Leiden International Studies Blog

Winter vacation film and music tips

Winter vacation film and music tips

Crashing on the couch after the semester, but what to watch? Check the film tips from your lecturers at International Studies. [scroll down for music]

Moffie (Oliver Hermanus, 2019)
Recommended by Anne Marieke van der Wal

Sometimes a history that we think we know so well, can still be told from a new and surprising angle. South African director Oliver Hermanus has aimed at making visible the historical roots of the toxic and crippling levels of masculinity, and created a movie on apartheid history focusing on the persecution of the LGBTQ community. By zooming in on the rampant homophobia of the apartheid regime and the shocking physical and psychological abuse and torture of homosexual soldiers that took place in the army, the director shows that the white minority regime was not only at war with the world, but also with itself. Now online available through EYE filmmuseum: https://picl.nl/films/moffie/

Concerning Violence (Göran Olsson, 2014)
Recommended by Sai Englert

Based on Frantz Fanon’s essay by the same title from his book The Wretched of the Earth, and narrated by Lauryn Hill, this documentary presents original footage from the African anti-colonial struggles in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as interviews with settlers, colonial officials, and missionaries. It is a powerful document of these world-transforming events and puts Fanon’s writings in the international context in which they were penned. The director also published a book about the process.

The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966)
Recommended by Sai Englert

The battle of Algiers is an important movie in the history of the MENA region as well as in that of anti-colonial movements more globally. Shot in Algiers soon after independence, it tells the story of the Algerian struggle against French colonization, and the latter's brutal repression of it. The movie involved a majority of non-actors and was banned in France until the early 1970s.

The film has had important afterlives. First as a recruitment tool for anti-colonial struggles around the world in the 1960s and 1970s, and more recently - and disturbingly - in so-called counter insurgency training for US military personnel. Those interested in these afterlives of the movie, can read Sohail Daulatzai’s brilliant short book on the question Fifty Years of "The Battle of Algiers": Past as Prologue (2016 – soon available in our University Library!).

Trembling Landscapes (curated by Nat Muller, until 3 January 2021)
Recommended by Judith Naeff

The exhibition Trembling Landscapes at the EYE filmmuseum brings together some of the most prominent artists of the Middle East to interrogate issues around landscape. On the one hand, representations of landscape engage with a heady mix of national and natural borders, tussles over resources and territory, and (colonial) history. On the other hand, it is a rich source of identity, tradition and imagination. Because the screening program was partly canceled, a number of movies are now available online. These include a classic work of social critique by the distinguished Syrian documentary film maker Omar Amiralay, a beautiful film on the use of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Spitszbergen bij Syrian farmers and agrarian researchers based in Lebanon, introduced by our very own Christian Henderson and one of the most stunning film essays I know, Taste of Cement, weaving together construction and destruction, war and peace, home and exile and a documentary addressing orientalist stereotypes in Hollywood cinema.

Star trek

Star Trek, Deep Space Nine: “Far Beyond the Stars” (Season 6, Episode 13) (1998)
Recommended by Bram Ieven.

I like Star Trek. A lot. I think I’ve seen almost all there is to see expect for that animated series they made in the seventies. But Deep Space Nine is my all-time favorite. It’s more political than any of the other series and it is the first one where characters are allowed to be morally ambiguous (something the original inventor of the series, Gene Roddenberry, always prevented).

The episode “Far Beyond the Stars” is a bit of a mis-en-abime. It has Captain Sisko (Avery Brooks) dreaming he is a black science fiction writer in the 1950s writing a story about a space station that has overcome issues of racism and sexism.

The Human Condition [人間の條件] Trilogy (Masaki Kobayashi, 1959-1961)
Recommended by Bram Ieven.

In this epic trilogy, we follow the young and idealistic Kaji as he tries to survive and live up to his moral principles in a totalitarian Japan during World War II. That turns out to be a very difficult task and the story that unfolds in the course of 579 minutes (!) is both tragic and beautiful. I know it's long, but it’s genuinely one of the best films I have ever seen and ideal for your post-Christmas pre-New Year dip. The DVDs are available in the University Library.

The Africans: A Triple Heritage (Ali Mazrui, 1986)
Recommended by Walter Nkwi Gam

The Africans is about the resilience of African achievements and civilization even in the face of colonialism.

Roots (Marvin J. Chomsky, 1977)
Recommended by Walter Nkwi Gam

This miniseries dramatizes the commendable book by the same title written by Alex Haley. Both the book and the trilogy are relevant in understanding the predicaments and vicissitudes of an African slave and how after slave trade Arican slaves continued to maintain their identity.

Soviet classics (various, 1975-1980)
Recommended by Morena Skalamera

What better moment to watch classic Soviet movies than the cold weeks around New Year. Experience some Russian love, tears and comedy of the 1970s with Irony of Fate (Eldar Ryazanov, 1975), Mimino (Georgiy Daneliya, 1977) and Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears (Vladimir Menshov, 1980).

Amores Perros (Alejandro González Iñarritu, 2000)
Recommended by Dennis Bus

Three distinct stories connected by a car accident in Mexico city featuring: A teenager who gets involved in dogfighting, a model with a serious leg injury, and a hitman. Although seemingly unrelated these stories suddenly come together, while also containing various references throughout that connects these stories thematically.

Los Rubios (Albertina Carri, 2003)
Recommended by Dennis Bus

Autofictional documentary-style film exploring the memory of her parents who were disappeared during the dictatorship in Argentina. Interesting because of how it mixes fiction and documentary.

Bye Bye Brasil (Carlos Diegues, 1979)
Recommended by Dennis Bus

A not so typical road movie with a wide array of characters met along the way. Following a group of eccentric traveling entertainers, this is not only a story of the protagonists’ journey, it also portrays a Brazil in transition.

Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch, 2013)
Recommended by Jessica Elias

What if Adam and Eve are still ‘alive’ and were behind the science, literature, and art we witness today? What kind of dealership would Jesus be part of then? And who would God be – Christopher Marlowe? In this seemingly light comedy-drama on Netflix about vampires and attractive singers in Tangier bars, you may find hidden layers on top of layers of philosophical ideas!

Oh and observe yourself in the last scene: do you find it strange that you are sympathizing with Adam and Eve? Really?

The Mind Explained (2019) Several authors on Netflix
Recommended by Jessica Elias

Memory, anxiety, mindfulness, stress - those are all themes that students expressed difficulty managing especially during the pandemic and its constraints. This is a beneficial Netflix series (for once!) explaining the brain in cartoon animations and interviews with experts. Just imagine all the things individuals would be able to do once they reflect on how their brain procrastinates, judges, and establishes anxiety synapses. Well, at the very least, they would be able to gradually: learn how to change their thoughts!


Innovate your playlist

Ready to explore new music? Compile your winter vacation playlist with these eclectic recommendations from your lecturers and fellow students:

Protest songs
Recommended by students of the BA International Studies

In the course Introduction to International Studies, Maurits Berger asked students for their favourite protest songs. This resulted in this revolutionary playlist.

Homesick songs
Recommended by students of the BA International Studies

Maurits Berger teamed up with the student counsellor Roost er Elst to collect songs “that bring tears in your eyes and make you long for home”. Resulting in this beautiful collection.

Jessica Elias initiated a similar assignment in her classes Politics: Middle East. The resulting playlists are ordered by tutorial group and can be found on YouTube.

Christmas Carols
Recommended by Morena Skalamera

I always go for Christmas carols to set me in the right mood!

Actress, Karma & Desire (2020)
Recommended by Bram Ieven.

Actress, aka Darren Cunningham, has been around for a while (he debuted in 2004) and by now he is a household name in experimental electronic music. You can always rely on Actress for intractable beats and exquisite sound design - and his compositions take unexpected turns, keeping you on your toes for the duration of the album. If you’re interested in electronic music, check out his latest release, Karma & Desire.

Plague Organ, Orphan (2020)
Recommended by Bram Ieven.

My own musical interests are wildly eclectic, ranging from electronic and funk to blackgaze and noise. Plague Organ is the experimental grindcore project of Dutch drummer René Aquarius (whose hardcore free jazz duo Dead Neanderthals is also worth looking into). It’s twenty minutes of uninterrupted droning grindcore and if you make it through you’ll feel both calm and victorious.


Nova Twins, Who are the Girls? (2020)
Recommended by Bram Ieven.

This smashing debute you just have to hear. The guitars are hard. The drums are hectic. The lyrics are in your face. It’s basically Lizzo pulled into a DIY post-skatepunk vortex. You love it or you hate it. Decide for yourself, but I like it!

Tuareg rock
Recommended by Judith Naeff

With the fantastic Tinariwen, and the legendary “Festival au désert” in Mali, electric guitar distortion and a delightful seventies rock sound were firmly integrated in the soundtrack of the Sahara. Explore music from the Tamashek speaking indigenous community that lives across the borders of Mali, Niger, Algeria and Libya. This article names a whole range of Tuareg artists such as Bombino, whose live performance at De Melkweg I had the pleasure to attend last year.

Casper's beginners' guide to East Asian punk that nobody asked for:
First shoutout has to be to the classic Japanese 1987 punk song Linda Linda by The Blue Hearts (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YP8Z-uXkzGo). Covered by bands all over the world, featured in video games and as the plot of a movie, its influence cannot be overstated. And needless to say: learn the (very simple) lyrics and you will be covered in karaoke for the rest of your life.

To familiarize yourself with the current scene, check out these Spotify playlists:
For J-punk: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5BKfbWZ7WjiGwugYpbgdYp?I=
For K-punk: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/2P0CxBuS2D0BuqbEIrvvAV
For Chinese/Hong Kong/Taiwanese punk: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3ePxXnoCSZ2QhFUZvgV70y
The Unite Asia website keeps good track of what is going on around Asia in terms of punk, hardcore and metal. https://uniteasia.org/

Some personal recommendations:
J-punk: Some of the most interesting J-punk bands right now are not on Spotify but can be found on Youtube, for example And Protector and Green Eyed Monster.
K-punk: This Facebook page keeps good track of concerts etc: https://www.facebook.com/koreanpunkandhardcore/ My absolute favourite is this new band from Daegu, Drinking Boys and Girls Choir (DBGC). They released their first album last year: https://open.spotify.com/album/5weZL40Nw4VmHCAAJtBzKv But get started with their great self-made music videos, for example "National Police Shit": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3k7cm6boXrc and be sure to also check out their Korean language cover of Linda Linda: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sqq6do_a-5I
Chinese punk: Wuhan is famous for two things, and one of them is of course its great punk scene, and central in it is SZMB https://open.spotify.com/artist/4mWrFcanSk0A3fvxsbGYkV
Hong Kong: Obviously no shortage of punk spirit here. For example check out the recent protest song by a collection of HK punk bands https://uniteasia.org/hong-kong-punk-hardcore-bands-unite-track-entitled-one-voice/
Taiwanese punk: Special mention for the song "Island's Sunrise" by Fire Ex, the protest song in the local language that became central in the Sunflower Movement of 2014. Check out the beautiful video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iV8JDbtXZm4