jonathan-romney

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Another amazing piece of art by @badlemonade!! As many Scarecrow fans may remember, Tim Sale’s version of The Scarecrow is based on Disney’s The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh. I had the idea to commission this cover of one of the Scarecrow of Romney Marsh novel covers(featuring a “daring” redhead), but this time featuring DC’s The Scarecrow and his own “daring” redhead, Becky Albright! 

For something this detailed and unusual, I commissioned the incredibly talented @badlemonade, who has done 2 other amazing pieces for me before!

Cumberbatch gets to wear an even more spectacular coat than he does as the BBC Sherlock Holmes – baggier, more billowing and with a hood. As for his voice, it’s so sepulchrally resonant that it could have been synthesised from the combined timbres of Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart and Alan Rickman holding an elocution contest down a well. And he flares a mean nostril, to boot.

The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh by Tim Sale

Hey kids, it’s Fun Fact time! Did you know that Tim Sale’s design for The Scarecrow(of Batman fame), as he looks in comics such as The Long Halloween, Haunted Knight, etc., was based on Dr. Syn aka The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh? These were novels about a smuggler hero in the 1700s, that was turned into a film adaptation by Disney, and shown on the Disney Channel! There were a couple other films, and some comic books about Dr. Syn as well. The artwork you see above was a commission that a fan got of The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh from Tim Sale himself!

Slow cinema is not a movement. It is a way of thinking about film, about slowing down perception as if you had to lower your heartbeat or metabolism while watching. It’s like dreaming, which can also be stimulating in that you become acutely aware of image, of sound, of things slowing down. You can zone out and be bored, but you may also find it retunes you.
—  Jonathan Romney
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Timbuktu is directed by Abderrahmane Sissako, who co-wrote the film with Kessen Tall (co-writers pictured above at the film’s 2014 premiere at Cannes). It was produced by Sylvie Pialat and edited by Nadia Ben Rachid. Set in Mali but shot in Mauritania, this F-rated film is a stunning meditation on the impact of the Islamist invasion of Mali, one made all the more fragile and meaningful by its own precariousness and immediacy.

While (as in Sissako’s previous films) interwoven stories of justice, mercy and responsibility between men are in the foreground, Timbuktu dramatically and defiantly features several powerful female characters. As Jonathan Romney points out in The Observer, the ‘jihadis’ hostility is especially directed at women’ - but it’s equally true to say that women represent the most dynamic and diverse resistance. 

The first person to stand up to the diktats issued by megaphone, in French, Arabic and Bambara, is a market trader who not only refuses to wear the gloves thrust at her by a young soldier, but responds by thrusting a knife at him, challenging him to cut off her hands. When she is arrested, she gives her money to another trader (one wearing the required gloves) to give to her mother. “Our parents raised us with honour,” she tells the soldier, implying that he insults not only her, but her entire community and their dignified, longstanding, inclusive practice of Islam.

Her contestation is confirmed by the local imam (Adel Mahmoud Cherif) who first kicks the soldiers out of his mosque for entering with shoes and guns, and later challenges their leader (Salem Dendou) over orchestrating a forced marriage between a soldier and a local girl, whose mother had already refused permission. The chief’s statement that, being above the law, he held a “flawless wedding” is undermined by a cut to a shot of the young woman (previously only seen in the background of the proposal scene, as her mother sent her inside to safety) crying into a pillow. It’s a long take, especially given how little we know about this character, an ethical commitment to foregrounding the fate of women through a language of small gestures and emotion.

That’s most apparent in the film’s central thread, the story of the Tuareg (nomadic) family: Kidane (Ibrahim Ahmed dit Pino) and Satima (Toulou Kiti), their daughter Toya (Layla Walet Mohamed), and their cattle, goats, and young herder Issan (Mehdi A.G. Mohamed). GPS, Kidane’s favourite cow, is every bit as much a character as the human members of the family (likewise the incredible cockerel that lives with priestess Zabou (Kettly Noël). When GPS is killed, in a wasteful crime that’s at once realist and allegorical, Kidane finds himself in the toxic paradox of masculinity: although he later proclaims that his daughter and wife are his entire life, he acts against Satima’s advice, choosing to take a gun to settle the argument with GPS’ killer (whose mother and wife will become his accusers). “I’ve had this gun since before Toya came into my life,” he tells Satima, as if having a wife and child has somehow unmanned him, removing him from an implied previous existence as a warrior.

“Warriors die young,” Toya tells Issan, and the film bears her out. Yet it also shows a situation in which everyone is forced to become a warrior. Satima takes up the fateful gun, and even Toya is shown to become part of the soldiers’ war games. Only Zabou, who tells the soldiers that she was conjured from Port-au-Prince to Timbuktu on the day of the earthquake, seems to negotiate both public and private engagements with impunity. In a striking scene, one of the older soldiers performs a routine that starts out like martial arts and moves through t’ai-chi into modern ballet on Zabou’s rooftop; at one point, she appears to masturbate in enjoyment of his graceful performance. The reversal of the gaze, the grace of the male body are astonishing acts – but the dance without music or context is as absurdist and sadly beautiful as the game of football played earlier without a ball.

Alternate forms of resistance are also shown, and shown to be as dangerous as weapons: internationally celebrated singer Fatoumata Diawara, who won a César for the music she composed and sang for the film, plays a woman evocatively listed in the credits as, simply, La chanteuse. But hers is far from the public performances Diawara makes in real life; “the singer” is a young woman in modern clothing, hanging out with her friends, making music to pass the evenings under curfew. When the soldiers first find the group, clearly entranced by the sounds, they tell the commander that they are praising Allah, and leave them alone. The second time, the (mixed-gender) group is arrested.

In a scene that resonates in fascinating ways with the punishment of Patsy (Lupita Nyongo) in 12 Years a Slave, the singer and the male guitarist are both sentenced to 80 lashes, for playing music and for being in an unmarried, mixed-gender group – but it is only the singer whose punishment is shown. As she is lashed, she first moans, then sings clearly, then howls. As Romney writes, “the woman’s response is harrowing but magnificent; she emits a wail that is at once a cry of pain and a soaring chant of revolt.”

Song, dance, intimate touch, the gestures of house holding passed from mother to daughter, transactions, food preparation, intimacy: it is the smallest aspects of life that are the most tragically disrupted by extremism and its militarisation, the film argues. While dramatic instances are captured by global media, everyday devastations can only be told through narrative craft. The shooting of a line of statues, several with prominent conical breasts, resonates with the detonation of the Bamiyan Buddhas: what happens on a grand scale is reiterated, fractally, in the daily lives of every person in the city, say Sissako and Tall through their interwoven narratives. By the same measure, a woman’s defiant song or a girl’s desperate flight must have effects that scale up. Resistance is not futile but fragile – the feminine as strength – and all the more powerful for it.