Every week, we will curate a collection of titles - movies, TV, general miscellanea - for you to watch (and in some cases, read, or listen to), in a series we call Weekend Recommendations. The selection will be based on a theme which binds the picks - which could be extremely blunt in certain instances, or confusingly abstract in some. No rules apply, other than the end goal being getting some great entertainment to watch.
While the idea is to base the theme on the week’s major events - it could be the release of a new movie, or show - we could also use this opportunity to comment on our world in general, and turn to art to wrap our heads around some of the more difficult stories of the past seven days.
We begin on a rather grim note. It won’t always be like this, but this week, recommending movies around the release of Transformers: The Last Knight, or Baby Driver would be careless and flippant. So here are three films you must watch if you were affected by the lynching of a Muslim youth for allegedly eating beef, and the countrywide protests his killing inspired.
The Square (2013)
This is the first of two documentaries we’re recommending you watch this week. The Square, directed by Egyptian-American filmmaker Jehane Noujaim (who also directed the incredible Al Jazeera documentary Control Room), documents the dawn of the Egyptian Revolution against President Hosni Mubarak and the protests organised at the now-iconic Tahrir Square.
We’ve seen images from those protests, where thousands turned out to fight for freedom from an oppressive regime. They’re seared in our minds. The Square tells the story of the protests from the perspective of six individuals involved, in some way, in the demonstrations.
It achieves the rare distinction of being a film that really transports you to the centre of the action, surrounded by cries of “Ashab yureed isqaat al nizam! (The people want change!)”, and the brave young men, and women, who took matters into their own hands. You will hear their voices in your ears, you will revolt when they’re attacked, and you will celebrate when they win.
Get Out (2017)
A horror movie, that too one this recent, is an unusual addition to this list, which we’ve already warned you is a rather grim one. But Get Out is no ordinary horror movie. It’s the writing and directing debut of Jordan Peele, one half of the very talented comedy duo Key & Peele.
And what a debut it is. It’s the sort of film that defies explanation, and soars to impossible heights, in addition to delivering on the thrills one expects from a film like this. In it, an interracial couple visit the girl’s well-off, white family for the weekend. There, our black hero, is subjected to the most uncomfortable treatment by members of a community he feels visibly uneasy around, and vice versa. Peele rachets up the tension, carefully playing his characters, and the audience, with the precision of a much more experienced director.
But above all, it’s a film about that inherent fear of the other that we all have buried deep inside us. While this movie is about the current racial climate in America, police violence, and the deep-rooted differences those communities harbour against each other, it could easily be transported to India. And that’s the power of great cinema - it transcends borders, and strikes universal themes.
Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight For Freedom (2015)
Like The Square, to which this film could be considered a close cousin, Winter on Fire was nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. And like The Square, it’s about the power of a people’s protest.
Often, we wonder whether or not non-violent demonstrations have the power to bring about real change, or if their cries are falling on deaf ears. But it’s films like this that show, that on admittedly rare occasions, taking to the streets, holding placards, and braving assault can really make a difference.
Check this space for another set of recommendations next week.