Film

Powerful Documentary 'Marathon Boy' at the DocYard on 16 April

The documentary takes a step beyond the obvious argument against child abuse (in multiple forms), to consider the ongoing effects of poverty and celebrity, ambition and despair, effects that aren't as disparate as you'd first guess.

"Once upon a time," Marathon Boy begins, "In a faded corner of India, a poor man and a slum-boy captured the hearts and souls of the rural masses." The fairy tale structure evoked by this phrasing is reinforced by the documentary's particulars: the child Budhia Singh, born into desperate poverty in a Bhubaneswar slum, is sold by his mother Sukanti to a door peddler, and then to Biranchi Das and his wife Gita, keepers of a judo hall. The boy reveals a talent and a passion for running, which Biranchi encourages and exploits: by the time Budhia is four years old, he has run in some 48 marathons, appeared in a number of commercials, and been celebrated around the nation. Almost immediately, their story takes expected and unexpected turns, triumphs and betrayals that lead eventually to murder.

These shifts in fortune are captured in Gemma Atwal's remarkable film -- screening on 16 April at The DocYard -- initiated in 2006, when Budhia was still just four and the Child Welfare Committee in Orissa is taking an interest. The movie tracks not only Budhia's extraordinary running, in shots long and close, over rural roads and city streets, but also the publicity campaign Biranchi wages in order to hang on to his young star, his appearances on TV, interviews in which he insists on his commitment to "social justice" (comparing what he's doing to the notorious abuses of other Indian five-year-olds, "breaking stones in quarries" and "cutting firewood and selling it") and doesn't quite talk about how sponsors support Budhia's efforts to make it to the Olympics. Interviews with such sponsors and a sympathetic journalist are set against others with state authorities, who eventually forbid the child's participation in grueling races -- even when, as Biranchi devises, the boy will be walking instead of running. If you don't quite anticipate what happens, you can guess the story can't end well. But still, the documentary takes a step beyond the obvious argument against child abuse (in multiple forms), to consider the ongoing effects of poverty and celebrity, ambition and despair, effects that aren't as disparate as you'd first guess.

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To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

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Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

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Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

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This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

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Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

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