December 2004

Seasons Greetings and All That

Quote of the Day: Freedom to offend

What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.

- Salman Rushdie

Censored by the mob

Sikh play scrapped

The directors of a play depicting sexual abuse and murder in a Sikh temple have reluctantly scrapped their production due to fears that violent protests against it would escalate.

The directors said they stood by the play and principles of free speech, but had taken the decision to avoid a repeat of riots outside the theatre on Saturday night.

Sadly its clearly evident that the violent protesters have won, said Stuart Rogers, executive director of the Birmingham Repertory Theatre.

We cannot operate this theatre in a state where people are throwing bricks through our windows.

Its a bad day for liberty, for freedom of speech and for democracy when a bunch of criminals - and people who threaten violence against those with which they disagree are criminals - can get away with the use of intimidation to achieve their ends.

Religious Censorship

Sikhs storm theatre to demand closure of play that violates their sacred place

A controversial play depicting sexual abuse and murder in a Sikh temple was at the centre of a clash between artistic freedom and religious sensitivities last night amid threats of more angry protests today following Saturdays violent demonstrations outside Birmingham Repertory Theatre.

Thousands of Sikhs from all over Britain are threatening to converge on the theatre tonight if the play, Behzti, (Dishonour) which was written by Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, continues its sold-out run. The author, a Sikh woman, has also received threats of violence, while the theatre has condemned the protests and warned against blatant censorship.

It would be easy to point to the dangers of allowing a mob - any mob - to determine what can and cant be shown. There is very little that doesnt offend one group or another and its frighteningly easy to get a mob frothing at the mouth over any perceived slight.

So instead, I thought Id remark on the delusional nature of some of these campaigners.

According to Gurdial Singh Atwal, who has been leading the campaign against the play:

But you should also consider who is provoking this violence - who is creating this anger but the author herself.

This is absolute rubbish from the its not my fault school of thought. The people protesting against this play are not automatons - they are people and (Im assuming) reasonably intelligent. As such, they are capable of choosing how they want to react to this play.

No-one is making these people converge on the theatre and no-one is forcing them to storm the theatre, attack security guards, destroy a foyer door or smash restaurant windows. The people who commit these crimes are solely responsible for their actions.

Of course, the real danger with this sort of thinking is that it allows people to justify any act - regardless of how atrocious - to themselves. As such, its not entirely surprising to read:

Ms Bhatti said she had been advised not to comment because of threats which had been made to her

Regardless of what she wrote, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti is the victim of threats, not the perpetrator.

And then there is the attempt to widen the scope of the protest. Back to Mr Atwal who has tried to claim that:

This is not just about Sikhs. If this was set in a church or a mosque or any other place of worship there would be the same strong feelings.

Evidently a man who has never seen The Day Today, the first episode of which included a sketch about clerical bullying in the Church of England. And, while I have no doubt that plenty of people turned their TVs off and never watched the series again, and while I wouldnt be surprised to hear that the BBC received complaints, I dont recall hoards of angry Anglicans descending on Broadcasting House.

Anglicanism is not immune to investigation, criticism or even satire - and nor should any other religion be.

And what of the implication of Atwals assertion? No place of worship should ever be depicted unless you are going to use rose tinted spectacles to look at it. Does this mean that The Magdalene Sisters shouldnt have been made? Or Bad Education?

And it doesnt take much of a stretch to get from places of worship to religion, at which point you might want to rush out and buy Monty Pythons Life of Brian before it gets banned.

For a final word, this is from the foreword of the play:

I believe that drama should be provocative and relevant. I wrote Behzti because I passionately oppose injustice and hypocrisy. The writers I admire are courageous Such writers sometimes cause offence. But perhaps those who are affronted by the menace of dialogue and discussion, need to be offended.

Perhaps the protesters ought to see the play rather than get hot under the collar about it.

Ellen Sandweiss in Satans Playground

Ive already mentioned, a few times, that Im looking forward to Dante Tomaselli’s upcoming film, Satan’s Playground.

And now the director has been nice enough to share another still from the film.

Ellen Sandweiss in Satan's Playground

According to the Directors Notes on the films website:

With Satans Playground, I wanted to completely transport the viewer to another dimension, a place out-of-time, a world of all-encompassing doom; I knew this had to be beautiful, candy-coloredgorgeous to look at. Satans Playground had to feel like a scary nightmare, a mist-shrouded atmosphere that would seep into your unconscious. Beauty and horror different sides of the same coin. Call it painterly horror. Otherworldly horror. This is not your typical stalk and slash movie. I think the film plays out like a spooky fairy taleHansel and Gretel in Hell. A dark night-of-the-soul. Scenes build and build and crescendo, giving the movie a kind of operatic horror feel. The film features emotionally charged performances from cult horror icons, actors famous for landmark films, classics like The Evil Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, also 80s horror delights like Friday the 13th and Sleepaway CampI think that is just one of the reasons Satans Playground naturally takes on a kind of retro vibe. Also, theres the psychedelic design of the film, an endless labyrinth, and the trance-like soundtrack, which is literally 50% of the films equation. Swirling, hallucinogenic, the viewer should taste color and touch sound. I always wanted to give this film a kind of epic exuberance. Satans Playground is purposely set in the 70s, early 80s. No cell phones! Im 34, so its a time of innocence for me. Being from New Jersey, it felt organic to employ the Jersey Devil legend as a backdrop, a tale that seriously creeped me out when I was growing up. But this supernatural chiller is really more about an emotionbeing lost, relentlessly stalkedIts a funhouse in your mind.

Given the effectiveness of his first two films, Desecration and Horror, and from the look of the stills so far, I think that this film really does have a huge amount going for it.

Update: And if all that wasnt enough for you, Tomaselli gave an interview to Movies Online on Friday.

What goes on in the background has definately changed

The background is owned

Christopher Sims started shooting his film about Army recruiting for the Iraq war in spring 2002. Hed love for you to see it, but you cant. Hes still trying to figure out what footage hes allowed to use without being sued. And thats his own footage, that he shot himself.

Turns out that in the background of some of his shots were corporate-branded paraphernalia and other copyrighted elements. He wasnt trying to shoot this stuffit was just present where he needed to shoot. It was incidental. But that doesnt matter. A corporation can (and often will) sue simply because you caught a trademark or copyrighted media product in the background of a shot.

Christopher Sims has made a short film about his experiences which is worth watching.

If you allow large corporations to plaster copyrighted logos all over your society, then you are also putting those corporations in control of who can record your society and why.

The Chronicles of Narnia

Behind the Magic of Weta

Screenshot

(via FilmRot)

The New Channel 4 Logo

is Rubbish.

New Channel 4 Logo

(via The Guide)

Quote of the Day: We should never patronise sentimentality. Sentimentality kills.

Fundamentalism needs bad art - to peddle its certainties, destroy ambivalence and to hide its ugly face. Fundamentalist art is not limited to images of masked young martyrs waving Kalashnikovs. There is plenty of evidence that the US entertainment industry has noted the family values election victory. But does it really matter? Why take the new sentimentality seriously? We laughed when Papa Bush exhorted families to emulate the Waltons rather than the Simpsons, and then the left patronised his son right back into the White House. Maybe sometimes we should think before we mock.

- Declan Donnellan

Quote of the Day: Drama at the BBC

Too many dreary hours of formulaic, prosaic series drama on all channels. Not cheap to make, but so unambitious, so lacking in any risk or sense of authorship. Unforgivable for a medium that nurtured Potter, Bleasdale, Mercer, Plater, Rosenthal and so many more. They label it original drama - I wish.

- BBC chairman, Michael Grade on the lows of 2004

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