Words by Florence Robson
From the films garnering Oscar buzz to the podcast making us rethink our opinions of Don Draper, these are some of the cultural highlights we’re looking forward to this month.
The Podcast: Drilled
Drilled is a podcast that investigates the propaganda campaign of the century — the creation of climate denial. The first season traced the corporate-funded creation and spread of climate denial, while the second follows a group of West Coast crab fisherman who are experiencing first-hand the devastating impacts of climate change, and who just became the first industry to sue big oil. The hotly anticipated third season, titled ‘The Mad Men of Climate Denial’, was released in late January and digs into the history of fossil fuel propaganda. Called “the most important podcast out there right now” by the Guardian, Drilled is essential listening for anyone wanting to look behind the curtain of climate change.
Bonus Recommendation: Ear Hustle
Recorded inside the walls of San Quentin State Prison, every episode of Ear Hustle looks at the challenges of prison life from those living it and shares stories from the outside, post-incarceration. Co-hosted by former San Quentin inmate Earlonne Woods and the visual artist Nigel Poor, previous topics of conversation include the obstacles to getting employment with a criminal record, being both prisoner and immigrant, and navigating romance while inside.
The Film: Parasite
Those who have seen Parasite, the South Korean black comedy taking Hollywood by storm, will urge you to go into your first viewing knowing as little as possible about the plot. With that in mind, we’ll say only this: there’s a reason this brilliantly layered film is a box-office smash (despite the ‘subtitles barrier’), won the Palme d’Or in Cannes last year and is the dark horse to sweep the top prizes at the Academy Awards this weekend, including Best Picture*. The seventh film of director Bong Joon-ho, the satirical tone and watertight structure makes Parasite a must-see.
*Update: Parasite did indeed sweep the board at the Academy Awards, winning four Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Foreign Language Film and Best Original Screenplay.
Bonus Recommendation: Queen & Slim
The feature directorial debut of Melina Matsoukas – whose previous work includes Beyoncé’s Formation music video – Queen & Slim is an intoxicating, politically-charged thriller that follows two African Americans on a Tinder date who go on the run after killing a police officer during a traffic stop gone wrong. Written by Lena Waithe and with magnetic lead performances from Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith, this is an urgent love story that will leave you reeling.
The Book: ‘A Long Petal of the Sea’
The dramatic story of a mother and son escaping cartel violence in Mexico and escaping to the US, ‘American Dirt’ by Jeanine Cummins was lauded as the must-read book of 2020. That is, until it was hit by controversy around whether the author, a woman of mostly white descent, was the right person to be the face and voice of the Mexican immigrant experience. While following the debate eagerly, this month we’re more excited for a new book by a Hispanic literary icon: Isabel Allende. ‘A Long Petal of the Sea’ is a work of historical fiction that follows a young doctor caught up in the Spanish Civil War and has been hailed as one of the most affecting works in Allende’s prestigious career.
Bonus Recommendation: ‘Agatha’
For the Conduit’s book club this month we’re reading ‘Agatha’ by Ann Cathrine Bomann. The plot follows a psychiatrist with neither friends nor family, counting down towards his upcoming retirement. When a young German woman called Agathe arrives at his practice and demands to see him, the unlikely pair embark upon a course of therapy together – a process that will come not only to help Agathe but also to inspire profound changes within the doctor himself. Originally written in Danish and set in 1940s Paris, this bittersweet debut novel has sold in twenty-three territories.
The Theatre Production: Poet in da Corner
Following its critically acclaimed premiere in 2018, this coming of age story returns to The Royal Court theatre for a limited run before going on tour. The plot follows a girl growing up in a strict Mormon household in East London, whose life begins to change when she’s given Dizzee Rascal’s ground-breaking album, Boy in da Corner, by her best friend. Combining music, dance and spoken word, this uplifting play explores how writer Debris Stevenson was able to redefine herself using grime.
Bonus Recommendation: A Doll’s House
There are still a few tickets available to see Oscar-nominated actor Jessica Chastain make her West End debut as Nora in Frank McGuinness’ ‘triumphant and thrilling’ (The New Yorker) adaptation of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. Directed by Jamie Lloyd, this radical production is certain to be the talk of the theatrical town.
The Exhibition: Steve McQueen, Year 3
Turner Prize-winning artist and Oscar-winning filmmaker Steve McQueen has turned the classic class photograph into a glimpse of London’s future in this new exhibition. McQueen invited every Year 3 pupil in the city, from state primaries, independent schools, faith schools and more, to have their photograph taken by Tate photographers. These class photos have been brought together at the Tate Britain into a single large-scale installation, capturing tens of thousands of children in a momentous and hopeful portrait of a generation to come.
Bonus Recommendation: Forgotten Masters: Indian Painting for the East India Company
Presented by The Wallace Collection, Forgotten Masters is the first UK exhibition of works by Indian master painters commissioned by East India Company officials in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. These extraordinary Indian artists have been overlooked until now and are brought together in a display curated by renowned writer and historian William Dalrymple.