Friday, October 23, 2009

Vietnam comes to London

By Andy Brooks

LONDONERS will get a taste of Vietnamese culture this month with the screening of three major Vietnamese films, including the internationally acclaimed Don’t Burn It [Dung Dot], which has been officially chosen to represent Vietnamese cinema in the best foreign language film category at the 2010 Oscars in Los Angeles next March.
Over 40 years ago Vietnam was on everyone’s lips as the heroic Vietnamese people battled against the might of US imperialism to drive the invaders out and reunify their country under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh and the communists. Final victory was achieved in 1975 and the establishment of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
Though the country still bears the scars of that monstrous imperialist war, Vietnam has advanced to develop a modern socialist economy and a haven for peace and progress in south-east Asia. But while we remember those epic days of sacrifice and struggle we often forget that Vietnam is an ancient land with rich traditions and a thriving movie industry that is now going beyond the confines of Asia to span the entire globe.
Some of the best Vietnamese films will be shown in London as part of the
Vietnam Festival of Culture this month. And the festival kicked off with a gala performance by the country’s top artistes on Monday at Chelsea’s Cadogan Hall, attended by Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, and opened by visiting Vietnamese deputy premier Hoang Trung Hai.
Then the hall was transported into the heart of modern and traditional Vietnamese culture as singers, dancers and musicians held the audience spellbound with a selection of traditional and modern Vietnamese music as well as an interpretation of the English folk-song Scarborough Fair and a Hungarian classic Czadas gypsy dance.
The Vietnam film festival that follows will be held at the nearby Cine Lumiere, French Institute, in South Kensington from 29th to 31st October. Londoners will have the exclusive opportunity to see some of the most exciting and celebrated films to come out of Vietnam including The Black Forest, Don’t Burn It and The Story of Pao.
Two of the films are dramas: The Black Forest tells the tale of a love triangle between an illegal lodger in a northern forest, his fiancé and his second son; The Story of Pao is set amongst the Hmong ethnic minority while Don’t Burn It is based on the true story of Dang Thuy Tram, a young female doctor from Hanoi who volunteered to help the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam working as a surgeon in a battlefield hospital during the Vietnam War and was killed by American troops.
The film reflects the profound humanity of the film’s modest and courageous heroine Tram, played by young actress Minh Huong. The film triumphed over 23 other movies to win the Audience Award at the Fukuoka International Film Festival in Japan earlier this month.

Tickets are just £5.00 and further details can be obtained by contacting the Cine Lumiere box office on 0207 073 1350 or checking out their website at

Friday, October 16, 2009

Milestone in Korean history

Communists and progressives gathered in London last week for a seminar on the meaning and impact of the Korean revolution to mark the anniversary of the foundation of the Workers’ Party of Korea on 10th October 1945.
Organised by Friends of Korea and chaired by Harpal Brar, the guest of honour was a diplomat from the DPR Korea embassy in London and contributors included NCP leader Andy Brooks, Michael Chant of the RCPB (ML), John McLeod of the Socialist Labour Party and Ella Rule of the CPGB (ML) along with Korean solidarity activists Keith Bennett and Dermot Hudson of the British Juche Society.
The discussion, held at the RCPB (ML) headquarters in south London, covered all aspects of life in Democratic Korea including the Juche philosophy, leadership and the role of the communist party in socialist construction. At the end of the seminar a congratulatory letter to Korean leader Kim Jong Il was adopted unanimously.
photo: Andy Brooks making a point

Words to change the world

by Daphne Liddle

THREE themes came together is Kensington Town Hall last Saturday night – they were Third World Solidarity, the Poetry Olympics and the Muslim celebration of Eid in an event of performance poetry and music.
Too often English audiences are deterred from poetry performances by bad poetry badly presented. Poetry is for everyone but like any other art form is requires some thought and effort from the creator and the presenter.
I remember a peace rally in 1991 in Woolwich Town Hall that was almost entirely cleared by a recital from veteran peace campaigner Pat Arrowsmith. No one doubted her courage or credentials as a fighter for peace but she was not a wordsmith.
She was about to go out to the Gulf and interpose herself between two front lines to try to prevent the impending war. We wondered if her “poetry” was the magic weapon to send both frontlines into rapid retreat.
A poet, like a painter or a composer, has inspiration and a message, a thought or a feeling to communicate. But to do justice to their inspiration the artist chooses carefully the right colours and textures of paint and surface; the musician chooses carefully the right notes, rhythms and instruments to give the right tone and texture of sound.
Communicating an inspiration into a form that other minds can receive takes some care and effort. For a poet, that means choosing carefully the right words, the rights sounds, rhythms and textures to generate a complete picture in the mind of the listener.
Chosen carefully, words are the most powerful tools we have. Words can convey information; they can soothe and comfort; they can encourage; they can humiliate; they can break hearts; they can anger; they can confuse and deceive; they can sell; they can create a god; they can bore; they can make people fall in and out of love; they can satisfy or they can start a revolution that will change the world.
There is nothing boring about the study of language. The power of magic spells in superstitious times was entirely in the right choice and use of words.
And the performers we saw on stage in Kensington Town Hall last Saturday were absolute masters of language and demonstrated poetry at its very best. And both in content and presentation it was poetry at the service of justice, peace and democracy – the aims of Third World Solidarity.
The event was organised by local Labour councillor Mushtaq Lasharie and presented by Michael Horovitz.
The first performer was Mahmood Jamal who performed poetry he had translated from the original Pakistani and some of his own.
This was followed by Guyanan Keith Waite, who, with the aid of a flute, conjured up the sounds and the atmosphere of the jungle.
Patience Agbabi gave us first a fast and vivid hymn of praise to the importance of words, Give me a word, then a well crafted story in rap poem of her life: born in Africa, raised in London and then returning to Lagos to find herself an outsider in both places – a Ufo woman.
Oliver Bernard gave us his experiences of life since the 1930s; Steven Berkoff presented a tennis championship final match as a fast and furious battle saga; Eleanor Bron read from an anthology produced by Poetry Olympics and some pieces of her own and Elvis McGonnigal had us laughing out loud with his quick-fire satires on the world of power politics, along with sporadic digs at the pop singer James Blunt, whom he compared to the Orville, the ventriloquist dummy duck.
We heard from Moazzam Begg, for four years a prisoner in Guantanamo Bay, who wrote poetry to preserve his sanity during those terrible years. He explained how many prisoners, denied access to pens and paper, found a way of writing by using the little finger nails to cut into the surface of Styrofoam cups.
The size of the cups limited the poems to just a couple of lines but nevertheless these poems made it to the outside world, smuggled out, often by sympathetic guards and are now published.
The works of all these poets and many more are available in print with details from New Departures/Poetry Olympics, PO Box 9819, London W11 2GQ or

photo:Eleanor Bron

Friday, October 09, 2009

Free the Miami Five!

NCP comrades and supporters joined protesters outside the US embassy in London last week to demand the release of five Cubans arrested in 1998 on trumped-up charges of espionage. Some 400 demonstrators took part in an evening candle-light picket of the American embassy in Grosvenor Square on 1st October called by the Cuba Solidarity Campaign in support of Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González who are currently serving sentences of between 15 years and life. The vigil was supported by their families, Jeremy Corbyn, the London Labour MP who is also a prominent member of the Labour Representation Committee along with a number of union leaders.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

London roundup

BNP councillor exposed

The British National Party’s third highest elected official has been exposed fabricating two murders in a high profile BNP campaign.
He has been found guilty of bringing both the Greater London Authority and the Barking and Dagenham Council into disrepute – his lies show the depths the BNP are willing to stoop to in their vile propaganda war.
This follows a BNP posting on You Tube which showed Barnbrook claiming there had been three recent murders in Dagenham – a total fabrication.

Hope not Hate campaigners are now aiming to raise £5000 to deliver 150,000 targeted leaflets across London.
Because of the severity of his lies, Barnbrook has been suspended by the Council for a month, forced to submit a written apology to the Greater London Authority and made to undertake “training” in ethics in public life.
But the Hope not Hate campaigners say this is just the tip of the iceberg – the BNP has been capitalising on fear for years in an attempt to pull our communities apart.
But this time is different – this time we have proof in black and white that their campaign is entirely based on fear, falsehood and hatred.

Eurostar cleaners take action

Rail Union RMT last Monday confirmed a further six days of strike action by Eurostar cleaners working at St Pancras International for contractors the Carlisle Group in an increasingly bitter dispute over pay, the introduction of routine staff fingerprinting, redundancies and the victimisation and harassment of RMT union reps.
RMT Eurostar cleaners will strike on the following dates:
• 05:30 hours on Friday 2nd October 2009 and 05:29 hours on Saturday 3rd October 2009.
• 05:30 hours on Sunday 4th October 2009 and 05:29 hours on Monday 5th October 2009.
• 05:30 hours on Friday 16th October 2009 and 05:29 hours on Saturday 17th October 2009.
• 05:30 hours on Sunday 18th October 2009 and 05:29 hours on Monday 19th October 2009.
• 05:30 hours on Friday 30th October 2009 and 05:29 hours on Saturday 31st October 2009.
• 05:30 hours on Sunday 1st November 2009 and 05:29 hours on Monday 2nd November 2009.
RMT have launched a global campaign in support of the London Eurostar cleaners and their fight for the London Living Wage and against bullying and harassment. So far over 3,000 people from over 70 countries around the world have joined the cyber-picket.
Bob Crow, RMT general secretary, said on Monday:
“The treatment of cleaners on the Eurostar, our flagship European rail service, is nothing short of a national disgrace. We have demanded that the Government, as the effective owners of Eurostar, step in to stop this scandalous exploitation of cleaners at St Pancras International who are fighting for nothing more than the London Living Wage, dignity and respect at work and the right to organise an effective trade union.”