". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Sunday, December 6, 2009

DVDS -- Everywhere You Look

You see Robert Pattinson, even in what is titled here in the U.S., Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King (2006). He plays one of the Burgund kingdom's royal brothers, Giselher. He presents an affectless, gormless non-entity, as does his Twilight's Edward.  However, The Curse of the Ring, as one of its many European titles, is also at least an hour longer than what we get here in the U.S. So perhaps there is more to him / his role than that. From the added features you certainly see that the viewer is missing a very great deal, particularly of the role played by Max Von Sydow -- why have this marvelous actor and then cut him almost completely out of the film - series?

Even from what we are able to see on the version of dvds released here (curses upon the SciFi Channel for cutting it -- or is it now the SyFy Channel? A turd by any other name & etc.) this production beats Peter Jackson's LOTR, though it certainly owes a great deal of debt to their pioneering technology and approach. Dark Kingdom: Dragon King is one of my favorite things to watch -- I keep imagining how much more I'd love it in the full version. I described it at greater length here last year.

Additional watching has been The Ladies' No. 1 Detective Agency (2008) HBO, Season 1. Set in contemporary Botswana this is opposite spectrum viewing ... except, here too, there is dark magic, witchcraft and the Elder Powers' conflict with a Christianizing world (another connection: South Africa is part of the Dark Kingdom: Dragon King production team). We see the vast inroads evangelical christianity has made through the African populations, yet, if you are paying attention, the viewer sees clearly how this has been transformed by the indigenous spiritual beliefs of the various peoples. But Mma Precious Ramotswe possesses a well of good sense, rationality, compassion and sweetness that will not be found in the tragic protagonists of the Nibelungens' forest and ice bound northern lands.

I objected to the two Mma Precious Ramotswe novels I read: the milieu, the characters, were cute, eccentric and reassuringly implausible.* The HBO series isn't like that. It balances among all these elements plausibly because, while the episodes deal with dark and ugly realities in the group of African nations at the south of the continent, the viewers believe in Mma Precious Ramotswe's goodness of self, character and intention. This holds true for the 'eccentrics' who make up the brilliant cast ensemble of actors, who portray an authentic variety of Botswanans, and speak as Botswanans speak.  The pilot was too long, but the following episodes are just right. Sydney Pollack is part of the production team, that shoots in Botswana, so the production values and cinematography are splendid. What is also gotten right is the music. It is of the place in all its infinite forms and varieties, and it is omnipresent. The music was very much missing in the novels -- iirc, which I may not be.

Some have mentioned to me that they found this series too hard to 'get into,' so they quit. I'm considering that perhaps these people are not used to watching a television series in which there is not a single white person, any more than they've ever been in a gathering where they may have been the only white person, that this makes them uncomfortable, while remaining unaware as to why it makes them uncomfortable. There are also many cruel remarks about Mma Precious Ramotswe's weight -- the actress is very beautiful, btw. Among my friends those who love this show the most are my amigas of mixed race, who are of, as Precious says, "the African woman's traditional shape." These same people may feel equally uncomfortable with a woman of size as the center of positive attention, the focus, the agency, the heroine.

I'm looking forward to the second season arriving on DVD.

* My opinion, and mine alone -- many of my friends, who, since they are my friends, are intelligent, wise, well-informed, possess good judgment, brilliant critical acuity, and read very well, love the books as much as the HBO series, if not more.

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