[Note to Film Club participants: I am rehearsing for A Cajun Midsummer Night's Dream which opens January 29th, 2016 at The Novato Theatre. So, the next film club will be March 19th]
In Beasts of No Nation, Director Cary Fukunaga (Sin Nombre) refuses to whitewash the violent reality of children conscripted into war. I believe that this film is as important today as Frances Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now was in its day. And, so, I plan to show it next time at Film Lovers Club.
It is tough to watch, yes. But, it is a necessary film to watch. Although there is real life horror, the truly gripping through-line is about a boy, Agu, coming of age in the midst of terrible personal and national tragedy…something we see in the news every day, but to which we either don’t have a personal connection and/or to which we blithely turn a blind eye. The delicate and touching moments between Agu and his “rag tag” army of brothers and the dysfunctional relationship in which he is truly a captive of the father figure (the Commandant) in his new life are so heart-breakingly deep that one walks away from a film like this with a clear sense of how children and young people are both enrolled into these ISIS-style situations and why they find it virtually impossible to leave them. Beasts of No Nation is an important film because it shows us exactly why and how this happens. And we need to understand this.Unfortunately, Anthony Lane of The New Yorker Magazine magazine suggested that Cary Fukunaga’s filmmaking style was gratuitously violent. You do have to prepare yourself for violence. But, I swear, just the sound track alone, if you were to listen to the film with your eyes closed, transports you into another world. And, it is a feat that Director Fukunaga was able to choreograph such a film where it was shot––Ghana, Africa.
As in-your-face as the violence is, the film is equally heartwarming––a perfect pitch of unbearable sadness and of the compelling bonds of love that only war can fuse into a child’s soul. In my humble opinion, Beasts of No Nation will stand out as a masterstroke of both immediate and breathtaking filmmaking and compelling storytelling.
My last point: Could it be that any unfavorable review of this film is simply because Fukunaga won’t play by the rules? The film, ten years in development and in the making, was funded by Netflix, their first feature film. And Netflix did not go along with the typical 90-Day clause that gives large theatres an exclusive first opportunity to show it; They released the film immediately after the festival circuit. As a result, sadly, it is not in many theatres. It is definitely a film that should be seen on a large screen. It crossed my mind that there might even be a concerted effort to force young directors into line…its own kind of not-so-subtle war on Art…something we can stomach observing, but distasteful none-the-less.
Please join me in viewing the upcoming film Beasts of No Nation the third weekend of March on Saturday, the 19th. Stay tuned for upcoming information about it.