Monica Garnsey reviews Undercurrents 3, Conscious Cinema 2 and 'Life in the Fast Lane'
Squall 11, Autumn 1995, pg. 42.
Three canny things to do with a camera courtesy of Undercurrents 3; prove a policeman is lying by recording the time on his wristwatch; film your friend’s head being jammed in the gate of a cherry picker (a shot that later won a court case ); or strap a hidden camera to your leg and walk into the House of Lords.
When Undercurrents 2 turned the tables on the security forces with surveillance cameras by watching the detectives, it succeeded brilliantly in showing the way for the radical camera; to show the inside story, in technicolour, and in close-up, of the direct action events that are so distorted by mainstream media accounts.
And Undercurrents 3 provides another two hours of activist inspiration, including how to fight roads with cider and face-paint, protester’s amongst the shareholders in the Lloyds AGM, killing cars in Pollock, and bulletins from Northern Ireland, France, Holland, Australia and the U.S. The films are at their best when they state their case simply by presenting events, and less good when they veer into local news territory with slightly self-conscious interviews. But Undercurrents 3 has managed to recruit a new crop of natural performers, including the Green Man and the Anti Road movement’s very own beat poet in the form of Jeff, taking us on his anti-road trip to Carhenge (“I don’t think the protest is going to be entirely green,” worries his fellow driver. “I mean, I think they’re going to burn plastic.”)
But for the most part the footage is strong enough to do the talking. Highlights are thus the Mad Max style car torching in Pollock or the office invasions of ‘Going to the Top’; it’s so much more interesting watching an activist interrogating a sulky Managing Director over his own desk (“Do you think much about the ethical implications of your work then?”), than hearing her generalise about it afterwards, however articulately. Some campaigners are perhaps so used to justifying their actions to the unsympathetic that, even when preaching to the converted, they feel the need to restate their aims in the most general terms.
Conscious Cinema, the Brighton video magazine made with help from Small World, Justice! and giros, is on its second issue and going strong, with succinct and well-told stories about Newbury, Springfield, and Blue Peter style instructions for staging a French product boycott in Sainsbury’s. The films also benefit from Conscious Cinema’s excellent presenters, with or with or without plastic ears, who link the episodes from their vantage points in oak trees.
Neil Goodwin and Mayyasa Al-Malazi’s two year long M11 project is now complete; the result, ‘Life in the Fast Lane’ is an impressively coherent narrative of two years of direct action, from the Wanstead Common saga, through Wanstonia and Cambridge Gardens, explaining again the extraordinary build-up of anger and energy that culminated in the wars of Claremont Road, compiled from footage of many cameramen who were recording life behind the siege walls.
Neil is currently organising distribution; contact him with an S.A.E at 56a Crampton Street, London SE17.
To view this film free online - click here
Get your Undercurrents subscription from Small World, Box no. 5, 46 Rymers Lane, Oxford OX4 3LB; £32 Waged, £20 Unwaged, for 4 editions. Single editions are £9.50 waged and £6.50 unwaged. All prices include p&p. Undercurrents 4 will be out in December.
Ring Conscious Cinema on 01273 679544 for information about contributions or copies.