Everything I wanted to say about film today tastes like chalk in my mouth. I can’t peel my eyes away from the television news, and the last time this happened was September 11, 2001. The long-term effects of Katrina are far more devastating than those of 9/11, though, especially for the many, many poor people facing the demise of everything and everywhere that they know. I just keep thinking on my visit to New Orleans three years ago; how charmed I was by the last authentic city in the United States (and I do count my beloved, if completely commodified, NYC in that count); how deeply connected New Orleans denizens were to their city’s culture, architecture, cuisine, even its foibles. We have not only lost a crucial part of our history — a living part that connected us to both our Native American and European roots in a profoundly immediate way — but we now are forced to confront the stark reality of the horrendously governed society to which we have devolved. It’s ugly.
If you must stop looking at this demise today, and if you have the luxury to be able to do so, I say go see The Constant Gardener. Perhaps it is the only film that will afford an unguilty escape right now. Certainly, it is the best one. City of God director Fernando Meirelles teased out of a John Le Carré novel a tremendous epic of postcolonialism and love set amidst (rather than separate from) a contemporary Africa gone wild with corporate greed and mortal danger and disrepair. And somehow, it is uplifting. Even today I can endorse it.