Monday 11 March 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Monday. 11/3/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Image: A24

Culture / Christopher Lord

Full screen ahead

Every now and then a film is released that rides on the mood of the moment. This week, Civil War debuts at the South by Southwest festival in Austin. The film depicts an imagined near-future in which California and Texas secede from the US. It is indie studio A24’s most expensive film to date and taps into a national talking point: a surprisingly widespread belief that ideological divisions have the potential to pit US citizens against each other.

The trailer is quite something. We see attack helicopters over the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, the two-starred spangled banner of the breakaway states and a militiaman armed with an assault rifle who asks his hostage, “What kind of American are you?” I watched this trailer in the cinema and it left the audience in a kind of stunned silence, even if the invitation to “Experience it in Imax” also prompted a few laughs.

Civil War is an action flick, a pure fiction, yet recent polls have shown that about 45 per cent of Americans foresee a real civil war within the next 10 years. Doomsaying has become a competitive sport at dinner parties and there are grand pronouncements in print and podcasts of just how awry things could go in November’s presidential election.

It’s time for a dose of reality here. There’s no denying that this is a charged election year, with deep divisions on the road ahead. The assault on the Capitol building in 2021 has left a deep scar in the minds of many US citizens. But a mass uptake of arms in the name of politics? Get real. There has become a kind of entertainment in imagining the worst; a disaster-film mentality that has spilled over into polite conversation. Meanwhile, social media and politicians with an undue bully pulpit serve up a hyper-polarised view of reality. Let’s keep Civil War where it belongs: on-screen and in perspective. Now pass the popcorn.

Christopher Lord is Monocle’s US editor. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

The Briefings

Trouble ahead? Police in Hong Kong during a protest

Image: Alamy

Politics / Hong Kong

Beijing’s grip tightens

Discussions are ongoing among the Legislative Council of Hong Kong over a new national security-law draft. The 212-page “Safeguarding National Security Bill” includes new laws on espionage, treason and sedition. It would also allow police to detain suspects for two weeks without charge – the current limit is 48 hours. If passed, this bill could be seen as the final nail in the coffin for Hong Kong’s democracy.

It follows the imposition of a Beijing-drafted national security law in June 2020, which led to months of mass protests and disorder across the former British colony. Since then, the territory’s legislature has been purged extensively, with Beijing loyalists installed in key positions and electoral rules changed, so that only those deemed pro-China can run for office.

Crime / Italy

Follow the money

Details of a political scandal involving Guardia di Finanza (financial police) officer Pasquale Striano have emerged in Italy. He was revealed to be the source for an article published about defence minister Guido Crosetto in left-leaning daily Domani. Striano is alleged to have shared sensitive financial details about the minister retrieved from a police system that can access the data of those suspected of financial impropriety. Striano is also said to have collected information on a host of other public figures, including Senate president Ignazio La Russa and musician Fedez. Questions remain over his political motivations – the articles were published in October 2022, the same month that the current far-right government came to power – and how many others might be involved besides Striano.

Sydney Biennale 2024: ‘Ten Thousand Suns’ at White Bay Power Station

Image: Getty Images

Architecture / Australia

Sustainable solutions

Sydney’s heritage-listed White Bay Power Station reopened on Saturday as a cultural and community hub. It was decommissioned nearly two decades ago but after several years of work, led by architecture studio Design 5 and construction firm FDC, the 1917 building hosted its debut artwork showcase as part of the Sydney Biennale.

The renovation, which saw key spaces like the original 45-metre-tall boiler house restored, is set to be the benchmark for other reuse projects. It could also serve as an example for practitioners looking to understand traditional building techniques. Plus, it’s a reminder that retaining and repurposing existing buildings can not only lower carbon footprints and maintain character, but also preserve construction knowledge and know-how.

Beyond the Headlines

Paint the town: Paulo Nimer Pjota

Image: Kristin Bethge

In print / Issue 171

Expanding palette

Until recently, Brazil’s art scene seemed stuck in a creative and commercial rut. The country’s long recession and the election of far-right president Jair Bolsonaro in 2018 had both taken their toll. But the inauguration of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva last year signalled a turning point in politics and the arts. While the economic boom of more than a decade ago attracted blue-chip artists and galleries to São Paulo, the focus now seems to be on the city’s homegrown creative talent.

“It all began with a simple ‘Why not?’” says Fernanda Feitosa of SP Arte, now South America’s largest art fair, which featured 168 exhibitors last year. “My mind just blew up,” adds painter Paulo Nimer Pjota, remembering his arrival in São Paulo from what he calls the “conservative” countryside. Today South America’s most-populous city has the makings of a global art capital. The Bienal de São Paulo is a showcase for institutions such as the São Paulo Museum of Art and the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art but there are also many smaller commercial galleries bringing fresh ideas to the table.

To read more about São Paulo’s flourishing art scene, pick up a copy of Monocle’s March issue, which is out now.

Monocle Radio / The Menu

Ajabu Cocktail and Spirits Festival, One House Bakery and crêpes Suzette

We sit down with Colin Asare-Appiah and Mark Talbot Holmes, the founders of Africa’s first spirits and cocktail festival, Ajabu. Also in the programme: Ivan Carvalho is in the San Francisco Bay Area to meet Hannalee Pervan of One House Bakery. Plus: Myriam Zumbühl takes us to L’Apogée Courchevel hotel in the French Alps to taste crêpes Suzette as the winter season comes to a close.


sign in to monocle

new to monocle?

Subscriptions start from £120.

Subscribe now





Monocle Radio

00:00 01:00