I love YouTube! Even though I was most certainly alive before the video sharing site was created, today, I can’t even recall how we lived without it prior – really, the web in general, not just YouTube. A very deep archive of video content, mostly for *free* and all just a matter of a click or 2 away. I can spend many hours there at a time, hopping from one thing to another, with so much available to watch and learn from – whether it’s Oscar Micheaux’s library of films, a number of which are hard to find to rent or buy, or James Baldwin’s 1965 debate with William F. Buckley, or a ton of old interviews with actors, directors, DPs, producers, presidents of countries (past and present), documentaries on almost any topic you can think of (old and recent), entire college lectures on a variety of subjects, and so much more. We’ve shared a lot of our findings right here on this blog. Yes, there’s also a lot garbage on YouTube, but I believe you find whatever you’re looking for.
All that said… Here’s one item I found that might be of interest, especially if you’ve never seen it. Some of you have probably already seen it; but I’m sure there are others who haven’t seen it either.
A 21st-century interpretation of “Othello,” written by Andrew Davies, of course based on the tragedy by William Shakespeare. Released in 2001, the British production is also titled “Othello,” and just like the source material, it also come with all the corruption, intrigue, sex, and betrayal, wrapped up in a very convincing modern setting: New Scotland Yard in the era of race riots, neo-Nazis, and political games.
Eamonn Walker stars, playing the title role of John Othello, the new commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, in a London that’s seething with racial tension and unrest. Christopher Eccleston is the duplicitous Ben Jago, an angry man overlooked for promotion in place of his best friend and protégé.
Keeley Hawes also stars as Desdemona (or Dessie, as she’s called in the film), Othello’s wife and true love.
It’s directed by British filmmaker Geoffrey Sax (he also directed Halle Berry in “Frankie & Alice”) 6 years ago.
Those familiar with Shakespeare’s original will recognize Davies’ updated versions of Othello the Moor, his wife Desdemona, and the arch villain Iago (you will even recognize parts of some of the major speeches). But this new version takes its cues not only from the Bard, but also from the notorious real-life case of Stephen Lawrence, a black teenager who was killed in 1993 in London, and the ensuing botched police investigation that led to charges of institutional racism.
Davies said at the time of the film’s release 15 years ago, that he wanted to modernize “Othello” because he felt it had the most resonance of Shakespeare’s plays in being able to rethought so that it reflects today’s more multicultural society. The themes are universal, but it also works on other levels. It is still ultimately a thriller with the usual themes like sex, jealousy, betrayal, revenge, and of course murder.
By the way, Eamonn Walker has also played Othello (as in the original Shakespeare tragedy) on stage a number of times.
Obviously this isn’t the first time that “Othello” has been adapted and set in the present-day. This is one that I haven’t seen, so I’m sure a lot of you haven’t either.
The entire film is on YouTube and embedded below (add it to your weekend watch-list).