Thursday, 23 February 2017

London's mayor is staging an open-air screening of a French-Iranian film to signal his disapproval of Donald Trump!

Sounds innocent enough, at first glance:
I "follow" the Twitter feed of the virtue-signalling little creep who - thanks to...

...the political ineptitude and sheer sopping wetness of Zac "Mine's a pint" Goldsmith, his opponent in last year's election - is the mayor of this great city. When I saw the above tweet, I wondered why Khan felt there was a need to "celebrate" our "openness" to foreign films. Urban, educated, middle-class Londoners have been patronising cinemas screening foreign movies for decades: they've done this because some foreign films are simply better - or, at least, more interesting - than most mainstream Western fare, and, presumably, because hunkering down with likeminded elitists to watch a bleak, enervatingly slow-moving three-hour miseryfest about poverty, suffering and oppression set in some godforsaken rural hinterland in Neverheardofitistan does tend to make one feel culturally and morally superior (I know - I've actually done this, and I've experienced those feelings).  This tradition does not need - or deserve - to be celebrated.

So, is the Mayor actually doing something helpful by attempting to lure even more foreign film-makers to London in order to boost the local economy? Well, no, because it's the likes of the James Bond and Star Wars franchises, with their vast budgets, that create business opportunities for the Capital and it environs. I doubt if there are many state-of-the-art special effects on show in The Salesman, which is an art film set in Iran, rather than a crowd-pleasing, high-octane thriller.  Anyway, if the Mayor wanted to drum up business, surely he would be showing a British film in Trafalgar Square - or, at least, one that had been largely shot or post-produced here.

I knew Khan couldn't possibly be deliberately drawing attention to the plethora of authoritarian regimes around the globe which censor or ban foreign (i.e. Western) films, because large sections of his own party tend to approve of that sort regime - only if they're anti-American regimes, obviously. He needs those party members' votes to fulfil his ambition of becoming the post-Corbyn Labour leader (good luck with). As for his own immigrant support base here in London,  a sizeable chunk of it heartily approves of censoring or banning all those filthy, decadent, anti-Muslim films they came here to escape. Or something.  (They seem to want the security, freedom from persecution and material benefits the West offers, while disapproving of the Western values which have made the West secure, free and rich - and while promoting the attitudes and values which have left other regions pockmarked by brutal, joyless theocracies and impoverished, war-torn hell-holes.)

What's he up to, then? Why is London being disrupted in order to screen a film that wasn't made here, didn't have any British financial backing, doesn't include any British (let alone London-based) actors or (as far as I'm aware) any British technical or production expertise. While it sounds like a decent film, it doesn't give one the impression of being the sort of fun-filled laugh-riot that's going to have Londoners chattering excitedly and humming the theme tune on their way home.

So what's the point of this exercise?

Anti-Trump virtue-signalling, pure and simple. The film's lead actress, Taraneh Alidoosti, boycotted the Oscars ceremony because of Trumps's "racist" travel ban (even though it was not a racial ban). The director, Asghar Farhadi, initially agreed  to attend, because he knew many members of the Academy were opposed to  "fanaticism and extremism" (presumably the same fanaticism and extremism displayed by four previous American presidents who also imposed travel bans on people from specific countries). But he later changed his mind and boycotted the event.

A bunch of pious liberal Western film industry types decided to get involved, and sent a letter to the Duke of Westminster asking for permission to screen The Salesman in Grosvenor Square "directly opposite the United States embassy building" - because that would be, you know,  really brave, wouldn't it? Signatories included the following courageous social justice warriors: Julie Christie, Kevin Macdonald, Kiera Knightley, Terry Gilliam, Andrea Arnold, Joshua Oppenheimer, Glenn Close, Anton Corbijn, Nick Broomfield, Sarah Gavron, Carol Morley, Clio Barnard, Peter Webber, Dominic West and Joanna Natasegara.

That little wheeze didn't work, so Lily Cole stopped warbling long enough to approached Sadiq Khan, who simply couldn't pass up such a wonderful opportunity for moral posturing. It would, he said, "give us an opportunity to celebrate what makes us who we are - a city open to creative talent and all countries and communities." I must have missed the bit where the Trump administration specifically attempted to ban "creative talent". I thought the US was trying to stop potential terrorists getting into the country, rather than actors and chief grips. The event will opened by Mariella Frostrup and the film's director will be presented by Mike Leigh. I'm getting excited already!

The truly nauseating, utterly despicable thing about all this is that the censorship of films is routine in the Middle East. But the luvvies are cool with that, apparently - at least, I'm not aware that any of them have approached Sadiq Khan with a request to screen any banned Western films outside, say, the embassies of Jordan, Saudi Arabia or Lebanon. Because that wouldn't earn them any brownie points with their compassion-mongering peers - even, I suspect, the ones who made the banned films.

My favourite quote from the bit of background reading I've done on film censorship in the Middle East comes from a translation of an Arabic article entitled, Banned: Film and television censorship in Jordan.
“The good thing about the censor’s work is that it does not risk the movie’s story,” says Khalid Shaheen, the manager of Grand Cinemas. “If removing a particular scene would affect the plot, or the idea behind the story, then we prefer not to screen the movie entirely.”
Well, that's all right then!

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