Posts Tagged ‘Joe Strummer’

WHITE RIOT: 4 STARS. “details a time more than forty years ago but doesn’t feel dated.”

The cultural, moral and emotional impact that music has is undeniable. Songs like “Times They Are A-Changin’,” “Them Belly Full (But We Hungry),” and “What’s Going On” or events like Live Aid or The Concert for Bangladesh brought with them societal change by mobilizing music fans to action. “White Riot,” new documentary from director Rubika Shah streaming on Virtual Cinema Screening sites (see below), details the fight between Rock Against Racism and Britain’s National Front.

In the macro the film’s story is set against the rise of xenophobic politician Enoch Powell and violent, far-right hate group the National Front. Language that would get anyone kicked off Twitter or cancelled today was casually tossed around in the papers and on television. In one inspired sequence Shah pieces together a montage of outrageous racist remarks pulled from mainstream sitcoms. In August 1976 guitarist Eric Clapton, whose entire career was based on the elements of blues created by Black American musicians, added his voice to the rhetoric, endorsing Powell from a stage in a drunken rant. “I think Enoch’s right,” he said. “I think we should send them all back. Stop Britain from becoming a Black colony. Get the foreigners out.”

His comments caught the attention of music photographer Red Saunders who wrote a letter to the music press, calling for rock to be a force against racism. Bigtime outlets like NME, Melody Maker and Sounds all published the letter. The resulting and overwhelming response from like-minded Brits inspired Saunders to create the grassroots movement, Rock Against Racism (RAR) and a fanzine, Temporary Hoarding geared toward reporting on the stories the mainstream press ignored. “Our job,” Saunders says, “was to peel away the Union Jack to reveal the swastika.” Their reports on immigration and the police’s racist “suspected persons” powers among other hot button topics appealed to a generation of young people who embraced new ideas politically and musically, in the form of rebel music, punk rock and reggae.

Despite violent resistance from the National Front RAR persevered and “White Riot” ends, not at the end of Rock Against Racism’s mandate—they remained a potent force until 1982—but with their first massive public outing, 1978’s Carnival Against the Nazis. Headlined by The Clash, Steel Pulse and Tom Robinson, it attracted 100,000 people who began marching a march at Trafalgar Square, before the concert at Victoria Park.

“White Riot” pieces together archival footage, like unsettling shots of National Front supporters parading through London, recent interviews with the main RAR players and piles of ephemera, like old gig posters, punk badges and photos, to define the film’s time and place. Shah weaves the elements together, punctuating the info with sonic blasts of music courtesy of live footage of The Clash, The Selecter, Sham 69, Steel Pulse and others.

It is compelling stuff and even though it details a time more than forty years ago it doesn’t feel dated. Racism and rise of neo-fascism are still with us but “White Riot” reminds the viewer that resistance not only comes in many forms but that fighting the good fight is never out of date.

“White Riot” is a Virtual Cinema presentation benefitting independent movie theatres. Check out the websites for the theatres listed below, buy a ticket for $9.99 (CND), and enjoy the show while supporting a worthwhile case.

Cinematheque, The (Vancouver, BC)                            09-Jul-2020     30-Jul-2020

Countryfest Community Cinema (Dauphin, MB)       09-Jul-2020     30-Jul-2020

Ted Rogers Hot Docs Cinema (Toronto, ON)              09-Jul-2020     30-Jul-2020

Winnipeg Cinematheque (Winnipeg, MB)                 09-Jul-2020     30-Jul-2020

Cinema du Parc (Montreal, QC)         In Cinema Screening   10-Jul-2020     16-Jul-2020


Richard speaks to “CTV News at 11:30” anchor Andria Case about television and movies to watch this weekend, including the retro rantings of “The Critic” on and the Virtual Cinema presentation of the Rock Against Racism doc “White Riot.”

Watch the whole thing HERE!


joe-strummer-the-future-is-unwritten-poster-0Joe Strummer was the embodiment of punk rock even though he was the polar opposite of what the punk movement stood for. As the leader of The Clash his edgy good looks and charisma made him a star in a culture that treated celebrity with contempt. He squatted in London’s abandoned homes but came from a privileged background, with a father who was a career diplomat. He moved The Clash away from punk’s do-it-yourself ethos, skillfully crafting ambitious and interesting songs; and for a movement whose rallying cry was “No Future” he created music that more than twenty-five years on still sounds rebellious and fresh.

In other words he was a paradox, but it was this contradictory nature that made him one of the most exciting and unpredictable musical figures of the twentieth century. In Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten director Julien Temple presents the facts of his life, told by those who knew him best.

Temple, best known as the director of the outrageous Sex Pistols’ film The Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Swindle uses Strummer’s friends and associates—most of whom are seated around a giant campfire, reminiscing and playing music—and beautifully edited montages to paint an intimate portrait of a man many thought they knew, but few really did.

But this isn’t a typical big screen bio. Although it is told in a linear straightforward fashion, Temple uses his visual flair to punctuate each of the pieces of Joe’s life. For instance when the Sex Pistols burst on to the scene they were, arguably, punk rock’s big bang, so Temple accompanies the Pistol’s footage with an explosion. He uses stock footage and clips from Animal Farm the way Strummer used his guitar—with a rambunctious power that is guaranteed to grab your attention.

What holds your attention, however, is the spirit of Strummer, which is infused onto every frame of the film. We see him at various stages of his life, from round-faced “boarding school bully” to long haired art student to sneering punk rocker through to chunky elder statesman with voice clips from his radio show London Calling and various interviews providing the soundtrack.

As cantankerous and confounding a character as Strummer was in life, (he died in 2002 at age 50) his overriding love of life and people shines through. “Without people we’re nothing,” he says near the end of the film. Sounds more like hippie-speak than the words of one of punk rock’s most famous sons, but there you have it, yet another contradiction.