• David Parkinson

Parky At the Pictures (5/11/2021)

(Reviews of Bull; Wildland; Highway One; Men Who Sing; and Congo Calling)


Even though something approaching normality has returned, not everyone is keen on sitting in cinemas, whether they've been vaccinated or not.


Consequently, the streaming platforms are continuing to show new releases, albeit in smaller numbers, as the distributors seek to return to single ticketing after a prolonged period of all in for the price of one. In addition to subscription sites like Curzon Home Cinema. MUBI, Netflix and the BFI Player, the likes of iTunes, Apple TV, Amazon, Sky Store, Virgin, Microsoft, Vimeo, Google Play, Rakuten, BT and Playstation will be staying open for business. Whatever choice you make, stay safe. Remember, Covid's not gone away yet!


BULL.


Having made the quirkily menacing trio of London to Brighton (2006), The Cottage (2008) and Cherry Tree Lane (2010) in quick succession, Paul Andrew Williams has worked primarily in television since changing tack with the poignant choir drama, Song For Marion (2012). In addition to several episodes of Broadchurch (2017), he has also directed three BBC teleplays, Murdered By My Boyfriend (2014), The Eichmann Show (2015) and Murdered For Being Different (2017). Now, he returns to the big screen with Bull, which harks back in content and tone to his earliest outings.


After a decade away, Bull (Neil Maskell) returns to wreak vengeance on Norm (David Hayman) for separating him from his young son, Aiden (Henri Charles), at the behest of his embittered wife, Gemma (Lois Brabin-Platt). Having gunned down one victim outside a garage in a London backstreet, Bull breaks into the house of Norm's daughter, Cheryl (Kellie Shirley), and stabs her and gaffer-taped husband, Ollie (Yassine Mkhichen). Gary (Kevin Harvey) breaks the news to Norm and daughter Sharon (Tamzin Outhwaite), who is furious with her father for not protecting her sister.


Next to perish is Marco (Jason Milligan), who is discovered by wife Diane (Laura McAlpine) with a kitchen knife rammed into his mouth after he had tried to tell Bull that he had only been carrying out orders. Flashbacks show Bull and Aiden (Henri Charles) enjoying a day at the fair before a caravan went up on flames. Bull knows Norm was behind the blaze and he calls Diane to warn her father that he won't rest until everyone involved has paid.


Back in the day, Bull had been one of Norm's enforcers, once slicing off the fingers of a wholesale butcher who had dithered over signing a ruinous contract. But an incident with hosepipe at a family barbecue had exposed the fissures in Bull's marriage to Gemma and Norm had made it clear that he would not put up with his daughter being hurt.


Having informed cop Mike (Ajay Chhabra) that he will have to conduct his own investigation, Norm pays a visit to Bull's ageing mother, Marge (Elizabeth Counsell). He opens with friendly chat about backing horses, but sends out Gary and his oppos to threaten Marge with a knife for refusing to squeal about her son. Bull watches them leave before sidling into the house to put his badly wounded mother out of her misery.


A flashback shows Norm telling Bull about Gemma's affair with Gary and how he has to shuffle off without a fuss. But Bull refuses to let his wife raise Aiden, as she's using heroin and he knows she's a terrible mother. Not surprisingly, Norm reacts badly to having his daughter bad=mouthed and he has Marco and Clive (David Nellist) bring Bull and Aiden to the funfair, where Norm holds Bull at gunpoint on the Ferris wheel, while Gemma drives away with Aiden.


Back in the present, Bull has no problem finding Clive and forcing him and his two kids (whom he calls `the three little pigs') to accompany him to the fair. He also bullies Clive into calling Gary to join them and lets him go so he can stab Gary in the thigh during a whiplash ride on the waltzers.


Bull drives to Chardfon, where he leans on a petty dealer to take him to Gemma's supplier. Dave (Jay Simpson) suspects nothing until Bull whips out his knife and slices off his forearm before using the gas hob to cauterise the stump. He gets Gemma's address and finds her unconscious on the sofa. As he bends down to wake her with a scream, we flashback on last time.


Having bundled Bull into the boot of his car, Norm takes him to an isolated caravan, where he pours drink into him to numb the pain as Ollie and Clive douse him in petrol. Gemma arrives to watch the man who ruined her life burn. But he bursts out of the door and sees Aiden standing by the car. Bull is gunned down, but the psychological damage to the boy has already been done.


Crosscut through this sequence is Bull's final showdown with Norm, who has been summoned by a daughter's frightened phone call. He thinks his henchman has shot Bull on the backseat of his car,. But it's Dave who takes the blast, as Bull is waiting in the living-room to drive a knife into Norm's leg when he enters. Gemma pleads for mercy, but the discovery that Aiden is now a junkie drives Bull to suffocate Norm by sitting on the pillow covering his face and shooting Gemma.


Heading to the place where the junkies gather, Bull finds Aiden and takes him to the nearby church. He recalls a happy afternoon fishing, as he waits for the female vicar (Danielle Moon) to arrive. She recognises the evil in his bloodshot eyes and berates him for setting foot inside a house of God. But Bull leaves her Dave's stash of money and asks her to take care of Aiden, as he slowly walks away. Flashbacks show the moments of vengeance replayed with Bull's scorched eyes and he hears Norm asking how it's possible for him to have risen from the dead after being buried in a field. He merely shrugs that it's a long story and the audience is left to speculate as the credits roll.


There's always something satisfying about seeing a British crime film done well. This one has its connections with the BritCrime mob, but Paul Andrew Williams shows how to rein in the sub-genre's excesses, while also ensuring that the script is still peppered with Mockney epithets and that even the most squeamish can still watch the psychotically sadistic, but astutely staged violence.


The ensemble acting is a bit mixed, but Neil Maskell makes an imposingly competent and dourly anguished avenger, even though he doesn't quite cut it as a model father. He can't quite pull off the convoluted Three Little Pigs quippage, but his manic laughter on the waltzers will haunt many a restless dream. As he did in Chris Crow's The Ballad of Billy McCrae, David Hayman makes a hissably vicious daddy, with his switch of mood when menacing Bull's old mum being particularly disturbing.


The flashbacking structure of the otherwise systematic storyline can feel fussy at times, but James Taylor's editing is solid throughout, especially when cutting away to leave the bloodletting to the viewer's imagination. Filming on empty streets during the pandemic, cinematographers Ben Chads and Vanessa Whyte generate an end of days feel that is reinforced by Raffertie's boomingly ominous score. Completing the shoot in 18 days on a tight budget, Williams has created a grittily slick shocker. It's just a shame that there isn't room for a little gallows humour to go with the supernatural twist.


WILDLAND.


It's impossible to ignore the similarities between Jeanette Nordahl's debut feature, Wildland, and Australian David Michôd's crime classic, Animal Kingdom (2010). Screenwriter Ingeborg Topsøe had demonstrated considerably more originality in Milad Alami's immigrant drama, The Charmer (2017). But some impressive performances and a solid sense of place ensure that the familiar storyline has a distinctive edge.


After her substance-abusing mother, Hanne (Maria Esther Lemvigh), is killed in the car crash she survives, 17 year-old Ida (Sandra Guldberg Kampp) is dismayed when social worker Omar (Omar Shargawi) refuses her request to live at home and places her with her estranged, Aunt Bodil (Sidse Babett Knudsen). She lives in a bungalow in the nearby countryside, with her three sons. Jonas (Joachim Fjelstrup) has a baby daughter with his wife, Marie (Sofie Torp), while teenager Mads (Besir Zeciri) rarely emerges from the basement where he plays violent video games. Middle brother, David (Elliott Crosset Hove), is a loose cannon who has been missing for a couple of days when Ida arrives. However, he eventually turns up with his new girlfriend, Anna (Carla Philip Røder), to whom Bodil takes an instant dislike.


She runs a nightclub and shows Ida around while trying to make her feel part of the family. Nothing is said about the reasons for her rift with Hanne, but Anna hints at the fact that Ida's mother disapproved of Bodil's sideline as a loan shark. Ida gets to see the operation in action from the backseat of Jonas's car, as David and Mads strongarm a debtor. She also feels uncomfortable when Mads asks to see her breasts. But she tries to rationalise things after starting to feel more at home following a night at the club.


Ida has also developed a crush on Anna and gives her a clumsy kiss after she confides that she is pregnant. But Ida comes to reassess her situation when Jonas gives a lift home to younger schoolmate Sarah (Marie Knudsen Fogh) and uses her to pass a message to her father about an outstanding debt. Her misgivings turn to terror, however, when she follows David and Mads into Sarah's farmhouse and tries to shield her when her cousins accidentally kill her gun-toting father in a struggle.


Traumatised by what she has seen, Ida runs into the woods and spends the night at a garage before visiting Omar. He tries to reassure her, but the realisation that she will have to betray the only people on whom she can rely causes Ida to bolt. Bodil is relieved she has come home, but Jonas lets his mask slip in threatening her and Ida is relieved when David disappears and she's left alone with her aunt.


As the police have already started snooping after Sarah identified Ida, Bodil realises that the only way to protect her boys is for her niece to serve time as an uncooperative witness. The family pays a visit to the correctional facility shortly after Anna gives birth. They express their gratitude for Ida's sacrifice. But Anna's backward glance in the corridor suggests that the two outsiders may yet have to make a break together in order to be free.


As ever, Sidse Babett Knudsen makes her mark as the scheming Bodil, although she is nowhere near as disturbing a matriarch as Smurf Cody (Jacki Weaver) in Animal Kingdom. Nothing is said about the father of her sons or why the younger two have turned out to be so dysfunctional after she has lavished her suffocating love upon them. Intriguingly, we never see Bodil interacting for any length of time with anyone outside her family circle, so it's never apparent what kind of figure she cuts in the wider community or why so many resort to her services when they must know her methods.


Often resembling Oksana Akinshina in Lukas Moodysson's Lilya 4-ever (2002), feature sophomore Sandra Guldberg Kampp gives an impressively watchful performance as the orphan tipping out of the frying pan into the fire. Forever having to work things out for herself after being let down by a care system whose background check on Bodil appears to have been perfunctory at best, Ida is clearly used to being in isolation, as there is no one from her past to whom she can turn for support.


Indeed, Nordahl and Topsøe largely dispense with backstory and similarly play down the potential liaison between Ida and Anna. Yet, while the three female principals are deftly drawn, the male siblings and their thuggish tactics are markedly more formulaic. Notwithstanding Bodil's sense of family duty, it seems odd that a teenage girl should be coerced into riding along with her cousins. But the abrupt manner in which her relationship with her new family changes is highly melodramatic and rather simplistically inevitable.


More persuasive is cinematographer David Gallego's use of the bleak Danish landscape and the contrasts between the different parts of the bungalow furnished by Helle Lygum Justesen. The atonal electronic score by Frederikke Hoffmeier (aka experimental artist Puce Mary) is also cannily used to reinforce Ida's sense of unease. Despite the steadiness of her direction, however, Nordahl never really drives home the gravity of Ida's situation, which is much better summed up by the original Danish title, Kød & Blod/Flesh and Blood, than it is in the rather anodyne Wildland.


HIGHWAY ONE.


Having debuted with the little-seen Indigo Valley (2017), Mississippi sophomore Jaclyn Bethany confirms the impossibility of making cinematic parties feel fun with Highway One. New Year's Eve is already the worst night of the year, but this wallow with a bunch of self-obsessed and mutually deluded millennials will make even the lamest tinsel-strewn shindig seem like the best time to have been had by all.


In the small Californian town of Cambria, Anna (Marié Botha) hosts a New Year party with the theme of 1969-70. Among the guests is Nick (Vincent Santvoord), who claims to be Russian. He shares a hot tub with Anna, boyfriend Andrei (Dan Shaked) and Maria (Aisha Fabienne Ross), who is shaken by the news that her inseparable friend of a decade ago, Nina (Juliette Labelle), has returned home for the first time since leaving to become an actress in New York.


Feeling hesitant, Nina is admitted to her parents' log cabin by Anna's younger sister, Sasha (Elizabeth Yeoman), who introduces her boyfriend, Alex (Joe Gillette), who is her married college professor. Sasha is upset because Alex seems overly interested in app designer, Paulie (Sadie Scott), but he also feels awkward because so many of his students are on attendance.


Meanwhile, Natasha (Stella Baker) and Martha (Belle Aykroyd) are competing for the attention of Dem (Bailey Edwards), an older slacker who is much more interested in Ira (Greta Bellamacina), an Englishwoman who is moping because she has just been dumped by her architect boyfriend.


Elsewhere, Paulie is struck by Antonia (Nhumi Threadgill), who swallows a live goldfish from a bowl. But Sasha is left alone when Alex leaves suddenly and she is hurt when Anna refuses to provide a shoulder to cry on because she is too cross with Andrei to bother with her sister's unsuitable liaison.


Having canoodled with Nick, Maria seeks out Nina. She explains that she has returned after breaking up with the playwright who had invited her to come to New York and Maria suggests that she could write a play for her, as she feels ready to quit working at the family store.


Meanwhile, as Ira offers to act as Dem's intermediary with Nina, Alex returns to gaze at the stars with Nick. He wants to make up with Sasha, but he is forced to leave in humiliating circumstances, as his wife has used Paulie's tracker app to follow him and has sent their young daughter, Dori (Ivy George), to fetch him.


As Dem offers to walk Ira to her cab, Maria also gets a nasty shock when she discovers that Nick isn't Russian, but an actor acquaintance of Anna's from a toothpaste commercial. He had been trying out a new persona in preparation for a spy film and Maria is less than impressed. She seeks out Nina and confesses that she had once come to New York to see her in a play and had felt too starstruck to contact her.


Outside, Andrei tells Nick that he is gay and doesn't know how to tell Anna because he knows how badly she'll react. Inside, Maria hears Nina reassure her that she had never forgotten her and she impetuously kisses her. However, she has misunderstood Nina's affection and she's left alone, as Nina hurries into the night.


As the guest start crashing out, Maria encounters the motionless Thalia (Sophia Dunn-Walker), who hands her a gun. She shoots herself in the temple and, as panic threatens to break out, someone calls `Cut!' and we see that everyone has been playing a part in a movie. Someone walks past with a mirror that shows the camera in its reflection, as Nina tells Maria she wishes she had landed her part, as it's much more interesting.


But we're not done yet, as Maria puts on a white uniform and leaves the shoot to go to work as a cleaner. In voiceover, she muses on what is real and what isn't, as she stresses the importance of not taking things for granted, even in our imagination. As she half-heartedly cleans a cluttered house, she confesses to loving a woman, but can't always make sense of their relationship. She concludes by averring that this is the beauty of life. But she doesn't sound convinced.


The spirit of Anton Chekhov (right down to the inevitable gun) permeates this festive chamber drama, although the closing self-reflexive gambit comes right out of Lawrence Michael Levine's Black Bear playbook. Yet, no matter how many twists and meta-tricks Bethany slips into the action, they fail to make either the scenario or the characters any more interesting or engaging.


This isn't to say that the performances lack quality. But they are short on finesse and this is as much down to the tone Bethany sets as the ability of her cast. Vincent Santvoord works hard at his Russian scam, while Greta Bellamacina's snooty Brit is as amusingly irksome as Marié Botha's insufferable hostess. Young Ivy George does a neat bit of scene-stealing, but Aisha Fabienne Ross and Juliette Labelle are sold short by a script that affords them little opportunity to generate any reunion chemistry.


Shooting mostly in close-ups and two shots, Irene Gomez-Emilsson's camera keeps close to the characters. But they are largely sketchy caricatures who fail to command attention, even when they do something as pointlessly cruel as swallow a live fish. No doubt there's a personal aspect to this bid to de-demonise millennial culture, but it doesn't make the picture any more poignant or amusing. But fathers Dan and Dermot will certainly be proud of daughters Belle Aykroyd and Colette McDermott, who plays Agnetha in a triumvirate of Sasha's classmates who clearly didn't know that ABBA would not form until 1972.


MEN WHO SING.


The best documentary about a choir has already been made. So, any that follow Stephen Walker's Young@Heart (2007), can only compete for the minor placings. Dylan Williams's Men Who Sing has clearly taken the odd cue from the Walker songbook. But this profile of the Côr Meibion Trelawnyd has such a melancholic charm that it would come as no surprise to learn that it was going to be dramatised along the lines of Peter Cattaneo's Military Wives (2019).


In the opening narration, Williams admits that he lives a very different life from his 90 year-old father, Ed. While he clung to tradition in the house where he had lived with his late lamented wife, Williams had left Rhyl on the North Wales coast and made a new life for himself in Sweden. Calls home were rare. But, when Ed called to say he was selling his house and planning his funeral, Dylan felt it was time to take a plane.


Packing can't keep Ed away from Tuesday practice with the Trelawnyd Choir, however, as he has been a member for 65 years. Dylan enjoys seeing some familiar faces. while admitting that the choir had epitomised the Rhyl he had fled at the earliest opportunity to see the world. It hadn't occurred to him that Ed might have been gazing from a window wondering how he was getting on. Similarly, Dylan can't understand why Ed keeps an old Christmas card list with names crossed off rather than making a new list to save time. But, as Ed points out, a line through a name doesn't mean a person has been forgotten.


Musical director and onetime opera singer Ann Atkinson takes the choir in Santa outfits to sing in a department store and Ed admits to an old friend that he misses the competitions that had fired his soul. Now, they spend more time singing at memorial services for fallen brothers and Ed tells Dylan that he wants Psalm 23 performed at his own funeral, as its words are both inspiring and comforting. Ann is proud of her charges, but she fears they are not getting any younger and recruitment of `brown-haired men' is proving a problem, in spite of the choir's illustrious history.


As Ed and a pal reveal, the decline of the industries that had once attracted labour has led to the coastal area being depopulated and they regret that the severed connections are rarely repaired. Convinced the next generation is out there, the committee decides to have a recruitment drive and Merf leads the way, with eager support from Gwyn, who is always up for a challenge - even wing-walking for charity.


A leafleting trip to the Tesco superstore proves fruitless, so Ed and Andy hook up with some of the others to design posters for a performance at a cattle show. They get a polite hearing and a loud `moo' as they applause dies down. But volunteers are not forthcoming and Ann decides that the best way to get the Trelawnyd name known again is to enter the choir in a competition at the Bangor Choral Music Festival in Northern Ireland.


It was 15 years since the choir had last competed and the prospect galvanises the group. They also open a charity shop to help the poorer members pay their fare and, to get the ball rolling, Ed donates and buys back a cherished teapot from his collection. Moreover, the banner across the window attracts the attention of Dave, the former singer of the band Angel Witch, who doesn't see a difference between fronting a heavy metal band and being in a male voice choir.


Ann drives them hard during rehearsals, although she knows they're a mixed ability ensemble and can't be pushed too hard. But the need to focus gives Ed a fresh impetus, even though Merf receives bad news about a tumour and realises that he has embarked upon his last lap and has to make the most of each passing day.


With Ann's encouragement ringing in their ears, they pile on to their coach and give an impromptu performance on the ferry. She chides them at final rehearsal for being dozy, but urges them to enjoy themselves once they get on stage. Dylan feels enormous pride as he watches Ed file into the auditorium and feels he has a better understanding of his world. Their rousing shanty goes down well and they join the audience with the satisfaction of having given their best.


The fact that Trelawnyd wins is rather thrown away, as Williams doesn't feature any of the other choirs or build suspense during the announcing of the results. But it was the taking part that mattered to Ed and his friends and it's very much business as usual the following Tuesday evening, when they assemble for rehearsal in the church hall.


A closing dedication to Merf Richards leaves one hoping that the faithful dog who had accompanied him on beach walks has found a good home. But Ed will take consolation from the fact that his name will remain on the Christmas card list, albeit with a line through it. Such poignant details will resonate with viewers of a certain age and prompt them to reflect on their own mortality. But this is essentially a joyous film, as a father and son are physically and spiritually reunited and a band of brothers got to have one last hurrah before settling back into the old routine.


Williams is parsimonious with details about himself and why his life in Sweden is so all-consuming that he rarely speaks to his father. But he makes sure we know that Ed has followed wife Lys's routine to ensure she would recognise their home if she ever paid a spectral visit. Everything from changing the sheets on Thursday and top-to-bottom hoovering on Saturday is mentioned, along with the bacon butty treat that sets him up for Tuesday's practice.


He drives himself and admits to being nervous about mastering the new route after he downsizes. But Ed is the redoubtable sort and is grateful to have found so many like-minded fellows in the choir that is led with delightful wit and warmth by its first-ever female conductor. This makes the search for younger members feel a bit tacked on, especially as so little attention is paid to Dave from Mostyn, who clearly has a few stories to tell.


Indeed, this and the Bangor jamboree rather distract from the focus on Ed and how he is settling into his new home. We don't really get to see him spend much alone time with his son or find out how he is coping with his change of location. But, by pulling a few narrative strings, Williams touchingly turns his film into an apology for missing the point of his father's passion and for mistaking the fact that a sense of adventure trumped the putting down of roots. It takes a big man to do that on film and Merf (who had been his primary school teacher) would be pleased that he has finally learnt his lesson.


CONGO CALLING.


Few African countries in recent times have faced problems as severe as those that currently blight the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Several documentaries have been made about the legacy of the 1996-2003 civil wars, but Stephan Hilpert's Congo Calling seeks to present the ongoing crises through the eyes of three European NGO workers, whose efforts to bring about lasting change are as doomed as they are well intentioned.


Veteran humanitarian worker Peter Merten is facing a crisis, as he has just turned 66 and is no longer eligible for employment with the NGOs operating in the DR Congo. His son Florian lives with him in Goma and he is keen to continue his work with street kids, even though he is not being paid.


He looks through some old photographs, including a passport picture taken in the 1970s, when he fought with a volunteer brigade in Nicaragua. He has devoted his life to righting wrongs, but is running out of options. But, with no means to pay his rent and no health insurance, he concedes that he might have to return to his wife, Ike, in Germany.


Belgian Anne-Laure der Wielen is helping boyfriend Fred Bauma organise the Amani Festival in Goma to prove there is more to the city than violence. She had spent two years running an EU-sponsored child protection project, but quickly came to realise that the problems facing NGO workers are insurmountable. Moreover, the pressure the job entails means that many burn out without achieving anything and leaving the locals without aid or support.


Spaniard Raúl Sanchez de la Sierra has just returned to DR Congo after completing his thesis. He recruits some old friends to conduct a field study for Marakuja of how village life is affected by rebel activity. On his first recce into the Red Zone, he is taken aback by the NDC leaders, who have no qualms about executing and eating the innards of those who refuses to work in the fields. They also admits that they would slaughter any white person seeking them for political negotiation, but assure Raúl that he is safe because he has an economic agenda that could help them.


One of his assistants is Christian Mastaki, a former Mai-Mai rebel, who insists that magic exists and that fighting for the cause remains in the blood even after a conflict ends. Fred feels much the same, as he becomes increasingly involved in the Lucha struggle for change following the death during a police intervention of festival volunteer Djoo Paluku. Anne-Laure wonders if she can stick it out in Congo, as Fred refuses to leave and she's not sure she could raise a family in such strained circumstances.


Peter has decided to cut his losses and leave. But his landlord impounds his possessions to meet unpaid rent and he and Florian are forced to cut and run. He is given a warm welcome by Ike, who works at a refugee shelter. Meanwhile, Raúl sends a small team into the field to conduct a study and he reminds them that the budget is tight and that they have to retain their discipline when they are working.


Eighteen months pass and Christian films an apology to Raúl for having let him down by diverting funding to a friend. When the Spaniard returns to Goma, they have a heart-to-heart before he takes up a post at the University of California at Berkeley. Among the projects he has initiated in Congo is one looking into Gri-Gri magic. But he parted ways with Christian, who took his family to Uganda.


Anne-Laure is back in Belgium after Fred was arrested at a pro-democracy rally in Kinshasa. She is proud when he comes to Brussels to address the EU, but she confesses that she will always be an outsider where his Lucha mission is concerned and they agree to part as friends. Unable to find anyone who will employ him in Africa, Peter becomes an activist for the Left Party in Berlin-Neukölln and makes plans with Florian to open a library for the homeless.


Some important ideas get rather buried in the muddle chronicled in this well-meaning documentary. The situation in DR Congo is clearly grave, even though Hilpert is largely content to let it moil in the background, as he monitors the efforts of his NGO trio to do their bit. Peter evidently has the energy and resolve to keep working beyond the enforced retirement age and his former employers should be embarrassed by the humiliating mode of his departure.


By comparison with his expertise, Anne-Laure and Raúl seem somewhat callow, with the former's role in the festival going undefined, while the latter's budgetary inexperience causes problems for himself and others. Hilpert might have delved deeper here into what the pair were trying to achieve and who was sponsoring them. But their commitment cannot be doubted, even though it's not readily evident what either has actually achieved for their NGOs or the people of Goma. This is down to Hilpert rather than his subjects, whose courage and dedication can only be admired.


Where, one might ask, are the former imperial powers who caused the chaos they expect others to resolve? If they're there at all, embassy and consular officials are cowering behind the reinforced gates of their compounds, when not emerging for photo opportunities like the reopening of Goma airport. Unlike the NGOs, whose workers rarely remain beyond their contracts, these appointees could bring a sense of continuity to the vital tasks of aid and development. That they don't says much about the people who voted the national governments into power and their indifference to atoning for the sins of the fathers they so vigorously defend from being cancelled by so-called woke revisionists.


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