Thursday, 13 November 2008

Andre Williams - Senile, Mobile, Hostile




Tragic, yet hilarious doc on Andre Williams explains his rise to fame, and his fall from grace.

An elderly man stands on a cold Chicago bridge. His worn face betrays years of drug and alcohol abuse and his jaw quivers as he charms passing strangers into filling his hat with change. Those familiar with the legendary reputation of Andre Williams may be shocked by the opening scene of Tricia Todd and Eric Matthies’ documentary, ‘Agile, Mobile, Hostile: A year in the life of Andre Williams.’ But Williams is just acting out a scene from a difficult time in his life. In the 50s and 60s he was a star. By the 1980s he was a panhandler and a crack-head.

Andre started singing in the fifties, recording over 50 songs for Fortune records, including ‘Bacon Fat’, ‘Jailbait’ and ‘The Greasy Chicken’. He went on to become a producer, working with the likes of Ike Turner and Stevie Wonder. Andre’s songs have been covered by everyone from Ray Charles to The Cramps. He even worked as an A&R man several times for Barry Gordon at Motown. In 1996 he cleaned up and released a come back album. Now at the age of 72, with sex, drugs and rum all making a come back in his life, Andre’s health is starting to deteriorate.

Todd and Matthies always work as a team, it’s a formula that helped them in the creation of ‘Ayamye’, their documentary about making bicycles in Africa, and it helped with ‘Agile, Mobile, Hostile’. Tricia also has experience working as production manager on several DVD-extras menu documentaries for films including 300, a Scanner Darkly and The Matrix Revisited. She and Eric have been fans of Andre for over 10 years. “Both of us have a life-long involvement with the underground; be it punk or garage, blues or jazz.” She explains, “Andre personifies all of it.”

Seeing Andre being so self destructive is alarming, during one live performance in the film, Andre is so weak, he can barely perform. On another shocking occasion he is arrested for possession and another he is hospitalised and told by his doctor he will die if he doesn’t make some life style changes. “It was difficult to balance perspectives between being his friend and wanting to remain objective as filmmakers.” Tricia confesses. “Don’t tell Andre but we always watered down his bottle of Bacardi.”

The film starts as a biography, explaining Andre’s history and achievements with the aid of interviews and archive footage, but ends up focusing on how today’s Andre finds it difficult to tour and perform in his old age and is a difficult man for his band mates to get along with. There is a depressing contrast between the success of his early musical career and his being brought out to perform like an old bear at the circus in his twilight years.

Tricia and Eric do not regret documenting the vulnerable side of the music legend, “My only regret is Andre not getting the success he deserves during that year!” Tricia says. The documentary is as much a critique of the way the music industry exploited gifted black musicians in the early days, as it is a window into the life of Andre Williams. “The system in which young song writers and performers worked, especially African American artists, in the 50s was very advantageous to the businessmen who ran the show and very disingenuous to the naïve young men and women with the talent. Andre is certainly a victim of this, like so many others.”

The tragic element, although moving, does not dominate the documentary. Andre has a terrific sense of humour and is relentlessly optimistic. Despite having so little to show for his remarkable career, he rarely lets his bitterness show. Andre's magnetic character and determination, ultimately, make the film very uplifting.

Joe Meek Shall Inherit the Earth


Review: A Life in the Death of Joe Meek.

Joe Meek is a name synonymous with uncompromising creative innovation in the history of independent music production. One of the first to use electronic sound effects and drum loops, Meek’s songs create an atmosphere sometimes bizarre and ridiculous, but always original. His works of musical pioneering genius include ‘Telstar’ by The Tornadoes and John Leyton’s haunting ‘Johnny remember me.’

The new documentary ‘A life in the death of Joe Meek’ explains the complicated and fascinating history and personality of this unique individual, without demonising him as others have. A homosexual, at a time when it was illegal in Britain, and also a practicing member of the occult, who believed he had a trans-dimensional psychic link with the deceased Buddy Holly, Meek is frequently written off as a maniac. This documentary not only demonstrates the significance and vast diversity of his work but also reveals the man behind the mincing, satanic persona the tabloids created.

Director, Howard Berger explains how he got hooked on Meek over 10 years ago, “I first heard of Joe Meek in a capsule review for the first and only US compilation of tracks on Razor and Tie. It just said his work was unorthodox and that he was responsible for the murder of his landlady resulting in his immediate suicide at 37 years of age. That alone was enough to peak interest.” Howard and his editor Susan Stahman originally set out to make a fictional biography based on Meek’s life, but as they learnt more about his perplexing story the idea was dropped and a more straight forward approach was adopted. “Sue suggested reviving Joe Meek in documentary form.” Howard explains. “She informed me of a bunch of recent deaths of some key Joe Meek performers like Screaming Lord Sutch and Heinz, and she said, ‘It's pretty much now or never,’ if we were to hope for interviews from first-handers.”

The film features an impressive selection of interviews with these ‘first handers’, as well as some modern music legends who have been influenced by Meek. “It's difficult not to be a little star struck.” Howard admits, “I mean, we find ourselves talking to people like Steve Howe from Yes or Keith Strickland from the B-52s.” But when asked if he is proud of accumulating this high-profile content, he answers modestly, “I'll be proud when it finds the right distributor. I'll be proud when I see it permeate culture the way I think it has a right to.” You can follow the progress of the film at: www.myspace.com/meekmovie where festival screenings and distribution deals will be listed.

Friday, 24 October 2008

The 16th Raindance Film Festival Review

The Rain Dance film Festival had it's 16th year this month, and as usual it was host to an international selection of challenging independent cinema. I interviewed festival organiser Elliot Grove, a couple of directors and have reviewed a few of this years offerings. Enjoy!



Hi Elliot, you must be very busy this year! What have you enjoyed most at this year’s festival?


Elliot: The big story this year is the attendees, the box office is up 40% which is astounding, and having done it for so many years it’s gratifying to see that people are finally getting out to find us, which proves that independent cinema is alive and well! Very much so!

So you think the future is bright for independent film And British cinema?

Elliot: Yeah, independent cinema is not for everyone, but it is definitely for people who want something a little different from the normal Hollywood fare, that you get at the multiplexes and the normal fare that you get at other film festivals. Our programming is much more underground and extreme than you’ll see elsewhere, certainly more extreme than you’ll see in the multiplexes.

Could you possibly pick a favourite?

Elliot: I don’t like picking favourites because all the films are favourites, but there is something that’s happened this year which is a bit different, there were three excellent films from Canada, one is ‘production office’, another is ‘Who is KK Downing’ a hilarious comedy and the actors are coming over, this is a comedy troupe from Montreal that feed into second city, the stand up club in Toronto which feeds all the big names to TV show Saturday night live, and is the route taken by all the big people like Jim Carey, Dan Akroyd, Martin Short, Mike Myers and so on so that film is great. And on Sunday Jeremy Podeswa, the great auteur, is attending with a film called ‘Fugitive Pieces’ which is a harrowing account of the holocaust, so those are all very different films, but I would heartily recommend any one of them to anyone, they have to be my personal favourites because I’m Canadian!

Congratulations on receiving the honorary doctorate, what kind of people do you think most benefit from your lectures?


Elliot: Anyone who wants to write a film, make a film or direct a film.


What will your next film be about?


Elliot: I’ve put all that aside for the past year while I’m working on the launch of raindance.tv our web distribution portal, so none right at the moment although I have some ideas, but I don’t really want to talk about them.

What things will be different at next year’s festival?

Elliot: I think what will be different is, we’ll have to address our infrastructure because we just can’t cope with all the people wanting to come, most things are sold out and people are damned lucky, if they don’t already have a ticket, to get a ticket which is unfortunate. So what we’re trying to do now is to address that issue and see if we can get larger screens and make the wonderful films we have from all over the world available to an even wider audience.

Did your Amish background affect your style of film making or your attitude to cinema in general?

Elliot: Yes and no, no in the sense that cinema and acting are my natural topics, but the yes is as a child I was exposed to all the story telling that you do in my community, that certainly affected the way I look at films, from a storytelling point of view, I love great stories, and the fact that there’s cinema means everything I grew up with has been enhanced. The storytelling I grew up with has made me particularly receptive to the visual storytelling of cinema, and wow! What a great way to tell stories.

You have a lot of contacts in the film industry but can you still get star struck?

Elliot: Yes, every time. Faye Dunaway came, on the one hand, I’m able to speak to her as I’m speaking to you now on the other hand I’m pinching myself thinking can this be real? I’m having dinner with Faye Dunaway, like wow! Its quite an experience that, in itself. And taking her through all the paparazzi and seeing all the pulling power she has, the pulling power that Adam Yauch of the beastie boys has, that Peter Greenaway, that Michael Winterbottom, that Bill Nighy, that Liz Smith the wonderful actress, that they have. They can do something that I can not, and I am forever in awe and respect of them. It’s a bit like going to the private show that Prince was doing at the O2, where he would play after the main show for 4 hours, he had done an energetic 2 hour set for 20,000 and then going with a few people and playing for 3 or 4 hours, My god, that’s something special. How does he do that? How does she do it? Amazing.


Heavy Load – Jerry Rothwell

A documentary film about a punk rock band from Lewes near Brighton called Heavy Load, the majority of it's members are disabled. The film begins with the director explaining his depression and shows how he uses the optimism and perceived happiness of the band as a vehicle to pull himself out of his misery, but as the film progresses and the band run into problems, he wonders whether by making the documentary he is taking away from their happiness. The band starts off playing only at disabled events, then progress to pubs and finish by playing at a festival alongside the Levellers and the fun lovin’ criminals. The disabled members of the band are very likeable and although the film is in no way patronising, it is slightly too sentimental for my tastes, and seems somewhat self serving, drawing no conclusions about the lives of the subject matter only that of the director. The drummer Michael’s expanding ego is one of the most entertaining aspects of the film, despite having barely mastered the drums after decades of playing, he becomes convinced he is too good for the band and threatens to start a new one. The director covers the subject skilfully and with sensitivity, he also uses the Sussex coastline to great atmospheric effect, ultimately this is no better than a feel good TV documentary about what strong little soldiers disabled people are.

The Blue Tower- Smita Bhide



The Blue Tower is this year’s winner of best UK feature at the Rain dance film festival. What I presumed to be a straight forward inter-racial romance story set in Southall, is in fact so much more as producer Jamie Nuttgens explained to me “the romance isn’t problematic like Romeo and Juliet.” In fact the sexual relationship the protagonist Mohan (Abhin Galeya) has with his wealthy aunt’s white care worker Judy is in fact the only thing that doesn’t directly create problems for him in this film, His wife is distant and unfaithful and her family particularly her brother do not respect him because he has no job and has not yet fathered a child, his mates are chancers trying their luck at get rich quick schemes and he is hoping desperately that another unreliable friend will come through for him with a job. His wealthy aunt doesn’t suspect her nephew and care worker of anything, even when they start stealing from her; she is too concerned with her vanity, which is exasperated by her creepy sycophantic neighbours and their plans to take her money. To escape from the mess of his life, he and Judy conceive a desperate plan. As his marriage and hopes of work look more and more bleak, Mohan becomes delusional and desperate, Director Smita Bhide skilfully uses the prominent red and blue towers that dominate the landscape of Southall as symbols of the security of Mohan's life and the menacing reality that lies behind the illusion.

The symbolism of the blue and red towers is very striking, where did you get the idea from?

Smita: When we were scouting the locations, looking for interesting landmarks, I just noticed them; they were sort of organically integrated into the plot. They are such amazing structures that we couldn’t really film there and not include them somehow. The shot where the blue tower emerges from behind the red tower is how it actually is, and that’s how that came about.


And was a lot of the plot developed organically in this way?


Smita: Well some of it was, I had an idea that we should make a short story featuring the three main characters, and I wanted to set it in Southall because that’s a place I know quite well. We wanted to make something that was set in that kind of Indian landscape, that’s also very suburban.

By the three main characters do you mean the lovers and the auntie?

Smita: Yes, I had a story that revolves around that, a bit like the Honeymooners, I love that 1950’s feeling.

So the secondary characters were developed later?

Smita: Yes, I wanted to expand Mohan’s life, to explain why he is the way he is, and why he is so protective of the old woman. Both of the other themes developed from this.

Is Mohan your favourite character in the film?

Smita: I really like Judy, she’s the one that I think is most interesting. In fact we had much more storyline involving her, but when we were editing, it was too long, and we ended up having to focus more on Mohan. Alice O’ Connell was brilliant as her, I think she was the character with the most layers.


Did Alice bring a lot of that to the character, or was this already created in your writing?


Smita: Well I wrote the part very much with Alice in mind, it’s such a shame more of the scenes with her in weren’t included, but you have to be discriminating when editing.


Who is KK Downey? – Darren Curtis




A Canadian comedy critique of the easily deceived, attention seeking hipster culture. The story concerns two failing creative artists, a musician whose band is laughable and a writer who can’t get his book ‘truck stop hustler’ about a drug addled trans-gendered prostitute, published on the grounds that he is too middle class to release such material. Together they create a fictional character named KK Downey who is presented as the author of the novel, but things go a bit pear shaped when their web of lies comes unstuck. The film is a hilarious spoof of the artistic and creative youth community that is done in an original and at times surreal way with all too familiar characters who despite their hopelessness are very endearing. There is a lot of very basic and vulgar humour, but the film never pretends to be anything it isn’t, taking the piss out of pretentious indie types rather than trying to entertain them.


Flick – David Howard


A rockabilly zombie comedy bonanza. The plot is feeble at times, and the character’s motivation unconvincing but the flawless style of the movie more than makes up for it, including the teddy boy clothing, zombie gore and classic comic book style framing with actual illustrated comic panels used in place of montages for the plot links. The cast is also very impressive including the Oscar winning Faye Dunaway as Lieutenant McKenzie , the one armed American cop partnered with detective sergeant Miller played by Mark Benton (The fat bloke from the Northern Rock ads) who had her flown in to catch a rockabilly serial killer in the dark decrepit environment of a modern Welsh city which lends itself well to the horror genre. There are some great one-liners and amusing Monty pythonesque blood squirting wounds that provide the comic relief from the rampaging zombie teddy boy murderer Johnny Taylor, whose insane mother played by Liz Smith (Royle Family) is the best part of the film.

Hollywood star Faye said she was happy to work on what she described as an innovative film, saying “I was very taken with this little piece, it was an honour to work with all of them.” Mark Benton added “I think Faye learned a lot from me.” Despite not yet acquiring a distribution deal, Director David Howard has high hopes for the film, saying “hopefully it’ll get a cult following!” I asked him where he got the inspiration to draw together the different elements that gave the film it’s style, he replied “We were aiming for a B-movie feel, also a comic book feel in terms of the framed sequences. I already had an idea to make a low-budget movie, then I heard ‘Teenager in love’ on the radio and I thought about killing a man in a record shop, as well as that song things like Roger Corman, American International pictures and all those B-movies that have enduring appeal and an innocence which I think is appealing, I also love David Lynch and Alfred Hitchcock!”

Watch Out - Steve Balderson



Disturbing comedy about loveless self obsessed narcissist who is looking for work as a lecturer at a small town college, it features a hilarious scene where he tapes a picture of his own face on a blow up doll then fucks it. The subject is compelling and the parts with dialogue somewhat intriguing, but the film is mostly comprised of shocking yet tedious sequences showing the protagonist masturbating. The violent ending is somewhat predictable but quite satisfying; I think the whole film could do with being cut down by ditching a few of the numerous wanking scenes. The subject of a cold, almost inhuman narcissist who reads German philosophy and hates humanity is somehow compelling, but not enough to endure this very boring film.


Mao-ce-dun – Besnik Bisha

An endearing comedy about a roma gypsy named Hekuran who lives on a gypsy camp in Albania during the reign of the 1970’s communist government, he names his ninth child Mao-ce-dun, at first he is met with anger by the party as it is not a conventional Albanian name, but after he writes to the Chinese embassy, they show an interest and the party, eager to maintain a good relationship with China, award Hekuran with luxuries he has never before experienced. He learns to manipulate the party, but takes a greater interest in communism as the film develops, it is never clear whether he is manipulating the party for his own means, or he has just misunderstood the way communism works and merely wants to be a functioning member of communist society. By bringing his family into the world of politics, he puts himself and the security of his gypsy community in danger. Not just a critique of communism but also of hypocrisy and international political relations in general. The simple characters are easy to love, and their uncertain future weighs heavy on the mind of the audience, but the ending is unremarkable, unskilfully portrayed and would have benefited from a different pace of editing, or perhaps a different final scene.


Adrift in Tokyo
– Miki Satoshi

Adrift in Tokyo is a heart warming comic drama about luck, a common theme in Japanese cinema, but interesting nonetheless. The film’s protagonist Takemura is a law student with a debt to pay off, a debt collector named Fukuhara who visits his house and threatens him, offers him a way out, all he has to do is walk the streets with him. The untrusting relationship changes as the two learn more about each other, it has the feel of a road movie, with the friendship developing between the two men, with the underlying theme of luck shaping their futures, Fukuhara lost his child and Takemura was abandoned by his parents as a child, they end up posing as Father and son and gradually Takemura realises his luck is changing. This sentimental and somewhat obvious male-bonding plot is held aloft by hilarious secondary characters, unlikely comic scenarios and the beautiful cinematography that captures the full range of Tokyo’s landscape and atmosphere. Uplifting, thought provoking and at times very amusing.


The Daisy Chain
– Aisling Walsh

Female directors are too rare, particularly those willing to approach the horror genre. Walsh uses the beautiful Western Irish coast to create a bleak atmosphere of isolation and vulnerability. The plot is somewhat obvious, a young couple move away from the bright lights of London to raise a family, the wife is pregnant, and the husband has inherited his childhood home in Ireland, but the neighbour’s child Daisy is suspected of being a fairy changeling, born in a fairy ring on Halloween. The Neighbour’s son is killed under mysterious circumstances and the parents are soon to follow, the child is then adopted by the London couple, the motivation for this aspect of the plot is addressed but remains unconvincing. The superstitious locals become increasingly scared of young Daisy. The film lacks originality but has some redeeming qualities, the child actress Mhairi Anderson who plays Daisy is exceptional, providing a genuinely disturbing performance, the cinematography and score combine to give the film a unique character that is tense and engaging. The theme of fairies and the supernatural remains frustratingly unresolved, it is never made clear whether the girl suffers from autism, is very disturbed or is really a fairy changeling, a question left unanswered deliberately by the director, but in a clumsy way, that doesn’t encourage the audience to feel sympathy for the girl, who is properly identified neither as victim nor as aggressor. Despite the flaws The Daisy Chain, a combination of Straw Dogs and the Wicker Man, is a visually appealing and at times moving addition to the horror genre.

Fine, Totally Fine – Yosuke Fujita


This is a delicate Japanese comedy about how life can be disappointing, it features three main characters approaching 30, none of whom are satisfied with their lives. A nervous, shy girl with an unusual affection for fish sausages who aspires to be an artist but is too clumsy to hold down a job, a hospital manager who never confronts anybody and commands no respect because he is always trying to be nice out of fear that people won’t like him and the most compelling and amusing of all Teruo an obtuse, sadistic but dim-witted part time park keeper who likes scaring kids and dreams of one day building a super-ultra-haunted-house-deluxe, which will literally scare people to death. There is a brief sub-plot where the two men compete for the affections of the girl, but this is never resolved as she finds love with another man. None of their dreams are realised, and there are no scenes where emotional or hopes are addressed, or aspirations resolved. This is not a fantasy film, but a film about fantasy, and it’s stark contrast to reality. The film is charming, set predominantly in a second hand book shop belonging to Teruo’s father, despite the lack of a conventionally satisfying plot resolution; there is a poignant message about the pleasure that can be taken simply by enjoying each other’s company and being thankful for it.

The Tour – Goran Markovic

Based on Markovic’s award winning play of the same name, his anti-war comedy is a film about a group of failing actors living in Belgrade in 1993, depressed and drunk. They embark on a reluctant tour to the frontlines to perform for the Serbian soldiers, but they are constantly manipulated by different forces of the Bosnian war, over the course of the film they perform and socialise with doctors, writers, generals, Serbian soldiers, Croats and Muslims and they come to realise that the different sides are hardly different, the actors feel removed from the whole business of war, but learn that most of the people directly affected feel just as far removed from the horrific events. Markovic’s script is a fine example of his literary and comic talent, he also unflinchingly recreates the gritty, snow, blood and mud streaked landscape of former Yugoslavia. The comic addition of a somewhat ridiculous sounding folk score adds to the impression of the ridiculous nature of the war despite the tragic and horrific reality. I found the film a bit long, but the script never failed to entertain, as a script writer, and a storyteller Markovic is a highly experienced and accomplished artist, but he would benefit from fine-tuning his film making skills with attention to pace and structure.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Outlanders - drama about illegal Polish labour in London




could you choose between love and blood?

Outlanders is a very well written film, with the plot falling like a blade aimed directly at the heart of the issue of cheap illegal labour in Britain, without drawing obvious conclusions or shying away from the complicated reality of the phenomenon. The plot focuses around a Pole named Alex who goes to find his brother Jan who moved to London illegally years before, and has become involved in the exploitation of illegal immigrants. The direction features some wonderful obscure shots that help to depict an unseen part of London but the film suffers from a poor script, dodgy sound quality and lack of decent lighting at times. All the elements for an engaging drama are in place, a great plot, good lead actor and a director with an eye that appreciates the appealing nature of the obscure, and can construct atmosphere with impressive skill. But the failings of the film can detract from the plot, when script is barely audible and some scenes so dark that you can barely see the actor's expressions. I spoke to director Dominic Lees and lead actor Jakub Tolak who plays Adam Jasinski.



Dominic: It’s easy to market the film for the polish community in Britain, which is huge, and it’s an opportunity for the UK audience to discover new stars.

Were you very conscious of the different national markets when making the film?


Dominic: No, I didn’t think about it in market terms, it’s a film about brotherhood, but it’s set against the background of East European migration to London and Britain, so the universal story is about the relationship between the younger brother Adam, who is the hero and his older brother Jan who has been here a long time, he came when Poles were having to work illegally, so he’s worked on the black economy and has become a corrupt character. Essentially it’s just a film about brotherhood, but because I lived and studies in Poland and speak Polish, it was natural that the story was going to be about two Polish brothers coming here.

How do you anticipate the film being received in the two countries? I know you said you don’t think about it in market terms…

Dominic: Now it’s going to be really interesting because it’s one of the first films that’s going to be marketed at two sides of the British audience, the cine savvy UK audience who love independent film, they’ll have a natural interest in it, and festivals and so on it’s been getting a good reaction from those kind of audiences and separately there is a marketing effort to get Poles in the UK, I mean there’s what a million people, to be interested in a British film that can reflect their experience. That’s a kind of voyage of discovery, because no one has really done that yet. It may be a whole big new section of the British community that will come into film watching through that, you never know.

Jakub, how did you go about preparing for your role?

Jakub:It was kind of a process, at first I came to London just shooting for one week or more and I really wanted to feel abandoned so I went to the city a couple of times, walking around in the areas I didn’t know, and I wanted to feel totally lonely and I just wanted to feel the city, because I’ve been to London before, but I’ve never travelled just like that, I was always purposefully seeing something. The character comes here knowing nothing about the city so I kind of took the tube and just went somewhere, anywhere, got lost and watched different kinds of people, this was a very good part of it. The second part was a lot of talking, we had rehearsals, and we built up a back story which was pretty huge for this story.I knew what happened, I almost became the guy. I also tried to draw from my own experiences and put them into the character.

How does the atmosphere of London differ from that of Warsaw?

Jakub: In my opinion London is more alive, it has more different cultures, a mixture, it’s a bigger city. You enter London, and you enter London, there’s houses and houses, it’s huge, I can’t have a view of the whole city, it’s impossible for me. Despite the diversity it’s very much a whole, different races and languages, but the city is a whole, with the architecture, you can feel the spirit of the city. I think it’s on purpose, because I know English people really like the symbols of the city, red post boxes etc

How do you feel about the mistreatment of illegal Polish workers?


Jakub:I do have some friends who came here, to work or usually to study. But I didn’t have any experience with illegal workers which would have helped, but I knew that was a problem, and it’s a problem that is everywhere at the moment. In Poland we have people from the East or even the Far East coming to work illegally, I think that’s the normal way of history, usually when the country has better living conditions, people go there, the whole of America was made of illegal immigrants.

And have you any feelings with respect to the vulnerability of those immigrants?

Dominic: One thing the film does with these two brothers is compares their different experiences, because the older brother has already been here for 10 years, working on the black economy, he was really vulnerable and exploited. His back story is really sad and quite tragic and that compares with his younger brother who has turned up here after Poland has joined the EU and all he has to do is flash his passport and they let him in, he can work legally and he can do what he likes. Two completely different experiences of what it is like to come to this country. The older brother is corrupt in his own way and he now exploits workers from outside the EU, who he can get to work for cheap, illegally on construction site, repeating the same exploitation that he himself suffered.

Could you elaborate on the theme of the unseen “dark heart” of London?


Dominic: It builds on what Jakub was saying about the nature of London, it’s a beautiful city, its fabulously multi-cultural, it’s so varied but still has a unified soul to it. We have to be aware that a lot is built on the suffering of very vulnerable people, this film is about the way migrants from outside the EU are very vulnerable, and are ruthlessly exploited, and have no protection whatsoever. Every civilisation does this, from the Egyptians who built the pyramids with slaves and onwards, every civilisation has built itself on other people. That to me is the two sides of a great metropolis.

Jakub: I think netiher of us wanted to criticise the system or preach, just ask some questions about some general situations, some things that are going on, but we don’t want to answer we just want to ask. If people want to think about it they can, otherwise they can just see the movie.

Do you think the film will help to break you into Britain?


Jakub: I wouldn’t expect that, it would be naïve, my motivation to take part was neither money nor fame because it’s an independent movie, I wouldn’t expect that, we all knew that so that would be nice, but I just wanted to do such projects. I’d like to do more in England, as it’s very interesting for me as a pole, everything is new.

What attracted you to the role?


Jakub: I was attracted because it was an adventure, and the story is quite dense, a lot of things going on, interesting scenes, interesting emotions. I would say I treated this as an experimental thing because I was alone here; I purposefully cut contact with my family. Trying to find something more of myself.

Dominic: Jakub is being modest, one thing I’ve really enjoyed about the limited audiences that have seen it so far, people who don’t know the leading actors in this film, they say God! Who is that guy, the leading actor in this film!

Jakub: you didn’t tell me that!

Dominic: Haha! It’s really exciting because they have no preconceptions, this is an actor they haven’t seen, he’s come straight at them from under the radar, Jakub is very well known for his film work and television work in Poland. I was very excited to have him board.

Was the casting a difficult process?

Well I was certain I wanted Polish actors for the main two roles, twenty years ago Jeremy Irons played a Polish construction worker in the film ‘Moonlighting’ that today is absurd. You can’t have a British actor do that. Poland has a wealth of talent, but I needed to find two talented actors who could work English, which narrowed down my choices, in fact when it came down to it, there was only one actor I wanted to play Adam and that was Jakub and one to play his older brother and I was really lucky to get both of them.

You see Adam as being a hero? His role seems to be that of an individual with a difficult decision rather than a hero.


Dominic: when researching for the film, I asked my friends ‘if you knew you’re brother had murdered someone, would you shop them to the police or if they needed your protection would you protect them? And almost every single person said they would protect them. But they’re also thinking ‘I don’t like the fact that I’ll protect him even though I know I must’ that kind of tension is what the whole film is founded on. For me it’s a film of universal themes of brotherhood and morality, but set against very current phenomenon, but it’s not about that phenomenon, it’s opening questions about what it is to love and hate your brother at the same time.

Jakub: Many people ask if it’s a movie about Polish people in London, it’s not, it’s about immigration anywhere, I would like to see it this way. I wouldn’t treat the film as a story about Polish guys, but about brotherhood and immigration in general. The brothers do not represent their country.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Gomorra








Teenager gangsters involved in drugs, murder and arms dealing. Shocking. Or perhaps not so much anymore? A lot of films deal with this subject for two reasons, firstly these terrible things happen and secondly it’s entertaining. This film directed by Matteo Garrone is based on the book by investigative reporter Roberto Saviano, who experienced the subject mater of the Camorra in Naples which he describes as a “European problem” a Southern Italian organised crime ring, that is connected to countless criminal gangs who kill thousands of people, as many as three a day. The Camorra use their illegally acquired funds to invest in legal activity including the construction of the twin towers.

The cinematography is poetic, skilfully capturing the atmosphere of the diverse Naples environment ranging from abandoned buildings and farms to decaying flats in poverty stricken neighbourhoods. There are several central characters with whom the audience are encouraged to identify including a very young boy employed as a mule by the mob, an ageing mule whose life is in constant danger, a tailor recruited by the mob since childhood and most compelling of all a pair of resourceful teenage hoods, who inspired by Scarface and the arrogance of youth, believe they can take on the mob on their own terms. The various plotlines are taken from 5 separate stories in Saviano’s book, and are skilfully balanced in the format of this film.




Gommora is by no means a revolutionary film, and although it is revealing for those curious about the criminal underworld of Southern Italy, the actual subject matter has been dealt with so frequently in cinema everywhere from Britain with Kidulthood to Brazil with City of God and can be a bit tiresome after awhile. Despite the ‘seen-it-all-before’ aspect I enjoyed the film, the acting is convincing, the mise-en-scene a pleasure to behold, Garrone is clearly a skilful auteur as well as having an eye for the beauty of symmetry. The accuracy of the subject matter has been addressed carefully, and sympathetically. The effect is convincing and entertaining. It has already won the Grand Prize of the 2008 Cannes Film Festival and when it is released in Britain on 10th October, is likely to attract more attention.


Sunday, 7 September 2008

10 year old boy Vs The World

This short film called warlord is an amusing critique of Western society using the medium of tribal mysticism and a 10 year old protagonist, whose outsider perspective provides an alternative view of the mundane modern world.


 

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Sandwich special ops



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The biggest village in England bore witness to an unusual new phenomenon that signifies a significant landmark in the history of the cultural integration of and ideological submission to American fast food culture in England. On a rainy afternoon in Cranleigh, Sussex on the last day of April 2008 a SUBWAY sandwich shop was opened
I had nothing to do that day, and like most people in the world, am drawn to the promise of a free meal like a vulture to a carcass. It was in the manner of a vulture that I casually circled the newly built Subway in Cranleigh, waiting for its first opening when for one hour all customers would receive a free 6 inch sub and drink. My strolling past became less casual when I realised how many people were congregating outside the establishment, and suddenly my desire not to seem like a cheapskate, unemployed jackal hunting for scraps was replaced by a primitive instinct to get to the carcass before the other scavengers.
An old man was already arguing with 6 college kids in front of him, attempting to appeal to their sympathies, saying he was busy and needed to get the food quickly. He soon abandoned this angle and pulled rank with his age, furiously scathing the youths for their lack of respect,“a man of my age shouldn’t have to stand in the rain like this. It’s criminal!” The old lion, would have to wait his turn to feed. Younger and stronger rivals had beat him to the kill. The rain fell heavily but the crowd grew, undeterred by the weather, pushing and jostling to get closer. All worried that these other unworthy punters would get the free food that was rightfully and deservedly theirs!
I started to feel more and more ashamed. What was I doing standing shoulder to shoulder with these crazed villagers? it was like a queue for aid distribution in an impoverished third world nation. Suddenly this sleepy old fashioned English village had thrown rural manners and respect for personal space to the curb and was stamping on its face for a poor quality sandwich that would most likely give them the runs. A journalist from the local paper had come to document the spectacle. As he raised a camera to photograph the squealing swine crawling over one another, I covered my face in shame. Finally the doors were open and a mad rush of villagers of all ages, predominantly students from the nearby private school, all rushed forward salivating, their eyes rolling like those of cattle being forced into an abattoir. Finally I had my meatball sub, and like an ape with stolen fruit in hand I battled against the stampede to eat in the safety of my car, where none of the lunatics could get my food! As I left the building I saw a squad car pulling up to control the ever increasing crowd. I have never seen a gathering of any kind in a British village that was not communal in nature, but here the opening of a single fast food restaurant, with the promise of free food to the inhabitants of a relatively wealthy village reduced men to beasts in seconds.
Free giveaways and bargains have a tendency to bring out the beast in the British public, but this event indicated something slightly different. What occurs frequently in the culture of urban environments, occurred in a rural context immediately when an urban establishment was opened in the country. Had the local deli offered free sandwiches I doubt the police would have been called to control the crowds, perhaps the recognized brand name of subway was identified by the villagers in a different way, an impersonal way, in which the manners and customs they would normally uphold in the process of acquiring lunch were immediately discarded?

Mannequin chainsaw massacre

NICK PARK MEETS DAVID LYNCH!

David Firth is the twisted mind behind internet comic phenomena such as the peculiar 'salad fingers' animations and the amusing comedy adventures of young juvenile delinquent 'Devo' the chav. Firth created this artistic stop frame animation yesterday which indicates he may be taking his work in a more artistic direction. He maintains the dark and disorientating atmosphere of his previous videos, as well as the imagery of sex, mutilation and death with an underlying hint of childish humour. (watch in high quality)

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Challenging the Media War on Chavez.


Hugo Chavez - President of Venezuela

I had been planning a trip to Venezuela for some time now, I’d been reading about the history of the country; power handed from one group to the next, the natives and imported negro slaves being reduced, like the land itself, to commodities to be exploited by Europeans. The country has fascinated me since childhood, when I read Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World; conjuring up an image of Mount Roraima covered in luscious green Amazonian vegetation as far as the eye can see, rich with unusual and exotic animals. But this image of the country has been replaced in more recent years by that depicted by the media. I am filled with doubt and concern when I try to learn more about the reality of life in Venezuela under the rule of Hugo Chavez. There seem to be only two types of information distributed, both heavily coloured by emotional defence of deeply held ideological beliefs, whose assumptions are often so far apart, that it makes the work of a journalist attempting to fill in the gaps rather difficult.

So it was with a certain sense of optimism and hope that I stepped through the doors of the Venezuelan embassy in London on a pleasant April evening where his Excellency the Venezuelan ambassador Samuel Moncada was to give a speech. A speech in which I hoped the record would be set straight in regards to the relationship between Chavez and the people of Venezuela. I have no doubt that just as Chavez and Moncada say, the Western media is biased against his government. The night marked the 6th anniversary of the military coup that attempted to overthrow the government of President Hugo Chávez and to reverse Venezuela's social gains. Since then there have been ongoing attempts to isolate the Chávez government, including through the dissemination of misinformation. Sure enough, nearly all the news I have heard with regards to Venezuela has been negative; Student protests, widespread hunger, violation of the right to freedom of expression, exchanging insults with the king of Spain, dodgy oil deals with everyone from mayor of London Ken Livingston to President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Most of all - personal attacks on Chavez, who, if certain aspects of the media are to be believed, is taking away the rights of Venezuelans and destroying rival parties. I am assured by Samuel Moncada and the secretary and founder of the Venezuela Information Centre, Gordon Hutchinson, that this is all lies. Chavez, they say, is merely proposing a coalition of all the left wing parties, but opposition still exists and he allows free elections. The media say that Chavez has made a huge mistake allowing oil to be sold so cheaply in his country, and that many are starving, Mr. Moncada and Mr. Hutchinson say that social and economic progress has never been so advanced, and that the majority of their energy needs are met by hydro electric power, and that they are progressive in respect to investing in renewable energy technology.


Samuel Moncada - Venezuelan Ambassador



For every unsubstantiated claim made by Western journalists, both of liberal and conservative persuasions, there is a Venezuelan official or Chavez admiring socialist defender to call it lies and offer their own propaganda. To sort the truth from lies from half way across the world is virtually impossible for two reasons; firstly that the Western media is a propaganda tool obviously used as a means of perpetuating Western ideology and defending a global free market, secondly that some aspects of the media of Venezuela and many of the alternative sources of information such as the lecture of that evening, are merely a forum for socialist back-slapping and feeding the fires of anti capitalist conspiracy theories. The speakers at this evening's lecture were seemingly honest in that they acknowledged there are people in Venezuela, particularly middle class whites, who oppose Chavez, but they said as well as anti socialist students there are pro Chavez students. Their main concern was not just that the Western media makes up lies but more that it disproportionately reports political events in Venezuela with the intention of rallying Western support for deposing Chavez as a dictator despite the fact the vast majority of Venezuelans love him.

The evening ends with questions from the floor. Several people stand up to make vaguely relevant points about biased media broadcasts and socialist uprising in South America. There are also some contributions from bizarre individuals eager for any opportunity to shout their heads off about the evils of capitalism; none asks a proper question, which irritated me. I wanted to ask about speculations of Chavez being involved with the FARC and claims in the American media that evidence had been found on a laptop proving Chavez’ secret involvement with that Colombian terrorist organisation. Mr. Moncada doesn’t address this issue, but he makes it clear anyone who attempts to describe Colombia and Venezuela as being clearly defined separate nations with separate cultural traditions is misinformed; "they are as one" he exclaims, and many of the members of the Venezuelan government are Colombian or have Colombian ancestry. I walk away from the lecture even more confused than before. I respect Chavez’ government for making a stand against the Northern American superpower and raising the standard of living in Venezuela for those at the bottom of the pile but I have my suspicions that like in many Socialist countries, the voices of some citizens in Venezuela are being suppressed and the truth distorted amidst the barrage of lies being thrown back and forth by the government and their enemies, specifically European and North American media organisations.

“Come to Venezuela and see for yourself that the media are free and we have fully functional education and health care schemes” they say at the embassy. I intend to do just that.

(I travelled to Venezuela later that year)

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Cable Cut Conspiracy

The series of mysterious undersea telecommunications cable cuts have sparked a frenzy of shady internet conspiracy theories. There is as you’d expect no proof America cut the cables, indeed there is evidence to suggest the cuts were all made accidentally or by natural causes coincidentally in close proximity and within a few days of each other. But the fact remains America had both the means and the motives to disrupt telecommunications in the Middle East. This is a list of the cuts along with a map showing their geographical proximity.

Cable Type: Location: Date

FLAG telecoms Persian Gulf, 23rd JAN

SEA-ME-WE4 Marseilles to Egypt, 30th JAN

FLAG telecom Alexandria, Egypt, 30th JAN

FLAG telecom Dubai, 1st FEB

Suez canal-Sri Lanka, 1st FEB

Qatar-UAE 3rd FEB

Persian Gulf –Iran, 4th FEB

SEA-ME-WE-4 Penang, Malaysia, 4th FEB



It didn’t take long for people to notice that the cuts all happened around Islamic countries, so finger pointing to America came swiftly followed by stories of Islamic fundamentalist frog men and dolphins with lasers attached to their skulls. What an image, a blood thirsty religious freak with scimitar between his teeth, plunging to the depths of the ocean in the name of information restriction, that’s even less likely than cybernetic mutant marine mercenaries. The cuts have done little but slowed down phone and Internet services in the Middle East and South East Asia, the beauty of the internet is of course that the traffic will automatically be rerouted. That was the network’s original purpose when designed by the US military as Arpanet, if it’s supposed to be capable of surviving nuclear war a few anchors or mutant dolphins aren’t going to make a blind bit of difference to its global stability.

Mahesh Jaishanker, an executive director for Du, said, “The submarine cable cuts in FLAG Europe-Asia cable 8.3 km away from Alexandria, Egypt and SEA-ME-WE 4 affected at least 60 million users in India, 12 million in Pakistan, 6 million in Egypt and 4.7 million in Saudi Arabia.”

Before I focus on the likelihood of an American sabotage I’ll give a run down of official statements attributed to each of the cuts. Omantel telecoms, the largest Oman telecom company blamed a tropical storm, DU.AI , the 2nd largest telecom co. in the UAE blamed ship anchors as did FLAG. The cause of the FLAG cable cut on 23rd January has been determined to be a ship’s anchor, reportedly found abandoned near the cable. However others remain a mystery, particularly those in the Persian Gulf, although there were reports of a small earthquake in the region measuring 4.9 on the Richter scale occurring at 09:03 on 3rd February which may have caused the cuts. A quake in Taiwan 2006 cut deep sea cables, although it was a damn sight larger. So I suppose the jury is still out on that one. As for the cuts in the med near Egypt, the Egyptian authorities have surveillance footage of the area the cut occurred and have confirmed there were no boats whose anchors could have been responsible.

Looking at it from America’s point of view, the only country whose communications systems are worth attacking is Iran, admittedly the main American allies in the region, Iraq and Israel are unaffected, slightly fishy, if you’ll excuse the pun, but Iran lost less than 20% of networks, not even in the top 10 nations affected. Web conspiracies centred on the fact that one Iranian router was down which led to theories that the entire nation was down, in reality only Iran’s Kish island was cut off. Which is a very significant occurrence, considering Kish Island is the location for the highly anticipated Iranian oil bourse.

So now the conspiracy theories suddenly seem a hell of a lot more plausible. The launch of the Iranian Oil Bourse, a marketplace for oil, gas and various petro-chemicals trading exclusively in non-dollars is a severe threat to the US economy. The bourse was scheduled for launch between 1-11 February on Kish Island, which was delayed when the area was cut off. The Bourse rescheduled for opening on 27th Feb. 08. The Bourse has the potential to take focus away from Western trading centres, but it requires access to internet and phones. Russia, Japan and China are among the big players who would certainly use the oil bourse to lower their enormous dollar reserves and diversify them with Euros, as protection from the depreciation of the dollar. The cuts may have scared this lot though, if they think trade with Iran is going to trigger an American special ops hissy fit, involving a nonsensical attack on global communications systems, maybe they won’t bother.

William Clark, an American security expert, predicted that if Iran threatened the hegemony of the U.S. dollar in the international oil market, the White House would immediately order a military attack. It may be a coincidence but is certainly still worth noting that Saddam Hussein threatened to value oil against the Euro instead of the dollar, back in the early nineties, things didn’t work out so well for him after that. Economic apocalyptic prophecies dictate that the dollar is going to be as valuable as bog roll in the future, but there’s no way the US are going to let that happen without a fight, I wouldn’t hesitate to attribute the need to secure the international value of the dollar as a major factor for going to war with Iraq.

“How the hell are the U.S supposed to stage an international underwater sabotage without being noticed?” I hear you cry, it sounds like something off James Bond, so it’s only right we should be sceptical, but evidence suggests such an operation is well within their means and has been for decades. Operation Ivy Bells used US technology from the 1970s, it was a pod designed to attach to underwater cables, tap information, and detach from the cable and fall to the sea bed when they were raised for maintenance. Submarines capable of using this technology include the USS Parche and USS Halibut both built in the 1960’s and the USS Jimmy Carter of the SEAWOLF Class is a submarine capable of cutting the cables and remaining undetected.

The U.S/Israeli alliance already have the USS San Jacinto, equipped with a missile system that could be deployed in the event of conflict between Iran and Israel, docked at Haifa Port. There is no doubt then that they have the technology and the motive to stage such sabotage, but why would the American military go to such lengths to damage a communications system that they developed and is widely used as a tool for distribution of American intellectual property?

The Pentagon’s Information Operation Roadmap states that the Internet’s potential for free speech is in direct opposition to their goals. It clearly states that the Internet needs to be dealt with as though it were an enemy “weapons system.” This seems insane, but it is exactly what is detailed in the Pentagon document, obtained through a freedom of information request. Much of the document is blacked out, god only knows what else they have in store, but quotes like the one below give us an idea of what lengths the department of defense will go to.

“We Must Fight the Net. DoD is building an information-centric force. Networks are increasingly the operational center of gravity, and the Department must be prepared to fight the net.”

Maybe America had this whole thing planned out, I doubt it but even if they did, it doesn’t make much difference, because Iran will have their oil bourse another time. I don’t think it really matters whether the conspiracy theories are true, it wouldn’t surprise me if they were, but the point of this whole confusion is that it can be done, and in the future we may see the internet being made into a target, in an attempt to restrict the flow of information in and out of specific areas.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Youth Gone Wild - Violent Crime in the UK



You’ve probably seen the way the media have been crazy over youth crime for the past few months, but it’s hard to tell exactly what the deal is with young men in England being so prone to violent crime, what with the government telling us that crime is getting lower while public perception sees it is worse than ever.

This January’s headlines seem to have set the precedent for 2008, with 7 serious assaults committed by teenagers on victims whose ages ranged from 13 to 19 years.

  •  1st January – Henry Bolombi, 17 of Wyldfield Gardens, Lower Edmonton was stabbed to death near his home in Edmonton north London.
  •  14th January – a 16 year old girl was taken into an abandoned house in Tottenham by a gang of youths who raped her then burned her skin with caustic soda, police speculated this may have been an attempt to remove any DNA evidence. A 17 year old boy was charged in relation to the incident.
  •  16th January – A 13 year old girl suffered injuries to her leg and chest after being attacked with a craft knife. Her assailant, a 14 year old boy, had taken the knife from the art department at the sacred heart Roman Catholic school in Camberwell, London.
  • 21st January – 14 year old Jessica Knight was left fighting for her life in Manchester children’s hospital after she was found with multiple stab wounds by a passer by in Astley Park, in Chorley, Lancashire.
  •  21st January – 18 year old Louis Boduka, a student who was studying art and design at Southgate college was stabbed to death and another seriously injured outside shops in silver street, Edmonton. Detectives are investigating the possibility that the attack was connected to the murder of Henry Bolombi. Three youths aged 20, 16 and 14 were bailed to return in February, following their arrest and questioning at North London police stations.
  • 24th January – Alvin Cutts, 16, was seriously injured when a group of six teenagers attacked him, smashing his face with an iron bar, in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire.
  • 26th January – Fuad Buraleh, 19 from Hayes, Middlesex, died from head wounds after an assault with a blunt instrument, in Ealing, West London.

The tabloids have been wallowing in the horror of these incidents, spitting their misdirected hatred and confusion at whatever scapegoats come to mind. The home office statistics show that the perception of crime is out of step with the reality but even they have had to acknowledge the fact that gun and knife related violent crimes are becoming more common place, and after all, these are the only crimes that really matter. Who gives a shit if the police are getting better at catching speeding motorists and shop lifters, when the streets are so unsafe that even Home Secretary Jacqui Smith was forced to admit (damaging the carefully spun web of New Labour lies) that she is afraid to walk the streets alone at night in parts of London. Fortunately for her, they managed to re-spin it later with a transparent statement about Smith visiting a kebab shop in Peckham.



A quarter of all gun crimes last year were committed by under 18’s according to a channel 4 documentary last month which also claimed that in Glasgow, children as young as five are joining gangs. The British Crime Survey statistics for 2006/7 showed that young men aged 16-24 were most at risk, with 13.8% experiencing a violent crime. I know from experience that being a young male makes you a target for gang violence as well as police oppression, but despite the fact that the media are demonising the youth of Britain, the BCS stats show that the majority of the British public (75%), are not confident that the criminal justice system treats young offenders fairly.

So we all know that young men are the most likely victims of gang violence, and also of the misguided police procedures and reactionary media responses that arise from it, but it is also the case that young men are the most likely cause of this phenomenon. An issue that prevents the problem being addressed effectively is that the most outspoken people on the matter are those who have the least understanding of it. Misinformation is widespread and figures are often taken out of context. In 2005 a survey carried out by MORI for the youth justice board, found that 32% of children said they had carried a knife in the last 12 months, but 85% of those said they did so only for protection. The fact is, that carrying a knife, despite police warnings, is a form of protection, more often than an assault weapon. As a youth I was myself challenged by a gang on an occasion I happened to be carrying a blade so I whipped it out and saw them off. Without it I have no doubt I would have been beaten and mugged, possibly worse. However, those found carrying weapons are thought to be aggressors when usually they are nothing more than scared children.

The use of the word gang is dangerous and inappropriate in most cases. If I had a son, I would be far happier he was out with a group of friends than alone, because in a group they are far less vulnerable. Young men who take initiative to protect themselves from changes in society that are beyond their control (rising crime and immigration) are being made to carry the cross for legislative mistakes made before they were even born. Roger Grimshaw, research director at the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King's College London, agrees. "What we might be talking about is a few friends or acquaintances getting into a conflict," he says. "It's talking it up to say 'gang'."

Identifying the source of this change is a politically loaded subject that should be approached with caution. The right wing press point the finger to immigration, break down of the family unit, rap music and video games. There is a lot of truth in these arguments, but the fact that all these have been about for decades does not explain the more recent acceleration in violent crime committed by teenagers. The liberal press and politicians blame the legal system and the police for victimising young men, following the idea that if you give a dog a bad name it will live up to it.

Despite the questionable intentions of the press and politicians I believe there may be elements of truth to these arguments, but they are by no means an explanation. There are, however, some people like psychologist and doctor, Leonard Sax, who have identified what I believe is the first hurdle at which young men fall and turn to gang violence, 21st century British education. Dr.Sax made this statement to The Times.

“The message that boys are getting from the age of 5 is that doing what the teacher wants is un-masculine. Let boys tap the table; let them jump up from their seat when asked to spell a word. It won’t disturb the boy next to them, Girls are bothered by extraneous noise levels 10 to 40 times lower than the levels that bother men.”

The educational system is clearly biased toward female learning, the competitive instinct is being suppressed and young men are being thrown out of school so that schools can meet targets for examination grades. It's better from the governor’s perspective to “ask them to leave” than be the school who has students achieving low marks which reflect badly on their teaching abilities. There is of course no reason for everyone to be an academic, but what with many retail and manual labour occupations being taken up by eager foreign workers, usually willing to work for less, the prospects for those entering the world of employment without skills or qualifications are grim.

Working class white boys are the worst achievers in modern education with the exception of gypsies. The reason for this is hard to determine, but we can be certain a large number of young men are being forced to leave school without any qualifications and little hope of employment, feeling nothing but resentment for a society that pushes them around like animals, labels them scum, kicks them out of school, takes their DNA on record and gives them ASBO’s for hanging out with their mates.

I certainly don't think new measures like the proposed metal detector gates in schools will do anything to alleviate feelings of victimisation in the minds of Britain's young men.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Shaun Bailey - the Tory tough guy


Shaun Bailey - the Tory tough guy

The fog on the Thames hung over Hammersmith as if from a Dickensian scene. I was out freezing my fingers to the bone, waiting for Shaun Bailey, prospective Conservative MP for North Kensington, who was meeting a mainstream men’s fashion magazine for an interview about his clothing. When, exactly, politicians became associated with style, I don’t know, but that, it seems, is the world we live in now. I took this opportunity during my internship to ask Mr. Bailey a few more pressing questions in an effort to get some insight in to what direction Mr. Cameron was taking the party.

Shaun Bailey is by no means your average Tory. He is a heavy set, bald headed black man, who was brought up by a single Mum in his constituency of North Kensington. He’s is proud to represent the community he grew up in, saying, “I understand it better than I do a community of pig farmers in Berkshire!” Perhaps having a dig at me, A Berkshire country boy, hijacking this photo-shoot for my own unsolicited and unauthorised interview. He claims he avoided the perils of an impoverished black community - drugs and violent crime - by getting involved in the army cadets, which taught him discipline and gave him what he describes as an appreciation for British culture.

I don’t doubt Mr. Bailey when he says he cares about his community; he has worked for years as a social worker and running charities to help people from disadvantaged backgrounds in Britain. Despite his admirable CV, his views come as a surprise on some issues. He says that Labour is ripping off the working class of Britain by making them dependent on the state. In his words, “we’re born with only one instinct, to suck.” I can see where he is coming from, but I wonder what alternatives he could propose to the welfare system.

Youth crime is a major issue to Bailey. He says he was stabbed, that crime is a problem and he blames things like MTV, which he says subjects impressionable young men to graphic sexual imagery, and glamorised violence which encourages dissidence and anti social behaviour. Despite this, he admits to being a fan of MTV bass and challenged me to watch the channel without feeling horny. I think I’ll pass. This struck me as somewhat ironic; I am not keen on MTV myself, and modern society is undoubtedly somewhat desensitised to sexual imagery in the media, but if he hates media institutions that broadcast sexual imagery so much ,what’s he doing on a shoot for a magazine whose front covers are often plastered with the greased up, spread legs of pop stars and actresses?

He has no time for liberal policy on crime, “The liberal democrats are ludicrous!” he says referring to the rival party's policies on crime. Clearly Bailey isn’t a supporter of the softly softly approach on young offenders, but I was unable to pin him down on exactly what measures he would like to see taken to reduce crime. Maybe something along the lines of the military discipline he experienced in his youth? After all, Cameron is calling for a return to conscription.

Race is clearly going to be an issue for a man like Bailey; he just doesn’t fit into the stereotype of a Conservative MP candidate. Race aside, he has an obvious London accent, and an easy-going humorous nature. He says his black mates see him on TV and are amused by his extensive vocabulary and tuxedos, although he admits, he only dresses very smartly when his party require him to, saying “you have to be a team player.” He feels that race is still an issue that needs to be resolved in Britain, supporting the notion of a public apology for the "atrocities of racism", which he believes would not only resolve feelings of victimisation amongst black communities but also would relieve middle class white guilt, which he identifies as being a source of a lot of problems in the nation. But how would yet more grovelling and apology relieve the issue of white guilt?

The photographer had asked him to bring some items with him that he liked, he brought an RC car, a CD of Martin Luther King speeches and most interestingly from my perspective, Frank Miller’s version of Batman “The Dark Knight Returns.” I couldn’t resist asking him about comic books, being a fan myself. His comic book fascination started for him, as with most, as a child. He got a job at a comic book shop on Portobello road (weirdly, so did I), which he said was the best job he could have imagined having (although his Mum was pretty pissed off when his boss used to pay him in comics). I said I was surprised he was a Batman fan, what with Batman being the rich kid of the superhero world; he didn’t seem bothered by this, saying that it was only Miller’s batman that intrigued him, on the grounds that the heroes he prefers are the ones who really "fuck up the villain". It seems you have to be cut throat in modern politics. His favourites in childhood were Hulk and Thor, and he admits that they had two major effects on him; firstly that he did a lot of weights to get beefed up like the toned bodies of his illustrated idols and secondly the idea that those who are strong should protect the weak.

So, is Shaun Bailey a super hero for Black British citizens? His intentions seem sincere, he is well respected within his constituency (several passing joggers and cyclists stop to pay their respects to him, one even asking how he could make a donation to the party, another bursting into a round of applause after overhearing his passionate speech to me and the stylist on the shoot). But I am ever the sceptic, whilst it is refreshing to hear some common sense being spoken from a politician, I get the feeling Cameron is assembling a team of faces that look good as opposed to a team of people regardless of race and gender who are best for the job.

Bailey stresses a difference from his beliefs and that of the Conservative party of the 80's. A Thatcherite he aint. He believes the NHS is a symbol of Britain and is appalled at how the Labour government have constructed a system of targets that are set by people with no real understanding of hospitals. He suggests giving power to the hospitals to run themselves; I inquire whether he supports any system of privatisation of the health service which, to my relief, he denies.

He is an outspoken euro-sceptic, saying that New Labour have put us so far in debt that even the French with their spiralling national debt are warning us,
“When the French say you're in too much debt, you’re in trouble!”
 He doesn’t go in to much detail about his mistrust of Europe, but makes it clear he thinks that European authorities and New Labour are ripping off the British public, and I could see he was pretty angry about that. He say that it is easier to jump onto a band wagon late than to jump from a sinking ship.

One issue which we touched on really intrigued me - getting back onto the subject of crime and the streets, I ask him about the new proposals for stop and search. Although these proposals are being made by Labour, its obvious the Tories will lap them up like a bat at blood. I realise that Bailey is likely to have a far better understanding of the realities of police oppression than me so I was surprised when he said he supported restoring police power for searching.
“You don’t seriously support a return to the suss laws do you?” I asked. His reply was difficult for me to argue with, “We’re the ones who get stopped and searched yeah?” referring to black men,
“but we’re also the ones who get shot and stabbed. I’ve been stabbed, It’s not fun!”

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Your Body is not Your own!

And so it came to pass that all men would unite and become one in the eternal struggle against their own limitations!

The following is a satirical article written in 2008 regarding the threat posed to bodily integrity.

Put aside the arrogance of the sociopathic belief that you may allow your body to bend and twist in the ceaselessly flowing waters of time! No longer shall it be acceptable for a man’s skin to wrinkle and temples grey, just as an oak’s trunk twists and knots, and its leaves wither and die with each autumn. Repent those among ye who believe your bodies to be your own! Like a rented vehicle on a lost weekend, you dare to call damage to your body irrelevant as long as the present is a time which brings meaning and joy to your life. You are sick for thinking this and shall not be forgiven; not by your god, not by your employer, not by society and not by your government!

You have been lent a tool for the benefit of others. Whether or not you wanted this gift is irrelevant. It is yours and you must carry it to a death that is no more yours than life. To prolong the usefulness of this implement is the means by which you may earn praise from your masters. The maintenance of these tools is an extremely costly and tiresome affair. The NHS saves the weak and the selfish with the credit earned by the sweat and blood of all those that have preceded you and those with whom you coexist. Give thanks to your superiors for they are merciful to spare you the uncertainty of death in favour of a guarantee of unnecessarily prolonged suffering, and increased productivity. For the harder you work, the more the suffering of your existence will become apparent and the more grateful you will be that you exist. You prolong the lives of countless others who would sooner be dead, had they the means to comprehend the futility of their efforts. If they were selfish enough not to see the glory of the communal will, they would merely exist as individuals with the concerns, hopes, fears and convictions that an isolated mind must suffer instead of choosing to shut out those negative thought processes and acknowledge one's existence as a part of a whole, a whole whose movements and intentions are beyond the simplistic understanding of individual thought.

It is these selfish thinkers who are draining our society of its momentum. They disrupt the productivity of the hive by refusing to acknowledge it as a greater form of good. Any work done against the will of the whole is counter productive and a naïve waste of precious life resources. Any communication made to gods outside designated centres of worship, is not worship but insanity. It is the mind of the individual turned in on itself and against the rest of us. It is time these types were rooted out and made to pay for their arrogance!

You see, whenever a man chooses to stay home with his family, he abandons his responsibility to the whole. Whenever a man takes a drink, he vandalises the vehicle which is a part of the whole and in his ungracious arrogance insults those who have nurtured his life to this stage! It is time that all men in our land are made to eat, drink and lead lifestyles which ensure their body projects an image that is pleasing to the eye of those that perceive it, particularly the all seeing eye of your master. Ageing has been accepted as an unstoppable force by those weak willed fools who would bow before death as inevitability. Those who bow to death turn their heads on our great society! Decay is to be hidden, so as not to offend those, who, upon beholding the grim spectre of age are reminded of their own mortality and thus may be fooled into believing their contribution to the whole is futile!

When your teeth fall out you must wear dentures,

When your hair greys you must dye it to feign youth and deny death!

When your interests become outdated, speak not of them to the young, lest you remind them of how easily ideals and cultures are trodden under foot as the stampede of modernity presses on ever harder, crushing those who can’t keep up, just as those who push in the opposite direction shall be crushed also.

When your face becomes wrinkled you will buy the appropriate creams, balms and lotions to defy time itself. So too must you follow the command of your superiors made clear for you in bold print on glossy paper, you will buy exactly what you are told to;

what berry from foreign land,

what teas,

what chemical supplements and new-age dietary requirements are dictated to you.

You are responsible for maintaining your body, because it is not yours, it is ours and if you fail to look after it sufficiently, you will have to answer not to a God, but to us, and the We. The whole is what really matters!

If you should fail to heed the relentless warnings from your masters, from magazines and TV screens, then you should feel the shame that the whole will bestow upon you for your arrogance. It is sociopathic in this day and age to expect your comrades to endure the sight of unconventional aesthetics. Your face, your body, or even your character shall be surgically restored so as to be comparable to a model of youth, subservience and functionality.

Technology must be used to make up for the mistakes of nature!

Not only shall time be our enemy, so too shall space!

Your thoughts must be made public as mine are now; your visage must be broadcasted to all who wish to see it. Your movements must be recorded and monitored, for your safety and for the safety of society; to remain in a small community is to accept inferiority, to be an object of ridicule for all. How dare you think you have the right to restrict the potential contribution your body could make to society by serving those only in the immediate area of your origin. You will not be able to stay anywhere for long now, as movement is to be a necessity, and all movement shall be monitored by your masters, as every movement is a drip of water added to the information ocean that is assembled for our protection. Do not avoid the watchful gaze of your electronic guardians, perched atop schools, banks, post offices and churches, these cybernetic gargoyles are our new angels, informing our lords of all our activities, punishing those who oppose the will of the masses.

Do not participate in public protest, know only what you need to. You need not identify your enemy, nor ask yourself moral questions, for the limitations of acceptable ethical boundaries will be made clear to you by the media. Your enemies may be your neighbours or they may be of a strange alien culture, in any case, you need not know of their beliefs, nor their motives, only their intent to disrupt the stability of the whole. You will ostracise and victimise those who attempt to distribute information that makes people feel uncomfortable. For the discomfort of the listener is surely evidence that the words falling from the speakers' lips are poison, and that they are intended to cloud your judgement and undermine the integrity of a united society. The discomfort felt when you hear people speak of difference is evidence of your loyalty and obedience. Be proud of this and hate those who would challenge our belief system. They are demons and disorder is their only desire. Suspect them everywhere, seek them everywhere, and when you find them, show them no mercy. You need not pity those who turn their backs on the stability of united society; they have polluted their minds with hatred and their bodies with toxins.

For your own sake, be pure of mind, think of yourself only in the pluralistic sense, be pure of body, accept only the toxins authorised for consumption by your superiors. For your body and your mind are not your own and are needed for the pursuit of higher things than you could possibly comprehend. Above all remain useful.

Rowsell 18/02/2008

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