Beasts of No Nation: A review, of sorts (No Spoilers)

I didn’t include Beasts of No Nation in my October “favorites” post because those posts are about Little Things, and this film is anything but that. Beasts of No Nation is an immersive experience, and it’s a heavy one. A powerful one. It didn’t feel right lumping it in with Scream Queens and salsa.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-BeastsOfNoNation2015

 

The crafting of Beasts of No Nation demonstrates exquisite mastery; if you’re into movies to appreciate the fine art of film-making, I’d say it’s a must-see. However, be warned: Beasts of No Nation is difficult to watch… it’s a must-see for reasons beyond its artistic merits.

There came a point where Callaghan just stopped. As tension tightened our throats in the scene that ended it for him, he muttered, “I don’t want to watch this anymore.” I understood where he was coming from. I was on the verge of stopping, myself. He got up and said, “I’m sorry… you can watch the rest if you want, but I don’t need to see this!”

The challenge when watching a war drama so finely rendered is that you’re there. The film engulfs you, and you become a witness to gut-wrenching circumstances and atrocities appalling beyond belief. It’s harrowing, it’s heart-breaking, and it took me two more days to finish watching Beasts of No Nation after we stopped (and Callaghan had gone to France for his business trip). It took two days because I couldn’t watch more than a chunk at a time.

While all movies of this nature don’t trigger my PTSD, enough of them do that I generally avoid them. I couldn’t turn away from this one, though, and I don’t mean that in a train-wreck kind of way. It was more like, I have to keep watching because at some point something has to happen that will restore my faith in humanity.

While the story in Beasts of No Nation is a work of fiction, the tragedy of it is real. The film depicts a reality that’s largely overlooked in our ongoing lament over global atrocities and human rights violations. We commonly bespeak outrage over horrendous things that are done to little girls, practices we know to be inhumane and abominable. Comparatively, we give negligible thought to the horrendous things that are done to little boys. We forget to acknowledge the trials of male children in some war-torn countries… trials that, as this film so brutally illustrates, result in bodily harm, psychological damage, and an obliteration of childhood innocence too sad to contemplate.

I’d never seen Callaghan so upset by a movie that he had to quit watching it. As for me, I’m usually dry-eyed while most everyone grabs at tissues… but there was one scene in Beasts of No Nation that had me crying, and it wasn’t due to illusory maneuvers on the director’s part. The director avoided any semblance of heart-string-pulling and simply let the power of authenticity do its dirty work, a feat allowed by his elegantly nuanced talent. My sorrow felt heavy, like a sorrow for the entire planet.

The director, Cary Joji Fukunaga (True Detective), also wrote the film’s screenplay (based on the novel by Uzodinma Iweala). I’ve seen several movies this year that I thought deserved serious Academy attention; Beasts of No Nation joins them and rises – urgently – straight to the top. I’ll go so far as to say that I hope it captures awards not only for itself, but for humankind. Fukunaga’s adapted screenplay and directing ought to garner Oscar nominations, at least, and actors Idris Elba and Abraham Attah deserve the highest accolades for their searing performances. They were both brilliant. The cinematography and costume design were also stunning. All of the art that went into the making of this film took my breath away.

Here’s the trailer:

 

 

Beasts of No Nation will do more than tug at your heart-strings… it’ll just seize your whole heart and crush it. But this film needs to be seen. Child soldiers need a place in the discourse of the problem of world suffering, and if swallowing our horror through the viewing of films like this can help bring awareness to the plight of these children, then we need to do that.

Child soldiers are not out there bearing arms and killing people because they had aspirations to do so as healthy children with sound minds. They are victims.

Beasts of No Nation elucidates one of the ways in which art is important and even essential for the well-being of the human race. We can’t continue to keep our eyes closed while certain things are happening in the world, and this is why Oscar-generated hype over Beasts of No Nation could be seen not only as well-deserved, but necessary. Everyone’s attention should be brought to this film.

Beasts of No Nation is Netflix’ first original film, being to movies what House of Cards is to television series. The movie streamed on Netflix the same day it appeared in theatres. If you have Netflix and you want to see Beasts of No Nation, it’s there for the watching.

Thanksgiving.

T minus 24 hours to road trip to California!

I was thinking the other day that not having human kids means that I’ll never have to feel like the Grinch who stole Thanksgiving when my kid comes home from school brimming over with warm and fuzzy stories about the “history” of “the first Thanksgiving” and I find myself unable to keep from explaining the truth behind the myth. If schools could just limit Thanksgiving holiday festivities to cute finger turkey drawings, then fine, but somehow, I don’t see them omitting the fables of the “Pilgrims and the Indians” being BFFs on “the first Thanksgiving” anytime soon.

That bit of cynicism aside, one thing that’s remained true about Thanksgiving over time is its focus on expressing gratitude for a bountiful harvest, which has broadened to include giving thanks for everything that we have, including our good health and each other. This is the aspect of the holiday that appeals to me the most – its focus on family.

Thanksgiving is this week Thursday, and we’re going to be spending it with my family. When I lived in France, I missed the comfortable proximity to my family more on Thanksgiving than at any other time. You always hear people saying, we should give thanks and express gratitude for our families every day, not just on Thanksgiving, and I agree with this, but still… Thanksgiving.

And I’m feeling so grateful for my family… the family that chose me, the one that I’ve chosen and the one that I inherited just by being alive.

We all have family, even if we think we don’t. If your circumstances are such that your actual family members are absent in the world, if you feel isolated and friendless, as long as there are people in the world, you have family.

In Hawaii, you’ll find this concept expressed openly and naturally by the locals, as the family mentality is a part of the local culture. If you’re walking along the beach and a child is playing in your path, it’s likely that the adult sitting nearby will call to the child, with firm affection, “Come over here, Bobby… let Auntie pass.” And you’ll look over at the parent to find him smiling and nodding at you with respect. Auntie. Think of it! A total stranger will see you coming and say to his child, let Auntie pass. (Yes, this happened to me.)

You are family. We’re all family. Humankind is a human family, and I believe this to be true: When there’s injustice in the world, we have to remember that we’re all brothers and sisters, and we have to allow this to give us strength. Being united gives us strength. Our interconnectedness is an absolute, even in our moments of craving our solitude, even while counting our enemies. To me, Thanksgiving is a time to remember this and to feel our bond and connection with others. Being human also means that we can lose patience and hold grudges, but on Thanksgiving, I want to be mindful of our oneness and feel grateful for what that means. We walk the same earth and breathe the same air. We can help each other and commiserate and make each other laugh and offer comfort and support as easily as we can do harm.

 

Reflecting lights... candle flames on a dark morning.

Reflecting lights… candle flames on a dark morning.

 

Happy Thanksgiving week, All.

Musings in a Laundromat

It’s Thursday, 7:45pm, and I’m in the Laundromat, waiting. I just put two loads into two washers. Each will take 30 minutes. One is an industrial-size machine for heavy things like the large quilt I’d brought, and the other is the next largest size. I didn’t take the time to separate anything by color today… it’s all washing in cold water, anyway.

I don’t think this will be the last time I’m here. We’re getting a washer and dryer for the house, but I’ll likely continue to use public machines for things like the big, heavy quilt.

 

Our neighborhood Laundromat.

Our neighborhood Laundromat.

 

We’ve been doing our laundry in this public Laundromat for the last few months, since our apartment complex tore down their large one in order to re-build. It’s a spacious, staffed Laundromat, and it hasn’t been unpleasant. Laundry isn’t a chore that I dislike in the first place, but also, it turns out that the business of doing laundry in a Laundromat appeals to me on several levels.

I find the layers of white noise in the Laundromat to be soothing. There’s the murmur of the T.V. in the corner, swishing water and turning dryers, clothes spinning and tumbling, the faint clanging of metal on metal and the opening and closing of machine doors. There’s the casino-like sound of change machines and vending machines, video games, traffic on the street outside, the air conditioner and ceiling fans. There’s the sound of random human interaction like people talking to each other and on the phone, phones ringing, children playing and babies making their baby sounds. There are people singing and laughing. Altogether, the sounds in the Laundromat create a unique and comforting acoustic mosaic.

At this very moment, a Mom and her young daughter – the daughter looks to be 10-11 years old – are folding clothes together and singing “These Boots are Made for Walking,” and I can’t stop smiling. They’ve created a bubble around themselves with music, bonding happily and lovingly over a common chore. They’re enjoying themselves, and that joy is infectious.

In the company of strangers doing their laundry, I’m filled with a sense of connectedness. We’re people brought under this roof by the basic need to clean our clothing, bedding, towels, etc. This is a place of purpose: we’re here to ensure our personal comfort and health, and I know that every person in the room is going to leave this place feeling a sense of accomplishment. There’s something fantastically special about knowing this.

The Laundromat draws in all walks of life, yet the space emphasizes our sameness, and I love that. There’s no rich or poor here. The need to do laundry is a great common denominator, and there’s an unexpected intimacy in doing laundry with strangers. When we come to the Laundromat on a Saturday or Sunday, especially, I often see many people wearing clothing that has obviously been designated for Laundry Day. It’s like we’re all in a big house, padding around in our jammies. It makes for a pleasant non-interactive interaction with folks. Somehow, I feel a profound sense of kinship with humanity in the public Laundromat, and that, in a world that can be so venomous, is a blessing.

I’ll close on that note, because my time is up.

Postscript: Happy Friday!