A woman keeps a wrought-iron swastika in her kitchen. A smiley brunette cuddles her dog while she talks about thirsting for liberals’ blood. “Golden Dawn Girls” focuses on the women in the far-right group that rose from obscurity to become Greece’s third-largest political party in 2015. When three party bosses are arrested, all male, their women-folk – a wife, mother and daughter – lead the party through the elections. Director Havard Bustnes has been granted surprisingly generous access. He follows the women through family gatherings and rowdy rallies, seeing dark comedy in the banality of fascism. The film ends with an Orthodox baptism. As the baby is plunged into holy water, her name is declared: Golden Dawn. You couldn’t make it up.
Bearing the shame
In 1959 a young Ojibwe boy in Canada is taken from his family and sent to a boarding school that is supposed to help assimilate members of the indigenous population. The school is oppressive. Saul Indian Horse finds escape on the ice rink, where he plays hockey in secret (with pucks made from frozen horse dung) until his prodigious talent is discovered. “Indian Horse”, based on a novel by Ojibwe writer Richard Wagamese, propels Canada’s national sport into one of the darkest episodes in its national drama. Canada is still struggling with the guilt associated with the emotional, physical and sexual abuse suffered by aboriginal students such as Saul at the hands of priests and nuns in government-run schools. There is little trace of it in school curricula. “Indian Horse” brings Canada’s shameful past to the silver screen.
Sex and Tbilisi
When Dije, a Nigerian migrant, falls for April, a 30-something prostitute fresh out of jail, he tells her he has wound up in the wrong Georgia. Not Atlanta, Georgia, home to Coca Cola and CNN, but Tbilisi, Georgia, a post-Soviet city where sex workers ply their trade in rubbish-strewn hotel basements and Africans eke out a precarious existence on their journey west. “I Am Truly a Drop of Sun on Earth” presents some uncomfortable home truths. Though the country prides itself on centuries of ethnic tolerance and chivalric notions of behaviour to women, a racist right wing is taking to the streets and violence against women and LGBTQ people is increasingly common. Shot guerrilla-style in seedy clubs and red-light districts, the film’s stark cinematography lends a documentary quality to the ill-starred love story, and has forced Georgians to confront a side of their society they’d rather not see.
“Looking for Rohmer” is the first film about gay love that has made it to China’s big screen. It tells the story of a Chinese man who travels to Tibet to mourn the death of his French boyfriend, though the lovers’ relationship is only ever hinted at. In a country where gay content remains controversial, such subtlety may have been necessary to secure the film’s release: it has taken years to pass the censors. Its airing now represents a small but vital step forward in the acceptance of homosexuality.
“Love Destiny” follows a dorky, kind-hearted Thai archaeologist who finds herself in the body of a beautiful but cruel 17th century noblewoman. The hugely popular time-travel-themed soap opera has inspired a Siam-retro revival, inspiring hundreds of Thais to dress up in silk court raiment and take selfies at old temples. But nostalgia for the splendours of kings past isn’t just aesthetic. Thailand’s key political battles over the past decade have centred on the monarchy, which is still considered inviolable. In 2014 its defenders seized power from a democratically elected government in a coup. Since then, “Love Destiny” frenzy has fed into efforts by the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn to romanticise the days (and kings) of yore by urging Thais to wear period costume. The unelected prime minister, Prayuth Chan-Ocha, publicly praised the show’s promotion of proper “Thai-ness” and even began holding his own cabinet meetings in costume.
A killer diagnosis
An elderly Turkish man named Agâh Beyoğlu is lying prone in a car, a gun in his hand. He wants to kill a man but, crippled by his conscience, he can’t follow through with the crime. Cut to the present and Agâh has been told he has dementia. At first he rails against his diagnosis before realising that “I won’t remember so I can do anything” – even kill a man without troubling his soul. “Şahsiyet” (Personality) is Turkey’s answer to “Breaking Bad” (in which anti-hero Walter White turns to crime after being diagnosed with lung cancer). In recent years Turkey has exported shows to Europe, the Middle East and Latin America. “Şahsiyet” is the latest stylish crime drama to burnish the country’s reputation as a TV powerhouse.