Monkey Business (English version)
Available in 11 languages : EN, NL, ES, FR, IT, DE, Hindi, PL, PT, RUS, SE
Our Take – Small Axe Radical Short Film Reviews by Cole Diment
Jan Beyen’s Monkey Business deftly outlines prevailing geo-political and social tensions in a simple yet engaging way. Through the story of the three ape parties – the monkeys, chimpanzees and the exploitative gorillas – Monkey Business tracks the creation and dissolution of social disparities at the same time as exposing current trends in the global weapons and arms trade.
The principle idea that Monkey Business outlines is the creation of social disparity. The gorillas, exploitative and greedy, effectively play off the monkeys and chimpanzees against each other. They achieve this primarily through fictitious images that the gorillas give to each party of the other. In this way, an image born not of reality takes a hold of modes of perception that destroys previously thriving communities. The template acts as a way of exposing the creation of ‘the Other’. For anyone wishing to read more on the subject we recommend Edward Said’s Orientalism. Though a hefty read it digs through what Beyen succinctly expresses in this animation.
The more pressing issue that we see is the cultivation of the weapons and arms trade through these images. By hiking up taxes, minimising wealth amongst both the monkeys and the chimpanzees, the gorillas instil environments of fear, sadness and anger which allow for the pre-constitution of violence towards each party. In creating scarcity, leading each to believe of the others bad intent, the gorillas create a new economy using the otherwise useless branches on their mountaintop land. In this way, they transform their own value-less branches into a weapons economy which they trade for fruit at higher and higher prices.
It is clear then that in this situation the gorillas stand for Western states whilst the monkeys and chimpanzees are oppressed nations across the globe. One can look to many artificial conflicts created in recent history to justify the possession of lands and resources for cheap prices by Western states. Beyen’s film thus equates the arms trade with acts of colonialism, questioning the extent to which we live in a post-colonial age. Though the colony may not be alive, the impetus to dominate, extract and oppress remains.