War is not a spectator sport: if some of us engage in it, all of us get impacted by it. It has been established time and again that distressing images from an ongoing conflict have a negative impact on even those who are not participating in it. After all, how many of us have stopped doom-scrolling our social media feeds and doom-switching the TV channels for latest update on the Russia-Ukraine war?
With a prayer for those on the Ground Zero, let us try to be gentle on ourselves. For a war-wounded weekend, the following films and shows available on different OTT platforms can act as a salve.
The Hand (2004)
How about kickstarting the weekend with Wong Kar Wai's sexiest film so far? Part of the multi-language anthology called Eros, that also featured Steven Soderbergh's Equilibrium and Michelangelo Antonioni's The Dangerous Thread of Things, the film is an exploration of love, sex, eroticism and everything in between.
The Hand has a simple plot: a young tailor falls in love with a beautiful geisha in the Hong Kong of 1960s. Miss Hua is on top of her game and Xiao Zhang can only dream of being a subject of her attention, let alone affection. Their fortunes begin to reverse as Zhang gets better in his craft and Miss Hua starts losing her admirers.
As time passes, the dynamics of their relationship change but the essential eroticism that binds the protagonists together stays intact. The class divisions are insurmountable, but Zhang has his ways of showing his love for Miss Hua who, in turn, acknowledges this devotion with grace.
This classic Wong Kar-Wai tale of love and longing has just one flaw: it finishes too soon. The intensity of desire that the film manages to depict could go on forever and the viewer still won't have enough of it.
The Hand shows how love heals, quite literally.
Where to Watch: Mubi
The Healing Powers of Dude
Sometimes, all one needs is simplicity to combat the stresses brought on by merely the act of living. The Healing Powers of Dude is that dose of simple for this weekend. How Dude, the dog helps his 'master' Noah, a 11-year-old boy with a crippling social anxiety disorder, navigate his life at school and at home is the story that we did not know we desperately needed.
The show handles the complex subject of mental health with ease and much humour. But never for a moment does it become just another frivolous laugh-track sitcom with awkward characters. The lightness with which the idea of hereditary, generational 'issues' is dealt with increases the show's appeal and relatability quotient.
Yes, the show employs all the familiar tropes of family drama and coming-of-age stories. But what's wrong with that, especially when there is a cute dog—Noah's support animal—around which the narrative revolves?
No, the show does not aspire to garner a cult following but ensures that a dedicated following it gets. Who could say no to the charm that children and dogs imbue our lives with? This tale of Noah's attempts to 'fit in' when he embarks on a 'normal' life has a deeper meaning for our pandemic and war worn psyche: let's face our fears, with a little help from our friends.
Where to Watch: Netflix
How to Become a Tyrant
As if the world needed any more of them. This docu series, however, we certainly do. Narrated by Peter Dinklage, the series is a handbook for all the aspiring tyrants in the world. Being a tyrant is neither a small feat, nor an easy job.
How to Become a Tyrant is dedicated to six tyrants of the modern world: Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Idi Amin, Joseph Stalin, Muammar Gaddafi, and the Kim dynasty (North Korea). Yes, the list is as arbitrary as the actions of a tyrant.
In six episodes of about 30 minutes each, the series is successful in giving a crash course on the essential features of a reign of tyranny. The timing could not be more perfect to watch a show like this. While it gives lessons in history, the messaging is aimed at the here and now. Manipulation of truth, creation of imaginary enemies, suppression of dissent, and disproportionate use of force are some of the favourite toys of tyrants across space and time.
An interesting blend of voice over, archival footage and animation, How to Become a Tyrant is immensely watchable without getting too heavy or preachy.
If you are missing a favourite tyrant in it, just wait for them to kick the bucket in real life so that the producers can come up with a second season without fear.
Where to Watch: Netflix