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Saturday, 17 June 2017

Trips to Tragedy: Dark Tourism

Have you ever found yourself interested in macabre? Possibly wanting to visit somewhere associated with it? Then you will want to look into the concept of 'dark tourism'. Dark tourism is defined as "tourism that involves travelling to places associated with death or suffering" and Chris Lloyd's short film, Trips to Tragedy: Dark Tourism, explores the obsession that most people have with visiting places that have tragic pasts. The film explores specific cases such as people visiting Cromwell Street in Gloucester to see the house in which Fred and Rose West killed and buried their victims and the Welsh village of Aberfan, in which 116 children and 28 adults were killed when a spoil tip collapsed into homes and a school in 1966. The most intriguing thing that Chris explores in his film, after the concept of dark tourism itself, is the moral complications that it causes. Is it acceptable for tourists to visit places such as these and furthermore, is it acceptable for businesses to profit off them?

For me, there are different levels of dark tourism. Not all dark tourists are out to fulfill some form of sick kick. For the past 70+ years people have visited sites of tragedy such as the holocaust camp Auschwitz and the city of Hiroshima, which was destroyed by the atomic bomb. These sites may fall under the dark tourism umbrella, but at the same time they are sites of historical importance which people can visit for educational purposes as well as to pay their respects. However, there is definitely a more corrupt side to the matter. For example, Trips to Tragesy: Dark Tourism sees Chris meet a man who is running an actual bus tour around Bridgend, the town in which 26 people killed themselves as part of a suspected suicide cult. Not only is making money off the suicides incredibly wrong, but creating a tourist hotspot when there are still people grieving for those who died is rather disrespectful.


Can it be argued that we all have at least an inner dark tourist? For me, my dark tourist spot comes in the form of 77 Barton Street in Macclesfield. I have been a massive fan of Joy Division since I was in my early teens, and as I grew older I began to understand and appreciate their music more and more. I became enthralled by Ian Curtis' lyrics and always wanted to know what influenced him and where his ideas came from. Only we'll never truly know. On May 18th 1980, after battling epilepsy and depression, Curtis hanged himself in the kitchen of his home on Barton Street. So, what possessed me to visit this place? Was it the fact that Curtis lived there? Or was it the fact that he died there? I don't really know how to put the reason for my visit into words. I suppose that being near the place that Ian Curtis, whom is an icon in my eyes, spent his last moments gave me a sense of being close to him. Interestingly enough, the issue of morality comes into play once again as a super fan allegedly purchased the property in 2015 and plans to turn it into a Joy Division museum. Is this something to be celebrated? Or is it an act of disrespect? Curtis left behind his wife and daughter, so how would they feel about having their former home, and the place that a member of their family commit suicide, turned into an attraction that someone else will use to earn a profit?

Ultimately, dark tourism and an interest in the macabre is something that has been engrained in human history for centuries. Roman citizens would flock to see Christians being savaged by lions, and prior to the invention of television people would seek entertainment in the form of watching executions. So, perhaps in today's society that in no way condones actions such as these, dark tourism is the 21st century answer to getting our fix of morbidity.

I would like to thank Chris for getting in touch and sharing his film with me. Make sure that you go and watch it here and let us know your opinions on dark tourism.

You can find Chris on Twitter here.

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Monday, 14 November 2016

November Wish List

For those of you that follow me on Twitter you'll know that I vowed to have a 'No Spend November', but that doesn't mean that I can't torture myself by doing a little internet window shopping...


1. Koko Kollection by Kylie Kosmetics - I have no interest in Kylie Jenner herself, but, as a lipstick addict, her cosmetic line does appeal to me. I've actually got a few things from her line slowly but surely making their way to me at the moment (which is part of the reason I'm on a spending ban), but as soon as I saw this 'kollection' teased on her Twitter I decided that I had to have it as well. Despite me partaking in No Spend November, I did jump in the queue when she released these on Wednesday, but they sold out before I could get my mitts on them, so kind of it serves me right for trying to spend money that shouldn't be spent on lipstick.

2. Years & Years Communion Vinyl - I've been obsessed with this album lately, I know that it's not the newest of releases, but I'm always late to the party. I'm a massive vinyl junkie and don't mind re-buying an album on vinyl if it ticks the right boxes, which usually translates as; it sounds good and has amazing artwork.

3. Jill Valentine Pop! Vinyl - Resident Evil was the first game that I vividly remember playing, maybe after Spyro the Dragon, and I always played Jill Valentine's story because even back then I loved a kick ass woman. I am so happy that they chose to make a Pop! Vinyl of her in her S.T.A.R.S uniform rather than the skimpy number that she wears during her next appearance in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis.

4. Snotgirl #4 - I'm going to hold my hands up and take the abuse now... I've only seen the film adaptation of Scott Pilgrim comics and I didn't really get the hype. However, I'm rather obsessed with Bryan Lee O'Malley's latest comic; Snotgirl. On the surface Snotgirl is about a successful blogger who attempts to hide her severe allergies from the world, but underneath it's an interesting exploration of who we present ourselves as on social media compared to who we are in reality. Issues #1-3 were amazing and I can't wait for 4 to come out!

5. Lime Crime Velvetines Liquid Lipstick in Cashmere - I was browsing through Instagram when I saw someone wearing the prettiest nude lip that turned out to be Lime Crime's Velvetine liquid to matte lipstick in Cashmere. Lime Crime was a brand that I only became aware of last year when there was a scandal over them using two ingredients, ferric ferrocyanide and ultramarines, that were not approved for lip products in their Velvetine matte lipstick range. This has put me off the brand quite a bit, but I'm still intrigued by their range and this colour in particular.

6. Sleek Highlighter Palette in Solstice - I've seen this feature in a few YouTube videos lately and it makes the people that use it look like they're highlighted for the gods. I tracked it down in Boots over the weekend and the swatches were amazing! But, more importantly, I stopped myself from buying it (the power of No Spend November is strong). Plus, have you seen the packaging? Look at it, who doesn't want a rose gold metallic palette? I'll take 10.

What have you had your eye on this month? Tweet me or comment below!

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Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Ekaj Review

Last year the film community was captivated by a film about a day in the life of two transgender friends named Tangerine (2015), when it triumphantly burst through onto the independent scene. It's safe to say that Tangerine left people wanting more of these independent films that tackle the struggles faced by the LGBTQ community, and it's safer to say that Cati Gonzalez's directorial debut Ekaj (2015) will satisfy that want.

Ekaj follows it's titular runaway teenager on a journey through New York City as he discovers sexuality, friendship, love and even himself. Ekaj is eventually taken under the wing of a hustler named Mecca, who has AIDs, and they become fast friends. Despite all of Mecca's own issues he does everything within his power to help and guide his new friend through life.


Ekaj's heart lies firmly within it's cast and their performances. The casting of non-actors, Jake Mestre and Badd Idea, as the two leads means that the film is full of naturalistic performances. The relationship between the two is mesmerising to watch; watching their connection grow as Ekaj becomes more confident, around the already overtly confident Mecca, is like watching a genuine friendship blossom in front of you. There is a perfect blend of tenderness and humour that binds the characters together; the laughter and glances that the two share whenever Mecca innocently taunts passersby is outstandingly organic and is one of the many factors that give the audience a rapport with the people that they see on screen. Badd Idea is captivating as Mecca, with his intriguing facial tattoos and rapid, sharp talking demeanour. He perfectly breathes a subtle comedic lifeline into an otherwise serious film. Mestre is also brilliant to watch, and he portrays Ekaj at his low points beautifully, he avoids the melodramatics of trained actors in mainstream films which presents the viewer with raw, natural emotion.

Aside from the acting, Ekaj also avoids the rose tinted view of the world that mainstream, Hollywood productions enjoy providing for its audiences. Ekaj isn't a gay teen from an accepting family, he's physically and emotionally abused by his father, who states that he would have his son be anything but gay, which ultimately drives him out onto the streets and into a series of unhealthy relationships and situations. The film manages to put across some serious home truths about the hardships that the growing population of LGBTQ homeless youth in New York City face that will certainly hit viewers hard. Examples such as Mecca revealing that his situation has led to him being raped, and that he now almost accepts it as a normality as well as an inevitability, and Ekaj's prostitution as well as his welcoming of abusive boyfriends because he doesn't know any different expression of love are extremely poignant.


The cinematography in Ekaj serves the film well. The film constantly uses handheld technology that, along with the natural interactions between Mestre and Idea, adds to the film's naturalistic qualities as the viewer is placed in the scene as if they are part of the dialogue. There are many scenes in which Ekaj is film through windows which come in and out focus, almost as if to say that he, and others in his situation, are visible and right in front of us, we just need to break that barrier and reach out to them.

Ekaj is essentially an intimate snippet of Ekaj's life, we get brief glimpses of his situation prior to the narrative beginning, and we are left with a sense of what he will do next. Focusing on a short period of time allows the viewer to witness what he deals with on a daily basis under a magnifying glass and this evokes a brilliant sense of empathy. It also raises some serious points about the issue of how that the stigma of being part of the LGBTQ community for many young people leads to homelessness. The subject of AIDs is something that is also highlighted and dealt with in a refreshing and realistic way. Instead of being weighed down by it, Mecca doesn't allow his AIDs diagnosis to define him, though he asserts the fact that it is obviously a negative aspect of his life, he can still poke fun at his situation. Ultimately, Ekaj shows us that people in situations such as Ekaj and Mecca's are still people; despite the unconventional choices that they must make to survive. Giving the audience the chance to see characters in these positions from a subjective perspective teaches them a lesson; these people shouldn't be looked down upon and we shouldn't turn away and hurry by them when we encounter them on the street.

Overall, Ekaj has been perfectly assembled by Gonzalez, who not only directed the film, but also produced and wrote it alongside Mike Gonzalez. Together they have created a truthful, raw, thought provoking piece of cinema. Ekaj is not only a beacon for the plight of the LGBTQ, the homeless, and those with HIV/AIDs; but also a beacon of hope.



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