Kill the Messenger and CitizenFour: Two Powerful Historical-Political Films

Both of these films relate to historically important journalistic actions that pose radical challenges to the corruption of the existing political order. Both films came out this year, are currently in movie theaters and have been positively reviewed and received. The difference is that the events depicted in Kill the Messenger occurred in the 1990s and the film is a historical documentary of a story that is finished – whereas CitizenFour depicts actions that have occurred within this past year and a plot line that is currently continuing to unfold in real time, with as yet unknown, open-ended outcomes. Thus, I like to think that the production and release in theaters of these two films now represents a kind of concentration and sharpening of focus on political-historical realities – that portends positive developments. I recommend everyone sees them both.

killthemessengerKill the Messenger is an American drama thriller directed by Michael Cuesta and written by Peter Landesman. It is based on the book of the same name by Nicholas Schou and the book Dark Alliance by Gary Webb, who is the courageous and ultimately doomed hero of the film. (Nicholas Schou also wrote Orange Sunshine, a history of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love.) Webb was the reporter for the San Jose-Mercury News who wrote a series of articles in 1996 about CIA involvement in cocaine trafficking in the US. Webb uncovered that Nicaraguans linked to the CIA-backed Contras were smuggling cocaine into the US to raise money for the Contras. Their smuggled cocaine fueled the crack epidemic sweeping through many US cities in the late 1990s.

According to Webb’s research and articles, the CIA and Reagan administration knew of the shipments of drugs into the US and shielded drug dealers from prosecution in order to help fund the contras. Webb convinced his editors to run his story, which was explosive. Initially hailed as a hero, Webb soon met with overwhelming skepticism. The New York Times and The Washington Post start picking at aspects of the story, and then attacking Webb himself. The movie depicts a media culture so embedded in the establishment that it doesn’t even have to be coerced into serving the interests of the powerful. Webb was reduced to write dog stories and the newspaper retracted major aspects of the story. Though his family remained supportive, two years later he committed suicide. Ten years later the CIA publically admitted Gary Webb’s revelations had essential been correct – but by then few people remembered what it was all about.

citizenfour_posterCitizenFour is a documentary in real time about Edward Snowden and his explosive revelations of the mass surveillance by the NSA and other intelligence agencies on millions of US and other citizens. The film is directed by Laura Poitras, one of the two journalists first selected by Snowden to publish his findings and features Snowden himself, filmed at first in Hong Kong and then after his flight into exile in Moscow.

It also features Glenn Greenwald, the other journalist, working for The Guardian, who lives in Brazil and who continues to publish stories based on the vast trove of documents Snowden extracted from the NSA. Greenwald wrote his own account of events in a book, No Place to Hide. The film also features short appearances from other whistle-blowers, including Julian Assange, and other journalists, such as The Guardian’s Ewen MacAskill, who are publishing parts of the stories from the Snowden files.

Knowing that it was filmed in real time as the real events unfolded with uncertain outcomes makes watching the film an incredibly tense yet absorbing experience.  Nevertheless, listening to and watching Snowden calmly and sincerely expound to his journalistic allies on his reasons for doing what he did at enormous personal risk to his person – is an inspiring experience, giving one hope for the survival of the basic human instincts for respecting the liberties of one another.

 

The Railway Man – A true film of war, torture, healing, love and redemption

railwaymanThe Railway Man is a 2013 British-Australian film directed by Jonathan Teplitsky. It is an adaptation of the best selling autobiography of the same name by Eric Lomax.

The story concerns the British officer Lomax (played by Colin Firth), who seeks to heal his long-suppressed war-trauma from twenty years earlier, assisted by his new love (played by Nicole Kidman) and his best friend. During World War II both men had been captured by the Japanese and sent to a POW camp, forced to work on the Thai-Burma railway in the Malaysian peninsula.

During his imprisonment Lomax had built a radio and was brutally tortured by the Japanese, leaving him with PTSD which threatens to derail his new marriage. Supported by his new wife and best friend, Lomax decides to return to Burma to confront his war-time enemy and torturer and exorcise the trauma demons from his psyche.

I appreciated this film/story’s truthfulness and authenticity in many respects. While it does show the emotional and personal trauma of war-violence – it does not dwell on them more than the minimum necessary for the story (unlike the films of Quentin Tarantino and many war-movies). It shows the psychological truth that to really heal the effects of PTSD, rather than just cover them over, the empathic trust and love of a friend or partner is essential.

In the film, it is Lomax’s new wife who plays that role. His fellow-veteran from the war, who has no one he can trust, hangs himself.  In therapy situations that are successful, it may be the therapist can play that role. The empathy needs to be genuine – it can’t just be pretended – and for torture situations that’s really difficult. I also appreciated that the film and Lomax’s story do not use his confrontation with the Japanese officer who tortured him for revenge or pay-back, which would simply continue the karmic chain, but for truth-telling with sincere remorse.

This reminded me of the truth-and-reconciliation rituals developed in South Africa and other places; and of the movements, in the US and elsewhere, where families who have lost loved ones to murder, step out of the cycle of “an eye for an eye”, and seek to connect with the perpetrators, opposing the death penalty for all capital cases. See the film – you won’t regret it.

New Video Available: Neurons to Nirvana: Understanding Psychedelic Medicines

Neurons to Nirvana (DVD)(DVD) Directed by Oliver Hockenhull. Featuring interviews with: Wade Davis, Rick Doblin, Julie Holland, Gabor Mate, Dennis J. McKenna, Ralph Metzner, Jeremy Narby and others.

(Get the DVD – $25)

Through interviews with the world’s foremost researchers, writers, psychologists and pioneers in psychedelic psychotherapy, Neurons to Nirvana explores the history of five powerful psychedelic substances (LSD, Psilocybin, MDMA, Ayahuasca and Cannabis) and their now established medicinal potential.

Strictly focusing on the science and medicinal properties of these drugs, Neurons to
Nirvana looks into why our society has created such a social and political bias against even allowing research to continue the exploration of any possible positive effects they can present in treating some of today’s most challenging afflictions.

For the first time in two generations, the use of these drugs is not being presented as harmful or as self-indulgent, but as a rational and valuable addition to therapeutic practice. Several well-respected researchers, are conducting clinical trials to treat a range of afflictions: PTSD, addictions, and the psychological stresses suffered by late-stage terminal cancer patients. The initial results of all these studies are remarkable.

The story extends beyond these trials however. Clients of licensed therapists are using psychedelics not as escape routes or addictive crutches, but in a quest for transformation, mental health, creativity, intellectual and spiritual enhancement, and insight.

Neurons to Nirvana explores the promise of these brave new advances in psychopharmacology and neuroscience, guiding the viewer in a thought-provoking journey, led by those determined to hold open the doors of perception.

Liberating A Drowning Whale

Liberating a drowning whale. This is an amazing 8-minute video of young humpback whale being freed from a huge tangle of fishing netting that was about to drown him. After a couple of boaters from the Great Whale Conservancy came upon this whale, they used small penknives to cut through the huge tangles mass of netting. When they had finally freed him, the whale swam off a quarter mile and treated his rescuers to a spectacular series of twenty or thirty leaps into the air.

 

 

How Wolves Change Rivers

How wolves change rivers is a beautiful 5 minute film, narrated by George Monbiot, on the complex ecological role –a so-called “trophic cascade” – played by wolves, as this was demonstrated when they were re-introduced in Yellowstone National Park.

 

Awesome footage of communication with wild animals

I received this link to the 53 minute film The Animal Communicator from Fred Burks who has the PEERS newsletter (www.WantToKnow.info ) which contains information on international politics not widely known. He also has collects and presents amazing documentaries from time to time.

This film centers on Anna Breytenbach, who is a professional animal communicator who works in South Africa and teaches workshops around the world, and has developed amazing capacity to communicate with wild animals particularly in zoos and private parks where there have been difficulties. Anna Breytenbach exemplifies the mystifying field of interspecies communication. The film shows her talking with wild animal trackers from the San Bushman people in South Africa; with Jon Young, an American who teaches courses in wild animal tracking; and a visit to a big cat sanctuary in South Africa, where she helped them communicate with a black jaguar who had been traumatized and was completely unreachable beforehand. This is truly an amazing, beautiful and moving demonstration of empathic communication – Anna is able to translate the non-verbal feeling states of the animals into human language where we can respond to them appropriately.

http://www.cultureunplugged.com/documentary/watch-online/play/11936/The-Animal-Communicator

Watch the 3-minute trailer at http://www.nhuafrica.com/license-acquisition/one-off-specials/animal-communicator

Last Hours

Underground, underwater and below the ice.
A time bomb is ticking.
Scientists are seeing the evidence.
Runaway climate change could be closer than we think.
While these captions may appear scary, that’s not the point. The point is to awaken our awareness to the catastrophic changes taking place on planet Earth in our time. In a ten-minute video you will see an informative, science-based update on the state and potential fate of the planet. Please pass on widely. The website includes additional suggestions for direct actions.

Last Hours website