Absent Voices #5: “What is your problem with our Freedom?”: Lipstick under my Burkha and the Indian Patriarchy

Artwork from 2016 film ‘Lipstick Under my Burkha’. Attribution: Alankrita Shrivastava, (director). Facebook post 8 November 2016. [online]. https://www.facebook.com/alankrita.shrivastava.
The question put forth in the title is the one that Rehana Abidi (played by Plabita Borthakur), one of the four protagonists of Alankrita Srivastava’s latest release Lipstick under my Burkha (India, 2017), asks in the film while interviewed by a journalist at an agitation against the decision of banning jeans for women in the college.  The irony of the utterance comes to a full circle through the refusal of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) to release the film in India.  Two points are of tremendous importance in the letter of refusal from the CBFC. The film was denied release because “the story is lady-oriented, their fantasy above [sic] life. There are contanious [sic] sexual scenes and abusive words, audio pornography and a bit sensitive touch about one particular section of society” (emphasis mine). The basis for the embargo on the exhibition of the film in India seems to connect to the narrative’s depiction of four women exercising choice in their own lives, a premise which the CBFC considers as “their fantasy” about life. Indeed, as long Continue reading

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New Beginnings #3: Looking Backwards to Start Anew: Migration and Contemporary Cinema in Italy

fire-at-sea
‘Fuocoammare’ (Fire at Sea) by Gianfranco Rosi, 2016. Attribution: Film Poster, non-free image posted under fair dealings rationale for research purposes only, IMDb, 2016.

A memorable scene of 1917 Charlie Chaplin’s silent comedy short The Immigrant denounces the brutal mistreatment of newly arrived immigrants – many of which were Italian nationals – in New York by local public officials. Unsurprisingly, the sharp antithesis between the temporarily captive status of migrants and the caption ‘The arrival in the country of freedom’ did not please the state film censorship, which accused the comic actor of outrageously disseminating anti-Americanist sentiments. More than 80 years later, in 1998, The Immigrant was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being ‘culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant’.

Numerically speaking Italians count as one the most significant migrant communities of the twentieth century; nevertheless, the artistic portrayal of such mass phenomenon within the national borders has blossomed only recently. With the beginning of the new millennium, a fascination with past Italian migration captivated filmmakers, journalists and novelists. In Emmanuele Crialese’s 2006 drama film Nuovomondo (New World), the arrival of a poverty-stricken Sicilian family at Ellis Island on a foggy winter morning impeding the view of the Statue of Liberty is a subtle, photographically exquisite reference to Chaplin’s groundbreaking production. The parallelism between the two works is self-evident in the sequences following the disembarkation, in which the camera focuses upon the humiliating physical and psychological examinations undergone by migrants. Continue reading

Your PhD, Your Brain, and Your B-Movies

Your brain – big, buxom, full of neurons, and a pineal gland, and an amygdala, and a basal ganglia, and then some – is what is doing your PhD. It reads your stuff, it writes your stuff, and it decides which Sainsbury’s korma to microwave whilst you email your supervisor to postpone your stuff.

“Everyone has a hidden emotional motive behind their PhD,” my friend always says, “what is yours?” Day to day, I write about connections between contemporary French philosophy, cinema and neuroscience, so I like to think that I was always aware of the brain. Since undergoing an out-of-the-blue Endoscopic Third Ventriculostomy this Christmas due to a rogue blockage in one of my brain’s water tanks, however, I could not be more aware of it.

I have realised more than ever that I owe it to my brain to figure out who it is and what it does. So as well as using it to think about other brain-workings in French philosophy and cinema, I have decided to get to know my own much better. I have decided that I’m going to treat this throbbing alien in my skull with the respect it deserves – like the true Genovian princess it really is – and that this journey might as well be a voluptuous, bawdy experience, and needn’t necessarily start with the MRI scanner.  

An unforeseen delight which has emmerged from my research – between libraries and hospitals and cinemas – has been the brain B-Movie. B for Brain, if you can stomach that degree of tweeness. Whatever your own reason for wanting to explore the brain writing your PhD, here are three gloriously campy places to start:

The Brain from Planet Arous

This 1957 favourite, directed by Nathan H. Juran, does exactly what it says on the tin. A brain-shaped alien by the name of Gor descends to earth and takes over the body of a young scientist, using his powers to destroy the planet bit by bit. Meanwhile, another of the brain-shaped race also descends to earth, explaining that Gor is a wanted terrorist on their own planet. It is found that Gor’s weak spot is his Fissure of Rolando, or the central sulcus: a line that separates the parietal lobe from the frontal lobe in the brain. Continue reading