Friday, 19 April 2013

Angel's share

Distilling dreams of a better future in the Highlands

You may not associate Ken Loach with comedy but his latest -and brilliant- film Angel's share made me laugh out loud. After exploring the underworld and dirty businesses that Western companies undertake in post-war Iraq, Loach has turned to a familiar place,Scotland, and more particularly that utterly amazing ( I must confess, I love it) city that is Glasgow.
What does not change though, is Loach's and Paul Laverty's humanistic approach; in a miserable world there is room for poetic justice, those little victories that defeat the routine and brigthen up the lives of those who are always pushed aside and denied that opportunity that may change things for the better.
Focusing on a group of young Glasgewians sentenced to community payback who find their own angel in Harry, their caring and sweet supervisor, the film follows their trail to the Highlands in their pursue of a very rare whisky that is going to be auctioned; whisky auctions, like art auctions, are for the extremely rich, capable of paying outrageous amounts of money for that special sip.
However, things don't quite turn up as expected for the mighty-yet blissfully ignorant- millionaires.
Loach's eye is once again more interested in the fate of the unlikely heroes of a party they weren't invented to.It's their time to get their part of the pie.
The beautiful title of this upbeat film refers to the 2% of whisky that evaporates from the casks each year.
Played by non-professional actors, Angel's share is very well performed and very funny, far from the gloomy films that we saw in the past. There is hope and it must be shared.

Sunday, 14 April 2013


Thacherites by name, your faults I proclaim (Billy Bragg)
Margaret Thatcher's death last week has been met with countless debates and exchanges on the net and elsewhere, most of them pretty heated, to say the least.Hardly surprising for such a controversial figure, whose legacy still lingers on and whose ability to irritate and charm- depending on the side of the fence you were on- was peerless.
What most people seem to agree on, though, is the fact that the doctrines  she started in the early 80s are very  much alive and well and a whole army of Thacherites have assumed the lady's teachings with gusto.
Beyond the way Thacher's approach changed the Conservative Party itself, I think that it's hard to ignore the influence she had on the (New) Labour Party too; when the latter won the elections in 1997, they simply decided to continue the same path, albeit with a softer approach and with more social policies.
In fact, Thacherites became Blairites, and the rest is history...
The world will witness the Iron Lady's funeral this week, on a broadcast beamed to the world and with all the state honours reserved for its leaders; we won't bury, however, the policies she so stubbornly and arrogantly advocated.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Cartooning for Peace

No laughing matter
Cartoon: such a simple yet wonderful word, vibrant and magic, evocative and innocent. Think of this word  and it is quite likely that it will immediately bring images of your favourite cartoons, those that made you laugh out loud, think and even cry. Think of a world without cartoonists and...well, I won't even dare.
Cartoonists, armed with their brilliant minds full of ideas and their pens, produce work that for all their simplicity manage to provoke the most varied reactions; sometimes these reactions are quite extreme and we all have in mind cases in which cartoonists land in trouble due to some 'controversial' cartoon.
To support and ensure that cartoonists work remains independent, a fantastic initiative to support and encourage cartoonists was created a few years ago, under the supervision of French cartoonists Plantu (Le Monde) and former UN Secretary General and Nobel Prize winner Kofi Annan.
As you may imagine, Cartooning for Peace ( aims to promote a better understanding between people from different cultures as well as fight and defend cartoonists right to freedom of expression.
This is all more interesting when we think about the massive cultural gap when cartoonists tackle issues related to religion, as the editors of French weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo know too well, whose headquarters were bombed after publishing a special issue featuring cartoons of Mohammed.

I was reminded of this whole issue concerning cartoonists' rights and freedoms while reading the graphic novel An Iranian Metamorphosis by Mana Neyestani; a personal account of the hell he went through after publishing a seemingly innocent cartoon and then becoming the scapegoat for a tyranical  and farcical regime.
Neyestani's story is a timely reminder of the prospects faced by cartoonists all over the world.

A Kafkaesque nightmare