Archive for September, 2006|Monthly archive page

Warmth


I really love this picture in todays’ Sun from this week’s Ryder Cup in Ireland – it’s not that often in celebrity life that you see genuine emotion and warmth. Darren Clarke and Tiger Woods are golf circuit friends and this is the moment Clarke wins the Ryder Cup – below is the moment they first meet following the death from breast cancer of Clarke’s wife, Heather.

Clarke and Woods 2

I made a 4-minute documentary recently on Channel 4’s FourDocs exploring the notion of human warmth, community and connection called Spark.

Stealing a Nation

Diego Garcia

Went to a screening last night of John Pilger’s Stealing a Nation (2004) as part of the John Pilger Festival at The Barbican – a treat for U who’s a big admirer of Pilger’s work.

The film was typical Pilger – a well constructed exposition of the plight of the Chagos Islanders and an illustration of how the powerful treat the ordinary man. In the 60s the British turfed the population off the island of Diego Garcia in the Chagos Island group (south of the Maldives in the Indian Ocean) – a population dating back three or four generations to the 18th century – in order to enable the USA to build a strategic military base there. The islanders were dumped in the main town of Mauritius where they found it practically impossible to fit in and in effect a population of 2,000 pined, declined and gave in to what they call Sadness. For over two decades they have been fighting to expose the British callousness and cover-up and despite conclusive victories in the courts they are still being kept in sad exile.

After the screening we heard from Olivier Bancoult, who is leading the islanders’ struggle for justice, driven by his indefatigable mother and her generation of women, well represented in Stealing a Nation; the British lawyer featured in the film who is championing the case and the barrister, Maya Lester, a friend of my best friend; and the producer Chris Martin (not of Coldplay fame). Had a chat with Chris after the discussion about the impact of the decline of ITV on documentary making and the opportunities of interactive networked media to build up the audience and impact of this kind of campaigning film.

The need to be in touch with your native soil is critical for Happiness and you could really feel the pain of seperation in the film. The saddest thing is you can see how the British government can string this out for a few more years and watch the native Chagosians die off, putting significantly more distance between the islanders and their motherland.

 You can find out about this appalling story at the UK Chagos Support Association website.

Touched by Fire

Van Gogh self-portrait

Stephen Fry’s programme the other evening on BBC2 on bipolarity/manic depression (The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive) was astoundingly honest and brave – both on his part and pretty much all of the contributors.

There were some jolting moments – the revelation the mild mannered egg-head had been in prison, the notion of taking coke to calm down, his reaction to hearing he was way up there on the bipolar scale of the Cardiff research doctor – and there were moments of lightness – the picture of the art deco bar with the barmen in white jackets which he saw as a delicious nut house.

What was the heart of the programme was the question of whether the various suffers featured would erase the condition from their life if they could. All but one opted to keep it in their lives – as the ex-Royal Navy commander said – the suffering is worth it “when you’ve walked with angels”.

I’ve always been impressed by how people manage to live with such suffering and depression. I remember as a child listening to my old colleague Phillip Hodson in the dark on his LBC radio phone-in. Phillip would quickly establish what the Real Problem was (as opposed to what they started talking about) and it was humbling to hear how a woman managed to live day-to-day with extreme agrophobia or whatever the huge boulder the wretched caller was rolling up the hill day after day after day…

It’s truly a wonder so few of us take an early bow. But on the other hand, we have the miracle of birth and parenthood, the power of Love, and the Simple Pleasures of life to balance that out. Not to mention Jeeves & Wooster and Oscar Wilde.

The Spark

Creativity is in my view an essential ingredient of Happiness so it will be a common theme in this blog – be it music or art, film-making or interactive media, it is rich in Simple Pleasures.

The other day I was at a talk by Matthew Bannister, formerly of Radio 1 and golden age GLR, on Creativity at the Rich Mix centre in Bethnal Green Road courtesy of Jez Nelson and Somethin’ Else.

A lot of the focus was on experimenting, taking risks and making mistakes – all critical to innovation and covered in The Blue Movie and The Green Movie which I made in 1994 and 1996 repectively. Matthew spoke a lot about Chris Morris and his uncompromising risk taking, using clips from Blue Jam. He also quoted a resonant piece from ee cummings about how difficult it is to be individual in a world constantly pushing us to be like everyone else. It makes me think of that Mordillo comic strip: “We’re all different!” “I’m not?!”

I think I’ve taken a few creative risks in my time – most appropiately with MindGym. My current commission, the mobile blogging bit of the Big Art Project, is fairly against the grain, I’ve had to fight hard for it so far – can’t wait to get motoring on it with Alfie Dennen and co.

OK, so here’s my Big Theory on Creativity, inspired by Andre Breton and the Surrealist Manifesto – one of the few useful things to come out of a Modern Languages degree. Creative energy comes from bringing disparate things together and trying to get a spark (etincelle) to jump (jaillir) between these two poles, things that don’t ordinarily belong together. Bread rolls and feet in Chaplin’s The Gold Rush. Narcissus and an egg in Dali’s painting. A mouldy spillage and fighting bacteria in the case of Alexander Flemming. Hollywood movies and implementing ideas in that lost gem The Green Movie – a connection inspired by Elmore Leonard’s Get Shorty.

It’s all about making the Spark fly.

 

The value of the image depends upon the beauty of the spark obtained; it is, consequently, a function of the difference of potential between the two conductors. Manifesto of Surrealism , Andre Breton 1924

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