Dear Diary #5: Brothers and sisters around the globe in search of festivals
Dear Diary #6: Venice 75? This year is decidedly bookish