With students in schools and universities taking to the streets all across the US this week to protest against the election of Donald Trump, it has brought to mind 2 incredible films that show young people who take their revolutions to the next level. With talk of political corruption, Wall Street and the wealth of elites being a huge feature of the U.S. election – issues that conversely helped to elect Trump, a billionaire businessman as president, the young people in these films decide to confront corruption and inequality head on by taking direct action. In both films the young people view their underground movements as a revolution that seeks to disrupt the blindness and complacency of their corrupt, wealthy elders who are blissfully inure to the inequality or injustice that surrounds them.
The tagline of the 2004 German film The Edukators was eerily prophetic considering the global recession of 2008; “Your days of plenty are numbered”. This was the motto that the 3 young students who called their group the Edukators painted on the walls of wealthy Germans who they believed needed an education in reality or a reminder that those they oppress will not forever remain silent.
For all revolutions one thing is clear – even if some of them didn’t work, the most important thing is ; that the best ideas survived.
The film centres on the love triangle between its three main characters. When Peter goes out of town leaving his girlfriend Jule behind, she grows very close to his best friend Jan (played by the very brilliant Daniel Bruhl). Jule has a debt problem; after a car accident with a wealthy man’s expensive Mercedes she is landed with a massive insurance bill to pay for his repairs and she has nothing to pay it with. She has to move out of the flat so Jan helps her repaint, but they end up getting pretty creative with their painting and graffiti the wall with a revolutionary slogan.
Jan and Jule grow increasingly close as they discuss their revolutionary ideals and soon Jan agrees to bring Jule along on an Edukators raid on the lavish residence of the Mercedes owner who has straddled Jule with debt. The raid gets out of hand and Jan, Jule and Peter end up taking the wealthy homeowner hostage and taking him up into the Bavarian mountains in their campervan to a chalet hideout where they are forced to reexamine their aims and ideas.
Ungli is a 2014 Bollywood film starring Emran Hashmi with so many thematic plot similarities to the Edukators that I would be surprised if it’s screenplay was not inspired by or influenced by the German film. Ungli like the Edukators are a group of young vigilantes in Mumbai who seek to fight corruption by outwitting the local police to right injustices in the community. They take their vigilantism to a higher level than the Edukators as they create videos of their vigilante attacks to give themselves almost Marvel comic hero status. The main Bollywood star in the movie Emran Hashmi plays an undercover cop whose job it is to infiltrate the group and unmask them in the act.
Ungli is a slick and stylish film with some stylish Bollywood item songs but its storytelling is compelling and its action is exciting and it glamorizes the Ungli group giving them a Marvelesque appeal. Just like the edukators, the Ungli group trash the home of a corrupt official spraying graffiti all over his lavish house, with a scene that is so reminiscent of the Edukators that there must be a connection between the two films.
The Ungli group’s vigilantism is more specific than that of the Edukators as they seek to unmask the specific corrupt acts of officials to the public through their video posts . Both films share the same revolutionary ideals. The police in both films are seen as complicit in maintaining and facilitating the corrupt elites but especially so in Ungli where the Mumbai police are found to be in the pockets of corrupt officials with few exceptions. Ungli means the middle finger and the group’s graffiti logo gives an upturned middle finger to corrupt institutions.
The young people in both films seek to exact revenge on their wealthy or corrupt oppressors. Their revenge involves destruction and aggressive acts such as graffiti, destruction of property, abduction and hostage taking. While some of these acts may not be laudable the films nonetheless make a powerful call for change and a nascent threat that our youth will not stand by passively in the face of injustice and inequality.
Ungli is availbable on Netflix with English subtitles
If you haven’t seen The Edukators you have missed a cult epic! Track it down