Now, here’s something rather intriguing and strange. This wartime (1943) short film encouraging the viewer to get their cards and presents in the post in plenty of time for Christmas has a deliciously surreal feel to it (particularly the distinctly odd final scene!). It’s one of a huge number of public information films made by and starring the wonderfully expressive and deliberately bumbling actor and director Richard Massingham (1898-1953), and can be found in the British Film Institute’s fascinating National Archive.
If you’d like to see more of the BFI’s holdings, visit their website or check out their excellent YouTube channel – I’ve been having a thoroughly enjoyable rummage through the latter and have found some fantastic vintage festive film treats for you, which I’ll be posting in the run up to Christmas…
And if you’re a bit disorganised and haven’t even started thinking about Christmas yet, you can find this year’s last posting dates for cards and parcels (sent from the UK) here.
Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.
- as teacher John Keating in ‘Dead Poets Society’ (1989)
Advice for us all, however old we might be. And his life was extraordinary.
Robin McLaurin Williams: 1951-2014.
Rest In Peace, Genie.
Grasp the Nettle is the latest film from director (and friend of Another Kind Of Mind) Dean Puckett. This documentary explores the experiences of a disparate group of activists who came together in 2009 to create a sustainable community outside of the mainstream on a patch of derelict land at Kew Bridge, west London. I was involved in this project too (indeed, it was at the Kew Bridge Eco-Village that I first met Dean and his ever-present camera!), photographing and writing about the site as it grew and changed over the eleven months of its existence. It would be true to say that this was a place that inspired me both practically and creatively – and I wasn’t the only one.
Here, Dean describes what inspired him to make a film about the Eco-Village:
There was an intoxicating energy about the place, a sense of freedom from a system which many of us recognise is unequal and destructive. Yet this rag-tag bunch of occupiers defied conventional stereotypes of the ‘ecowarrior’. Most of them were ordinary people from different walks of life – some were students, others were former professionals. And they had come together to not simply occupy a piece of land, but to transform it, bit by bit – in an exciting and unnerving sense, creating their own reality outside the system. I wanted to truly understand this emerging hotbed of radical practice that was both outside and inside wider society, the people involved, and the way they understood what they were doing.
So he got his camera out – and the result was Grasp the Nettle. Having been successfully screened at a number of festivals, the film is now available online for anyone to watch – wherever, whenever and for free. I’ve posted it above, so now it’s your turn to meet the inhabitants of Kew Bridge Eco-Village and see what you think…
Long-time readers may be familiar with Dean’s name from my posts on ‘The Crisis of Civilization’, his previous film collaboration with Lucca Benney and Nafeez Ahmed – which is also available online if you haven’t yet seen it.
Sorting through a large file of newspaper clippings this afternoon, I came across this 2008 article from The Times on the subject of the legendary and late-lamented British music TV show, Top Of The Pops. The article quotes Julian Cope on the subject of his 1981 appearance on the show with Teardrop Explodes. If you know anything about Cope and his eccentric working methods, you’ll soon realise that this was no ordinary TOTP performance – in fact, he had dropped some acid beforehand, which probably wasn’t particularly sensible under the circumstances, since:
The piano started melting and I was wading up to my thighs in it by the chorus.
I dread to think how much mess that made….
Just say no to melting pianos, kids.
As we’re now well and truly into the party season, here’s some very good advice on how to get the best out of your festive bash from the late actor and professional hellraiser Peter O’Toole. Does this perhaps describe your work Christmas party?
Fornication, madness, murder, drunkenness, shouting, shrieking, leaping polite conversation and the breaking of bones, such jollities constitute acceptable behaviour, but no acting allowed.
I’m sure O’Toole both hosted and attended many an epic party along such lines, although I’m not sure he’d remember much of it the the following day – after all, this was a man who once self-deprecatingly said:
I loved the drinking, and waking up in the morning to find I was in Mexico. It was part and parcel of being an idiot.
Idiot or not, he was a great actor in his time, and the worlds of theatre and film are lessened by his passing – they don’t make them like Peter O’Toole any more. Raise a festive toast in his memory at the next wild Christmas party you go to…
Here’s something I’m really excited about. This is the trailer for Grasp The Nettle, the brand new film from some of the team behind the successful indie remix mash-up documentary The Crisis of Civilization (2011). Filmed during the immediate aftermath of the 2008 banking collapse and beyond, Grasp The Nettle follows the lives and experiences of an eclectic group of activists involved in two radical social projects in London – the Kew Bridge Eco-Village and the controversial Democracy Village in Parliament Square.
After many requests from fans of the film and much hard work from the Crisis Team, it’s finally here… Yes, The Crisis of Civilization has, at long last, been unleashed online and on DVD!
You lucky people out there can now WATCH THE FILM FOR FREE ONLINE whenever you want. You can also DOWNLOAD THE FILM FOR FREE, and BUY THE DVD (which comes with lots of lovely extras) – all of which means that now you too can put a screening on in your community at any time and spread the word to your friends and family…
Remember, if you decide to buy the DVD, you can be safe in the knowledge that in doing so you are helping to support the project (which has been created on a shoestring by a small and dedicated group of people volunteering their time, skills and energy) in the important job of getting the film out to as many people as possible.
So tell your friends and share the links. Everyone should see this film!
Watch it. Download it. Buy it. Screen it. Share it.
Really exciting news reaches me from Crisis of Civilization HQ – from March 14th 2012 at 7pm UK time, everyone will be able to watch and download the film online for FREE, as well as being able to buy the DVD from the Crisis website or from Amazon!
The DVD will be available in both PAL and NTSC formats – which means that anyone can put a screening on now, wherever they are in the world – and comes in lovely eco-friendly recycled packaging (of course!) with over an hour’s worth of extra goodies for you to enjoy, including deleted scenes, remix films, and additional interview footage.
You’ll also find a range of subtitles in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Swedish and Chinese, which have been expertly put together by an amazingly dedicated bunch of linguistically talented volunteers.
There’s been lots of interest in the release already, with reviews from the Transition Voice website and the independent film magazine Little White Lies, as well as a great response from the BAFTA-winning film-maker, Nick Broomfield, who described The Crisis of Civilization as “a unique film. Everyone should see it”.
I know my readers love a challenge – and here’s a really exciting one from The Crisis of Civilization team!
If you’re into film-making, you’re invited to take part in their Remix Film Challenge. Using audio, archive film footage and music, you too can make your very own Crisis-style sequence – and be in with a chance of winning an A1 poster and a DVD of The Crisis of Civilization (released in March 2012) in the process.
Detailed instructions on exactly how you can get involved, along with lots of links to download the audio files and to find archive footage – as well as other links to some useful editing software – can be found here.
You can also find out more about the archive film footage used in The Crisis of Civilization and watch some of the team’s favourite moments from the archives here.
Spread the word – tell your friends and start Remixing!
You may have noticed that I’ve been a little quiet on the blogging front recently. The reason for that is a very exciting one – my friends at The Crisis of Civilization asked me to help them set up their brand new website, which went live (after a lot of hard work from the web team!) last week.
There’s already lots to read, watch and listen to on the new site. You can find out more about the crises featured in the film, discover how The Crisis of Civilization came to be made, watch some of the archive footage used in the film, read how artist Lucca Benney created the film’s distinctive animated sections, listen to radio interviews with the director Dean Puckett and the writer and narrator Nafeez Ahmed, or even learn how you can help by subtitling the film or by putting on a screening yourself!
And on the subject of screenings, I have some equally exciting news…
After last week’s successful London premiere at the Whirled Cinema, we have three more FREE London screenings of The Crisis of Civilization coming up in the next few weeks! Forget the consumerist excess of Christmas and come join the team for one, two or all of these:
15th December 2011 - Transition Brixton, 6-8 Robsart Street, SW9 0DJ – 7pm
16th December 2011 - UBS Bank of Ideas, 29 Sun Street, EC2M 2PT – 7.30pm
19th December 2011 - Tent City University at Occupy LSX, EC4M 8AD – 8pm
For more information on how to get to these venues, visit The Crisis of Civilization website here.