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A Revolution in Cinema?

category international | culture | non-anarchist press author Friday December 01, 2006 17:43author by Duncan Campbell - The Guardianauthor email christie at btclick dot com Report this post to the editors

Friday November 24, 2006
The Guardian

What is anarchist cinema? "It's not necessarily films made and produced by anarchists - some of which can be very boring indeed," says Stuart Christie, the man behind the newly launched Anarchist Film Channel. "It also includes lots of anti-authoritarian films made by non-anarchists."

The idea behind the internet channel, which operates on a tiny budget from a house in Hastings, is to make available, for free, films - both features and documentaries - that embody anarchist themes and ideas. Christie, best known for serving time in Madrid in the 1960s for an unsuccessful plot to assassinate General Franco, and then later in the 1970s for standing trial - and being acquitted - as an alleged member of the Angry Brigade, says he wants to correct the general impression given of anarchists in movies.

"Hollywood and the mainstream film industry tends to depict anarchists as flaky, obsessive, rabid, demonic, repellent stereotypes - such as Hitchcock's The Secret Agent or The Man Who Knew Too Much," said Christie. "If they are presented sympathetically, it is done so usually in an Ealing comedy sort of way with bumbling, ineffectual, endearing dreamers - caricatures such as Alastair Sim and John Chandos in The Green Man. It's film I like, but that has possibly more to do with the fact that John Chandos, who plays Sim's sidekick, a Glaswegian anarchist, was a dear, but unlikely, friend of mine."

Christie suggests that Lady L, with Paul Newman and Sophia Loren, and Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dynamite, with Rod Steiger and James Coburn, both trivialised anarchism. On the other hand, Lindsay Anderson's If ... would qualify as embodying the ideals of anarchism, he reckons, although such films will not be available on the channel for copyright reasons.

"One film that also particularly impressed me was José Luis Cuerda's Butterfly's Tongue (Lengua de las Mariposas), which is about the relationship between a young boy and his anarchist teacher, possibly modelled on Francisco Ferrer-Guardia, the anarchist educationalist murdered in Barcelona in 1909," Christie says.

The aim is to provide a range of films, with Russian, Italian, Spanish and Catalan versions available with subtitles. The channel's current catalogue includes Choisy le Roi, Red Years, Black Years, El Grupo Primero de Mayo, Franco's Dead and The Will of the People. Christie hopes to add films as they become available and build up a substantial archive with money coming from people who might want to advertise on the site, which is found at


Christie is not content with running a little free internet film library, however. He has dreams of what he describes as "free global-local internet TV. If I were the likes of Tony Blair, Rupert Murdoch, or Ted Turner, I would be afraid right now, very afraid. When it really takes off in the next few years, the established mainstream media and its almost total control over the mass of the population will just fly out of the window. It will do for them what the invention of the telephone did for message-carrying pigeons."

And with the new generation of high resolution video cameras, Christie believes that he can envisage a day in the not-too-distant future when it will be possible to make a Hollywood-quality feature film and distribute it on the internet for a total cost of about £5,000. Which would surely spell the end of the screen anarchist as a crazed fanatic with quietly fizzing bomb under their arm.

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