politics

Wong Street Journal’s #funnysocialjustice

Kristina Wong makes a funny discovery: America's "minority" is Africa's "mzungu"

“The Ugly American” may be the popular phrase for unseemly American behavior abroad, but wouldn’t another term be apter? How about the clueless American? The overeager American? The dorky American?

In Wong Street Journal, Kristina Wong self-awarely personifies all of these traits as she first recounts her sense of state-side alienation as a Chinese American, then describes a journey that took her much further out of her element: a volun-tourism trip to Uganda that she took after realizing that several years as a solo performing artist depicting mental illness (in Wong Flew Over thekristinawong_wongstreetjournal Cuckoo’s Nest) had sucked her into a selfie spiral.

To say too much about Wong’s particular experiences abroad is to spoil her storytelling’s best surprises; suffice to say there’s nary a dull moment. She cheerleads, snarks, sings, dances, and stocks the stage (pun!) with an abundance of soft-sculpture visual aids representing the Western economics and technology that hold the world in their thrall. She’s sewn the props and set pieces herself, and to spell out her ancestral connection to the world’s Asian sweat shop laborers, she opens the show by deadpanning the audience while feeding a huge bolt of dollar-print fabric through a sewing machine. Her main medium, felt, also deftly conveys her message. As a teaching tool, felt helps soften and simplify the elements in a story, just like Wong’s humor softens and simplifies the hard-edged implications of empire and exploitation. Indeed, Americans’ impact on the world should be felt—not just by the impacted abroad, but also by us. In the intermission-less span of 90 or so minutes, Wong draws us through three phases of her life: pre-, during-, and post-Africa.

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FILM REVIEW: “Weiner” is a vérité look at a veritable scoundrel

This fascinating, hilarious, disturbing look at Anthony Weiner's 2013 mayoral campaign is a time capsule piece on today's politics

56 years ago, the documentary “Primary” offered a then-unprecedented look behind the scenes of a political campaign. Produced by Direct Cinema pioneer Robert Drew and shot by non-fiction filmmaking legends Richard Leacock and Albert Maysles, and utilizing new, more mobile equipment, it afforded a ground-level look at the race between John F. Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey for the 1960 Wisconsin Democratic Party primary.

24 years ago, directors Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker got even more unfettered access to BIll Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign to make “The War Room,” which made stars of strategist James Carville and communications director George Stephanopoulos.  In the years since, we’ve grown accustomed, inured even, to the lack of traditional media filters between voters and candidates in an era of omnipresent cameras, hot mics, and “gotcha” journalism.

Even so, the new documentary “Weiner” makes those once-revolutionary films seems like something from North Korean state television. This fly-on-the-wall look at disgraced Congressman Anthony Weiner’s 2013 quest to become the mayor of New York City will confirm every cynical thought you’ve ever had about the narcissism and desperation of the political class or the piranha-like instincts of today’s media. In other words, it’s morbidly hilarious. Some of this stuff would fit right in on the HBO show “Veep,” except it might not be believable enough.

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