Saturday, October 28, 2006


A film review below:

Kate Winslet's powerful performance is already attracting frenzied Oscar speculation, but it is not the only striking aspect of Little Children. The film, which showed at The Times BFI 50th London Film Festival yesterday, is the first mainstream Hollywood movie to depict a community's victimisation of a convicted child sex offender.

Winslet, 31, said yesterday that it was "a really difficult subject" which she thought hard about before making the film. Little Children's plot centres on a passionate affair between a frustrated mother, played by Winslet, and a married man. But much of its atmosphere stems from the way that their Boston suburb responds to Ronnie, the "pervert" in their midst. It shows how parental protectiveness can escalate from dinner party gossip into vigilanteism. "This man is extremely sad," Winslet said. "Of course it's a sinister subject matter but in a way Ronnie is almost anything but sinister. As an audience you feel incredible pity for him."

The director, Todd Field, said that the character was meant to be "a living and breathing expression of the fear and anxiety and paranoia" that can corrode modern communities.

Field, whose last film, In the Bedroom, won the Satyajit Ray Award for a first feature at the festival in 2001, added that the nature of Ronnie's crime was left out of the film, allowing the audience to draw their own conclusions about him. "You can condemn him or you can pardon him. He's not a villain and he's not a saint," he said. "The important thing was that, in a fable-like way, he would be a troll under the bridge. What then if the troll under the bridge had a mother? What if he could experience pain? But he is also a troll, so watch out."

Everybody involved with the film emphasises that Little Children is not "a movie about a paedophile". But its arrival marks the latest stage in the gradual erosion of the taboos surrounding the subject. This year Hard Candy detailed a 14-year-old girl's revenge on a predatory middle-aged man. Two prominent actors, Kevin Bacon and Brian Cox, have recently played paedophiles in low-profile films (The Woodsman and L.I.E. respectively), while Clint Eastwood's Mystic River in 2003 touched on the issue. Campaigners who work with child sex offenders believe that films can help to quench the hysteria around the subject and increase the possibility of rehabilitating them in society.

Helen Drewery, the manager of Circles of Support and Accountability, a government-backed volunteer organisation that works with sex offenders after their release from prison, said: "I think that there's a reluctance to see both sides of the story with child sex offenders. It is treated like witchcraft in the seventeenth century."


More Favoritism for Muslims in Britain

Police in Manchester have been told not to arrest Muslims wanted on warrants at prayer times during Ramadan. Greater Manchester Police confirmed it had asked detectives not to make planned arrests during those periods for reasons of religious sensitivity. The advice was emailed out to officers working in Moss Side, Hulme, Whalley Range, Rusholme, Fallowfield, Ardwick, Longsight, Gorton and Levenshulme. Police said it was not a blanket ban, just a "request for sensitivity". The email stressed the order did not apply to on-the-spot arrests, only the execution of arrest warrants.

The holy month of Ramadan began on 22 September and is due to end with the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr next week. The internal email was sent to staff listing the prayer times, but confusion arose and a second memo was sent clarifying it was not a total ban on arresting Muslims at these times. A GMP statement said: "The primary objective of Greater Manchester Police is to fight crime and protect people. "The month of Ramadan is an important time of the year for members of the Muslim community throughout the world. "It is important that normal, planned policing activities and operations are maintained, while ensuring that officers are professional and respectful to members of the community while going about their duties."

Liberal Democrat councillor Simon Ashley, who represents the city's Gorton South ward and leads the party on Manchester City Council, said: "This sounds odd but we would need to find out what impact rescheduling arrests had on police operations. "The police's first job is to police. "I understand they have a difficult task to do and need to do it sensitively, especially within minority communities, but that can't stop them policing serious crimes."


No arrests of Christians over Easter or Christmas/New Year too? That seems to have been overlooked

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