Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Jerichow: A German movie review

A German soldier back from a tour in Afghanistan after a dishonourable discharge finds himself penniless in a non-descript,poor Northern German town of Jerichow. The movie begins at his newly inherited family home following the death of the main character's mother. Thomas loses the mothers' inheritance(some leafy euros in 50 notes) to a bunch of low-lifes he owes money from a gambling debt. He has to make ends meet as a cucumber harvester at a large commercial farm- a colourless,dead-end job. Then comes a chance meeting with a wealthy Turkish business man (Ali) who has his car, a Range Rover, stuck near a river after a drunken stupor. Because the cops have a trail on him and want to take Ali's driving license,the Turk asks for a favour: can he claim it was the ex-army man who was driving so he can save his driving permit? And so begins a life of temptation and a sure recipe for disaster. The rich Turk has a much younger attractive wife called Laura. It almost love at first sight between Laura and Thomas. Thomas is soon offered a job as the rich Turk's consigliere, quickly winning his trust or does he? Ali has a chain of supermarkets with a very canny business sense. But he has issues with trusting people. He believes all who work for him in his multiple retail businesses are untrustworthy and cheating him. He doesn't even trust Laura and spies on her constantly. You see, Ali and Laura are not an ordinary couple. Ali literally purchased her by buying off her hefty debt. Its a transactional relationship peppered with wife battery and emotional abuse. Ali treats Laura like one of his possessions. Laura longs for something deeper. Thomas and Laura soon fall desperately in love. They seem to fill the void in each others' lives. Laura in an unrequited marriage and Thomas in an empty life. But there is a problem. They are all broke and they are all economically dependent on Ali. Ali soon announces that he has to go away to Turkey to check on his relations and asks Thomas to take charge of his multiple business concerns. Is this an incredible opportunity for Thomas and Laura to sink into their wildest lustful desires or is this a test for both? Rottentomatoes.com usually awards a percentage mark for movies it reviews and I would give this movie a 68% rating. It is certainly worthy of your 90 minutes. The plot and concept of the movie is a brilliant one although it is not as brilliantly executed and more could have been demanded of the leads. There is alot more dramatic potential and opportunity that the director squanders. This is a good movie but it could have been a great movie. It is a little understated for those used to Hollywood-fare. Overall, one of the best German movies I have seen in a long-while.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Tobacco control in Africa and the challenge of a colonial political economy

Public health advocates scarcely appreciate how entrenched the tobacco industry is in Africa given its colonial political economy. An analysis of the leading tobacco companies in Africa will reveal a colonial hang over. The leading tobacco company in most of Anglophone Africa is actually British American Tobacco (BAT) and the leading Tobacco companies in Franco phone Africa are actually French. In Kenya,Uganda, South Africa,Zambia and Zimbabwe, for instance, BAT has dominant market leadership. In Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal, the leading tobacco companies have French-ties. Using economic history lenses we would need to appreciate that the tobacco crop is actually not native to Africa. In Uganda, for instance, it was introduced in the 1920s by the British. The British were majorly interested in a colonial empire in Africa partly because they wanted a base for raw materials for their budgeoning industries and here cash crops like coffee, cotton, etc come to mind. Public health advocates need to appreciate how deeply entrenched the colonial political economy in Africa in many respects is still intact. BAT of course is no longer wholly British-owned, indigenous Ugandans for example can freely buy shares on the stock exchange in Kampala reflecting the hybridization of the colonial economy by marrying it with narrow elite African interests. The Board Chairmen of BAT Uganda have in the past ten years been very carefully selected representing the most foremost indigenous Ugandans even when all they do is really serve as fronts for complex multinational interests. By offering Ugandans shares in BAT Uganda, multinational commercial interests are diversified by co-opting a narrow African middle class thereby spreading the risk of regulatory oversight in African markets. In Uganda, UMEME, the local power company was bought by a British consortium. After getting market intelligence that the Ugandan state was growing weary of its efficiency standards and protracted grambling over a badly negotiated sale, UMEME about two years hastily sold some shares to native Ugandans. Recently, the Ugandan government threatened to reverse its power deal with UMEME which has wisely pre-empted this by hastily selling its shares to Ugandans. Today the Energy Minister announced Government will not go ahead with its threat.