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Children Of Men (free)

  • Central Library 201 West Mifflin Street Madison, WI, 53703 United States (map)

Alfonso Cuarón's 2006 sci-fi masterpiece Children Of Men is striking for many of the reasons that Cuarón's films often are: deliberately crafted, but not over-the-top set design and long, single-shot action sequences that make you unconsciously hold your breath (see video below: spoiler alert). There's a prevailing sense of gloom hanging over the world of Children Of Men, thanks to the film's perpetually overcast lighting. The story itself is also striking because it's set in the UK in 2027, and many of the apocalyptic conditions the characters face are occurring in today's world: environmental degradation, disorganized political dissidents and rebel warfare, and chattel-like treatment of African refugees, or "fugees" as they're referred to in the film. The sense of impending doom inspired by Trump presidency has brought Children Of Men back to the forefront as a chilling harbinger of our current geopolitical landscape, but Cuarón has argued, rightfully, that these events had been set in motion long before he made the film in 2006. This is particularly apparent in the case of Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey), a fugee who is aided by protagonist Theo (Clive Owen) to escape the UK. Early in the film, Theo discovers that a band of rebels who have professed to help smuggle Kee out of the country actually intend to use her as little more than an incubator—she is pregnant after 18 years of worldwide infertility, and the rebels want to use her (as yet unborn) baby as a political symbol. While we're not experiencing widespread infertility in the real world now, the Handmaid's Tale-like abuse of pregnant women is overlooked as one of the most prescient reflections of our real world represented in the film. Kee's plight is real in El Salvador, where dozens of women have been sentenced to jail for having miscarriages; in Texas, where cutbacks to Medicaid and reproductive healthcare organizations have raised the maternal mortality rate to unprecedented highs, particularly among black women; and in the widespread, state-sanctioned use of abstinence-only sex education. (Kee doesn't even understand that she's pregnant at first, because "Nobody ever told me these things.") I'd argue Kee is treated like a Handmaid not just by the rebels but by the film itself: Theo is presented as the hero, but Kee is the one who could literally save the human race and she has only a handful of lines. The entire action of the film is set into motion by Kee's pregnancy, yet she somehow becomes a background character in her own story. —Erica Motz

Earlier Event: December 7
I Am Jazz Reading (free)