What Would Jesus Buy?

1 12 2010

I also recommend this film.





The Shock Doctrine

30 11 2010

AG and I saw a longer version of this film on T.V. recently. I recommend it.





The Prophet at the movies

1 11 2010

…The elements of distraction, pleasure, and amusement play a large part in church rites. By theatrical methods the church works on the sight, the sense of smell (through incense), and through them on the imagination. Man’s desire for the theatrical, a desire to see and hear the unusual, the striking, a desire for a break in the ordinary monotony of life, is great and ineradicable; it persists from early childhood to advanced old age. In order to liberate the common masses from ritual and the ecclesiasticism acquired by habit, antireligious propaganda alone is not enough. Of course, it is necessary; but its direct practical influence is limited to a small minority of the more courageous in spirit. The bulk of the people are not affected by antireligious propaganda; but that is not because their spiritual relation to religion is so profound. On the contrary, there is no spiritual relation at all; there is only a formless, inert, mechanical relation, which has not passed through the consciousness; a relation like that of the street sight-seer, who on occasion does not object to joining in a procession or a pompous ceremony, or listening to singing, or waving his arms.

Meaningless ritual, which lies on the consciousness like an inert burden, cannot be destroyed by criticism alone; it can be supplanted by new forms of life, new amusements, new and more cultured theaters. Here again, thoughts go naturally to the most powerful – because it is the most democratic – instrument of the theater: the cinema. Having no need of a clergy in brocade, etc., the cinema unfolds on the white screen spectacular images of greater grip than are provided by the richest church, grown wise in the experience of a thousand years, or by mosque or synagogue. In church only one drama is performed, and always one and the same, year in, year out; while in the cinema next door you will be shown the Easters of heathen, Jew, and Christian, in their historic sequence, with their similarity of ritual. The cinema amuses, educates, strikes the imagination by images, and liberates you from the need of crossing the church door. The cinema is a great competitor not only of the tavern but also of the church. Here is an instrument which we must secure at all costs!

Leon Trotsky, 1923
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Agora

25 10 2010

Missing the universe within

I have to confess that I wanted to like this movie, and to a certain extent, I did. AG thought it lacked a coherent narrative structure, but as far as I was concerned, it was pretty watchable. The sets were fascinating, but not always authentic (people have complained that the way the Roman soldiers were dressed was more appropriate for soldiers a few centuries before). The most staunch criticism is the liberties it took with history: Rachel Weisz, while easy on the eyes, would not have been the same age as Hypatia when she died at the age of 65. There was probably no library at the Serapion when it was levelled to the ground in the fourth century. Some critics have taken issue with this, and for some these inaccuracies seem to be the main thrust of their criticism. That, and the fact that the Christians of the time were portrayed as the swarthy Taliban avant la lettre, running through the streets with clubs shouting, “God is one”.
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A documentary on Jacques Lacan…

28 09 2010

…can be viewed here (in French originally, dubbed into Spanish).





El Niño Fidencio… de Roma a Espinazo

27 09 2010

A review and reflection on the film

The above is the trailer. The whole film can be watched here. You gringos got lucky, because this one has subtitles.

It is best to start at the beginning. Around the beginning of last century, a child was born in Guanajuato, Mexico, by the name of José Fidencio Sintora Constantino. He was orphaned and came of age amidst the turmoil of the Mexican Revolution and its aftermath. Unlike most Mexican young men, he seems to have been committed to domestic service rather than field work. It also seems that he was afflicted with Kleinfelter’s syndrome, meaning that his sex organs were underdeveloped and he seemed to be perpetually a boy (niño), without facial hair or a deep voice. In the early 1920’s, he would settle in the northern state of Nuevo Leon, in a small railroad town known as Espinazo.

Like a select few, Fidencio was thought to have el don. That means that he had the power to cure using traditional healing methods. Literally, it is a “gift”. But Fidencio’s gift was something extraordinary, something that comes along only every so many generations. From his humble beginnings as a local curandero, he became a national phenomenon. Apparently, he could cure anything using nothing but herbs, prayers, and in extraordinary circumstances, surgeries with a piece of glass (without anaesthetic). His fame grew to the point that the urban legend spread (not based on any facts, but still) that he cured the radically anti-clericalist president of Mexico, Plutarco Elias Calles, of leprosy. Some say that in exchange for his cure, Calles was asked to cease his radical persecution of the Church, which subsequently happened. To the people of the time, and in his legacy, he was given the name, el Niño Fidencio, or the Child Fidencio, even though he lived to forty years of age.
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New film on Venezuelan spiritism

31 08 2010

You can watch the whole film in Spanish starting with the above video.

When watching this, I cannot help but think that the surge of spiritism in Latin America, tied in intimately with the emergence of “folk saints”, has to do with the growth of secularism in the discourse of civil society. Practices and attitudes that always existed in the Catholic framework detach themselves and become “separate religions”. In most places, the hegemony of the Church was challenged with the independence movements in the 19th century. By the 20th century, the elites were often secular positivists or even spiritists in one form or another (Allan Kardec making spiritism seem to be a “science of the soul”). The first president during the Mexican Revolution, Francisco Madero, was a devout spiritist.

The syncretism seen above often is the result of these beliefs trickling down to the “lower classes”. Catholic figures and symbols, being part of the communal and national consciousness, are effortlessly grafted onto spiritist beliefs, and vice versa. With the invasion of other sects and forms of religiosity, it is easier for these tendencies to identify themselves as other religions altogether separate from “official” Catholicism. Curanderos become priests, “superstitions” become dogma, and religious identity becomes less complex for some people, while more complicated for others.





Objectified

25 08 2010

Okay, I am really lazy this week, so I am posting a lot of clips from movies I have watched recently. This film was just very interesting in terms of the fetishization of objects, making me nostalgic for Marxist theory. A very cerebral film, but interesting nonetheless.





Defamation

24 08 2010

I have never been a Zionist, but regardless of that the above was a disturbing film. (Spoiler alert) I thought that the last scene with the Israeli kids at Auschwitz working themselves up to some sort of emotional catharsis whereby they would hate the enemies of Israel forever was particularly illuminating. It really was ideology at its worst.





The Examined Life

5 08 2010

Some notes on the film

This is a 2008 film of conversations with philosophers. Most are probably philosophers that readers here would never have heard of, but I thought the film watchable in spite of its rather unusual subject.

On the talk by Kwame Anthony Appiah:

Above the philosopher speaks of “cosmopolitanism”. While many readers here might read this as a typical liberal critique of Western logocentric structures of thought, I don’t think one can argue that there are fundamental differences between our lives and the lives of our not so distant ancestors. We can often pass more people in a day than most of our ancestors would have passed in their lifetimes. We also deal with a far greater variety of people than we would have access to even a couple of generations ago. I do think that there is a compelling case that we are not epistemologically equipped to deal with the broad diversity of people in our current society.
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