I decided to leave this post in 2014. I’m not sure how many “movie reviews” I’ll do, but for the record…
Disclaimer: I watch all movies with total and complete bias. As a Black, 1stGeneration African (Nigerian) Female (among other things) born and raised in the United States – this is my right and I own it.
As a history and art nerd I’ll admit I was excited about this film as soon as I saw the preview. And what’s not to love? George Clooney, men in uniforms, art – it’s basically my fantasy. But it only took about 20 minutes of the film for it to angerfrustrate me. “Why?” you may ask… because of the blatant hypocrisy.
Short synopsis: Based on actual events, during WWII an Allied group (Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program) goes throughout Europe tasked with finding and saving pieces of art and other culturally important items before their theft (Führermuseum) or destruction by Hitler.
Here’s my problem with it — you see Europeans ravaged their way across the “3rdworld” and in the process destroyed and stole the precious and valuable art works of many ethnic cultures – and didn’t give it a second thought. For example: My family is Edo – a cultural group in West Africa known for our proficiency in the arts. And not to brag, but like…. we’re really known for our art work and without knowing it you’ve probably seen it. My mother has many times told me the story of The Punitive Expedition of 1897. What was that you ask?
In short… It was a British invasion of the Kingdom of Benin that resulted in the loss of most of our art which was either destroyed, looted or dispersed. The art that was looted and/or dispersed was then sold throughout Europe and Australia to pay for the invasion. (Also, that invasion would allow the British to colonize the land that they would later name Nigeria – giving me TWO reasons to hate the British.)
…and the art has yet to be returned despite us damn near begging for it back. So my excitement for this movie was quickly quelled because unlike the artifacts from the tomb of Tutankhamun (King Tut) – our government doesn’t own our culturally important art that is currently being exhibited across the world. And then I started to think… it can’t just be us. I’m sure this has happened to many others and sadly it has.
(By the way if you’re wondering how I found this list… I merely Googled “stolen art” and the name of a country I knew had been colonized at some point in its history.)
Now I probably don’t need to detail the importance of heritage (food, art, music, dance, etc.) to a group of people in establishing and maintaining their history, identity, and sense of pride. This is why I have a huge issue with cultural appropriation. When one or a group of people create something out of their own lived experiences and from their own God-given creativity – they deserve to own it and be credited with its existence. Isn’t that the very purpose of our copywrite laws? The problem with us not having our art is not the concern of depriving the “greater good” (whatever the hell that means); the problem is that our decedents don’t get tosee the intelligence and creativity of their ancestors. They are being denied their inheritance so that white people in other countries can walk through a museum and view it at their leisure and THAT is not fair nor is it right. So here are entire cultures of people asking “When will you give it back?” and receiving no answer. THEN to add insult to injury…. it is STILL being paraded toured and exhibited around the world profiting everyone but us.
I’m not taking away from the actions of the Allied group depicted in this film at all – in any way, shape, or form. What they accomplished and their self-sacrifices to do so were heroic and self-less and indeed for the greater good. But *I* cannot ignore that the very same government has done nothing to restore the artifacts taken from ethnic groups across the globe and to this day continue to profit from them.
So for the record…. White folks illegally plundered artifacts from cultures all over the world and have generally refused to return them. Meanwhile, here they are now boasting in a film about their passion for saving and rescuing their own artifacts (they were all European art works) at the hands of one of their own during WWII and then returning them to their countries of origin. Hypocrisy at best. Racist at the very least.
And yes, I finished watching the film because – why not … I’d already started it. However I couldn’t really write a “movie review” for it because I couldn’t get past the fact that it was basically bulls**t to me. Art repatriation is still a thing and sadly POCs rarely get ours back.
But yea… check it out – you’ll probably learn something.
>> Coming Soon: An actual movie review on “Top 5” (maybe…. If I feel like it)