A CINEMA WORTH FIGHTING FOR

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by Jack Brindelli

The Norfolk People’s Assembly have voted in co-operation with the Norwich Radical to establish a local Radical Film Festival, with the inaugural festival expected to be hosted in February 2015. As we begin to make provisions for that though, we need ideas, practical and fantastic and everything in between. The first organising meeting for the festival will take place on Saturday the 1st of August, at 3pm in the Playhouse Bar’s Playroom, and is completely open to the public. But why does a cultural project like this even matter in the depths of Austerity? Can we really be wasting our time on building imaginary worlds when our real one is under such threat?

Why do we even go to the cinema? Is it simply an act of escapism, distraction from the mundane and depressing Everyday that we all ultimately occupy? Is it for the adrenaline rush to distract from the pressures of tenancies and employment? Is it as Ray Winstone simplistically gurned, mid-munch of his popcorn in a particularly grating advert a few years ago, just for “the experience”? Perhaps it is, to an extent. But there is more to film than meets the eye.

A problem often cited by those new to the established Left, is that we often neglect how to communicate with those outside our own circles.

From the crackling silent comedies of the early 20th century, to the flickering fear of the mid-century horror boom, to kitchen-sink dramas, to animations and musicals and everything in-between, cinema has a magical trait of narrativising our deepest held hopes and fears. A problem often cited by those new to the established Left, is that we often neglect how to communicate with those outside our own circles. We are great at reeling off reams of statistics that support our point of view but – in the same way that Albert Einstein was never instilled with a passion for maths by being forced to chant times tables on repeat – there are precious few people who you could honestly say have been moved by percentages to brave police dogs, horses and batons in the name of social justice.

How do we go about catering to this though? Certainly I am not advocating the patronising tabloid-wretch splattered across particular party papers’ front pages, of course – I certainly don’t mean we should simply be using smaller words to appeal to the ‘poorly educated’ masses. I am writing in agreement with people like Owen Jones, who talk about the art of storytelling as a way to win people over. A million cold statistics will get you nowhere, even if you do phrase them in language simple enough you might have once found it in the little “Wot I reckon” box next to a Page 3 model. The real secret to mass communication comes from creating a narrative of events in order to appeal to our collective human experiences.

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If we really want to challenge the dominant narratives of austerity, of infallibility of the wealthy, and of the supposed naturalism of their way of life, then we must learn to embrace the power of narratives in our own right.

One of the ways we can start to weaponise sentiment in this manner is through film. I don’t just mean one or two token lefty films once in a while either – packing out a hall with the usual suspects to watch a film on why racism is bad – I mean a sustained attempt to develop modern progressive cinema from the grassroots up. That means moving beyond an editorial line on what needs to be seen, and providing a public platform for the films ordinary people feel need to be made, to tell the stories they need told.

If we really want to challenge the dominant narratives of austerity, of infallibility of the wealthy, and of the supposed naturalism of their way of life, then we must learn to embrace the power of narratives in our own right. And right now, across the country, indeed, across the world, hundreds of thousands of people have. The spread of new technology to create and share video content has seen thousands of people discover talents for telling stories, fact and fiction a-like, that can move people to action. But they need a platform.

Across the country, film festivals presenting amateurs an opportunity to shine have taken their locality by storm, from Liverpool to Bristol to Tolpuddle. As a son of Norwich, I don’t know why my city should be any different. This is a city of art, literature, creativity, and learning. There are film-makers everywhere ready to tell their stories of ordinary and extraordinary lives – some of whom probably don’t even realise they’ve got it in them yet – and without a platform locally beyond the extremely limited Norwich Film Festival, which is aimed mostly at providing polished national shorts with a slick marketing venue, these local talents will go wasted. Their potential to touch and change hearts and minds will be wasted. Our chance to forge a vibrant, three dimensional movement for change in Norfolk will be wasted.

To facilitate such a platform for people’s work, before we discuss anything else I can make these three pledges for a Norwich Radical Film Festival.

  1. No “produced by” date. There are precious few festivals offering radical film-makers an opportunity to screen their work – and so asking for films produced in the last year or so would undoubtedly mean a plethora of brilliant works going to waste, despite most likely still being relevant. If you’re sitting on a cinematic gem, old or new, we want it.
  2. No entrance fee. Film festivals often make a habit of charging nothing short of extortion for the privilege of entering alone – and if you don’t make the cut, they keep the cash. I can categorically state there will be no compulsory fee for entering a film.
  3. No film turned away. As long as the film is in-keeping with the progressive values of the festival, we will find a platform for your film, even if it does not make the shortlist.

It is a sparse foundation I know, but from this, I genuinely believe we can build something spectacular here in Norwich. If you would like to get involved in the early stages of the event, please contact us through the Hollywood Hegemony Facebook or twitter (@HegemonicHog) pages, or via the People’s Assembly email (norfolkpeoplesassembly@mail.com) and we will keep you posted regarding organising meetings and press releases in the coming months.

Let’s show the world our dreams don’t die easy, and that something more than a life of drudgery is possible. Let’s make something that speaks to people. Let’s make films.

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