Archive for October, 2011

I Ain’t Gonna Stand For It: Oakland Police Department Attempts To Beat Down OccupyOakland

Oakland Police Department fires teargas into peaceful crowd, Oct. 25, 2011

Been following the heinous acts of police brutality tonight in Oakland as the Oakland Police Department cracks down on peaceful protestors trying to demonstrate in support of Occupy Oakland. Twitter feeds from Davey D, Josh Holland, and a great livestream from jlevinger on have been providing immediate on-the-ground updates of the violence against peaceful and lawfully assembled demonstrators. Throughout the night the police have fired tear gas, rubber bullets, and flash-bang grenades, and used sonic cannons to harass the thousands of people exercising their right to peacefully assemble.

Right now I’m listening to the the police repeatedly playing a chilling warning demanding that the crowd disperse or face arrest and that, “regardless of your purpose,” they face “possible serious injury” and that “chemical agents will be used.” Who knew that when the regime in Iran was cracking down on peaceful protesters back in 2009 that the OPD would be using similar shock tactics to prevent U.S. citizens from exercising their constitutional rights?

Navyman holding a copy of the Constitution faces down the OPD, Oct. 25, 2011, Oakland, CA. Photo: North Oakland Now

Luckily, on the protesters’ side cooler heads seem to be prevailing so far and there have been no rash acts on their part. But who knows how long folks will tolerate being gassed before they break down and fight back? The OPD knows they just have to provoke one misguided fool into breaking a window or lighting a garbage can on fire and it will be all over the front page as justification for their misdeeds tonight.

At one point in the livestream (now looping previous information as the cameraperson’s phone batteries recharge), jlevinger say, “I’m no pro videographer here, it’s just a fucking iPhone.” But he’s doing much more than the so-called professionals working for the TV news. Earlier tonight ABC-Live had a live feed from one of their traffic helicoptors following the demonstrations, but, mysteriously, just as the police started to fire the first tear-gas cannisters, the chopper pulled away from the scene and the live-feed stopped. ABC-Live tweeted that they helicopter needed to refuel–I call bullshit. Mysteriously, the #OccupyOakland hashtag on twitter has intermittently been inoperative through the night as well. Inadvertent technical glitch or deliberate censorship?

As Davey D tweets, “All folks were doing was trying to create a better living situation for many damaged by economy and now it’s copters & tear gas.” Is this how the U.S. government is going to deal with lawful dissent? If so, we need to be really worried really fast.

My friend Rebecca Solnit has taken up another guerilla tactic, this time on facebook. She posts,

By the way, I just wrote this note to the letters section of the Chronicle and then started posting it on Oakland Mayor Jean Quan’s (facebook) wall. It gets taken down after a few minutes. Feel free to post it if you like. “Dear Editors, Even if you’re a conservative you should be against the kind of police brutality we just saw in Oakland, because the courts are not going to be as enthused about beating people bloody, throwing tear gas at crowds that include children, and denying people their civil and constitutional rights. It is going to be really expensive for the city of Oakland to pay for the brutality and denial of rights lawsuits, and the plaintiffs will deserve every penny they get. As for the rest of us, we’re against it because it’s inhumane, undemocratic, and vicious. As well as expensive. Police brutality is an indulgence, a luxury, a spendthrift activity most cities can’t afford any more.”

Mayor Quan, by the way, was a student activist in the Third World Liberation Front at UC Berkeley during the Third World Strike back in 1969. Sadly, her presence, her leadership, and her ethics are nowhere to be found tonight and her absence has allowed the OPD to wild in the streets of Oakland unchecked. Shame on her–

Incredible video of OPD firing teargas into peaceful crowd, shot by Kazu Haga.

October 26, 2011 at 5:56 am 4 comments

Too Much Heaven, Part Four: Taiwan Film Days at the San Francisco Film Society

Taivalu, Taiwan Film Days, SFFS, 2011

Taiwanese cinema has produced several world-class filmmakers, including Hou Hsaio-Hsien, Edward Yang, and Tsai Ming-Liang, but fans of those arthouse titans would be hard-pressed to recognize the current crop of Taiwanese films now popular on the island nation. Cape No. 7 (2008), the second-highest grossing film in Taiwan of all time (just behind Titanic), was a frothy, melodramatic little flick that nostalgically recalled the Japanese occupation of Taiwan (!), and Monga (2010), another recent blockbuster, had more in common with Hong Kong’s gangster movies than Hou or Yang’s thoughtful, epic dramas. Taiwan’s biggest box office hit this year, popular novelist Giddens Ko’s adaptation of his book, You Are The Apple Of My Eye, is a coming-of-age comedy that’s light years from earlier Taiwanese arthouse fare.

Taiwan Film Days, the upcoming three-day festival at the San Francisco Film Society which is now in its third year, reflects the recent upswing in Taiwan’s commercial film industry and showcases its wide range of moviemaking styles and themes. Opening night film Formosa Mambo (2011, dir. Wang Chi-tsai )bears no relation to Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s Millenium Mambo, and in fact, other than its country of origin, is pretty much unrelated to the Taiwanese auteur in any way. A quirky and breezy movie that touches lightly on the Taipei underworld, the story follows several characters including a gang of incompetent kidnappers, an underemployed businessman running a popcorn chicken stand, and a group of shady entreprenuers involved in a telephone scam. After the kidnappers snatch a schoolkid various hijinks ensue, with the hapless gang attempting to collect ransom from the kid’s recalcitrant single mom, who can ill-afford the modest ransom. The film’s interlocking stories comment on fate and free will against a backdrop of modern-day Taiwan.

Gangsters, Ranger, 2011

Ranger, (2010) a much darker gangster movie, closes the festival. Wen-Sheng, a convicted killer, is released from prison after 25 years and finds himself immediately re-enmeshed in the hard-knock life. A gritty and observational crime drama, Ranger is also a character study of a man seeking redemption after a wasted life. Director Chienn Hsiang makes good use of the mean streets of Taipei and the film’s handheld camerawork underscores the everyday brutality of Sheng’s woeful existence. Lead actor Wu Pong-fong effectively conveys the resilience of his worn down but not yet defeated character.

Honey Pu Pu (2011, dir. Chen Hung-i) presents a dreamy, visually imaginative view of Taiwanese society, following a group of young groovesters as they ramble the streets of Taipei apparently in search of the a totemic beehive. The screener DVD that I tried to view was alas very janky and I wasn’t able to watch the film in its entirety but the little I saw was engaging, full of pretty young art-student types blithely wandering through trippy, experimentally framed cityscapes.

Groovesters, Honey Pu Pu, 2010

Also notable at the festival are Giddens’ aforementioned hit film (although both screenings have gone to rush), as well as the intriguing documentary Taivalu (2011, dir. Huang Hsin-yao), which looks at the effect of climate change on the southern Taiwan city of Tainan, and Pinoy Sunday (2009, dir. Ho Wi-ding), a comedy that follows the travails of a pair of Filipino immigrants in Taipei. The festival opens with two screenings of Formosa Mambo sandwiching a reception and party.

Taiwan Film Days

October 14–16, 2011

San Francisco Film Society | New People Cinema

1746 Post Street, San Francisco, CA

(415) 561-5000

Tickets and full schedule for Taiwan Film Days here.

October 13, 2011 at 6:51 am 2 comments

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