Here to be Heard

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Never saw The Slits but the almost breathless start to their cover of “Heard it through the Grapevine” is a classic, applauded by a member of the audience who asked how it had come about to find that the reggae producer brought in from Island Records couldn’t get it right and a new producer on their first record brought it together.
The Guardian review of the documentary expresses disappointment with the film so I had gone for the experience of the event, including a Q&A like that.
My question was on the claim by a journalist (check) that ‘without The Slits, there would have been no Madonna’. “Were they disappointed with today’s music scene“?  Turns out the quote came from Madonna at the outset appearing to copy Viv Albertine‘s fashion sense.
The documentary is a bit of a mess, and the second half not good, but the first half is compelling, especially for the nostalgia.  And the Slits were part of that magic time when youth music was so good.

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GBS

My.Astonishing.Self 0 GBS puppet
BBCtv documentary that tells the story of George Bernard Shaw playwright and Socialist, who achieved so much, including helping to found The Labour Party.
My Astonishing Self: Gabriel Byrne on George Bernard Shaw also reminds of the bits that went wrong, like his celebration of dictators in the 30’s.
But loads of great stuff, including the puppet.

T. Rex was not what we were taught

Recommend “The Real T Rex with Chris Packham”, on BBC2 tv.
Main point – many dinosaurs were much more like birds that we’ve previously imagined.
He announced the making of this programme at the opening of the Chinasaurs exhibition (at Wollaton Hall in June), explaining that our popular perceptions of dinosaurs were wrong.

I must have remembered what he told me was wrong cos I’ve since being telling people the T. Rex was covered in feathers and only had a high-pitched squeak.
Perhaps they’ve learnt more since.
I told hom the public might not accept a new T. Rex.  He told me quite clearly – it was the truth!

The Vietnam War documentary

The Vietnam War poster lvscwej (2)
Telling the story of a war that figured so heavily in the news broadcasts of my childhood.
The war kinda feels other worldly in an era in which opposition forces are taken out by drones.

The TV documentary series by WETA-TV and Florintene Films is compelling.  You learn so much.  (Note, it cost $30 million to make.)
The piece on the memorial was just one of the special pieces.
Ditto, the napalm attack that caught innocent children.
The point blank execution on camera of a Viet Cong agent during the Tet offensive.
A reminder that the North Vietnamese communists could be cruel too.
John Kerry’s testimony on Capitol Hill.
(It’s possible that bits were missed out – e.g. peace initiatives in the early sixties.  Possbilby a tad harsh on the new regine given what they followed, and that they were to throw out the Khmer Rouge.)

So much to take in, but just one excerpt especially pertinent to today …
Episode 5 showed John McCain being interviewed by a French journalist having been shot down in Vietnam, ejected too low from a plane out of control, broken 3 limbs and having them reset without painkillers.
In the interview, his voice is trembling. He was interviewed because he was the son of a US General in charge of their military in Europe.
He was beaten up afterwards, because he had not been grateful enough to his captors on film.
Years later, he was to be ridiculed, told heroes don’t let themselves be captured and only recently, mocked cos of the physical symptoms he has as he is fighting cancer.
America, get a grip.

An Inconvenient Sequel

an inconvenient sequel
“An Inconvenient Sequel” to “An Inconvenient Truth” and Al Gore has decided the way to go, after all Trump has said and done, is to say we need to act on climate change anyway, and even if aspects look bleak, plenty of movements for radical change have reached this stage before the final breakthrough.
So he shows –
how people moved to get India on board for the Paris declaration agreed last year,
– how Chile has gone from 500MW of solar power generation to 13.3GW in less than a year,
– how a right-wing Texas city mayor embracing the new energy technologies cos it provides better value for money, counter to the new kind of denial that the alternative energy technologies can work in reality.
He celebrates the DSCover satellite taking full pictures of the planet earth every day.
Meanwhile, dramatic images show –
– a Greenland glacier popping in the warmer temperatures;
– Hurricane Sandy flooding New York before the year he predicted; and a typhoon ripping through the Philipines;
– what “rain bombs” look like;
– the Zika virus spread through the USA being more widespread than predicted and ridicules the public health response;
– that whatever else has beset Syria, the problems started with a drought longer than any known for 900 years and 1.5 million climate change refugees.
So action is needed.
Reviewers have not been kind to the movie, but I found the points it made stuck, especially the point on Syria. Go see.

James Baldwin and Jermaine Jenas

I am not your Negro” is a presentation of a 30 page draft by notable and nationally known American commentator and writer, James Baldwin, who was often an effective communicator of the oppression black people in America suffered, and was emphatic in expressing that problem as an American problem, and not a black problem.
He knew, and was despairingly affected by the murders of, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.
Billed as a documentary, but more an illustrated editorial – and none the worse for it – the piece covered wider issues – disappointment that wealth had not brought happiness, and also brought a reluctance to hold serious views.

And then a post-screening debate.
Straight into damning mainstream education, talking up alternative schools, emphasising development of the individual and absence of any common vision or programme.
And *they*, they, expressed concern about the dominance of the right.

At some stage, some of the people present might put a documentary together about the history of Nottingham, though it seems likely any such production is likely to focus on 1958 and the race riots.
And could any such documentary do any worse than BBC 3 tv’s “Teenage Knife Crime” – first broadcast on 3 April and filmed last December.
Host is Jermaine Jenas, Nottingham born and bred.
Notts. Police refused to co-operate and when you watch the production, you get why.
Relative stats., not absolute; wild statements from Jermaine at the end like “thousands” with no justification; ordinary streets like Holgate Road filmed for an interview in the dark that makes it look like a sinister place; even silhouettes of weeds on a wall filmed at night to make Nottingham look sinister; no challenge to statements of teenagers being interviewed; allowing the notions of rivalries between neighbourhoods to go unchallenged; music to set your nerves on end.
No proper analysis of what is no longer done that might have mitigated problems and no mention of cuts to public services, although there was one moment that talked about “we” are letting the kids down.
You can’t watch a film made in your city and often in your ward without having some thoughts about what more to do.
But it would be nice if Jermaine Jenas could do the same.

O.J. – another documentary

Another telling of the O.J.Simpson story, this time a documentary that explains the society of Los Angeles that led to the hard beliefs that probably led to Simpson being found not guilty of the murder of his ex-wife and a waiter.

However, as juror no.2 points out, the police and the prosecution messed things up – failing to keep the murder scene uncontaminated; taking a suspect’s blood to the murder scene; asking Simpson to try the glove on in court; using a (apparently previous) racist police officer as a detective.
Seven and a half hours telling the story more fully than I’ve seen elsewhere.
O.J.: Made in America” is available on BBC tv i-player.
A complement to the terrific 2016 tv drama series (yeah, where are the dramas about inncocent black people being found guilty?)