The Angry Brigade: The Spectacular Rise and Fall of Britain’s Urban Guerilla Group
PM Press (2008)
The film traces the role played by anarchists exiled from Spain during the Franco dictatorship in inspiring anarchist movements in Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy, Turkey, Netherlands and the UK. It primarily focuses on the Black Cross, an international group providing material and psychological support for anarchist prisoners; the French First of May Group; and Britain’s Angry Brigade.
For me, the most interesting part of the film is the role of the First of May group in instigating the mass insurrection (and near revolution) that occurred in France in 1968.
The only serious inaccuracy in the film relates to the identification of German’s Beider Meinhoff gang as an organic First of May anarchist group. It’s now recognized as a Gladio operation heavily infiltrated (and possibly run) by CIA operatives. See The Secret CIA Program to Control Europe
Black Lives: Doom. Choosing Between Good and Bad in Black US Neighborhoods
The ninth and final episode of RT’s Black Lives series focuses on positive changes Black community leaders are making in Baltimore – against great odds.
It starts by profiling a Black barber who learned his trade in prison, after being locked up at 16 for dealing drugs. Coming out with a skill he could use to support himself provided a clear pathway out of illegal activities destined to send him back to jail.
They also interview a black postal worker who asserts he claims he never had the “nerve” to dabble in illegal drugs.
We also meet a former gang leader who founded Men Against Murder after getting out of prison. The group enlists the help of other ex-cons to monitor illegal street activities and partner with families to get kids out of gangs and off drugs. He talks about running a group that assists young people transition out of foster care (in most states, the foster system simply suspends services at 18, leaving many of their wards homeless and jobless).
There are also heartbreaking scenes following a young African American with a good resume and no criminal record in his unbelievably disheartening struggle to find a job.
Common Notions: Handbook Not Required
Directed by Carla Berman and Corine Browne (2016)
This documentary concerns a “youth liberation” space called The Purple Thistle a group of Vancouver BC young people ran between 2001-2015. This project was started by eight teenagers as an alternative to school. They involved a series of adult volunteers to sign the building lease, apply for grants and help them find mentors for their various projects.
The film features commentary by several activists and educational specialists who explain the phenomenal success of The Purple Thistle. They feel it’s a big mistake to exclude young people from the community by confining them to a classroom. At all levels, we need to focus more on teaching people to work collectively.
The only rules at The Purple Thistle were no alcohol, no drugs, no assholes (ie no racism, sexism or homophobia and clean up after yourself) and no sleeping (naps were okay). Kids at The Purple Thistle governed themselves via anarchist-based principles of consensus decision making and mutual aid.*
Most of the film focuses on on various creative projects Purple Thistle teenagers undertook.
The project was forced to close in 2015 due to funding cuts. (See letter to the community)
*The principle of mutual aid creates a safe space for people to ask for and offer help. It also promotes economic solidarity whereby no member of the community is allowed to go without.
Bound for Glory
Directed by Hal Ashby (1976)
Starring the late David Carradine, this is a feature-length biography of radical songwriter Woodie Guthrie. For me its greatest strength is its unflinching portrayal of the brutal poverty and physical violence (by corporate-hired thugs) of the Great Depression.
The film begins with Guthrie’s early married life in rural Oklahoma and his struggle to support a wife a two kids as a sign painter and occasional fiddler for square dances.
Hoping to find work picking fruit, Guthrie, along with thousands of other unemployed men, hitchhikes and hops freights to California. Those who don’t have at least $50 are stopped at the state line by Los Angeles police and turned back.
Penniless, Guthrie finds alternative entry and is sardined into a work camp with thousands of other out-of-state families. The massive worker surplus translates into starvation-level pay.
Guthrie falls in with union organizer Ozark Bule, who recognizes his talent and helps him land a gig with a local radio station. Owing to pressure from sponsors to censor his songs, Guthrie chucks it in (included a gig an agent lands him with CBS) to retain his political and artistic freedom.
Of the songs featured, my favorite is Do Re Mi about the blockade at the California state line.
Although the film can’t be embedded for copyright reasons, it can be viewed free at the following link:
Bound for Glory (1976 – Hal Ashby)
Subvertisers for London
Dog Section Films (2019)
“Subvertise” is the millenial term for what baby boomers call “culture jamming.” (See Culture Jamming: The Grassroots War Against Mind Control) Their aim is to minimize the societal threat from advertising and the commercial culture that has spawned it. The technique has the potential to reach millions of people, using humor to jolt them into questioning the status quo.
The British artists who engage in “subvertising” go much further than merely editing billboard ads. Typically they will replace an entire bus shelter or underground ad with a a professional-looking poster conveying an ironic political message. Examples in the film include
- Data Misuse is Our Business Model (Facebook, Google)
- Theresa May Will Follow Donald Trump to the End of the World
- Suck My Goldman Sachs (David Cameron)
- Fresh Mucus
- Sorry We Got Caught (Volkswagen)
They also make fake Royal Navy recruitment ads for suicide bombers and a fake street sign reading “Curfew: Social Cleansing 7-9 pm”
Culture Jam: Hijacking Commercial Culture
Directed by Jill Sharpe (2001)
Culture Jam is one of my favorite documentaries of all time. It describes a guerilla movement which started in the 1970s and was popularized by the Billboard Liberation Front. The goal of culture jamming is to counter pervasive the consumerist messaging in contemporary society.
The movement came to wide public attention with the publication of Canadian anarchist Kalle Lasn’s 1999 book Culture Jam: The Uncooling of America and the launch of Adbusters magazine
The main focus of the Billboard Liberation Front was to covertly “improve” on billboard advertising to help it more accurately reflect post industrial capitalism. Some examples below:
Other culture jammers featured in the film include a woman who operates solo pasting anti-consumerist stickers on cash machines and other high traffic targets and Reverend Billy from the Church of Stop Shopping. Filmmakers capture Reverend Billy and his flock praying with Disney Store customers in Times Square to help them resist their compulsion to purchase new Disney products.
The film, which can’t be embedded for copyright reasons, can be viewed free at Culture Jam
Directed by David Straub (2019)
This documentary concerns work by the Indian-German Peace Foundation to assist rural Indian villages in diversifying their economies. The goal is to make them less vulnerable to exploitation by the global commodities market. The village featured in the film is Dahnoli, which produces cotton. The Foundation is assisting local farmers in constructing a textile facility based on hand looms.
Most of Dahnoli’s current economic problems stem from the introduction, in the 1990s, of Monsanto’s BT resistant cotton seed. Although this genetically engineered seed initially increased yields, over time the cotton plants lost their resistance to BT and other pests and required increasingly heavy application of pesticides. As yields plummeted, farmers sought to return to traditional cotton seed, but it was no longer available.
Owing to the higher costs of patented seed and pesticides, many farmers became indebted to money lenders. Nationwide more than 300,000 farmers committed. Thousands of others have died from pesticide related health problems.
At present 65% of India’s population works in agriculture. When crops fail, many move to the big cities – where a total of 8 million live in slavery.