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Films about the life of humans

The New Zealand International Film Festival continues here in Auckland and today there was another interestingly synchronistic double-feature.

Policeman is an Israeli film about a tribe of Police Fighters and a tribe of Revolutionary Socialists.  We are brought into each of their worlds and then we see their violent interaction.

Dead Europe is an Australian film about a man visiting the village of his Greek father for the first time and discovering the lingering hatred and violence throughout Europe.

Both of these films have very bleak views of the price of confronting the damaged nature of our societies.  The idealistic youngsters in the first film feel compelled to address the economic imbalance in Israel.  "It is time for the poor to get rich and the rich to start dying,"  they announce.  They are not the only ones to feel this way.  Last year there was a massive demonstation in Tel Aviv involving half a million people (1/16th of the population of the state) in favour of significant changes to government, social and economic behaviour.  As unprecedented numbers of people around the world have discovered in recent years even peaceful demonstations against governments and corporations eventually end with dispersion or destruction from Riot Police.  However, the characters in this film are quite happy to use violence themselves and thus justify a rapid and uncompromising violence from Police.  What can be done to change society if any mass attempt leads to anti-human Police violence?  Policeman shows that terrorists and police are groups made up of human beings and that one group does violence much more successfully than the other.

Dead Europe has an equally hopeless but much less concise story to tell.  Ambiguity and depravity emerge from every dank corner of Europe that the protagonist encounters, revealing little that can be made sense of.  It is a sprawling trashy and convoluted mythical exploration of why Australia came to be a European colony.  Why would anyone want to leave Europe for this new continent, you might ask?  Tony Krawitz's film suggests that perhaps it is because Europe is dead, a cesspool of generations of dehumanising violence, exploitation and self-abuse.  The only solution, it seems, is to leave and never return.  There is no hope for a land that has been the stage for so many centuries of incomprehensible and unjustifiable acts, we can only give our lives and our passports to our children while they still possess the hope to venture out into the world for a better life, leaving behind the continent where it all happened and the habits of the parents who allowed it all to continue.

It would be easy to understand emerging from this double-feature devoid of hope for any type of future or instead choosing a denial that replaces the difficult face of reality.  I emerged onto the rainy night street of Auckland, however, with a clarity and a peace that is the result of powerful art experiences bringing to world into focus.  It would be easy to have no hope, some might say; but I disagree.  Hope is essential and logical and there was a third film today which exemplified the hope that I continue to experience.

Winter Nomads began my day, before this double-feature.  It is a Swiss documentary about a man and a woman, donkeys, dogs and a huge flock of sheep performing the traditional winter practice of moving the herd around to glean the final vegetation of the year from every available grassland.  These two humans live a simple life with their animals, in the snow, relaxing by the fire in the evening, sleeping in the tent with the dogs.  The practice is going out of fashion and some progressive locals oppose their tradition but when we sit with these people we realise what a human being is and receive a palpable peaceful suggestion about how human beings might live.

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