Friday, October 25, 2019

Palestinian cinema returns to London

It Must Be Heaven
  by New Worker correspondent
 The Palestine Film Festival returns to London next month, after a two year break, with a selection of feature films and shorts that reflects the culture and politics of a film industry that survives and even thrives under the oppression of Israeli occupation.
The festival fortnight kicks off on 15th November at the Barbican with the screening of It Must Be Heaven – a black comedy about a Palestinian film-maker who goes to the Europe and America to escape from the reality of his home life only to find constant reminders of what he left behind. Other screenings at the Barbican include Stranger at Home – a classic but rarely seen 1985 documentary about a Palestinian artist’s return to occupied Jerusalem, and a programme of five sci-fi shorts by well-known Palestinian directors.
The Palestinian film festival began in 1998 as a student project at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). It has since grown to become a major focus for Palestinian cinema on the London cinema scene. This year’s venues include the Barbican, Curzon Soho and the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA).
Directed by Elia Suleiman, It Must Be Heaven won critical acclaim at the recent Palestinian Cinema Days festival in Ramallah and it has now been nominated for the 2020 Oscars.
Suleiman said that he didn't make the film for the Oscars but to meet a vision he believes in. “I think I made the film not for the Oscars, I made the film because of the content of the film and because of the necessity to make this film,” he told reporters.
An Oscar nomination would normally require a costly promotion, international distributors and the support of not just the audience, but cultural organisations and national parties.
Palestinian Minister of Culture Atef Abu Seif, who was behind the nomination, said that the film would put Palestine on the world cinema map as one that tackles international affairs, not just local issues. He said he was proud that Suleiman's film was the debut of the Ramallah festival, which would encourage the cinema industry in Palestine.
Palestine Cinema Days was held in Ramallah in the Palestinian ‘autonomous’ zone in the West Bank earlier in the month. Festival spokesperson Khalid Badawi said that: “Despite all the abuses of our rights, we insist on our basic right of access to culture, production and cinema, and despite the very poor infrastructure that we face, we insist that we are the best producers, we have our productions, our film and film-makers that we are proud of. This is the stage, the event where we present what we produce to the world.”

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Scargill call to Leave Now!

Scargill calls to Leave!
By New Worker correspondent
London comrades joined supporters of the Socialist Labour Party (SLP) this week to hear Arthur Scargill call for a massive campaign to ensure that Britain leaves the European Union. The SLP leader, who led the miners in their fight to save the coal industry back in the 1980s, shared a platform that included Prof Takis Fotopoulos, two militant members of RMT and the leader of the SLP group on Hartlepool council, at a meeting in Hamilton House in central London on Tuesday.
            Eddie Dempsey from the RMT spoke about the neo-liberal agenda to privatise the railways throughout the European Union while Alex Gordon outlined the aims of LeFT, the Leave, Fight, Transform campaign –  a grassroots network of socialists and trade unionists launched by the CPB with the support of the Socialist Labour Party and members of the RMT earlier in the year.
            But most had come to hear Scargill who drew on his years of campaigning against the Common Market inside and outside the Labour Party to argue for the “no deal” Brexit millions of us thought we had voted for in the 2016 referendum.
The veteran campaigner called for a return to Labour’s traditional values of the public ownership of key industries and utilities that were dumped by the Blairites in the 1990s.
Communists share Scargill’s distrust of the Remainers in the Corbyn leadership. We would naturally disagree with his call on workers to only vote for Leave candidates at the next election – which opens the door to support for Tory Brexiteers and Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party. But his final call for a mass movement to stop the Remainers and ensure that Britain leaves the European Union is one that everyone can close ranks around.

All right for some

 By New Worker correspondent

A group of public servants have won inflation-busting pay rises. These are councillors in the London Borough of Camden where they voted themselves a considerable, if unevenly distributed, increase.
The council leader will get an increase in her allowance from £29,000 to £40,000, whilst cabinet members will get a 54 per cent rise from £16,275 to £25,000. Committee chairs will get a 66 per cent to £9,000 from a piddling £5,500.
Humble backbench councillors will only get an extra £451 per year more, taking them above £10,000 per year for the first time.
The vote for the rise was 27–5. The five who voted against were all Tories who might have been upset at missing out because they are not in power. Twenty-two other councillors did not take part; they were mostly Labour councillors keen to maintain their lefty street cred. Instead of a formal walkout some headed to the toilet or attended to urgent business in their offices. If one was a cynic one might think that those opposing the rise made sure that their numbers were not large enough to ensure that the measure was actually defeated, or that they were motivated by the distribution of the rise that went almost entirely to ruling senior figures.
One of the ruling Labour councillors, the Cabinet Officer, let the cat out of the bag when he publicly boasted of his excitement about booking a holiday in Brazil as soon as the rise was suggested in a council committee.
The Tories said the budget for allowances should not increase but that underspends in the finances should be “shared equally” across all councillors.

Debating Brexit in London

John Tyrell opens on Europe
By New Worker correspondent

The President of the Socialist Labour Party (SLP) joined the regulars on the New Worker platform at the Cock Tavern in central London last week for a debate on Brexit that was unusual on two counts. The first was that due to a mix-up over the booking we had to meet in the down-stairs back bar – something we haven’t done for many years. And the second was that none of us came to blows over the issue that has divided workers as well as the ruling class for the last three years!
The panel was evenly divided with the SLP’s John Tyrell and NCP leader Andy Brooks giving the left case for leaving the European Union, whilst Gerry Downing from Socialist Fight and George Shaw of the British Posadists defended staying in. The audience, which included Greek communists and Sri Lankan socialists, was equally divided, although everyone agreed on the need for the left as a whole to discuss openly and honestly their differences, especially on a topic such as this.
This Irish pub in Euston is a well-known haunt for the labour movement and the NCP London District regularly hold discussion meetings there throughout the year.