Saturday, February 23, 2008



My twelfth poll is inspired by my most favorite film of January 2008—CORN IN PARLIAMENT: LE GENIE HELVETIQUE (2003, Jean-Stephane Bron, Switzerland). I saw this film at Alliance Francaise in Bangkok. I had never heard the name of this film or this director before, but I ended up liking this film very much. It’s hard to tell exactly why this film makes me feel so great. Everything in this film looks very ordinary. The director just interviewed some Swiss politicians while they were drafting a bill on GMO. We see some politicians offering their different opinions to the camera. We see who supports GMO, who is against GMO, and who is undecided on this topic. We follow the bill from the drafting stage until it goes to the parliament to be voted. There seems to be nothing special at all in this film. But why did I feel so good watching this film? I don’t know. Maybe the director creates the right amount of distance between the interviewer, the interviewees, and the audience. Maybe that female politician is very charismatic. Maybe the director just makes everything right in this film, including creating a little tension or a little suspense, but not manipulating the emotions of the audience too much.

After seeing and falling in love with CORN IN PARLIAMENT: LE GENIE HELVETIQUE, I decided to make a list of my favorite political documentaries. The countries listed here are the countries of the “subject” or “topic” of the film, not the nationality of the director nor the funding source of the film.


1.AFTERSHOCKS (2001, Rakesh Sharma, India)

2.BALSEROS (2002, Carlos Bosch + Josep Maria Domenech, Cuba)

3.BEFORE THE FLOOD (2005, Li Yifan + Yan Yu, China)

4.CEASE! FIRE! (2003, Saw Eh Doh Wah + Scott O’Brien, Myanmar)

5.CHECHEN LULLABY (2001, Nino Kirtadze, Chechnya)

6.CORN IN PARLIAMENT: LE GENIE HELVETIQUE (2003, Jean-Stephane Bron, Switzerland)

7.THE DAY I WILL NEVER FORGET (2002, Kim Longinotto, Kenya)

8.DIAL H-I-S-T-O-R-Y (1998, Johan Grimonprez)

9.FORD TRANSIT (2002, Hany Abu-Assad, Palestine)

10.THE HEART OF WHITENESS (2006, Rehad Desai, South Africa)

11.INCIDENT AT OGLALA (1992, Michael Apted, USA)

12.THE LAST BOLSHEVIK (1993, Chris Marker, Russia)

13.MINAMATA: THE VICTIMS AND THEIR WORLD (1972, Noriaki Tsuchimoto, Japan)

14.NIGHT AND FOG (1955, Alain Resnais, France)

15.PUNITIVE DAMAGE: A MOTHER’S TRIAL (1999, Annie Goldson, East Timor)

16.SEAPORT (2006, Attapon Pamakho + Benya Poowarachnan, Thailand)

17.11’09”01 – SEPTEMBER 11: SEGMENT “UNITED KINGDOM” (2002, Ken Loach, Chile)

18.THE TENTH DISTRICT COURT: MOMENTS OF TRIALS (2004, Raymond Depardon, France)

19.VIDEOGRAM OF A REVOLUTION (1992, Harun Farocki + Andrei Ujica, Romania)

20.VILLAGE PEOPLE RADIO SHOW (2007, Amir Muhammad, Malaysia)

--You can cast multiple votes.

--I try to make this list to include many countries, so I have to drop some great documentaries about Palestine from my list. Palestine may be the country which has the most number of excellent political documentaries.

--There are two films from France in my list (NIGHT AND FOG and THE TENTH DISTRICT COURT), because these two films cover very different periods of time. I decided to include NIGHT AND FOG here, because though the subject of the film is very old, something in it reminds me of Thailand nowadays. If I remember it rightly, there is a scene in NIGHT AND FOG in which many Nazi high-ranking officers said that they were not guilty of the Holocaust. That scene reminds me of some famous Thai people who have been saying all through the past 30 years that they are not guilty nor involved with the Bangkok Massacre in October 1976.


Mat said...

What about Primary? The first cinema verite documentary, and a fascinating portrait of JFK.

celinejulie said...

I never heard of PRIMARY (1960, Robert Drew) before. But it sounds interesting. I just realized that I have never watched a film about JFK’s life or about other aspects of JFK except the assassination. All the movies or the TV-series concerning JFK I watched are about the assassination—REPORT (1967, Bruce Conner); JFK (Oliver Stone); LOVE FIELD (1992, Jonathan Kaplan), which deals with the life of a housewife after the assassination; an episode in THE X-FILES; and an episode in THE TWILIGHT ZONE. I watched THE KENNEDYS OF MASSACHUSETTS (1990, Lamont Johnson), which is a miniseries about JFK’s father. I watched some parts of ROBERT KENNEDY & HIS LIFE (1985, Marvin J. Chomsky), which is a miniseries about JFK’s brother, and I love ONASSIS: THE RICHEST MAN IN THE WORLD (1988, Waris Hussein), which is a miniseries concerning Jackie Kennedy. It’s strange that I have never watched a film or a TV program which deals directly with the life of JFK. What I watched concerns with his death, not his life.

Is there someone making a documentary about Hillary Clinton and Obama right now? I wonder.