Monday, January 30, 2006

Supa on Flics: The Constant Gardener

Plot Outline: A widower is determined to get to the bottom of a potentially explosive secret involving his wife's murder, big business, and corporate corruption.

“This is how the world fucks Africa, Mr. Black” - Lorbeer

I’d heard all the hype about The Constant Gardener, and was overjoyed when Netflix finally pushed it out my queue. I watched it twice: One regular viewing, the next with subtitles on, and then did the customary browse through the dvd special features and commentary. My overall opinion: It’s a good movie. Not great, not groundbreaking; but good. Solid. It’s the type of flic where the subject matter moves me more than the actual execution of the script. Hotel Rwanda was better to me – and along with Gardener and The Interpreter, these are supposed to be the tribeca of movies in 2005 that highlighted African themes/storylines. Have yet to see Interpreter.

Constant Gardener is told in flashbacks, which is a method I always love, except this time some of the important angles and conspiracies were a little difficult to catch on to, initially. Along with the accents, and the “mumbling” (as Miss Ahmad mentioned), I missed some important connections on the first viewing. Essentially, Constant is a political thriller, and a love story. Both tragic.

Ralph Fiennes plays the widowed diplomat on the British High Commission (acting in his understated phenomenal way, which I’ve come to admire, 'cause I hated The English Patient), who stumbles upon a whole lot of corruption while investigating his wife’s death. The wife, Tessa, is played by Rachel Weiz, and she really annoyed the shit out of me in this role, and I had trouble drumming up a lot of sympathy for her character until the very end.

Some of the character arcs/development seemed a little choppy to me, but seeing as how this is an adaptation from book to screen, I could forgive easily enough. The cinematography was heart-stopping, and heart-breaking – filmed in Kenya, and directed by Fernando Meirelles, who can do no wrong since City of God.

The most sincere way and memorable way this movie affected me was a scene toward the end of the film, which takes place in the Sudan. I won’t do any spoilers, but I literally got sick to my stomach and shed some tears. Having a highly empathetic nature, deeply emotional or violent images really do me in. Along with that, feelings of shame and hopelessness came over me while viewing this particular scene, and those are always hard to shake.

I felt shame, because as a black woman in America in the 21st century, yeah I’ve got some struggles and life ‘aint always a crystal stair, but there are people across the ocean who look like me, plenty of whom are born into a life that is rife with political corruption, lack, disease, poverty, hunger, and violence, and unlike me, haven’t the opportunity, access, or resources to make it up outta that piece. I feel so fucking ashamed for complaining, and taking for granted, all my petty little problems and random bullshit I rant about on any given day. I almost start to think that maybe my ancestors being forced here via the middle passage and the atrocities of slavery and the cultural annihilation and discrimination and the subsequent struggles et al may have actually benefitted my black ass more than I'd like to admit, because at least I (we) landed in a country where we could eventually invest in the "american way" and have some semblance of a decent life. Like Chris Rock said: "Being born black in america is like having that rich uncle who paid your way through college..but molested you." But I digress...

I feel/felt hopelessness because I wondered why it seems that no matter how or why, black folks have caught a disproportionate amount of global hell no matter what part of the map we’ve been dragged to or left at. I always try to caution myself against the victimized mentality, (even though truth is truth) and tell myself it ‘aint all bad for us everywhere, progress is being made, awareness is being raised - but that still doesn’t mean folks aren’t suffering and dying. Then I get to thinking about the Rwandan massacre, the crisis in Darfur, conflicts going on in different regions, the so-thought of expendable lives....THIS IS HOW THE WORLD FUCKS AFRICA. I try to combat the hoplessness with positive thought, which will hopefully lead to positive action in answering the question WHAT CAN I DO. I agree that this is a move all black people should see. I dare you not to think about it long after it’s over.

Note: I think this movie weighed even heavier on me because I'm reading "Beasts of No Nation" by Uzodinma Iweala about a young West African boy who is forced into a life of killing by guerrilla fighters in the midst of civil war. Double whammy.
Comments, feedback always welcome.


DPM said...

I too thought the Constant Gardener to be a good flick. Whether or not to call it great is all how you look at it.

Overall, I found it psychoanalytically stimulating and the "whistle blowing" plot to be extremely courageous. Like I commented earlier, the whispering kinda bugged me, but it kept my attention...

What I truly admire about the flick was that it came off as selfless. I mean, how often do White folk tell on themselves on such a scandalous and global level?... For that, I thought the Constant Gardener to be a very BOLD movie for the silver screen.

And even though it was a love story, the dude didn't run off with the girl in the end. Instead he dotted her i's and crossed her t's after her death--that's love.

As for the acting, I found it graceful. Visually I didn't notice anyone overwhleming or terribly good looking or ugly. Just very mundane looking Europeans surrounded by a beautiful African people and landscape, which reflected her essence and the woven plots of exploitation that continue to create the fabric of her existence.

Moreover, I appreciated the movie for exposing another reality of Africa to the Universal conciousness. It was all about education through the vein of cinematic entertainment. Impressively the subject matter touched on the the issues of AIDS, "Passion Killings," and--of course--the biggest hustle on the planet: Medicine. I think Chris Rock said it best, "There ain't no money in the cure."

The Constant Gardener painted a picture that could easily (escuse my thug) "PIMP" the American imagination in order to grasp an idea of what goes on in the middle of Africa.

Meanwhile we blog and play PSP's to the glow of television... Basically we are a world away. And what can we do about it (The answer is personal)?

I thought the movie to be very well made and I hope it recieves as many accolades as possible so it's message can seap into this entertainment reality that we casually enhale as Americans.
So, who was the Gardener? I'd elaborate, but I don't want to give it away.

I'm glad you peeped it. Perhaps I'll read that book you mentioned as well. But I don't like to be swamped with topics like that. It adds to my fuel as an anry Black Man.

Cocoa Girl said...

Thanks for the review, Supa. I really don't know what to say. I often read Nicholas Kristof's articles on the crisis and Sudan and other parts of lady Africa but do little to nothing as next steps. So, I get how you feel about us, here, complaining about our life when our people are catching so much (real?) hell across the world.

I never thought I'd become one of those passive observers to attrocities, but guess I've always wondered how I can REALLY - for real - make a difference from way over here. I just don't think buying a green Dafur wristband would cut it. But, I should just get over myself and start somewhere, I suppose...

Thanks again for the review and raising some awareness.

Supa said...

Thanks DPM. Much gratitude for the thought-provoking feedback. I'd love to hit you up off blog to build and feedback a lil' more on Constant Gardener. Didn't want to reveal too much in the review for folks who'd yet to see it.

CG - Word. I'm feeling you. Thanks sis.

Knockout Zed said...

Just on the City of God tip I gotta see this.


African girl, American world said...

Let me see it then I'll comment

I loved City of God...

Single Ma said...

Haven't seen the movie but I'm definitely intrigued now from your review and feedback.

Miss Ahmad said...

I finally saw the movie. Having known many doctors, all black who have gone to Africa to work with those in need, it was interesting to see an aspect of what was suspect.

It was good, not great, but good.

I appreciated that it was a love story. I also appreciated that there had to have been seeds of truth in there somewhere.

The plight of AIDS in Africa is unforgivable, it makes my heart ache.