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March 2000, Week 1


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 5 Mar 2000 03:34:10 EST
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P.O. Box 461267
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March 5, 2000

The Board of Directors of the Political Film Society met at 8481 Allenwood
Road, Los Angeles, on March 4 at 7:00 p.m. and counted ballots to determine
which films of 1999 were voted the best political films by members of the
Society.  The winners are as follows:

DEMOCRACY         The Insider
EXPOS…              Boys Donít Cry
HUMAN RIGHTS    The Green Mile
PEACE                     Three Kings

What motivates a terrorist and what can get a terrorist to give up terrorism?
This question is posed in the Indian film The Terrorist, directed by Santosh
Sivan, which reached Los Angeles in February 2000, although the Indian
release date was 1998. The identities of the enemy and the terrorist group
are not specified in the film, but we soon surmise (with dialog in the Tamil
language) that the terrorists are Tamil separatists in Sri Lanka, and the
enemy is the Sri Lankan government. The heroine of the film is
nineteen-year-old Malli (played by Ayesha Dharkar), whose brother was
presumably killed unjustly by the Sri Lankan army. Uneducated, Malli is
easily recruited by the terrorists, who provide room and board, brainwash her
with stories about the glory of martyrs to the cause, train her to fight with
modern weapons, and give her assignments to kill the enemy on various
occasions. When the film begins, a traitor to the cause is being tortured,
and masked Malli pulls the trigger to execute him. Next, she is assigned to
assassinate an important political leader. When Malli reaches her
destination, she is trained to follow a script in which she will put a
garland on the leader, bow down for a blessing, and then push a button that
will set off explosives on a hidden belt. Malli, of course, will also die in
the explosion, and her assassination and martyrdom are expected to advance
the cause for which she has dedicated her life. Pretending to be an
agricultural student, Malli is housed with a family that is unaware of her
mission. Yet her experience with the family opens her eyes to other scenarios
for her life. Vesu, the elderly head of the family, philosophizes that people
fall into two categoriesóoptimistic seeds that grow and flourish, and
pessimistic seeds eaten by birds. Since Malli is pregnant (from her dead
boyfriend), townspeople encourage her to enjoy motherhood. Vesuís mother, in
a coma for seven years, fascinates Malli, since she sees the comatose state
as a paradigm for her own life. But as Malli is about to enact the scripted
assassination, the mother comes partly out of the coma to grasp her hand
tightly, as if to say that she should not act foolishly. Then, when the time
comes to push the button, Malli demurs. For the first time in her life, she
decides to make her own decision and opts for a much happier life than
following orders and ending up on a funeral pyre at an early age. According
to the director, curiosity about the "suicide bomber" who assassinated former
Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi inspired the story, which could apply to
almost any terrorist conspiracy. Sadly, the film reveals that poor girls in
India and Sri Lanka are in effect sold by their families to terrorist
training camps because they cannot afford to pay for their education or even
their marriage. Not revealed in the film is the reality that when the girl
dies, her family will doubtless receive monetary compensation from the
terrorists, so she is actually helping her family by offering the ultimate
sacrifice. For the revealing portrayal of the causes and possible cures for
terrorism, The Terrorist has been nominated for an award as the best film of
2000 on peace.  MH

Members of the Political Film Society are invited to patronize the upcoming
War Horn Film/Video Festival, which is designed to meet the needs of the
ever-growing number of student filmmakers of color by promoting the
unification of this community and providing a forum for the exchange of ideas
that may change the face of Hollywood and independent cinema. The website for
the festival is located at

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