I continue writing about worthy documentations of two extraordinary individuals who dared to go beyond conventional roles society had in store for them (THE STORY OF DIANA and JANE respectively) thereby inciting a quietly provocative and empowering social revolution and the harrowing tale of an organisation / cult whose inroads into popular culture plumbs the darkest depths of humanity or maybe a baser instinctual base in its levers of power ( GOING CLEAR)
Here they are.
THE STORY OF DIANA (2017)
DIRECTOR : REBECCA GITLITZ
This two part documentary about the woman known to me so far for that universally endearing smile and an early death still shrouded in mystery, a death that brought millions to tears and an iconic elegy by Sir Elton John (Candle in the Wind) , is about the private tempest of a woman who was destined to be under the influence of codes, wrought by a patriarchy that wanted her to be a passive puppet and rest content with the title of a princess. She overturned the cart of convention and paved her own individual way. THE STORY OF DIANA plumbs the depths of her life, far off from the fairy tale trappings. A lot of the royalty’s flexibility in the modern age stems from subtle ways in which she broke the mould, refusing to be a miserable better half and bawling mess.
I attach below a poem I had written about her and Jackie Kennedy in which I visualized their lives conjoined by almost similar fates. It appears originally on my Wattpad poetry collection FRONTIERS and is titled CONVERGENCE. I utilize it here as I feel it expresses a lot of what I experienced after being privy to THE STORY OF DIANA.
This documentary made me realize how beautiful she really was and I talk about an inner beauty that can’t ever be duplicated. Her passionate advocacy of anti mining laws and more compassion towards Aids patients show her true colours as a brave, opinionated trailblazer who was equal parts hands on mother and social messiah. Where there was a dogma or taboo to be broken, she was present. The heartbreak came along with the alchemy to touch other lives. This work, directed by Rebecca Gitlitz, beautifully unveils a true exemplar of universal grit and grace.
“Just when the weight of the crown had extricated itself,
from the crime of almost snapping her neck,
A glass palace in her mind crashed.
a whirlwind of faraway drums tin-tinning in her head.
Cracking a crooked, dewy smile,
Keeping abreast of her tour of engagements.
Intent on remembering the last thing she said,
Everlasting pleasantry or just a peck on his cheek before tucking them to bed,
the kids and Jack.
The Pacific waves crash at her side,
on the assassin’s pathway,
where compassion and her snubbed radiance were last heard walking on the beach,
talking over the politics of killing fields and nuclear disarmaments.
Cocking an inlet, cocksure
Kindling the final vulgarity of his death.
In her lap his brains lay splayed
Enjambing the poetic words that died on his beautiful head and shamed every father’s rifle.
Shots were fired at her that day,
Jackie was splayed wide open,
kissing dripping blood on entitlements of ‘ the most famous woman in the world’.
All her particulars memorialized on Love Field.
Deftly walk in the hall,
my befuddled princess in the mirage.
What poise became yours even as conspiracy theories overtook your chambers.
What did it leave you with?
But a ‘ candle in the wind’ and a consolation from the windswept dust of Windsor.
A nominal title,
from cameras stationed like overhead helicopters that you loathed.
They smothered your wavelengths and still you delicately waved at each.
Is this the soft stereotype of womanhood
as it embraced you?
Or is it the unsaid, unfelt, tutored dignity that suppresses desires,
so what remains if ‘ worldly’ is your undertaking.
The mud of luxuries that you tread on
as the eyes, ears and spirit of England
and the cosmopolitan fluency of London that heroically consumed you overall.
Where was Diana in all this?
in the Distasteful heirarchy that she inherited
Instigated towards keeping appearances,
taking her part.
Another part in the violence of unfaithful kitchen sinks,
and Artful nose-diving in the cesspool of youth diminishing, with every act.
Acts of such force – fed maturities were those.
Where was the name in all this?
Her name blossoming with protrusions out of the headlines,
as ‘ the most famous woman in the world’.
But the swan like upper-crust had to remain,
the dignities of irony too
and the mere skeleton and cult of the good woman.
Diana had perished long ago in all this,
didn’t you see?
all gloves and pearl necklaces
and fashionable decorums,
misogyny dreaded and smelt from a distance,
authority that shut you mum.
The cumulation of your burdened histories had to come to this?
But you gave them the middle path
and broached your own negotiations in individual links.
All your own
spurning the smug, crushed jewel of tradition.
Love Field at an angle,
Champs Elysees and Paris, bon vivant,
at the axis of correlation.
The pure acrostics of lives intertwined,
dissolving in the quicksilver flashes of death and registries of popular culture,
for better or worse,
with burnt historic hands dealt.
The fluid parallels
The bloodied shots in rear view.
Blessed be the spectre of thee,
bleeding womanhood supreme
and in gobsmacked tragedy,
never giving in to idolatry
or melancholy’s rush hour.
They are what they are,
huddled spirits in unison
for the ashen infidelity of men.
Two women conjoining fates in constant, equivocal flutters.
Till those car rides each
Thinking back to Time’s finest chronology,
descending in the flagrant history of blood.
All they accommodated were these : free will and a life to cast out of those shadow lines,
giving away the personality of eras
a shroud of silences to enwrap itself in.
Long live the legend of thee”
DIRECTION : BRETT MORGEN
This is like serendipity since my writing on this Brett Morgen documentary coincides with JANE GOODALL honorably appearing on TIME’S most influential people in the world LIST for 2019 . The charms of this documentary have obviously helped her selfless vision reach a new generation. As far as I can say, as a twenty something now, my childhood years going back a decade or so were primed to natural wonders courtesy Ms. Goodall and the inimitable David Attenborough. Their programs on Discovery Channel and National Geographic are etched in the evergreen fabric of my youth.
It’s such a fascinating reality that the self taught primatologist is captured in her humble cast amid the chimpanzees she helped bring to the notice of the world even as stiff upper lipped scientists questioned her lack of qualifications in the field and others tried to bring her down as a pretty lady in shorts. In the untapped wilderness of Africa, she tasted the thrill of discovery and the compact pleasures of the natural world, exercising her maternal core adjunct with an individual outlook to contribute effortlessly to wildlife.
JANE is beautifully constructed, with the editing, music by legendary Philip Glass and footage honing the essence of the great outdoors that shaped this quietly defiant woman. Her marriage to the wildlife photographer Hugo Van Lawick and challenging years of raising her son find a place here. But above all this is a life unlike any, that began as an adventure, a fluke even and ended up educating a generation and beyond. Brett Morgen’s narrative flow makes one feel liberated and transfixed by the panorama of a person’s contributions.Jane Goodall is a living legend as her focus never wavered and the world of mankind and animals came closer by her even keeled approach.
GOING CLEAR : SCIENTOLOGY AND THE PRISON OF BELIEF (2015)
DIRECTION : ALEX GIBNEYA group of Scientologists had once visited my university department for a one hour lecture on how the organisation viewed education. I remember my mind bouncing with the image of its extra terrestrial beliefs and almost mystical presence in popular culture. I also remember the stricture attached with the event in which no one was allowed to ask any questions or even take a loo break. The rest of the details are hazy from that afternoon but the lack of friendliness and very cold formality and distancing growl on the part of two middle aged representatives conducting the session proved this was not just skimming the surface of its objectives, now when I look back clearly.
Thank God it was just a primer on what its founder L Ron Hubbard thought of education and learning. It didn’t make the slightest impact on me or others gathered.
GOING CLEAR : SCIENTOLOGY AND THE PRISON OF BELIEF holds renewed relevance in a time frame where the nebulous, sinister mind control tactics of the controversial church that emerged in a post war America are being challenged by influential former members like LEAH REMINI, PAUL HAGGIS and others. As evidenced here in this documentary, the punishments meted out to transgressors include cleaning bathrooms with the tongue and tortorous isolation. All the inside details of its practices point the pendulum towards dangers of adopting a cult’s policies where man made ideals of spiritual reparation lead to a spilling over of corruption at every turn. Somewhat akin to Nazi propaganda and white supremacy.
With members like Tom Cruise, John Travolta and others, the Church of Scientology has attracted pools of affluence. But the truth is murkier as it is. Alex Gibney probes the terrifying arc of institutionalized faith in GOING CLEAR : SCIENTOLOGY AND THE PRISON OF BELIEF . It shocked me. For more of an internalized screening of its concerns, watch the 2012 movie THE MASTER which never spells out its tale as directly referencing Scientology’s beginnings and burgeoning growth but is definitely about it. Both are eye opening accounts. Only the uncompromising art of non fiction filmmaking, however, could produce the impact that Alex Gibney’s work does in this case.***