Behold the Dreamers

He’d never been asked to wear a suit to a job interview.

First of all, I’d like to mention that this is a book from Oprah’s Book Club. Mostly because the ebook file I had, would mention it in the most random ways.

Anyway, I discovered that my Ottawa library had another online service, which finally got me this one. Express, so I had to finish it in seven days. I finished it in two.

Behold the Dreamers is about the American dreamers, the immigrants who enter the country (kind of) legally and overstay their welcome in hope of a better life for themselves and their family. Jende and Neni are from Cameroon, escaping their town because of disapproval of their relationship and with dreams of more. For such a long time things go well (there is a job, education, money shared left and right) that the reader can almost get comfortable; maybe this family is the one that will slip through.

The story plays out during the start of the financial crisis. With Jende being the chauffeur of a high up Wall Street man, it’s clearly shown that suffering can always reach another level. The book is so full of (naive) hope that it gets tougher and tougher to swallow that the dream may just stay that: a dream.

Behold the Dreamers, Imbolo Mbue, Random House 2016

Black Panther

135 min.

I’ve had Jidenna’s Long Live the Chief stuck in my head ever since leaving the theater for the Black Panther showing, and I think that could give you a bit of a clue about the film and how it leaves you. Assuming you don’t hate superhero movies, and aren’t racist or sexist. P.S.: the song isn’t in the film, the soundtrack is cool and fitting (either way).

Black Panther film posterThe character of Black Panther has been shortly introduced in previous Avengers/Marvel movies, but finally he and his country get their own movie. Which of course comes with a moderately interesting villain, love interest, family issues and hardships he has to work through.

But, and here where it turns out not to be a black Captain America; the director doesn’t take one step back on the blackness and African-ness of it all. It’s in the music, it’s in the accents, it’s in the attitude; for once there’s a story in which an African people are by far the superior ones. With special mention to all the women that are allowed in the spotlight, showing all the things they can do without needing (the leadership of) men.

So even though it’s still a Marvel movie in many more colours, it’s cooler and feels less plastic. And the soundtrack, that soundtrack.

Black Panther, Marvel 2018

Homegoing

The night Effia Otcher was born into the musky heat of Fanteland, a fire raged through the woods just outside her father’s compound.

A much recommended book that didn’t disappoint one bit. How often does that happen (rhetorical question)?

I often appreciate a family epistle, using people to show history through the centuries. Sometimes their surroundings are more interesting, something the characters and their impact on later generations are the elements that make the story.

Homegoing does both. It starts in Ghana, with the time when white people were just a minor element, a mark in between tribal issues. It goes on into the twenty-first century. So that means kingdoms rising and falling, slavery, wars, segregation, the American civil war and civil rights movements, fear for lives solely because they’re being lived in dark(er) skins. And during all that, people. Likeable people, confusing people, people you worry for. There’s their family mythology, but Yaa Gyasi never makes you forget that these are (just) humans.

It’s ugly, how close to the skin it plays. Colorism, racism, the superiority feelings of white people. This is reality, and there’s no judging tone; the situations speak for themselves. Doesn’t mean this story is non-stop hard to read, just another gold star for in Gyasi’s book. All in all, add me to the voice of recommendations.

Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi, Alfred A. Knopf 2016

The Wedding Party

110 min.

The world is a global village: how else would I have discovered a Nigerian movie (and had been able to watch it through Netflix, thanks Netflix)?

The-Wedding-Party-posterThe glorious years of endless amounts of fun romantic comedies seem to have come and gone, so I take everything recommended. It’s not essential, it adds some fun variety between everything Marvel churns out versus Oscar material. The Wedding Party was recommended with ‘Not as dramatic and all over the place and most Nigerian movies. And cute.’  So yes, sure, why not.
If this wasn’t ‘not as’, I’m curious about the usual level of hysteria and dramatics. Because in this movie there’s plenty of yelling, fake fainting, (muttered) insults and musical introductions. As in – families are introduced with dancing. This might be a regular Nigerian wedding thing, but it definitely changes up the well known wedding mile. Anyway, the drama has a valid reason (of course): the husband’s family doesn’t think his future wife is good enough for him, the wife’s family handles the insult with as much grace as a hippo in a mini pool.
It’s fun though. It’s loud and weird and kind of all over the place, but it’s clear what everyone’s place is and how this story is going to end. In case you need a romantic comedy, here you go.
The Wedding Party, FilmOne 2016

Chappie

120 min.

Vaak genoeg proberen actiefilms de Gevoelige Momenten de kijker door de strot te duwen: “hier, kijk, we zijn meer dan explosies en geweld!” Chappie doet dat beter, maar maakt er op andere gebieden weer een onherleidbaar zooitje van. Is dit een science fiction film, een buddy movie, avontuur? En waren de artiesten van Die Antwoord echt essentieel?
Chappie filmposterNu is ‘essentieel’ bij een film als deze natuurlijk een woord dat heel los gebruikt kan worden. Een verhaal over politierobots en artificiële intelligentie en nature versus nurture had op een niveau terecht gekomen waardoor je er nog een maand over doorpraat. Het werd Chappie. Een Johannesburg waarin de politie gesteund wordt door robots en zo (eindelijk) flinke successen tegenover misdaad kan behalen. De slechterik is de jaloerse meneer die liever zijn robot gebruikt ziet, terwijl de ingenieur van de robots liever nog wat menselijkheid aan ze toevoegt. De mislukte criminelen (Die Antwoord plus één) zijn de katalysator die het bij elkaar brengen. Zij willen namelijk ook wel zo’n robot, maar door het experimenteren van de ingenieur krijgen ze eentje met zoveel AI dat ze ‘m helemaal moeten opvoeden.
Zo zijn er gecharmeerde glimlachjes door Chappie‘s acties, maar vooral een boel vragen. Hoe lang is dit al bezig, waarom communiceert dit bedrijf zo slecht (intern), ALLEMENSEN hoeveel criminaliteit is er wel niet in deze stad? Is dit iets hoopvols, een aanklacht, en zo ja, waartoe precies? En moeten we nu wel of niet bang zijn voor AI?
Het zwabbert door tot het einde, om af te sluiten wanneer het interessant wordt. Lap, weer geen District 9 van Neil Blomkamp.
Chappie, Kinberg Genre 2015

Everfair

Lisette Toutournier sighed.

Well, it could make an amazing looking TV-show. The world building is there, it’s bright and diverse (both in surroundings as represented race and sexuality). It’s just the plot that ..not really isn’t.

Everfair is the name of the reclaimed, bought Congo and later parts of surrounding countries. With steampunk elements and money from societies and countries world wide, Africans, Europeans, Americans and Asians build up a country without colonial rule. Cool, original, awesome idea.

And that’s about it. The author seems to be in a hurry to showcase the rise and fall of this young country, hopping ahead in time like she was told not to use too much pages on character development. The story only gets sadder because of this as well, pulling the reader out of the freshly created fantasy.

I’m very fond of stand alone books, definitely in the fantasy series, but maybe Everfair could have done better with being a two-parter.

Everfair, Nisi Shawl, Tor 2016

Ayanda and the Mechanic

105 min.

I probably mentioned before how location and people used can inject originality into a (stale) story.
Because yes, Ayanda is a plucky, stubborn young woman who needs to Let Go and Learn Things, and has love right in front of her, but can’t see it.

ayanda-and-the-mechanic-posterBut instead of this being a white story in the USA, it’s a black story in South Africa. And these facts aren’t even the main reason for all the added colour, that’s Ayanda’s amazing outfits.

Ayanda tries to keep her deceased father’s garage up and running while her family is less than supportive. Things happen, tears are shed and so on. Ayanda and the Mechanic is just a little bit too long but still leaves you with a happy heart. It’s so nice to see women prosper and learn.

Ayanda and the Mechanic, ARRAY 2015