Weekly Digest (3/01/21 – 3/07/21): American Fascism, Self-Aware B-Movies & La Llorona

Here’s what I watched, read and listened to this past week that I think might be of interest to you!

PODCASTS

In one of their more recent episodes Escape From Plan A provided an analysis on the disgusting soar of hate crimes directed at Asian-Americans in the past year. Host Teen and guest Austin Koh. aka Ayekay, provide perhaps the best analysis of the topic I’ve come across on the internet. Their conversation, as it usually is on Plan A, is very accessible and hardly academic allowing for all types of listeners to engage with the subject matter without feeling alienated. Together they bring forth a thorny truth about the assaults on members of their community, that the assailants aren’t just white supremacists but, most visibly, Black people. Why isn’t the media discussing this inter-racial/minority violence and what would be the repercussions if this information were to be as widely known as the death of George Floyd for example? Are Black people racist towards Asians and vice versa? Why does no one care when innocent Asian lives are killed? Teen and Koh navigate these questions with a lot of sophistication, care and delicacy.I hear the frustration, confusion and agency to help their community in every word spoken by Teen and Ausitn. One of the greatest take aways in Ep.237 is Austin’s advocacy of communal self-determinism. He urges the Asian-American community needs to stop looking towards BLM or asking why said media outlet, or said demographic isn’t reposting about this violence on their social media like they did for Black people. Asian-Americans, as they maintain, need to stand up for themselves and stop looking elsewhere for support. Allies and comrades, like myself, will come if they care but my (our) support shouldn’t be essential to advancing their struggle.

When our political and social spaces talk about “amplifying Black voices”, it’s the Black (male) liberal’s voice which is often centered. While the Black liberal isn’t my/our political opposition, they’re certainly not my ally—although I’m doing everything in my power to swing them towards a more radical position. Our airwaves are flooded with “Black voices” who preach in favor of a Black Wall Street, advocate for Black capitalism, and cherish Black social/political elites who could care less about our supposed “skinship”. Marooncast isn’t a space for people to hear White settler politics through moderate Black mouthpieces. From the jump, it’s clear Hip-Hop anarchist, Indigenous, and New Afrikan Womanist host Sima Lee isn’t about that b.s. She dissects and exposes American society for what it really is in the first 10 minutes—occupied imperialist white bourgeoise land. I think what’s most unique about her analysis is her diction and phrasing which will surely stir the much needed anger we have towards the global social order but don’t feel safe to express in our day-to-day lives.

Black To the Afrofuture is a perfect 2 hour primer to Black anarchism and voices the true frustration of Black people all over the diaspora—not that B.S. “we #MoreBlackCEOs.” If you’re nerdy, like me, you might want to have a pen and paper nearby just to jot down some huge knowledge and information bombs Sima drops all over the place—my notes were about 6 pages long. However you choose to engage with the podcast, I hope that one of Sima’s points become abundantly clear. Fuck finding a seat at the table, smash that table, burn it, and build one that isn’t a blacker version of that table, but that is in complete opposition of that table. In fact, maybe thinking about building something else altogether where power may possibly be distributed horizontally.

FILMS

Zebraman (dir. Takashi Miike, 2004)

I think causal film goers will dismiss Zebraman as corny and not see that its cheesiness is intentional and what makes the film so incredibly complex. You can read my full review on Letterboxd where I discuss how Miike, currently my favorite director, and screenwriter Kankuro Kudo approach the superhero sub genre with a thought-provoking, anti-war and anti-American imperialist lens. Zebraman is so much in opposition to the ideals and familiar narrative structures of the sub genre that it also feels like an anti-superhero film itself. If you want to get out of your film watching comfort zone, stream Zebraman right now on Mubi.

Blood Machines (Seth Ickerman, Raphaël Hernandez & Savitri Joly-Gonfard, 2019)

Blood Machines is a tale about female androids liberating themselves from a form of techno-industrial-imperalist-patriarchal improsinment. In other words, Blood Machines is exactly how I wished Blade Runner 2049, a film I still really enjoyed, treated its diverse caste of female replicants. But the gender politics aren’t the main intrigue of Blood Machines, unless your watching the film with a theoretical lens like I do, but certainly it’s intentionally B-styled, film-grained, synth world of blood chrome that is mostly strange, but mesmerizing and hypnotic if you allow it’s self-awareness to sway you. You can watch it right now on Shudder.

La Llorona (Jayro Bustamante, 2019)

Jayro Bustamante’s genre-bending horror La Llorona is one of the best films I’ve watched this year. Unlike the cheap jump scare filled horrors of the commercial sphere, the paranormal in La Llorona isn’t depicted as a total from of evil or positioned as the central antagonistic force against the “heroes”. As the name suggest, the paranormal is the eponymous Latin American folk figure but she isn’t the embodiment of the “horror”, rather the representation of a greater shared horror present of the film, and consistent across the history of The Americas, the pyscho-spiritutal, communal horrors indigenous groups endure when faced with a slow and continuous genocide of their people

In horror, or at least the lower tier films of the genre that populate the mainstream, our gaze is always fixated on unassuming and morally sound protagonist’s who haven’t a clue about the origins of the evil heading their way. It’s the same deal with La Llorona, but Bustamante spins this narrative ritual on its head. Our protagonists happen to be a racist genocidal dictator and his White, bourgeois, settler class Guatemalan family who, similar to the customs of the form, haven’t a clue of the horrors to come. My only critique, per the conventions of the genre, is that the film naturally allows for too much sympathy for the main characters, as indigenous voices are actually quite sideline, but I’ll let you make your own assessment on that.

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