By now you’ve heard of the extraordinary documentary, The Act of Killing, directed by Joshua Oppenheimer. Josh and I went to college together, and for a year or two we collaborated on wild art & activism projects. So, having helped out on his early work, it is particularly delightful to see The Act of Killing make such waves. The documentary challenges audiences and receives well-deserved critical acclaim everywhere it goes, and, even more impressively, back in Indonesia it opened up space for political discussion where there had been decades of media silence.

Here’s the trailer in case you haven’t seen it yet. In the middle video Josh explains what happened with the film in Indonesia, from the massive amounts of investigative journalism that it sparked to organizing invite-only screenings to avoid getting it banned. Incredible stuff. After that, big dogs Errol Morris (“I think there’s some inherent madness in this approach.”) and Werner Herzog explain why they find Josh’s film so powerful.


i confess a weakness for accordions.

if you’re rushed for time listen to the second one first.

Cool Arrow Cumbia mix – excerpt 1

Cool Arrow Cumbia mix – excerpt 2

2 contiguous fragments of an excerpt of a very recent cumbia mix caught streaming here. Includes a handful of Celso Piña tracks.


Excerpt 2 contains Piña’s song from the film Babel, a track that would be brilliant if Manu Chao hadnt used a similar formula to sell millions of records, imbedded in a movie about a complex and interconnected world where personal struggles are shot through by larger machinations of power and bursts of dangerous unpredictability, a multi-tiered society where the powerless connect with the privileged in increasingly violent encounters, realism, and the characters in this land with the most emotional depth are North American movie stars with perfect teeth like everybody who has ever had braces, only brighter.

Babel is about Brad Pitt trying to date Cate Blanchett on the secret while his girlfriend buys babies in Africa and a Japanese girl keeps pulling up her skirt. It’s hard to keep a secret if you are famous. The movie-version Moroccan kids with the gun didn’t have a real gun, they were Pakistani kids with a plastic replica in the sun-baked Spanish landscape where drought has forced entire provinces to abandon farming and work offering ‘Moroccan/American Southwest’ film location services at sub-Saharan wage scales, on the low-end of which stand these kids’ “parents”, the adults who control the child actors, the ones who get paid for the kids’ work.

Things were better before Andalusian tourism collapsed, taking the hospitality sector with it. Elsewhere, a Mexican woman loses children that aren’t hers. The Japanese girl stands naked because she has thrown her clothes off the roof.

The Pakistani child actors who dont get anything aren’t on the wage scale. Division by zero f*cks arithmetic. And in the real-life version that the movie is based on, these kids had a digital camera they were trying to “shoot” runaway lovers Pitt and Blanchett with, to get photographs to sell to the highest paying gossip magazine. The fees can be astronomical. Apparently they just upload them via Blackberry once the money arrives in their online offshore bank account. It’s considered ‘paper-free business’ and the carbon rebates for companies and incorporated individuals are rumored to be indulgent.