Films & Appetizers
LA VITA È BELLA (LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL) 
Films on the Holocaust tend to be very bleak, utterly solemn – and justifiably so. And Life Is Beautiful is no different. Set in Europe before and during WWII, Benigni (who also directed it) plays a small-town book owner who falls in love and has a son. However, being Jewish, he and his family are the targets of the Final Solution implemented by the Nazis and are carted off to a concentration camp.
What makes the film different, however, is the humour & light-heartedness imbued throughout the film. The film is mature enough to appreciate that its audience is fully aware of the ghastly nature of internment camps and wisely focuses on the familial dynamic on which this film is centred. I won’t reveal too many details about the film because I feel it has to be viewed for the vast part in the dark in terms of the storyline and that people should witness the emotional journey first-hand. It is funny, tragic, uplifting and heartbreaking at the same time, especially as Benigni strives to keep his family (especially his son) safe amidst the horrors surrounding them. It is poignant and there will be tears – but it will also re-affirm your faith in the unshakeable nature of the human spirit.
Podcasts & Main Dishes
Listening to podcasts while doing mundane chores has become a regular feature of my Sundays. When listening to the first episode of Invisibilia, I found myself constantly drifting away from the task at hand, to process and think. Described as a podcast that explores ‘invisible forces that shape human behaviour– things like ideas, beliefs and assumptions,’ Invisibilia guarantees to set your mind rolling long after the episode is over.
In each podcast, hosts Lulu Miller and Alix Spiegel examine human behaviour that is generally taken for granted. In the first episode it was thoughts, in another it was fear and yet another it was sight (that’s as far I have reached so far!). Taking the most outrageous and extreme cases of these (a man who has violent thoughts and a woman who can’t experience fear for example), Miller and Spiegel slowly proceed to peel and deconstruct the ‘ideas, beliefs and assumptions’ surrounding these faculties. And in the process you are nudged to push the boundaries of how you think about these things as well. Sometimes they sell you over, as in the episode ‘Batman’ when they gave a fresh perspective on blindness and disability. Other times, they put forward an interesting proposition to think about on a Sunday afternoon.
Books & Desserts
SPEAK (LAURIE HALSE ANDERSON)
I read this book in one sitting – and it kept me up the rest of the night. It is a powerful tale about a teenager named Melinda, who is an outcast in her new high school, ever since she called the cops at a house party over the summer. We don’t really find out why she did so until halfway through the book, but are instantly made aware that something went wrong. We witness her world through her mind, and it is the most effective way to let us in, as we watch her lose her ability to speak, and her voice.
Anderson, through Melinda’s art, effectively uses symbolism to talk about how we can be destroyed and reborn because of a trauma. As someone who has read their fair share of “Young Adult” fiction (whatever that means), I found this book particularly compelling in portraying in brutal honestly, what many of us go through but are unable to talk about. Read it, you won’t be disappointed.