Twerk for Yemen

Sunday 23:00

Twerka för Jemen

Tanja Holm | 
2023 | 
Sweden | 
10:00 mins | 
A committed documentary filmmaker follows in the footsteps of the Swedish cult classic I am Curious Yellow and asks people in Stockholm what to do about the war in Yemen. The reactions she encounters and the answers she receives are at the same time deeply distressing and incredibly entertaining.

Twerk for Yemen, by veteran Small Axe filmmaker Tanja Holm, takes a documentary classic to the extreme that probes our societal apathy and inability to encounter violence and war in meaningful and productive ways. The premise is simple; Holm takes her camera onto the streets of Sweden to ask people ‘how can we stop the war in Yemen?’ The film shows us all the bleakness and farce of posing of a question in a “developed” capitalist nation.

The principle motif that arises is in the film is apathy. As Holm asks the people she encounters what can be done to help Yemen she is met increasingly with absence and muted disdain. People ignore her, decline to comment or simply walk away. Most are pressed for time or busy with engagements; they’re on a night out, they’re going to a restaurant, they’re going to the theatre. In all instances people hide behind covers that breed apathy. Notably, all instances of withdrawal are for purposes of entertainment, hinged on the consumer industry that disavows our place within a global, connected world in favour of isolators fantasy. Of course, this isn’t the case for all entertainment, but within Western consumer societies the disavowal of reality in entertainment is all too rife.

There seems in the film to be another Sweden, a non-white Sweden in particular, that sits at odds within its own infrastructure. This is the liminal world, the spaces between the borders of here and there, West and East, the porous points of exchange that remind us that suffering out there is defined by and related to our comfort here. The people that speak to Holm are mostly people of colour, people who themselves have fled conflict or whose parents fled from conflict. These people speak, these people show an understanding of the world, a world in which withdrawal is not possible.

One man in particular hits the head on the nail. Conflicts, he says, are about money and power, intricately part of the fabric of a global capitalist system. In the West we are trained to see war as the exception. The coverage and horror of Ukraine attests to this. “Not on European soil, never!” Yet the very structure of the West is founded in a disavowed origin of violence. Holm’s Twerk for Yemen enlivens us to this message. We are not separate from the violence of this world.