COVID-19 Quarantine Culture Club 4

Each week, The Spyglass Magazine brings you a rundown of the best books, music, TV, movies and more to get you through long days in self-isolation. Whether you’re looking to expand your horizons, make sense of the world or come to terms with uncomfortable truths, there’s something here for you.

Podcast: No Such Thing as a Fish (Audioboom)

Have you ever wondered what happens when you swallow a coin, or what happened before the development of mugshots? Every week the team behind QI bring you a festival of facts you’d never thought you’d find interesting. Always funny and occasionally thought-provoking, NSTAAF has become somewhat of a phenomenon with international sell-out tours and publishing a compendium of their best facts every week. Why not use the lockdown to learn something new?

Movie: And Then We Danced (Peccadillo Pictures)

The Republic of Georgia (not to be confused with the US state) has been quietly producing excellent films since the Soviet days. And Then We Danced is a particular highlight of recent Georgian cinema, depicting the romantic relationship between two male dancers competing for a place in the Georgian National Ensemble against a backdrop of deeply entrenched homophobia.

Georgian national dance is distinguished by the astonishing athleticism required of its male performers, often reenacting battle scenes while leaping through the air and whirling at lighting speed, blades colliding with such speed they cause sparks. It is also sexless, requiring adherence to very conservative Georgian gender roles which are antithetical to the sensual expressiveness with which Merab (a spellbinding Levan Gelbakhiani) cannot help but move. Merab’s world is shaken when charismatic newcomer Irakli (Bachi Valishvili) not only threatens his position in the ensemble, but awakens within him feelings which are dangerous in Georgia’s conservative society.

What follows is a tenderly judged love story, shot in the gorgeously photogenic Georgian capital of Tbilisi, with captures the raw physicality of Georgian dance with a pounding rhythmic soundtrack and intimate cinematography. If you’re wanting to explore more international films after the critical and commercial success of Parasite, this should be high on your watchlist.

And Then We Dance is available to rent from CURZON HOME CINEMA.

Book: Let Our Fame be Great – Oliver Bullough

We stay in the Caucasus for this next entry in the COVID-19 Culture Club, albeit the northern slopes this time. Welsh journalist Oliver Bullough has written widely about Russia and oligarchy, but in this remarkable book he turns his focus to the diverse peoples of the North Caucasus region: the Circassians, Mountain Turks, Chechens and the many other smaller ethnic groups in the area of extraordinary cultural diversity. From the Circassian genocide, to the forced expulsion of the Muslim peoples of the Caucasus under Stalin, to the Chechen wars, Bullough explores the key historical events which shaped the character of the region. It’s an empathetically written piece of journalism which is sure to generate interest in newcomers and satisfy the curiosity of people who are interested in the Caucasus and Russian history.

Comedy: The Darkness of Robins (Netflix)

On Christmas Day 2016, comedians Sara Pascoe and John Robins broke up after four years together. The following year at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, they both performed critically acclaimed shows about the end of their relationships. John Robins’ show won the festival’s top comedy award, and the show is now available on Netflix.

Writing an hour long show about yourself would be the height of narcissism if it wasn’t so funny, and Robins knows there is something intrinsically self indulgent about what he’s doing. But self-deprecation is not The Darkness of Robins’ only shtick – Robins performs it with an emotional honesty which builds throughout the hour to a memorable and affecting climax.

What would you recommend to fellow members of the COVID-19 Quarantine Culture Club? Leave a comment below and sign up for future updates.

For more information on COVID-19 please go to the WHO website or your national health authority.

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