Monday, 21 April 2014

BFI Mediatheque Notes 2

Mister Melly is pleased to announce that this blog is now officially back from its holiday!

First up from me is more BFI Mediatheque business, with two items I saw a while ago during my blog holiday:

"Fighting The Bill"

This is a 1970 documentary, made by the Cinema Action co-operative, which is just over half an hour long and very much in the agit-prop vein.  The main overview of this documentary is opposition to the Industrial Relations Act, being ushered into law at that time by the Heath government.  Although "Fighting The Bill" does indeed cover this Act, there is a lot more going on as well.  There is a very strong pro-trade union, anti-capitalist and anti-fascist strand running throughout this piece, and various trade union members, left-wing activists and working class people are present to comment on the Bill, inflated council house/flat rents, the need for defending trade union rights and solidarity strikes, and the role of the working class in defending their own needs/interests and standing against the UK ruling class.  Sympathies and connections are made with various liberation groups around the world, including the Vietnamese fighters, and issues like equal pay for women (a big issue at the time) and anti-racist campaigning are also prominent here.

Although "Fighting The Bill" ends very suddenly (and hence no credits for this documentary), this is a very impressive and powerful piece of work, and still resonates today.  Although it is somewhat depressing to contemplate that the once powerful trade union movement has been decimated by successive governments, and the UK ruling class continue to play divide-and-rule with the working class (with devastating consequences), this documentary shows the power of unity and action when people get together for a righteous common cause.

I've not been able to find out a huge amount about the Cinema Action co-operative, but they look to have been formed following the worldwide political and social events of 1968, and trade union members were directly involved within them.  They have made a number of politically-charged documentaries since their formation, and I intend to track down as many of these as possible.

"Fighting The Bill" is an important document of contemporary political and social theory and action, and is definitely worth viewing; it surely deserves wider exposure and distribution as well.

Information on the Cinema Action co-operative (including links to documentaries information): BFI Screenonline site

"Blasphemy At The Old Bailey"

This is a BBC "Everyman" 1977 programme, which covers the events surrounding the prosecution (and conviction) of "Gay News" for blasphemy, following them publishing the poem "The Love That Dares To Speak Its Name".  This programme really falls into 2 parts: a documentary covering the events leading up to the trial, and a re-construction of the blasphemy trial itself.  The main defendant of this trial was "Gay News" editor Denis Lemon, and as pointed out at the beginning, he was (at the time) the subject of the first blasphemy trial within the UK for 56 years.  Both Lemon and Mary Whitehouse (head of the National Viewers And Listeners Association, and the person who instigated this trial in the first place) are interviewed, as are also various people involved in the gay liberation movement, and Christian groups and individuals.

The trial re-enactment is (of course) made up of actors and members of the public not involved in the actual trial itself, and features John Mortimer as Denis Lemon's defence lawyer, and starts with the trial judge complaining about pro-"Gay News" leaflets being handed outside the trial.  In addition, he sets the scene by stating the the prosecution of "Gay News" for blasphemous libel is valid.  The prosecution laywers concentrate intensely on what they consider to be the contentious elements of the poem in question, and charge Denis Lemon and co with increasingly virulent and homophobic remarks.  The defence take the line that the poem is simply a work of erotica, and not mean as a piece of anti-Christian slander, but by the time the closing speeches are reached, even Mortimer feels that the trial is already lost.  The end result and conviction is therefore a foregone conclusion.

The documentary segments cover Mary Whitehouse and her group quite heavily, and initially, Whitehouse attempts to come across in a "reasonable"manner; however, her own homophobia is soon exposed, and her closing remarks about feeling no ill-will towards Denis Lemon and "Gay News" ring very hollow indeed.  Although this programme gives a certain amount of space to gay rights groups and activists, the viewer can't help but feel that the "Christian" arguments and viewpoints ultimately are given more prominence.

Nevertheless, "Blasphemy At The Old Bailey" is an interesting documentation of a piece of UK gay rights history, and is worth at least one viewing, to see if nothing else, how attitudes towards the gay community, and indeed the LGBT community as a whole, have changed and developed since the late 1970s.

"Gay News" trial summary: "Pink News" article

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Blog holiday - mix recommends 1!

Whilst I come towards the end of my holiday, it seems a good time to consider the world of online mixes, of which there are a whole raft of, of course.  As it happens, one has just been put together that I feel is worthy of your time and attention.

This mix comes from John Eden (Uncarved website/blog, "Woofah" magazine, "Turbulent Times" fanzine, et al), and comprises of the selections he played out at the Housmans Bookshop benefit night last week.  Under the theme of conscious reggae and dancehall tunes covering the ongoing austerity crisis, John's mix can now be found right here.  There is a full track-listing available of this mix from the link provided too, giving you all the chance to track down and investigate these tunes further yourself.

More to come from this blog v soon!

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Blog holiday - blog recommends 1!

Whilst tis still the blog holiday season for me (but I'll be back soon!), I'm still keeping an eye on other bloggers - there is after all a whole world of blogging out there.  And I'm pleased to report that I have a blog post recommend for you right now.

This one is from the ever-reliable Disillusioned Marxist site, and this time, DM are covering attitudes towards transgender people.  This is an excellent, thoughtful piece, and I urge you all to read the piece, which can be found right here.  Disillusioned Marxist is certainly a blog to watch, so of course you'll be wanting to add this one to your bookmarks list....or indeed hit up DM through my own links list.

OK - tis all for right now.  More from this blog in due course!

Saturday, 15 March 2014

MellySingsDoom's Spring Break!

Hi all

I'm taking a little break from this blogging business for various reasons.  I have a couple of ideas to blog about on my return, and will put those together during my time away, and hopefully they will be of interest to anyone who reads this blog.

Many thanks to everyone who has taken the time to check out this place, and I hope that you have found at least something of interest round these parts.

So hope to catch you all soon, and I'll leave you with this tune to listen to as and when you get a moment - perhaps a somewhat obvious choice, but still one I very much enjoy to this day:

See you all on my return, and thanks again for coming to this place - very much appreciated.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Blog article recommends 1

This is an occasional series of blog post/article recommendations that I have encountered over the past few days/weeks, which I feel may be of interest to readers.  So without any further ado, here goes:

1.  An excellent article on the current Ukraine situation from the Dissident Marxist blog, which can be found right here 
2. Neil Kulkarni (F.U.N.K.) talks Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys et al), the Brit Awards, the NME and other related matters right here 
3.  An interesting piece on 50's and 60's UK youth culture, by the late cultural theorist Stuart Hall, at the History Is Made At Night blog, which is for you all right here 
4. Trapper Jenn's ongoing reviews and overviews of the US "big four" speed/thrash metal scene of the 1980's, which can be found right here 
5.  Hickeysonc's excellent music-based blog, with articles, mixes and so on - can be found right here 
6. A very interesting piece on the Parenting The Core site about teachers, and general attitudes towards them - can be found right here
7. Chus Martinez's own take on the Ukraine situation - note: "erotic" material included - can be found right here 

More blog recommends to come as and when I find them!

Also: RIPs to Marty Thau (Suicide co-producer, New York Dolls manager), Wayne Smith ("Under Mi Sleng Teng" creator/originator), Bob Casale (Devo guitarist) and Harold Ramis (director of "Ghostbusters", "Groundhog Day" et al).  And for the memory of Marty Thau, we have this:

Monday, 17 February 2014

BFI Mediatheque Notes 1

As part of an ongoing series, I will be doing blog posts of the material that I have viewed at the BFI Mediatheque at the South BankThe Mediatheque is a vital archive resource, free to use and available for all to access, and contains material such as feature films, documentaries, shorts, animations, TV archive material, and a whole wealth of other stuff too. I initially posted these details on the urban75 forums in early February of this year, but will be doing all future BFI Mediatheque viewing posts here.

"Blood Ah Goh Run" 

A 1982 documentary (co-directed by Menelik Shabazz) about the 1981 News Cross racist arson attack on a house in said area, in which 13 young black people died as a result (Wiki entry: ). This doc covers the families affected (including a couple of funerals), and also covers a protest march about this arson attack, which shows the police wading in with intimidation and violence (they came armed with riot shields, too). Frequently depressing, but essential viewing for those who want to know more about this despicable racist crime/murders. Note: The version kept at the Mediatheque looks to be incomplete (the Brixton footage is not present), and sourced from a VHS copy.

Archive footage of the New Cross Fire: ITN Source footage
BFI Interview with Menelik Shabazz on "Blood Ah Goh Run" and his other documentaries and films: BFI Documentary Masterclass
Complete "Blood Ah Goh Run" documentary available here: "Burning An Illusion" DVD, released by BFI 

"The Vanishing Street"

 A 1962 film directed by Hungarian-born film-maker Robert Vas, which is a compilation of film footage and stills covering the Jewish community in Whitechapel, from the early 1930's up till the early 60's. Every day life is covered here in all forms, with many street scenes of Whitechapel at the time, and people involved in everyday activities. The Jewish community is seen as a very active, close and vibrant one, so it's sad to note that the final footage shows housing clearances and the building of high-rise blocks, signalling "modernity", but also the effective break-up of the Whitechapel Jewish community. Directed with no commentary, the viewer is left to decipher the Jewish community footage themselves. An impressive documentary - could have been longer though!

Film reference: UK Jewish Film page on "The Vanishing Street"
Film available for online streaming hire: "The Vanishing Street" for hire at the BFI

"Man Alive" 

A 1972 BBC TV show, helmed by Desmond Wilcox. This show covers several disabled couples, who are planning to get married, and become independent as much as they can. The film shown highlights the (considerable) discrimination faced by disabled couples (and disabled people in general) at that time, and also shows the issues these couples face in order to be able to live fulfilling married lives. These couples are given plenty of space to give their own views, and overall this programme is a very sympathetic one. One caveat, though: some of the language used to describe disabled people dates the programme rather badly, and certainly wouldn't be acceptable today.

Disability Rights website: Disability Rights UK
"Man Alive" TV Series: "Man Alive" Wikipedia entry 

Friday, 14 February 2014

Homophobia in Russia: Channel 4 Dispatches "Hunted" documentary

I have been following the situation of the rise in homophobia in Russia for some time now, whether of the State-approved homophobia of Vladimir Putin (who insists on equating homosexuality with paedophilia -"leave the children alone", for example), or of the frightening emergence of self-appointed "vigilantes", who want a "clean" Russia free of so-called "perversion".

It is therefore timely that the Dispatches team at Channel 4 have just put together a documentary on homophobia in Russia, which has now been screened and is currently available to view on 4oD here - and many thanks to frogwoman of urban75 for giving me the heads up on this one. 

Without going out into too many details - simply because I insist that you see this documentary for yourselves - this programme exposes the sheer and virulent amount of homophobia in Russia today, in State and Church-sanctioned propaganda, in the complete disinterest of the police and authorities in dealing with this in any way at all, and most chilling and upsetting, the extreme intimidation and outright physical, verbal and mental violence that LGBT people in Russia suffer on a daily basis.  There's footage and "fan videos" of gays being persecuted, beaten savagely, kidnapped, and much worse.

We see various self-appointed "experts" and "activists" demanding that LGBT people effectively be wiped off the face of Russia (with many chilling threats of death being uttered), and worst of all, a self-appointed group of St Petersburg people calling themselves "Occupy Paedophilia", who claim to hunt down child abusers, but whose real intentions are given away immediately - their female "leader", a violent homophobe herself, seems to be dedicated to destroying the lives of gay men in Russia.

The tone of "Hunted" is completely anger making, frightening and depressing in equal measure, yet there is a small glimmer of hope, with cases of LGBT people fighting back against the system and widespread intolerance and hatred.  The programme ends on a very downbeat note though, with the Duma considering legislation that would enable the authorities to take away the children of same-sex couples into "care", and a gay man looking to lose his case of assault by a homophobe, as the system drags on the case interminably in the homphobe's favour (who is also supported by "Occupy Paedophilia").

As I say, as upsetting as "Hunted" doubtlessly is, it deserves to be seen as widely as possible, and Russia really ought to be taken to task in a big way on an international level on their rampant homophobia.  Mind you, with the EU contributing fuck all to challenging Russia on this and other human rights abuses, and the UK in particular being utterly craven and spineless, I'm not going to hold my breath on that one....

Solidarity with all LGBT people in Russia and beyond.