Curzon Goldsmiths Recommends...
Curzon Goldsmiths Recommends...

Good evening from Curzon Goldsmiths! 

This weekend sees the streaming release of the astonishing Moffie. Set in South Africa during apartheid, Oliver Hermanus’ film bears witness to a unique historical moment. Nicholas (Kai Luke Brummer), a closeted gay man conscripted to the South African Defence Force, struggles to come to terms with his sexuality within a cruel culture of hypermasculinity, racism, and rampant homophobia. But one rainy night in the trenches, his eyes meet those of Dylan (Ryan de Villiers), and whispered romance blooms.  

Think Moonlight meets Full Metal Jacket, with just a dash of Invictus. I know, right?  

I won’t articulate further – Dr Justin Bengry has provided an excellent review below – but it might just be my film of the year. So far, that is.  

I am, generally speaking, a fan of war films. It’s far from my favourite genre, and I certainly wouldn’t suggest that we need more of them (one Dunkirk or 1917 a year is enough for me, I reckon) but those that have stuck around within the cultural consciousness are, generally speaking, pretty good.  

How many films, after all, can claim to match the attention to detail of Saving Private Ryan, which saw shaken veterans leave screenings en masse; and how many Hollywood staples speak as clearly to the human condition as Apocalypse Now or Platoon

To celebrate the release of Moffie, this week the Curzon Goldsmiths team (and some of our loveliest collaborators) have picked the best (anti) war films now streaming, for your viewing pleasure. 

- Jack King, Cinema Programme Curator at Curzon Goldsmiths 

We recommend: Insyriated (In Syria)
Curzon Home Cinema | Philippe Van Leeuw | 2017 

I suspect many of you have passed this film by because of the awful title. Stop. Turn around and walk back. Embrace it. Wipe your snivelling nose in its nape. Sob openly in its arms...  

A chamber piece set in a tiny flat at the height of the Syrian Civil War, Insyriated examines war from the rare perspective of female survival, focusing on a matriarch as she tries to keep her family and entire way of life safe. Considering our largely male government’s pervasive use of wartime rhetoric in the “fight” against Covid-19, it might make you appreciate staying indoors - because, well, at least there isn’t a sniper waiting to shoot you, as you step outside for your daily constitutional. Weep freely and get rid of some of that pent-up emotion; this is pure catharsis in the time of Corona. 

- Lydia Penke, Programmer for Curzon Cinemas 

We recommend: Monos

Curzon Home Cinema | Alejandro Landes | 2019 

How does one start with Monos? Set in the wilderness of an undisclosed South American country amidst an undisclosed war, the film examines an isolated unit of child soldiers. Their one command? To look after a cow. A simple pastoral duty, yet one which feels spiritual. They’re knights, or shepherds, or perhaps disciples, protecting sacred beef. But with one slip up, everything changes. 

This might sound odd – it does sound odd – but I promise you, dear reader, it does nothing to articulate the quiet madness of Landes’ film. Mica Levi’s soundtrack incessantly pulsates. Ambiguity reigns. Swathing landscapes become the claustrophobic jungle, seemingly at the snap of a finger. A fascinating descent into hell. 


We recommend: Paths Of Glory

Amazon Prime Video | Stanley Kubrick | 1957 

What is probably Kubrick’s least seen film is also, for my money, one of his best. Set in the muddy trenches of World War I, Paths of Glory focuses on a French regiment who refuse to carry out a suicidal attack; their commanding officer, played by Kirk Douglas, defends them in a court-martial. The potential sentence is death. 

Kubrick’s vision of war is one awash with ambiguous morality, corruption, classism, and greed. Aside from his choice of film stock, nothing is black and white; complexities are rife, from the insidious higher-ups to the brainwashed boots on the ground. Quite remarkable for a studio picture in the Golden Age. 

- JK 

We recommend: Waltz With Bashir

Amazon Prime Video | Ari Folman | 2008 

Waltz with Bashir stays with me wherever I go: The delicate restaging of traumatic recollection, its absurdist cartoon psychedelia, and how the two intersect to form a genuinely insightful mode of documentary cinema. The film echoes the brutality that goes into enforcing arbitrary boarders.  

The director appears as a listener, compacted into interactions that underscore the parade of lyrical imagery it weaponises. Bodies are vulnerable and naïve, and not meant for war. Past war is a conscious, breathing part of the present. Waltz with Bashir attacks the core assumptions at the heart of modern settler colonialism. 

Genie Dallaway, Front of House at Curzon Goldsmiths 

Now streaming on Curzon Home Cinema
Now streaming on Curzon Home Cinema: Moffie

Curzon Home Cinema | Oliver Hermanus | 2020 

Moffie is set in 1981 apartheid South Africa among young men undertaking national service training and in a conflict zone at the Angolan border. Oliver Hermanus’s film gazes upon and scrutinizes these men. Who survives, physically or emotionally, and who doesn’t? Some survive by destroying others, some destroy themselves. Moffie is about masculinity: martial, macho, toxic or failed masculinity. It is also about bodies, and beauty, and desire, and pain.  

Nicholas van der Swart is an outsider. English (despite the surname) among Afrikaners, silent among conscripts lobbing racist abuse, tender among the hard men around him all his life, and mute among the men fantasizing about sexual conquests. Nic survives by following another queer man’s advice: ‘do whatever you can to stay invisible’. He does, but in so doing is compromised and flawed, changed by the violence he sees around him and enacts on others. 

- Dr Justin Bengry, Course Convenor for MA Queer History at Goldsmiths 

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