Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Children Of The Revolution

After much vacillation, I recently got around to watching the 2010 documentary film "Children Of The Revolution", produced and directed by Shane O'Sullivan. It explores the lives of two famous political militants, Ulrike Meinhof and Fusako Shigenobu, through the eyes and experiences of their respective daughters, Bettina Rohl and Mei (or May) Shigenobu.

The film is made up of interviews with the two daughters, together with archive material and also segments recorded in the twenty-first century. There is excellent use of archive footage and photographs, some of which I had not seen before.

The film alternates between the two case studies, but is held together by common denominators such as the Palestine question and the concept of global revolution. Crisp editing and a stylish flow ensure that it remains generally cohesive, and successfully holds the interest and the attention.

The Japanese angle is fascinating, and of course this area is less well known to Western eyes and ears, but the thing which really stood out for me about this documentary was the perspective of Bettina Rohl. Her comments, and those of others in the film, provide some new insight into Ulrike Meinhof''s life and character.  Myths are dispelled, and much of the romanticism which surrounds the urban guerrillas of that era is put in its true light.

The film addresses the question of how Meinhof's personality and outlook may have altered over time.  Whether this came from within, or was prompted by some of her associations, is left somewhat open to question, but Andreas Baader and Gudrun Ensslin are portrayed in a less than flattering light. Indeed, the bleak and blinkered vision of the Red Army Faction leaders is underlined once again.

Both of the daughters on which the film focuses come across as well-balanced and well-adjusted people, despite, or maybe because of, their "unconventional" upbringing and background. Their contributions are both candid and enlightening.

Overall, this is quite an absorbing and thoughtful documentary. It does not just re-hash old material and theories, but looks at a contentious topic from an interesting and imaginative angle. It is well worth watching.

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