Thursday, May 15, 2008

Going Beyond TV

Going Beyond TV
The European Social Forum in London screened over 100 films from the world’s radical filmmakers. A month later, the International documentary festival in Sheffield screens a number of political films including ‘Control Room’ presenting behind the scenes of the Arab news network Al Jazeera. Sheffield expects a record turnout. Turned off by the meaningless ‘reality’ Tv, it seems that many of us are now seeking out alternative sources to gain a political education.

While a man eats himself sick in the anti-junk food movie, Supersize Me, oversized film-maker Michael Moore is leading the way in putting politics back onto the big screen. Fahrenheit 9/11 turns the heat up on the White House, and other filmmakers are tackling the world’s powerful institutions. ‘The Corporation’ puts the multinational on the couch to analyse its psychological profile. Being singularly self-interested, manipulative, irresponsible, lacking empathy and incapable of feeling any remorse or guilt, the verdict is clear: the corporation must be a psychopath.

Non-fiction movies don’t come much funnier than ‘The Yes Men’. When a group of activists set up a website posing as the World Bank, they felt no qualms about representing the million dollar institution to whoever sent them invites. Their corporate globe-trotting presentations to unwitting business leaders brings unexpected and hilarious results.

To prove that there is still life beyond the television set in Wales, the annual BEYONDTV video activist festival screens political documentaries and animation.
Hosted by radical film-makers, Undercurrents, the Swansea based festival will screen dozens of films such as ‘Cows with Guns’ and ‘Granny went to Palestine’ as well as ‘The Corporation’ and even a sneak preview of ‘The Yes Men’.

Paul O’Connor, co-producer of BEYONDTV, is delighted to see political documentaries back in the cinema.
“BEYONDTV has been a hotbed of activist films over the last five years and this year we will start with the political band Seize the Day, banned by BBC for being against the Iraq war.” he said.

The prevalence of ‘reality’ Tv probably marked the death of the documentary form on television. Reality Tv offers us ourselves at our most tedious. Glued to the everyday, we refuse to see beyond it. The passive viewing of a television set in our front room offers us only one solution to our boredom- consumerism. Owned and funded by large corporations, whose sole aim is to return a massive profit, how can modern television fail to deliver the consumerist message?

The shift of documentary film to the cinema is driven by censorship, by corporate monopoly and by political hunger. Contrary to conclusions drawn from poor election turn-out, people want a say in their future. The resounding success of Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11 acknowledges the public’s desire to know. And Moore’s forthright argument gives them an idea of what to do with that knowledge.

One of the main advantages for radical filmmakers of screening in cinemas is debate. Whilst in television land, your polemic is going out to a nation of couch potatoes who flip to the next channel as soon as the credits roll, the public space of a cinema, and the after-show drinks at the pub, invites discussion and maybe even action!
In ‘The Corporation’, Michael Moore encourages viewers to ‘go out and do something!’

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