• Burhana Islam

It's a Sin to Kill a Mockingjay

Updated: Jan 24, 2018

It seems like a lifetime ago that I was watching Aljazeera’s coverage of the Laylatul Qadr uprising in Masjid al-Aqsa. Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip rebelled against Israeli forces and stood firm in their faith in order to pray in one of the world’s oldest mosques. Centuries ago, the moment was deemed as the Night of Power and in that darkness, the Muslim youth intended to live up to its name.

A millions miles away, I sat in awe of the television screen. It was as if my soul was captivated by the very same flames that were ignited in the Holy Land. I watched those little ballistic fireworks dance idly into the night sky and prayed that the dull thuds didn’t scrape through the flesh of resistance. Even from a distance, away from all the chaos, it was safe to say this wasn’t a fair fight. We all knew that. But the world sat and watched the onslaught anyway.

Left: A scene in Palestine, Right: A scene from Catching Fire

I remember a scene in the middle of the madness that was reminiscent of Francis Lawrence’s Hunger Games: Catching Fire. It was just a tiny moment in the grand scheme of things, but it was a telling glimpse of what happens to a nation when stripped of its basic human rights. If you oppress a people for too long, you’re asking for an underdog.

These days when every moment of our lives becomes a spectacle for the world to see, it can be difficult to separate fiction from reality. We’re a generation that searches for answers on Google, we follow blindly on Twitter and picture our lives on Instagram. We’re directors of our own design, perpetually seeking, constructing and comforting ourselves with entertainment- whether it’s of our own making or someone else’s. That’s why sometimes I think films are so important now more than ever, especially to the youth- it’s a medium to get a message across, a forum to instigate discussion and a reflection of the real world.

So recently, when I was watching the latest instalment of The Hunger Games series, I couldn’t help but think the director had more say than the script itself. For those of you unfamiliar with the books or films, IMDB it- they’ll explain it better.

I’ve (hopefully) embedded a clip to make this easier- watch from 2 minutes in.

In the beginning of the film, our heroine confronts President Snow. This was always intended to be political.

“It must be a fragile system if it can be brought down by just a few berries.”

Katniss – the victor from District 12- is right. It is a fragile system. Building a government out of fear and oppression will never have lasting foundations. Sooner or later the system will collapse. It’s inevitable.

"She is preparing to fight."

There's something about this moment that's striking. I didn't know why at the time. Francis Lawrence brings the rebellion full circle in the final scenes. In order for tyrants to succeed, they sow fear into their citizens and take away any trust they have in each other. The Ancient Greeks said it best: united we stand, divided we fall. Katniss aims her arrow at a fellow tribute, Finnick- 'Let it fly Miss Everdeen, let it fly.' Snow knows that in doing so, she will taint the image of her innocence, the image of the Mockingjay. Desperation gets the better of us most times. That’s the thing with our ‘Powers that be’. They’ll play the blame game to distract us and shift responsibility to the opposition- instead of focusing on the solution and serving their people. Our whole life is based on distractions, as Haymitch so aptly puts it, so ‘people forget what the real problems are’.

“Katniss, remember who the real enemy is.”

There’s a beautiful rhythm in the scenes that follow. She points her arrow at Snow himself and takes out the highest point of the dome.

“It must be a fragile system if it can be brought down by just a few berries.”

The structure collapses from the top with a weapon wielded from those at the bottom of the hierarchy- the underdogs. The victors are at home in the woods, a representation of the lowest outlying district, reflecting those who’ve faced the most hardship under the control of the Capitol.

“We’ve lost power.”

As the arena tumbles down around her, Katniss’ barely conscious body is surrounded by light. She rises from the ashes (literally) with her arms spread out like a wingspan- like a Mockingjay.

For those of you who don’t know, Harper Lee once wrote that it’s a ‘sin to kill a mockingbird’; they ‘don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy’. If you take away the voices of innocents, the voices of those who've done nothing wrong, you have to expect ramifications. It’s alien to think you can unethically suppress a nation and not expect uproar in response.

Now during wartime, the Capitol created a species of birds to spy on their enemies. These man-made mutts were constructed to record conversations and bring them back to the offensive line. The jabberjays, however, dispersed into the districts and mated with the mockingbirds; their strategy failed. In time, the creature they ultimately created, the mockingjays, became a beacon of hope amongst the resistance. The Capitol brought the rebellion on themselves, they instigated the turn of events that led to their own destruction.

“You have been our mission from the beginning, the plan was always to get you out […] This is the revolution and you are the mockingjay.”

Like I say, you oppress a people for too long, you’re asking for an underdog.

It’s poetic. For now though, I just pray we see some justice in our world, instead of the one inside the screen.

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