Sorry We Missed You

100 min.

Dat noem ik nog eens horror. De regisseur van deze film staat wel bekend om zijn “activistische” verhalen (je zou het ook gewoon realistisch kunnen noemen), maar met deze is het wel allemaal heel naar. Lichtpuntjes few and far between.

Terwijl je aan het begin nog wel even denkt dat deze man problemen maakt die er niet zijn. Ga nu maar eerst onder een baas werken, er zijn wel meerdere mensen die niet genieten van hun baan. En dan blijken er ook nog een grote hoeveelheid schulden te zijn? Oof.

Maar de protagonist loopt in de val van onderaannemer en is zijn leven vervolgens kwijt aan altijd meer pakketten bezorgen. Als daar het horror-kwartje niet bij valt, heb je oogkleppen op of vergeet je dat bezorgers ook gewoon mensen zijn.

En zo is het bijna honderd minuten lijden omdat als je eenmaal in een gat zit, je er niet meer zelf uit kunt klimmen.

Strangers with the Same Dream

When Ida arrived in the new place and saw the hot sun broken over the mountain’s crust and the sky above it an impossible ravaged blue, she felt that she had been dead up until that moment.

Strangers with the Same Dream, Alison Pick, Alfred A. Knopf 2017

I guess I needed some more naive world-improvers in my life. This time it’s Jews (secular and otherwise) that are sure that they will create a safe, wonderful, prolific place for them. Somewhere already some people live, but hey – they were promised and it’s just shacks, anyway.

Yep. We know what’s going on here.

Alison Pick gives us the point of view from three people involved: Ida, David and Hannah. The first is a stranger, the second two a couple, but ‘strangers’ definitely fits all of them. Unfitting ideas about each other and the good of the community, terrible communication and all the time that build up to something bad happening.

The one downside to this book is that the POV overlap A LOT. Just a small shift in time would have shown us more about everyone’s history and the development of the land of community. Now parts turn into a he-said/she-said what sabotages that delightful build up.

Let’s try some lighter reading next.

The Patriots

On a Sunday in August, a boy and a one-armed man appeared on the platform of the Saratov train station.

The Patriots, Sana Krasikov, Penguin Random Books 2017

Russia and the Soviet continue to endlessly fascinate me. With almost 600 pages and jumping through time to get different angles, The Patriots provides.

That also means that sometimes you have to invest a little bit to follow along. A lot of names and not always a clear sign of which era you’re in keeps you on your toes, I guess.

An American woman moves to the Soviet because the revolution doesn’t happen quickly enough in the USA, in her opinion. We probably all know enough history to know that from a welcome foreigner, she turns into a unwelcome visitor and suffers along with the rest of locals just as easily. Even if you know, reading about it once more just shows that there’s no limit to (unpleasant) surprise.

Generations follow, the Soviet stays the same. It continues to baffle me how recently this all played out, but I will gladly take more stories about it.

Coded Bias

90 min.

Wat zegt het over mij dat ik al veel wist van wat in deze documentaire wordt besproken? Misschien lees ik te veel. Of genoeg, en de rest van de samenleving te weinig.

Want algoritmes beïnvloeden niet alleen wat wij wel doen en kopen, maar ook wat wij goedkeuren en afkeuren. Wat als de norm wordt beschouwd, en die norm wordt vastgelegd door (oude) witte mannen. Daardoor hebben zwarte vrouwen witte maskers nodig om gezichtsherkenning te gebruiken: waarom zou je als witte man de gezichtsherkenning aan zwarte gezichten laten wennen, tenslotte?

Naast die ongelijkheid laat de documentaire ook zien wat er nog meer mis is met het verafgoden van het technische. Mooi vond ik hoe ze zeiden hoe algoritmes in het verleden wortelen. Zij leren tenslotte van data, maar die data is seksistisch, racistisch en meer. We moeten dus nog véél meer kijken naar wat we de ritmes voeren.

Zei zij, op het internet.

De meest besproken man van Nederland

De meest besproken man van Nederland zit om 05.00 uur rechtop in zijn bed.

De meest besproken man van Nederland, Jeroen Pen, Uitgeverij Pluim 2021

Had een vrouw dit ook gepubliceerd gekregen, vraag ik mij af een paar uur na het uitlezen ervan.

Weinig verder aan te merken op deze ‘we doen alsof het een roman is’-roman, maar een man zonder journalistieke opleiding krijgt kansen die de vrouwelijke journalistieke student nooit zal ervaren omdat ze al na x aantal minuten uit gebrek aan betalend werk maar de communicatie in gaat. Ja, ik spreek uit ervaring en ben nog steeds bitter. Enfin.

Jeroen Pen schrijft over freelance/flexibele schil/vaste-contractenterreur in de mediamwereld. Over de dinosauriërs die wel de komeet aan zien komen, maar niet weten hoe er mee om te gaan. Allemaal – als mededertiger – veels te herkenbaar. Bek houden over de staat van de werkomgeving en doorbuffelen – dat ook.

Zo is dit een zeer milleniaanse klacht over media, de vorige generatie, de economie en hoe er tegen werk aan gekeken wordt. Vlot geschreven en zonder enige verdieping of oplossingen dus een lekkere aderlating.

Aan te merken? Het ouderwetse, seksistische gedrag van de vaste-contracters had vast wel alleen benoemd kunnen worden om Otto’s innerlijke feminist/one of the boys-strijd te tonen, in plaats van in detail te benaderen. Maar hier spreekt dan ook een sneeuwvlokje.

Crip Camp

100 min.

First documentary of the month. An uncomfortable one because really; did anything change in how society handles disabled people in the past fifty years?

Crip Camp is about Camp Jened, but so much more. About the American government lacking in viewing disableds as citizens instead of their disability. They fight (for) laws, but first and foremost for the right of a multi-dimensional life.

The documentary is completely American focused, connecting to civil rights, racism and sexism. That also makes it easy to pretend it’s a local thing, but of course we know better.

That leaves Crip Camp as a reminder of how much change still has to happen to give disabled citizens the room in society they deserve.

Joy

109 min.

I challenged myself to watch a film every day in November. Expect a lot of film posts.

A warning beforehand, this film shows animal abuse and let’s you listen to rape. In case you felt like the title would give you a happy story.

Joy leaves you with questions, although you know the answers to most of them. It’s a surprise that nothing sentimental is added for once: no room for sentimentality with illegal Nigerian sex workers in Austria. Especially not when there’s debt involved. Joy’s one nice decision (taking a younger woman under her wing) backfires, showing there’s no room for niceties.

It’s near the ending where the questions are left unanswered: what do these actions stand for? What is she doing? With this, Joy ends (not completes!) an all too familiar story (immigration for the people back home) on an eerie, unfamiliar note.

A Long Petal of the Sea

The young soldier was part of the “Baby Bottle Conscription,” they boys called up when there were no more men, young or old, to fight the war.

A Long Petal of the Sea, Isabel Allende, Bloomsbury Publishing 2020

Author Isabel Allende warns that “this is a story of sorrow, displacement and hope” and that’s even a considerate description of it. The characters are fictional, what they go through isn’t and isn’t ancient history either.

It’s humans that live through Franco’s fight(/destruction) for power in Spain, only to go through a very similar thing in Chile (under Pinochet). Twice it’s shown how there is a large divide between class, political sides and ignorance and how this can lead to absolute massacre and destruction. The reader mainly follows Victor and Roser – middle class surviving, but also gets glimpses at the bourgeoisie, fans of waiting every development out so they can continue living as they have always have.

Yet this isn’t a horror story, nor a pamphlet for human monstrosities or a history lesson. Allende puts the people first, showing how life still goes on and can even be beautiful. Descriptions of people, thoughts and countries add such a layer that the story becomes three-dimensional. It makes for an appealing story – while getting your serving of (lesser-)known history.

White Ivy

Ivy Lin was a thief but you would never knew it to look at her.

White Ivy, Susie Yang, Simon & Schuster 2020

White Ivy is all over the place. As the summary and blurbs say it’s coming of age, a (second generation) migrant story, but Ivy manages to elevate (and worsen) all of it.

Because Ivy doesn’t fit into any mold. Maybe she doesn’t even have one. It’s maddening how she sabotages and destroys, but looking at her experiences and upbringing… maybe not that strange. Because how do you handle being left in a country only to meet your parents again after several years? Being the only Asian-Canadian in white surroundings? Having a violent tiger-mother and (mentally-)absent father? Lesser people would have gotten some trauma from that.

Again, sometimes you’re talking to Ivy to just unclench for once, give herself something, let go of all she’s carrying. Please, to give the reader some air to breathe as well.

I won’t share if she does, but it’s been a while since I’ve so rooted for and so disliked one and the same fictional character.

Homeland Elegies

I had a professor in college, Mary Moroni, who taught Melville and Emerson, and who the once famous Norman O. Brown – her mentor – called the finest mind of her generation; a diminutive, cherubic woman in her early thirties with a resemblance to a Raphaelesque putto that was not incidental (her parents had immigrated from Urbino); a scholar of staggering erudition who quotes as easily from the Eddas and Hannah Arendt as she did from Moby-Dick; a lesbian, which I only mention because she did, often; a lecturer whose turns of phrase were sharp as a German paring knife, could score the brain’s gray matter and carve out new grooves along which old thoughts would reroute, as on that February morning two weeks after Bill Clinton’s first inauguration, when, during a class on life under early American capitalism, Mary, clearly interrupted by her own tantalizing thought, looked up from the floor at which she usually gazed as she spoke – her left hand characteristically buried in the pocket of the loose-fitting slacks that were her mainstay – looked up and remarked almost offhandedly that America had begin as a colony and that a colony it remained, that is, a place still defined by its plunder, where enrichment was paramount and civil order always an afterthought.

Homeland Elegies, Ayad Akhtar, Little Brown and Company 2020

I should have seen it coming with such a first sentence. With some books you feel bad about not clicking with it; this has such positive reviews, it’s such an eye-opener etc. etc., so why am I not latching onto and never letting go?

Well, for starters the summary and the story don’t have a lot in common. There are so many descriptions of everything and everyone (the author seems to know that he does this, but still keeps doing it). And there’s much more descriptions of women’s vulvas than expected.

“Life as an American Muslim from 9/11 to Trump”. Sorta, but much more. And before as well, but not after. And very much, maybe all of it, about the author’s life. Even though there is a disclaimer about every character being fictional.

This offers insights about the (American) Muslim diaspora and ideas about the Islam which were new to me and explain some things, but there’s no clear line or plot wherever. Are these independent stories or a chronological build up? Trump might be mentioned on five of the three-hundred pages, was this a marketing decision? And why the sex diary?

But it’s “unputdownable” and by a Pulitzer-winning author, so I probably just don’t understand.