New Internationalist

Best of the Arts 2011

January 2012

Film

Human potential and happiness in Benda Bilili!

The wonderful and humbling Benda Bilili! (NI 440) by Renaud Barret and Florent de la Tullaye followed the mostly paraplegic Kinshasa band, enlightening us on the way about life in Africa’s third-largest city, and human potentiality and happiness. No small feat!

Immensely powerful and compassionate was Bill Weissman and David Weber’s doc We were here (NI 448), which looked back on San Francisco’s AIDS epidemic. Céline Sciamma’s feature Tomboy? (NI 446), about a 10-year-old girl pretending to be a boy, didn’t sentimentalize and similarly showed that when people really connect with each other, they can overcome. A gem.

The year’s funniest film, and one of the most commercially successful, was Kristen Wiig’s Bridesmaids. This was a lively, feminist and delightfully rude pisstake of America’s big taboo: class.

Books

Rebecca Skloot’s 'The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks'

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Pan Books, NI 440) told the true story of a poor black US woman who, before she died and without her permission, had cancer cells removed from her body which were to become central to countless medical breakthroughs. Rebecca Skloot’s sensitive narrative was as gripping and well written as the best fiction. Another remarkable non-fiction work that read like the best of fiction was In the sea are crocodiles (Harvill Secker, NI 448). The five-year journey of Afghan refugee boy, Enaiatollah Akbari, was told to and crafted, with great skill and intuition, by Fabio Geda. Memorable and oddly uplifting.

Mohammed Hanif’s 'Our Lady of Alice Bhatti'

For pure fiction there was Mohammed Hanif’s Our Lady of Alice Bhatti (Jonathan Cape, NI 448) a bittersweet comedy of errors set in a Karachi hospital that was simultaneously hard-hitting and soft-centred. A Cupboard Full of Coats by Yvvette Edwards (Oneworld, NI 441) showed writing of such poise and authority it was hard to believe this was a début novel.

Meanwhile, Nicholas Shaxson’s superb and crucial Treasure Islands: Tax havens and the men who stole the world (Bodley Head, NI 439) was a non-fiction book to make any fair-minded reader extremely angry. The same can be said for Owen Jones’ Chavs (Verso, NI 443) a splendid analysis of the demonization of the working class in Britain.

Music

PJ Harvey

PJ Harvey’s songs are well-crafted wonders that resonate in many registers, but Let England Shake (Island, NI 441) reached far beyond anything that had gone before, and brilliantly so. Couched in a strong knowledge of English folk and recorded in a rural church, it was a furious indictment of war and as important in its own way as the work of any war artist.

Sven Kacirek’s Kenya Sessions (Pingipung, NI 442) was an album which saw the German jazz drummer meeting up with Kenyan musicians on his travels and doing what musicians do – that is, jamming. The musical conversation was beautiful, and so are the ethics of the record. Everyone’s paid and credited, as they should be. June Tabor’s latest collaboration with the Oyster Band Ragged Kingdom (Topic, NI 448) showed off the vocal shading and dignified stance that’s made her so great.

Viscera: Jenny Hvar

And for newcomers: keep a watch on Norway’s Jenny Hval: Viscera (Rune Grammofon, NI 444) was a concentrated dose of crystalline musicianship – think Björk without the froufrous.

Front cover of New Internationalist magazine, issue 449 This column was published in the January 2012 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

Comments on Best of the Arts 2011

Leave your comment







 

  • Maximum characters allowed: 5000
  • Simple HTML allowed: bold, italic, and links

Registration is quick and easy. Plus you won’t have to re-type the blurry words to comment!
Register | Login

...And all is quiet.

Subscribe to Comments for this articleArticle Comment Feed RSS 2.0

Guidelines: Please be respectful of others when posting your reply.

Get our free fortnightly eNews

Multimedia

Videos from visionOntv’s globalviews channel.

Related articles

Recently in Mixed Media

All Mixed Media

Popular tags

All tags

This article was originally published in issue 449

New Internationalist Magazine issue 449
Issue 449

More articles from this issue

  • Haiti: where did all the money go?

    January 1, 2012

    More than $10 billion was raised worldwide for Haiti after the earthquake. But, two years on, what have NGOs done with the cash? Nick Harvey investigates.

  • Tents beyond tents

    January 1, 2012

    A cartoon introduction to life in the camps in and around Port-au-Prince.

  • Horror flick: Mrs T at the multiplex

    January 1, 2012

    Forget Scream, The Exorcist and Jaws: The nightmare on Downing Street is coming to a cinema near you.

New Internationalist Magazine Issue 436

If you would like to know something about what's actually going on, rather than what people would like you to think was going on, then read the New Internationalist.

– Emma Thompson –

A subscription to suit you

Save money with a digital subscription. Give a gift subscription that will last all year. Or get yourself a free trial to New Internationalist. See our choice of offers.

Subscribe