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Claus Mueller


Claus Mueller is filmfestivals.com  Senior New York Correspondent

New York City based Claus Mueller reviews film festivals and related issues and serves as a  senior editor for Society and Diplomatic Review.

As a professor emeritus he covered at Hunter College / CUNY social and media research and is an accredited member of the US State Department's Foreign Press Center.

 


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Toronto International Film Festival, 2023, Reviews

Defiant (2023) Karim Amer. Ukraine, USA, and UK.

Among the outstanding documentaries in the 2023 program is Karim Kamer’s DEFIANT which offers a comprehensive inside view of the Ukrainian resistance and counteroffensive against the ongoing Russia invasion. DEFIANT investigates the conflict with in-depth interviews of leading government officials and provides essential background information with the assistance of archival footage. It follows and demystifies the systematic disinformation campaign Russia pursues at home and abroad that presents Putin’s illusion of a rapid victory with Ukrainian’s welcoming the Russians invaders and his justification that Ukraine will be liberated from imagined Nazis out to destroy Russia; that Ukraine would gladly return to become part of the Russian Union. Following that possessive logic, Russian forces have taken many Ukrainian children from occupied regions to Russia. The Information war seems to be successful in Russia, with many Russians apparently supporting the invasion and close to half believing that nuclear arsenal can or should be used if needed. Ironically, in 1994 Ukraine agreed to give up, to Russia, all the nuclear arms remaining in its territory from when it was part of the former Soviet Union, in the so-called “Budapest Memorandum” treaty signed by the Russia Federation, United States of America, and United Kingdom with additional separate assurances by China and France, “for the sake of world peace”, based upon assurances of respecting Ukrainian independence and sovereignty, and refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine, and not to use nuclear weapons against any non- nuclear-weapon state party to the Treaty, among other things.  Putin threatens to use nuclear arms now.  Ukraine needs massive support from NATO, the European Union, and allied countries to prevent any military advance by Russia and support her slowing counter offensive.  Thus, weapon systems provided by the West must be replenished and more advanced long-range missiles and military jets be provided, requests met with caution by the West. Other objectives by the Ukrainians, like isolation and stiffer sanctions for Russia, have not had the desired effect of reducing Rusia’s military power. Ukraine is also facing is a growing support reluctance by its allies despite the tremendous human and structural costs the war has imposed. The support of the Ukrainian population has increased, and the war has become a collective grassroots effort.  The ministry of digital transformation under Mykhailo Federov has digitized the war with advanced technologies which help to overcome Russian propaganda.

A Road to A Village (2023) Nabin Subba. Nepal.

This gem portrays the life of a family in a small village in mountainous Nepal which goes through development changes in a country which has seen little of it in recent decades. The film elucidates the socioeconomic changes of a modernizing village and its impact on a family. There are three principal characters, the basket weaver Maila who decides to continue making a living in the village as opposed to other men his age leaving to work in India, his wife Maili who seems to be content with the simple life they have, and their seven-year old son, the outgoing Bindra, attending school and enjoying the few modern touches the family can afford like Coke. With the completion of a road to the village a modicum of consumer culture expands, enabled by the contributions of men returning bring from abroad, like radio, television, and cell phones. The village elders, mostly property holders, had approved the road as well as electricity, and those returning from India engage in purchases while sometimes enlarging their homes.  For the traditional-minded Maila, it is difficult to adjust to the changes. His electricity is turned off and he must ask the elders for a small loan to pay the bill. He has a hard time selling his hand made baskets and mats because his customers select other cheaper products. His wife would like to make more purchases but does not have the funds and his son Bindra misses the coke drink his father paid for. Maila loses the economic basis for his existence and is not able to find an alternative without outside help. He cannot buy the TV he promised his son and ventures to brew liquor with assistance from an elder which does not work out nor does selling his baskets in a nearby town market. What the road and modernization bring to the village is the destruction of traditional craft based work and little improvement for those at the bottom of the class system. It causes the dilution of culture and customs, and the further entrenchment of the village power structure. Nabin Subba raises the important question of which group truly benefits from modernization, an issue which is also relevant for affluent societies faced with the rapid growth of artificial intelligence.  

 

Claus Mueller, New York

filmexchange@gmail.com


 

 

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