I’ve written an article on The Index Film Award for which I am a judge. The award is given tonight at a glitzy champagne reception in Christchurch, Shoreditch. I have sent my article off but I wrote two and this is the other one. It is so different from the other articlethat I thought that I must share it here.
In the seventies, in my house, Cowboy and Indian films were a must see event. The John
Wayne swagger was to be practiced in the mirror. “Get off your horse and drink your milk” was as good an attempt at his voice, albeit with a high pitched Lancashire accent. I don’t know if he said that line but I repeated it ad-nauseum, especially at breakfast. He was my hero. In our world there were baddies and goodies. Native Americans known as Indians were baddies and cowboys were goodies. Mexicans were filthy distrustful things that didn’t even get into the equation.
None of these judgements are true. The films could have been gritty Steinbeck affairs, for all I know. But how was the west won? At Christmas I got hundreds of small plastic
cowboys on horses with cannons and little plastic attachable rifles which I chewed relentlessly because of the satisfying texture. I would then enact the colonisation of an
entire continent, at Christmas. It was the Cowboys that killed the painted exotic plastic detachable chewy-tomahawk wielding Indians.
I needed heroes in my childhood. Britain needed heroes. The world needs heroes. As jazz musician and poet gil scott heron said in his poem B Movie “the heroes always ride
off or on, into the sunset. Hollyweird”. It was only a matter of time that I would get myself a gun and walk out into my front garden firing it with ricocheting self made sound effects “Peeow peeow!!”. Lancashire was my grand canyon, Chief our golden Labrador my long suffering steed. I had the gun, with caps, the white vinyl holster with silver press studs and I was the fastest draw in west ashton in Makerfield.! A gun toting rootin tooting two foot tall John Wayne The systematic and deliberate attempt to wipe out a race is genocide. The collective narrative of these films was to celebrate what was described to me by a learned colleague as Apartheid. Two words that I don’t hear used to describe
the relatively new country, America. Films poured from across the atlantic in giant
waves of celluloid misinformation, wave after wave after wave, until the landscape had been manipulated to accommodate the onslaught.
But what of now? What of the Iraq war? What if the world has started to question Americas most lethal propaganda machine – it’s film industry. What if things are changing? Though nowadays, fro Hollywood, losing is the new winning, questioning is the new answer, The American film industry simply does not have the tools for true
introspection. The stakes are too high.
I am sure there were dissident voices and I am sure my fellow judge of the Index On Censorship film Award, which he will be presenting tonight, Mark Kermode, could put me
right on a few “Cowboy films”.
So who will tell the story of the greatest event of the 21st century: The Iraq War. One of the films on the short list of the Index on Censorship film award is called Ahlaam Dreams. It’s shot in Baghdad shortly after the war. The Index Film Award will be presented
tonight at a glitzy affair in Christchurch Shoreditch. Whether Ahlaam Dreams , or any of the contenders, have won the Index Film Award is not what I shall reveal here, 9 hours before the prize giving. But on the topic of “heroes” and film I feel you should see what I discovered on the films website:
After Saddam Hussein was overthrown in 2003, Al-Daradji travelled back to his homeland of Iraq, after having fled the country to Holland while studying Theatre Directing at the Fine Art Institute in Baghdad, following the murder of his politically active cousin in 1995. On his arrival, he found heartbreaking chaos and was particularly disturbed with the sight of
numerous psychiatric patients wandering on the streets, as the hospitals were being destroyed be the bombings. The experience served as the germ for Mohamed’s first feature film, “Ahlaam,” which he filmed on location in Iraq in 2004 under brutal circumstances. “I would like to bring the subject very close to the audience with an artistic point of view,” he says. Devotion to realism can have its perils. Mohamed and three of his crew members were kidnapped twice in the same day, by Iraqi insurgents who held them at gun point with bags over their heads ready to execute them.”