March 02, 2004

Picks of the Week: a Novel and a Film

My novel pick of the week is Lebanon: Death of a Nation, by Sandra Mackey. She details how Beirut, "The Paris of the East" was reduced to a chaotic hell of ethnic hatred, Islamic fundamentalism, and poverty. The fabulous city (and country) that my travel mate and I raved about is no more. The most interesting section was on the atmosphere during 1973. We never felt the rumbling of the volcano under our feet. There had been significant internecine warfare going on. The only clue happened when the Lebanese driver we had hired for the day took us back to Beirut from the Bekaas valley -- which we had learned was hashish heaven. As we entered Beirut, he pointed to the Shatila Palestinian refugee camp below us. He said, jabbing his finger angrily at the camp, "Those bastards are going to destroy Lebanon." This was in mid-November, 1973. On April, 15th, 1974, the civil war broke out -- and they did manage to destroy it. Now, they are at work on other destruction.

© Bud

My film pick of the week was on television somewhere. In the Time of Butterflies is set in the Dominican Republic during the time of Trujillo, and is based on the true story of the three Mirabal sisters and their family, one of whom came up against Trujillo's penchant for young, lovely girls from good families -- families who became complicit along with others in their set -- or they died. The film details one girl's response and Trujillo's revenge. The sisters' idyllic life was shattered as they learned the extent of the evil and joined an underground movement to raise people's consciousness and to rid the country of Trujillo and his thugs. The rest you will have to see. It is an excellent portrayal of how power works to ensnare all -- even members of the upper class and the Church -- who hold their noses and allow evil to continue, even to thrive -- with their complicity and with little knowledge of the lower classes. Disturbing, powerful, and worth watching -- the kind of film that most will skip in favour of another Dirty Harry film.

© NJC

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