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Punk's holy fools still putting it to Putin

10 April 2014 | Barry Gittins and Jen Vuk

Cover of Masha Gessen's Words Will Break Cement features members of Pussy Riot in balaclavas dancing Journalist Masha Gessen describes the members of Pussy Riot as 'Putin's ideal enemies'. In recent months, their nemesis has hosted the Olympics, taken control of Crimea and clamped down on media. For a group born out of 'the repressions of a corporate political system that directs its power against basic human rights', Pussy Riot still has much to roar about, even if its signature 'punk prayer' sounds more than ever like a plea.

Nightmares and daydreams about women and power

1 Comment
09 April 2014 | Tim Kroenert

Stacy Martin in NymphomaniacSex addicted woman Joe's story is marked by innumerable sexual encounters with random men. Often it is explicit, and thoroughly unpleasant. It culminates in a pointed statement about societal double standards regarding gender and sex. By contrast, Carol's story about trying to get ahead in a man's world is affirming and uplifting at every turn. Both stories are about women and power, but ultimately Carol's is the more empowering.

North Korean propaganda pans Australian miners' might

02 April 2014 | Tim Kroenert

Aim High in Creation actors hold aloft a large photo of Kim Jong-ilAn intriguing insight into the North Korean film industry, whose strangely beautiful films have been used to obfuscate serious human rights abuses. Offbeat documentarian Broinowski acknowledges this fact too lightly, approaching her subjects simply as humans, who are part but by no means the sum of a much larger corrupt system. She learns the tricks of their trade, looking for clues about how she might shut down a gas mine to be built near her inner-Sydney home.

Quiet rage against Saudi sexist cycle

26 March 2014 | Tim Kroenert

Waad Mohammed inspects bicycle in WadjdaWadjda is innately political. It is the first feature shot entirely in Saudi Arabia and the first to be made by a female Saudi director, and concerns itself with the pressures women experience in this rigidly patriarchal society. But it is primarily a film not about politics but about humanity. Its characters find self-empowerment and connection not in rabble-rousing but in small acts of rebellion against oppressive social norms.

Sex, lies and political theory

19 March 2014 | Tim Kroenert

Sergio Hernández and Paulina García talking in bed in GloriaA new film follows the experiences in 1961 of German-American Jew and political theorist Hannah Arendt, who coined the phrase 'the banality of evil' in relation to Nazi 'desk-murderer' Adolf Eichmann. The cerebral nature of Hannah Arendt provides a counterpoint to another current film about a strong, flawed woman: Gloria is remarkable for the way it unabashedly honours the emotional and sexual lives of its older characters.

Homeless wonder on Victoria's plains

13 March 2014 | Barry Gittins and Jen Vuk

Cover of Tree Palace, by Craig Sherborne shows a chandelier strung from a treeMoira, her kids Zara and Rory, her partner Shane and his brother Midge are the kind of people you wouldn't think to look twice at. Living on welfare and on the constant lookout for abandoned houses to either live in or raid, they're known colloquially as 'trants' (short for itinerants). These otherwise overlooked and forgotten people might be parochial, but they're never parodied. They might be uneducated, but they have a voice.

Dumb dealings in Nazi art war

1 Comment
12 March 2014 | Tim Kroenert

The Monuments Men poster featuring Bill Murray, Matt Damon'If you destroy their history, you destroy their achievements and it's as if they never existed,' implores art scholar Frank Stokes. He subsequently leads a team of academics and artisans into World War II Germany on a mission to rescue important works of art from the Nazis. Great art possesses the power to move and inspire, and to document and critique a culture. But is the deadly mission worth the risk to life?

When the black lady sang

11 March 2014 | Maureen O'Brien

Deborah Cheetham onstageSoprano Deborah Cheetham was in her 30s when she was reunited with her birth mother. It was the beginning of her understanding of herself as a Yorta Yorta woman and member of the Stolen Generations. At the time she was in the throes of composing her opera, Pecan Summer, based on the 1939 protests by Aboriginals from the Cummeragunja Mission. She soon learned that the story was closer to her than she had realised.

Transcendent ordeal of an outback pilgrim

05 March 2014 | Tim Kroenert

Mia Wasikowska and a camel in TracksRobyn Davidson's trek in 1978, 2700km overland from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean with only four camels and a dog for company, is the stuff of legend. Her physical ordeal takes her also to the jagged ends of her emotional and mental being, as she is pestered by tourists, for whom 'the camel lady' is already a living legend, and by paparazzi, who assail her at her most frayed. There is no missing the spiritual dimensions of her journey.

Senior citizen's road trip to dignity

26 February 2014 | Tim Kroenert

Bruce Dern gestures emphatically in NebraskaWoody surely has dementia, which would explain his certainty that a sweepstakes flyer stating that he has won $1 million is authentic. While one son would prefer to put Woody in a home, the other, David, agrees to honour his wish to cross state lines to claim his fictitious winnings. Woody is aware of his own dwindling physical and mental agency, and understands that the small gifts of dignity afforded to him by David are not small at all.

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