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May 23, 2007

Reefer madness (2007 style)

I was going to write a quick piece about going to see the Taking Liberties screening last night for contributors and cast etc. I'll have to do that later, but do have to blog this gem.

Following the film everyone stayed for a few drinks and ultimately a curry in Brick Lane. I got talking to the recently married writer and uber-blogger, Rachel North and her husband, who had heard this on the news whilst on honeymoon and recommended it highly: Officer Sanchez. Because drugs are bad, children.

May 23, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 15, 2007

Be your own star of CCTV

I wasn't going to do another CCTV post, but then noticed this on the BBC website (say what you like about prime time - there is more at the Beeb worth looking at...)

An Austrian filmmaker has come up with a novel way of avoiding the costs of creating a movie - by making her film entirely from images of real life captured by CCTV cameras

May 15, 2007 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A commercial for CCTV

CCTV - quite possibly the greatest invention in history; something as British as cups of tea and Trafalgar Square! Or so you would think after watching two hours worth of a 'documentary on the history of CCTV'.

I missed the first hour screened last Tuesday but if the second hour was anything to go by, the police and security companies must be wincing at this eulogy to the silent (though not for long) cameras that increasingly watch our every move.

In fact, one viewer has confessed as much to a blog on civil liberties issues:

As someone that works within the CCTV industry, I have to admit I found the programme positively embarassing. The subject of video surveillance, good or bad depending on your viewpoint, is worthy of a far more informed and accurate interpretation, and this regrettably was not it. As a less than balanced promotional piece for the wonders and benefits of CCTV, it just about hit the spot. In terms of presenting a truthful representation of the current situation, the few learned talking heads failed to provide the level of informed comment and interpretation, that the british public have a valid right to expect.

Have a look at the writer's website and you'll see that he is not an average punter on CCTV.

So, what exactly set my blood to boiling point?

1. The documentary was c. 60% footage of people committing crime, 35% policemen explaining how wonderful CCTV was. Occasionally, the voice of Jamie Theakston would intone that the cameras hadn't prevented 'that' crime but had helped secure a conviction.

2. The makers would surely argue that they did address social concerns about CCTV. This amounted to little more than half a minute of Shami Chakribati and Prof. Martin Gill of Leicester University midway through, and Information Commissioner Jonathon Bamford for a sentence at the end.

3. Straw men. The old debating favourite this. A copper at the end said (and I'll try to quote as exactly as I can without a transcript): 'When people say to me they have a problem with CCTV per se, I ask them whether they want us to go back and stop using technology to prevent crime' (my emphasis). Few people have a problem with CCTV per se - quite the contrary: most critics are worried about how it is used, who uses it, not its very existence. 'Governance' may be too tedious a word for prime time telly but that is what it boils down to.

4. Shameless pandering to one side of a popular tabloid debate: speeding cameras. Or to quote Jamie: 'what gives CCTV a bad name'. But no fear, a new kind of camera is here that recognises antisocial behaviour at box-junctions. Oh, and another camera that recognises how you walk developed by someone who was so shocked by the murder of Jamie Bulger he had to go on a CCTV crusade [nb you cannot criticise someone inspired by such an appalling crime as it sullies the very victim's name. Don't ask why, but you cannot - cf Princess Di].

Ultimately, I am disappointed that such a significant slot in the BBC1 schedule can be gifted to so one-sided a programme. I don't expect a polemic on the abuses of CCTV either - that could be as equally unsuitable for a publicly funded broadcaster. A little fairness and balance, perhaps? Else we end up with Fox News...

May 15, 2007 in Television | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 03, 2007

If you don't watch any other film this year...

Blairji4_2 ...I implore you to go and see Taking Liberties.

This is not simply because the director is a close friend. Or that I advised the team at S2SPost on pulling together the book-of-the-film.

Quite simply, it is the most personally relevant film you are likely to see. Too often the idea of civil rights are presented as desparately important but very dull and rather arcane. Moreover, they have been closely associated with the fringes of political debate - the Islington Liberal and the Libertarian Right.

Chris and his team have not only managed to demonstrate (to select an aposite term) the potential impact on the everyday folk but to do with a lot of humour and the wonderful voice of Ashley Jensen to boot. Any film with Boris Johnson and Tony Benn is surely going to have something going for it.

The film is in cinemas from 8 June but there are some advanced screenings at the Hay Festival of Literature and Warwick Arts Centre to name but two.

The blog is worth a read too.

May 3, 2007 in Film | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

After a couple of years' hiatus...

...I thought it might be time to start blogging once again. As the old saying goes, 'If you haven't got anything to say, don't say it.' That doesn't seem to have stopped millions of other bloggers. However, I think there are - at last - some things I would like to say.

So, like riding a bike, I hope I can simply push off, wobble a little, perhaps, and then get back into my rhythm once more. Of course, there's no guarantee that anyone is reading.

May 3, 2007 in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack