Knickers with a twist
“Padman” is a feel-good movie from India that tackles a strict cultural taboo: menstruation. A villager is scandalised to discover that his wife, like millions of Indian women, uses rags to deal with her “five-day test match”. So he sets out to introduce affordable sanitary napkins to villages across the country. Branded a pervert for his preoccupation with what is seen as a female problem, he is ostracised by his village and shunned by his wife. “Padman” may have performed modestly at the box office, but the fact that it has been made and seen at all in India is an achievement. It has been banned in Pakistan. “We cannot allow a film whose name, subject and story are not acceptable yet in our society,” a member of the Punjab Film Censor Board declared.
A call against arms
So great was the fear about safety on set in Iraq when “Al-Rihla” (“The Journey”) was being shot that the film-makers kept its plot a secret. It follows a female suicide-bomber as she stalks the new railway station in Baghdad, ready to detonate her vest during the opening ceremony. On the way, she meets a hawker who sells prosthetic limbs and showers her with unwanted flirtatious advances. Out of revenge, she takes him hostage, but begins to doubt her cause when he shows her a more secular vision of Iraqi society. The film, a rarity in a country where cinema-goers normally prefer Egyptian comedies and Hollywood blockbusters, is a timely call for compassion in a country brutalised by years of war.
Forget me not
Thirty years ago Kazuo Hara, a Japanese film director, coaxed a small band of soldiers who had fought in New Guinea during the second world war to come clean about murdering their fellow servicemen and eating them. The result was “The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On”. Now Hara has returned for another jab at official amnesia in his prize-winning documentary, “Nippon koku vs Sennan ishiwata son” (Sennan Asbestos Disaster). It is filmed in Sennan, once home to Japan’s biggest cluster of asbestos factories, and follows the city’s ailing residents as they fight an eight-year-long court battle for compensation for the deadly respiratory diseases caused by inhaling the toxic material. The film ends when a minister finally comes to the city to formally apologise. But for Hara victory is hollow: “The willingness of the Japanese to forgive the powerful is a danger to our democracy,” he says.
Australians see kangaroos both as pests and adorable national mascots. The animals are protected by law, but state governments allow millions to be “harvested” each year. The makers of “Kangaroo: A Love-Hate Story” are trying to start a conversation about the culling of the roo. The film, which shows gruesome footage of botched slaughters, argues that culls are inhumane and that kangaroo populations have declined significantly. But many farmers and people from the meat industry are fuming. They reckon that kangaroos destroy pasture, and point to Australia’s national statistics, which show that kangaroo numbers are still growing.