(Aaand… we’re back. After a two-year hiatus. It’s a protracted struggle, you know.)
The title itself caught our attention: a Philippine newspaper story on The Hunger Games’ (THG) Donald Sutherland comparing the dystopian world of Katniss and Peeta and President Snow to that of the US of A.
It’s a view not exclusive to Sutherland, as many from the left had previously claimed THG as their own, or rather, as an allegory of an evil (US imperialism) they have been fighting against. (Sutherland also had previously alluded to this interpretation in earlier interviews.) Thai protesters, bereft, it seems, of much of a militant protest culture and history, went further and used THG symbolism (namely the three-fingered hand sign) as their own protest symbol. Militant activists of the more seasoned variety, of course, must not see this a problem. As we have seen with the proliferation of Guy Fawkes masks (taken from the anarchist-themed film V for Vendetta) in Occupy protests and in other protest actions across the globe, the Thai protesters’ use of the three-finger hand sign only tells us how education systems, especially in the West, have deprived the youth today of their history (especially their alternative history, or, as Howard Zinn puts it, their People’s History) that the latter have turned to popular culture for inspiration for their resistance to systemic oppression.
What really pops out of the interview is this:
Toward the end of our interview, Sutherland recalled after he learned where I came from, “I read a book called Philippine Society and Revolution. I can’t remember the name of the author. But it must have been in 1971 when I was in the Philippines. Marcos was the president there at that time.”
The aforementioned book, written by Communist Party founder Jose Maria Sison, using the nom de plume Amado Guerrero, became the guiding book for waging the national democratic revolution in the Philippines. By the time Sutherland and fellow movie star Jane Fonda visited the country in November 1971, the revolutionary struggle was already in full bloom: a year before, there was the First Quarter Storm, while a few months had passed since the Diliman Commune of 1971 (Google these events, if you don’t know about them already).
Sutherland and Fonda came to the Philippines as part of a tour of a “political vaudeville” called “F.T.A.” (“Free the Army”, or “Fuck the Army”, depending on who you ask). “F.T.A.” was a pioneer of sorts in political theater: it was conceptualized to counter Bob Hope’s tour among US military camps to increase troop morale. Fonda, then at the height of her radical phase, produced the tour and recruited fellow actor Sutherland and other fellow travelers to perform near US military bases across the globe and contribute to the anti-Vietnam war movement growing even among GIs. The group included writer Barbara Garson, who wrote an equally pioneering play “MacBird” (a spin of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”).
“F.T.A”‘s tour was subject of a documentary film by the same name, co-produced by Fonda. I found it uploaded on YouTube, in 10 parts. Here is the parts 5 and 6, where Fonda, Sutherland and company arrived in the Philippines and found it teeming with revolutionary fervor.
Part 5 (PH leg starts at 1:14):
The documentary film offers renewed significance in the light of US pivot to Asia, the PH and US gov’ts’ signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA, effectively reviving the US military bases in the country) and the Jennifer Laude murder case.
As for Sutherland, he always had a leftie streak. Remember that he did play Norman Bethune. And he sorta goes for the Karl Marx look these days.