Last Saturday, I donned my highest heels and headed to Shaftesbury Avenue for the premiere of Just Do It, the crowd-funded documentary film about direct action in the envrinomental movement directed by wonderwoman Emily James.
I loved it. Not just for the honest yet loving portrayal of the young, and not so young, activists whose story it follows. Not just for the biting sense it leaves you with that you could, right now, be doing so much more to safeguard the planet for your children and grandchildren. Not even just for the close examination of the appalling way we often treat dissent in this country, a subject very close to my heart. I loved it for its joy. It is a truly joyful film, a film that lifts you up and makes you feel better about the world and your place in it. That is a serious achievement, and one about which I hope Emily feels very proud.
It’s a serious achievement when you think that this film was made for the most part outside of the traditional film-making industry. The sheer confidence and drive that Emily and her team must have had to keep going over the last two years is an inspiration to me as I continue my own modest project in heterodox media. In exchange for their troubles, they’ve maintained the trust and support of the activists who star in the film (many of whom were at the premiere last weekend), and it is the total access to this community that was granted to the film-makers that is what makes this film so unique.
Tonight is the film’s opening night (at the Ritzy in Brixton – I’ve just checked and it looks like there are about a dozen tickets left, so act fast). I urge you to go and see this film, and I promise you won’t regret it. Here’s the trailer:
The film will be coming to Cambridge at the start of next week for a four day run, and is also showing at Aberdeen, Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Henley, Kendal, Liverpool, Nottingham, Oxford, Poole, Stratford, York and many more independent cinemas and festivals across the UK over the Summer. For full details, visit the Just Do It website.
I blogged about Just Do It, and the reasons I was supporting them with advice and cash, last year. One of the great things about this project is that from early on, Emily saw the value that releasing the film under a Creative Commons licence would offer her in terms of getting her message out. The Creative Commons release is not out yet, but is expected in Autumn this year. As Emily explains:
The Just Do It team are very much committed to a Creative Commons release of the film. In order to balance the demands of the traditional capitalist distribution system (which still holds many of the cards in getting a film out) with our desire to participate in a more progressive movement which re-envisions the relationship between creative work and capital, we have had to agree to hold back the Creative Commons release to give a window to the cinema, TV, and dvd releases.
Once these are out of the way (we hope Autumn 2011), then we shall be releasing the full theatrical version of the film for peer-to-peer sharing, via a range of bit-torrent sites, which we shall actively seed and promote.
Purists might groan at this, but I think it is a pragmatic and thoughtful approach from a film-maker keen to do her film and its subjects justice by getting it through as many different channels and in front of as many different viewers as possible. Mixing the best of the progressive and the traditional has been an approach I’ve seen the Just Do It team adopt in everything from sourcing people to translate the film’s subtitles, to persuading local cinemas to show it. One current project is co-ordinating a massive day of free screenings across university campuses, pencilled in for 18 October.
A final thought. It’s interesting that Emily uses the word “capitalist” to describe traditional film distribution channels. Without spoiling the film for you too much, that’s a word that many of the young activists use to describe themselves by the end of the story, prefixed, of course, by “anti-”. But I left the screening wondering if these people were really anti-capitalists, or if it was something else they were “anti-”. Back when I was a full-time digital rights activist, I baulked at the close quarters the political class kept with global corporations like Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! (not to mention the BPI and the MPA) The relationship between government and big business is being thrown into some relief by the current scandal around Murdoch and his media empire. What shocks most is not that companies pursue profit, but that government seems so happy to collude and fast-track that profit-seeking, above and beyond the interests of the people who they are meant to represent. Chris Marsden calls this rotten corporate-state nexus “regulatory capitalism” I’ve also heard it called “corporate mercantilism” and, occasionally, “fascism”. Identifying as “anti-capitalist” might be the wrong thing to do if your aim is to prize apart the state and corporations from their current huddle for safety.
Thinking a little more about this is something I’d like to do once I’ve got this book launch out of the way. That and scaling the fences of a few coal-fired power stations.