Sunday, June 29, 2014

Immigration Nation - Independent Australia and the Dark History of Immigration

Australia, built on the backs of migrant workers, now claims to be a beacon of human rights and equality. But not so long ago, racism reared its ugly head in the form of the 'White Australia policy' – a policy designed to keep people of colour out.
Australia began the 20th century as a ‘social laboratory’. It lead the world by initiating reforms and innovations that entrenched basic freedoms, fairness and opportunity decades before they were tried in Europe, Britain and the US.
Yet at the heart of this experiment lay a dark racist policy, and it would take more than 100 years to resolve a fundamental contradiction.
"Immigration Nation", a three-part special series on Al Jazeera, is the story of how Australia has met its challenges, and how it still tries to overcome a legacy of social exclusion.
With thousands of immigrants arriving on the shores of Australia, immigration remains a burning issue.

When the Czech communist and anti-Nazi agitator Egon Kisch attempted a speaking tour of Australia in 1934, the Lyons Government tried everything to stop him achieving landfall, bouncing him in Fremantle, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney. When – in desperation – he leapt off the boat in Melbourne, breaking his leg in several places, he was taken into custody and processed under the Immigration Act, which at the time required new arrivals to take a dictation test in a nominated European language. He passed tests in several languages, but flunked when asked to write out the Lord’s Prayer in Scottish Gaelic. Later, the High Court overturned the decision. Not because of the situation’s utter absurdity, but because Scottish Gaelic was not a European language.

In more recent times, we have Liquid-Papered whole chunks of our coastline out of our migration zone, so that people arriving in Australia cannot be said to have actually arrived; tried to tackle the people-smugglers’ trade in human beings by … organising a people-swap with Malaysia; and now, we make boats disappear by ignoring them.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Barfly (1987)

Barfly is a 1987 American film which is a semi-autobiography of poet/author Charles Bukowski during the time he spent drinking heavily in Los Angeles. The screenplay by Bukowski was commissioned by the French film director Barbet Schroeder – it was published, with illustrations by the author, in 1984 when film production was still pending. Barfly stars Mickey Rourke and Faye Dunaway, with direction by Schroeder, and was "presented by" Francis Ford Coppola. The movie also features a silent cameo appearance by Bukowski himself.

The Kino Flo light, now a ubiquitous tool in the film industry, was specially created by Robby Muller's electrical crew for a scene in this film which would have been difficult to light using the conventional lampheads available at the time.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Life of Juanita Castro (1965)

I have always thought Andy Warhol's films were better than his paintings. Warhol filmed The Life of Juanita Castro about a week after Suicide.  Ronald Tavel appears in the film seated amongst the unrehearsed actors on chairs facing the camera, feeding them lines as well as directions (“Everyone think hard now about the fate of the guajiros, and stare solemnly into the camera.”).  The cast included Ultra Violet (known for her amorous liaisons with Salvador Dali and John Graham) as a member of the chorus or “Family” and a drunken Marie Menken as Juanita Castro. The real-life Juanita Castro was the sister of Fidel Castro who had defected to the United States and spent much of her time publicly criticizing her brother and other members of Castro’s extended family. Life magazine had reported her comments in an article published August 28, 1964 titled “My Brother Was a Tyrant.” Time magazine had reported on her defection in their July 10, 1964 issue in an article titled “The Bitter Family.”

The idea for the film originated at a dinner that Warhol and Tavel went to at the home of Fidel Castro’s brother-in-law, Waldo Dias-Balart. Gossip at the dinner veered toward the in-fighting amongst Castro’s siblings, particularly the comments of Juanita, and Warhol suggested they make a film about her life. Tavel was well-placed to write the film having visited Castro’s Cuba prior to the U.S. travel ban and having also written poems about the country. Many of his friends were Cuban and he had recently had a Cuban lover.  He wrote the script for The Life of Juanita Castro on February 20, 1965 which was filmed by Warhol in mid-March, 1965 and first shown on March 22, 1965 at Jonas Mekas’ Cinematheque.

From Andrew Sarris, “Films,” The Village Voice (December 9, 1965):
“The creative force behind Juanita Castro is not so much Warhol, actually, as Ronnie Tavel, who wrote the script, and acted the key role of the stage manager, and very good he is in both capacities… Tavel reads off lines to be repeated in turn, by Fidel Castro, Raoul Castro, Juanita Castro and Che Guevara. Fidel, Raoul, and Che are played by relatively pretty, Latin-looking girls, Juanita Castro by Marie Menken, an independent film-maker, who in this context, comes over like a lady longshoreman… The whole thing is outrageous… making a comment on a revolution that has long since been consigned to camp. The whole show was given away when word got out that Fidel Castro wanted to be played on the screen by Marlon Brando and Raoul by Frank Sinatra. From that point on, Cuba became the property of Andy Warhol and Ronnie Tavel, and they have made the only valid statement I have seen on the subject in the past several years.”

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Last Movie (1971)

The Last Movie is a 1971 drama film from Universal Pictures. It was written and directed by Dennis Hopper, who also played a horse wrangler named after the state of Kansas. It also starred Peter Fonda, Henry Jaglom and Michelle Phillips. Production of the movie, which cost $1 million, took place in the film's major setting, Peru.

The film's initial failure led to Hopper's virtual exile from Hollywood, one that lasted well over a decade. Nonetheless, Hopper later announced he was very proud of the film, and hosted many screenings. While he had disparaged the film in the past, Hopper said it was ahead of its time, and only now had audiences and critics started to understand his artistic vision.

Hopper told Playboy in 2006 that he had re-acquired the rights to the film and was planning a DVD release. The magazine even mentions at the time that Hopper held a screening of the film at the Playboy Mansion for Hugh Hefner and several Playmates. Hopper did not realize his plans to release the film on DVD before his death in May 2010.

Hopper appears on The Merv Griffin Show in 1971 just after the release of The Last Movie. More on the film and this interview here.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Voices of Black Panther women (October 26, 1990)

A panel discussion of women who are members of the Black Panther Party in which they relate their personal struggles and experiences as "Panther women" engaged in civil rights activism. This event was organized by the Graduate Assembly, University of California, Berkeley and took place on October 26, 1990 at Booth Auditorium, Boalt Hall, University of California, Berkeley.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Dr. Alexander "Sasha" Shulgin: A Hero of the Future

Chemist and pharmacologist Alexander ‘Sasha’ Shulgin passed away Monday “peacefully surrounded by friends and family.” He was 88.

DIRTY PICTURES is a documentary about Dr. Alexander "Sasha" Shulgin, the chemist who discovered the effects of MDMA (aka Ecstasy) and over 200 other mind-altering drugs. Shulgin's alchemy has earned him the title "The Godfather of Psychedelics," and a reputation as one of the great chemists of the 20th century.

Working from a lab in his home, and using himself and his wife Ann as test subjects, Shulgin's discoveries have brought him into conflict with the law but made him a worldwide underground hero. The two books they co-authored, "Pihkal" and "Tihkal", have built a foundation for cutting-edge neuroscience and medical research. DIRTY PICTURES examines the impact of Dr. Shulgin's lifelong quest to unlock the complexities of the human mind.

Alexander "Sasha" Theodore Shulgin (June 17, 1925 -- June 2, 2014) was an American medicinal chemist, biochemist, pharmacologist, psychopharmacologist, and author. He was the scientist behind more than 200 psychedelic compounds including MDMA, more commonly known as Esctasy. Considered to be one of the the greatest chemists of the twentieth century, Sasha's vast array of discoveries have had a profound impact in the field of psychedelic research. By employing unorthodox methods; testing his creations on himself, working from a makeshift lab in his home, Shulgin has gained the reputation of a modern day alchemist within the scientific community.

Shulgin’s work lives on in his books TIHKAL and PIHKAL.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Velvet Underground Live in Boston 1967

A 33-minute 16mm film shot by Andy Warhol of the Velvet Underground playing live at The Boston Tea Party nightclub in 1967.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Anarchism In Spain - Living Utopia Documentary

Living Utopia is a 1997 documentary produced by TVE and directed by Juan Gamero , in which the lived experiences of the anarcho-syndicalists in Spain are related. Anarchism radically transformed the structures of society in large parts of the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War (1936-39).

The film consists of 30 interviews with survivors of the Spanish anarchist revolution, whose testimony shows the constructive work of the social revolution and the historical background of the Spanish libertarian movement. This construction work according to the documentary meant organizing an agricultural community of about 7 million farmers, 3,000 factories and collectively managed firms in cities, the union of anarchists 150,000 militiamen against fascism, as well as cultural , educational activities and the movement of women against patriarchy .

Anarchists interviewed are Miguel Alba, Ramon Alvarez , Federico Arcos , Marcelino Bailo, Batet María Severino Campos, Francisco Carrasquer , Miguel Celma , Valerio Chiné ; José Spain , José Fortea , Juan Gimenez, Antonio Lahuerta , Concha Liano , Fidel Miró, Aurora Molina, Molina Helenus , Conxa Perez, Event Portals , Dolors Prat , Ximo Queirol , Wonders Rodríguez , Juan Romero, Manuel Sanz, Liberto Sarrau Jose Sauces Josep Serra Estruch , Antonio Turon Urzáiz and Jose Antonio Zapata.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Jem Cohen’s “Witness” - (Danceteria '86)

In 1986 the closes thing you could get to the Rites of Pan west of Tangier was a Butthole Surfers concert. Ritual, danger and trance combined into a grinding droning spectacle. This is a short film of the Butthole Surfers at the height of their powers.

In early ‘86 they drove from Los Angeles all the way to New York just to play two lucrative weekend shows at the Danceteria club, only to arrive to find that the second night had been canceled. The band was livid; Haynes got quite drunk just before show time. “During that show it was just complete bedlam,” says Leary, a man who knows from bedlam. After only a song or two, Haynes picked up a beer bottle and viciously smashed Leary over the head with it. Leary’s eyes rolled back in his head as he crumpled on the floor. Then he quickly got up and resumed playing. It was a stunt bottle, made out of sugar. Then Haynes picked up a real bottle and heaved it the length of the room, where it exploded above the exit sign. Soon Haynes had set fire to a pile of trash in the middle of the stage. “And you’re really thinking, ‘Should I get out of here?’” says Michael Macioce. “That was the type of feeling you had - you were 'in danger' at one of their shows.”- Dangerous Minds
Jem Alan Cohen (born 1962) is a New York City-based American film maker, especially known for his observational portraits of urban landscapes, blending of media formats (16mm, Super 8, video) and collaborations with music artists. He is the recipient of the Independent Spirit Award for feature filmmaking. "Cohen's films have been broadcast in Europe by the BBC and ZDF/ARTE, and in the United States by the Sundance Channel and PBS. They are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney, and Melbourne's Screen Gallery." He also makes multi-channel installations and still photographs and had a photography show at Robert Miller Gallery in 2009. He has received grants from the Guggenheim, Creative Capital, Rockefeller and Alpert Foundations, the National Endowment for the Arts, and other organizations

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Jungle Fever

The final episode of our Channel 4-commissioned documentary series Music Nation is now online to watch in full! Jungle Fever, directed by Ollie Evans and produced by Friend London, charts the rise and fall of one of Britain's most vibrant, unforgettable scenes, featuring jungle veterans Fabio & Grooverider, DJ Hype, Kenny Ken, Brockie and more. Catch up on last week's Dazed Digital jungle day – when we explored everything about it from the style to the sound – here.