Living in Berlin, watching “The Lives of Others” was a must. Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, it was mostly filmed in the original locations, in East Berlin. It highlights what life was like in the German Democratic Republic (GDR, for short) in East Berlin, particularly during the 1980’s.
Set from the point of view from a Stasi spy, the audience gains an inner look as to not only just the lives that he is observing, but the lives of the Stasi themselves. It addresses one of the important, dark, yet often overlooked moments in German history. The film showcases the struggle of the individual amidst a socialist regime. One’s conversations, medications, outfits, professions and more, were all dictated and observed by the GDR. Paranoia ran rampant. On the other hand, it also demonstrates that even in such a repressive state, there still exists some human decency - or at least we cling on to the hope that it does.
“The Lives of Others” is not just an impressive film, it is also a relevant one - only 28 years ago was Berlin still divided. Many of the film’s locations look exactly the same. I have also had the opportunity to speak with Berliners who lived through the GDR. One man said to me and this I will never forget, “The wall is down, but it still exists, up here (referring to his mind).”
Watch it here:
You might find this hard to believe if you have seen this film or have even heard about its focus, but this is a true story.
Set in the 1990’s, this film portrays the widely televised case between infamous Holocaust denier David Irving and historian and professor of Holocaust studies, Deborah Lipstadt. Irving interrupts Lipstadt’s lectures and sues her for libel in the courts of the United Kingdom. This is important to note because in the United States, the burden of proof lays with the plaintiff. But in the U.K, it is vice versa. So, Lipstadt has to prove that when she accused him of being a Holocaust denier, that she wasn’t committing libel, rather that he did in fact deny the Holocaust and in doing so, lied.
This is a gripping story - emotions and tensions run at an all time high. I found myself consistently asking the questions: 1) How could anyone deny the Holocaust? and 2) How could it even get this far?
Lipstadt and her legal team clash on how to go about handling the case. She wants to testify on behalf of herself and also have Holocaust survivors testify as well. But, her team wisely advises against it as Irving has re-traumatized survivors, in the past. They don’t want to put the Holocaust on trial. So much is at risk, for if they lose the case, it would open the door for deniers to negate such a critical, horrific period in human history. Not only that, but it would dishonour the victims and re-traumatize the survivors at the very least. Needless to say, this was a herculean task Lipstadt and her legal team face.
I won’t include any spoilers, for I strongly encourage everyone to watch this film. But I will say that it is very important, especially in today’s world with the rise of the alt-right, neo-Nazis, and other similar hate groups. Although history has many sides and the victors generally write it, one cannot simply rewrite it or deny the existence of certain events, especially ones as awful as the Holocaust. Instead, we bear the responsibility to remember in order to avoid repeating such atrocities.
Check out the film here:
The film, A United Kingdom, is a true story that depicts the relationship between the United Kingdom and its protectorate, modern-day Botswana (then Bechuanaland). The United Kingdom seeks to both exploit and annex the land of Bechuanaland to its already established neighboring colony, South Africa. In spite of this, Botswana strives to become its own independent, united Kingdom.
The movie is set in England in 1947. The audience is introduced to the courtship of a black man and a white woman. Despite society’s non acceptance of their relationship, they fall in love and wish to get married. They are met with many trials and obstacles from both sides. This is due, in part, because the young man, Seretse Khama, is the heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Botswana. Consequently, the British government, the South African government and the current King of Botswana - Khama’s uncle, oppose his marriage to a British white woman. The South African government is involved because it had recently installed its apartheid system and therefore, did not consider a biracial marriage an acceptable, legal or binding agreement. Because of Britain’s resource-fueled, colonial ties in South Africa, the South African government threatened Britain with an ultimatum: either dissolve the marriage or risk having further access to South Africa’s resources. As is the case in many global conflicts, the roots lie in power and money - in this case, in the form of natural resources.
The film illustrates Seretse and Ruth’s fight for love in a climate that encourages relinquishing their love and parting ways. It also demonstrates how Ruth embraces her new Botswanan community and in turn, is slowly accepted into its society. Seretse juggles wanting to represent his people while also fighting for what is right— including severing ties with England, creating a life for his wife and child, and creating a united Kingdom where his people’s interests are met and not exploited. A United Kingdom is vibrant and touching, yet heart-wrenching and thought-provoking.
This true story also sheds light on the role that colonialism played across the African continent.. As illustrated in the film, Botswana declared its independence in 1966 under its first President, Seretse Khama. Today, Botswana remains one of Africa’s most stable nations. Its presidents have been democratically elected, its wealth is largely derived from diamond exports, and it is home to many South Africans who fled the Apartheid system. The film not only provides its audience with historical insight, but it also highlights today’s influence of colonialism, including the institutionalized racism that still exists.
A United Kingdom is an engaging watch, an historical must-see, and a film that implores its audience to reflect on and also to question the role that governments play in society.