Category Archives: Documentaries

Strike 1934

The Idea of the Id: Adam Curtis’
The Century of the Self

For good or ill, the theories of Sigmund Freud exerted an enormous influence on the 20th century, becoming deeply entrenched in Western culture to the point that Freud’s terms “ego”, “id” and “subconscious” have become common in everyday language. Within only a short time of its invention, psychoanalysis leapt from clinical practice into the world at large. In his 2002 documentary series The Century of the Self, Adam Curtis explores the application of Freud in the realms of advertising, marketing and politics. “This series,” Curtis narrates, “is about how those in power have used Freud’s theories to try and control the dangerous crowd in an age of mass democracy.”1

FreudUtilizing a “trademark style” of “the contrast between commentary and image”2, between a bricolage of violence and chaos, and the reassuring and authoritative tone of Curtis’ narration, Curtis argues for the pervasive influence of Freud and his relatives throughout twentieth-century life in Europe and America. In four hour-long segments, Curtis recounts the impact of Freud’s theories “of human nature… [consisting of] primitive sexual and aggressive forces hidden deep inside the minds of all human beings. Forces, which if not controlled, led individuals and societies to chaos and destruction.”3 At its heart, The Century of the Self, concerns the impact and adoption of Freud, as the powerful wrestle with the basic nature of humankind, which Freud handily reduces to the idea of the id.

In the first episode of the series, “Happiness Machines”, Curtis argues that Freud’s American nephew Edward Bernays “was the first person to take Freud’s ideas about human beings and use them to manipulate the masses.”4 According to Curtis, Bernays introduced Freud into the world of marketing, targeting what he saw as the irrational and emotional realm of subconscious desire to coerce consumers into buying products.

While Bernays’ influence waned in the depression of the thirties, Curtis argues that the authoritative regime of Nazi Germany sought to channel human urges away from consumerism and towards the unity of the new state, as championed by the Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels – who even claimed inspiration from the writings of Bernays. The twin engines of business and politics, Curtis insists, were driven by the same fear and awe of the raw human desire of the human id.

The work of Adam Curtis is uncompromisingly controversial. His overtly argumentative stance, at odds with the dispassionate “both-sides” perspective of many documentaries, has placed him at odds with left and right alike. Apart from the core of his argument, the critic Jonathan Rosenbaum questions Curtis’ use of montage and filmic techniques, which Rosenbaum fears are in many ways analogous to the seductive marketing techniques Curtis himself criticizes.5

In fact, these very techniques of montage have placed Curtis’ work in something of a legal limbo, where questions of rights to music and clips have left his work marginalized in proper channels. Ben Waters carefully points out that this has left Curtis’ work in circulation in internet backchannels, often in painfully close proximity to conspiracy theorist videos, something which Curtis himself has been accused of indulging in. Yet, as Waters points out: “Although often described by detractors as a conspiracy theorist, his arguments in fact tend the opposite direction: he might describe history through narrative, but he doesn’t believe it has intentional authors… Ideas might shape the world, but those who have them or promote them seldom get the results they wish for.”6

Adam Curtis’ The Century of the Self is, above all else, an exploration into the power of ideas in contemporary thought. While Freud’s methodology and his conclusions have not largely held up to scientific scrutiny, their dangerous implications sent the men of power scurrying for a means to subvert and coerce by whatever means at their disposal. The widespread influence of Freud underlines the fact that ideas – even wrong ideas – hold enormous power over each and every one of us.

WATCH THE CENTURY OF THE SELF

The Century Of Self: Happiness Machines – Episode1 from Roses of Time on Vimeo.

The Century Of Self: Engineering Of Consent – Episode2 from Roses of Time on Vimeo.

The Century Of Self: There is a Policeman Inside All Our Heads (episode 3) from Roses of Time on Vimeo.

The Century Of Self: Eight People Sipping Wine in Kettering (Episode 4) from Roses of Time on Vimeo.

 

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References:

  1. Adam Curtis, “The Century of the Self: Happiness Machines”, 2002.
  2. Chris Darke, “Secret Histories of the Modern Age, or Just Good Yarns? Adam Curtis Discusses his Essay-Film Collage Aesthetic with Chris Darke,” Film Comment July-August 2012, 23.
  3. Curtis, “Happiness Machines”
  4. Ibid.
  5. Jonathan Rosenbaum, “Negotiating the Pleasure Principle: The Recent Work of Adam Curtis,” Film Quarterly 62, no. 1 2008, 70 – 75.
  6. Ben Waters, “Grey Areas,”Film Quarterly 62, no. 1 2008, 79.

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Shock Rock Queen!
Wendy O Williams Documentary
Now Showing!

I remember the first time my young eyes saw Wendy O Williams and the Plasmatics do their thing on TV and my little brain almost exploded! I had never seen anything like them before and I was at a total loss. Now that I’m older, I appreciate what she and her bandmates stood for, because they never sounded hardcore enough for me. The Plasmatics were more than just music, they fought for free speech and wanted to shock the fuck out of people. Looking back on it, Wendy O Williams was way more punk than many people I knew from the 80′s, she just expressed her angst in different ways. Check out this documentary about a woman who was way before her time!

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Skin Deep With A New Zealand Gangbanger:
SKIN Documentary Now Showing!

Check out this new beautiful shot short film called SKIN about the Martyka “Skin Dog” Brandt, one of the founding members of the Mighty Mongrel Mob. CVLT Nation salutes Tom Gould and his creative crew for making such stellar film.

SKIN from Tom Gould on Vimeo.

Martyka ‘Skin Dog’ Brandt – gang member, champion racecar driver and devoted solo father.

Skin‘ documents the life of Martyka Brandt, a member of New Zealand’s largest and most notorious gang, the Mighty Mongrel Mob. In a gang comprised predominantly of Maori and Pacific Islanders, Martyka was one of the few Pakeha members who joined the gang in the early ’70s.

From being admitted to a mental institution at the age of 14, escaping and living a life of Mongrelism, Martyka’s life drastically changed as he began to raise his own family, later becoming a solo father raising 10 children through welfare and foster care.

Filmed in Napier, New Zealand
A film by Tom Gould
Music composed by Fire & Ice
Special thanks to Halcyon Digital, Te Paea, Tynesha, Martika, Nikita

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Situation Critical! Ebola in Africa
Documentary Now Showing!

The other day, I watched this intense documentary about the connection between monkey meat and the outbreak of Ebola in Africa. It makes me think about the times I saw passengers getting busted at Heathrow for trying to smuggle bush meat into London. After watching this film, it made me think about how easy Ebola could spread to mainland Europe. Now peep the Monkey Meat and the Outbreak of Ebola documentary…Stay away from the bush meat!

sam

Fuck Authority!
ANARCHISM IN AMERICA
Documentary Now Showing!

Text & Story via Dangerous Minds

As the title promises, Steven Fischler and Joel Sucher’s Anarchism in America is a documentary survey of anarchism in the United States. The film presents an overview of the movement’s history, such as the Spanish Civil War, the 1917 Revolution, Emma Goldman, and the deaths of Sacco and Vanzetti, and takes these as the points of departure for what were then (1983) contemporary observations from the outside looking in on Ronald Reagan’s America. Whether viewed as a time capsule or as an able introduction to the various forms of anarchism, the film makes for fascinating viewing and has held up well after 31 years.

What’s perfectly obvious is how much of a libertarian or individualistic route the American strain of anarchism takes — let’s call it “free market anarchism” — in stark contrast to European-style communal living experiments (such as squatters’ groups or farm co-ops). They’re just not quite the same school of thought, although if you were to draw a Venn diagram of what they do have in common, it would be significant but also… probably equally incompatible for the things which they lack in simpatico. Does anyone in Anarchism in America have any hopes for a revolution? Seemingly not in their lifetimes. (Many of them were right, of course. I’ve read that the filmmakers are planning a sequel, so I’d suspect that post-Occupy, post-Piketty, there would be more positive prognostications to be found along those lines today.)

Anarchism in America – full documentary from Libcom Dot Org on Vimeo.

The film also offers anarchist or anarchist-leaning thinkers uninterrupted camera time to make their points. Like Murray Bookchin, who says this:

“I had entered the communist children’s movement, an organization called the Young Pioneers of America, in 1930 in New York City; I was only nine years of age. And I’d gone through the entire ’30s as a—Stalinist—initially, and then increasingly as someone who was more and more sympathetic to Trotskyism. And by 1939, after having seen Hitler rise to power, the Austrian workers’ revolt of 1934 (an almost completely forgotten episode in labor history), the Spanish revolution, by which I mean the so-called Spanish civil war—I finally became utterly disillusioned with Stalinism, and drifted increasingly toward Trotskyism. And by 1945, I, finally, also became disillusioned with Trotskyism; and I would say, now, increasingly with Marxism and Leninism.

And I began to try to explore what were movements and ideologies, if you like, that really were liberatory, that really freed people of this hierarchical mentality, of this authoritarian outlook, of this complete assimilation by the work ethic. And I now began to turn, very consciously, toward anarchist views, because anarchism posed a question, not simply of a struggle between classes based upon economic exploitation—anarchism really was posing a much broader historical question that even goes beyond our industrial civilization—not just classes, but hierarchy—hierarchy as it exists in the family, hierarchy as it exists in the school, hierarchy as it exists in sexual relationships, hierarchy as it exists between ethnic groups. Not only class divisions, based upon economic exploitation. And it was concerned not only with economic exploitation, it was concerned with domination, domination which may not even have any economic meaning at all: the domination of women by men in which women are not economically exploited; the domination of ordinary people by bureaucrats, in which you may even have welfare, so-called socialist type of state; domination as it exists today in China, even when you’re supposed to have a classless society; domination even as it exists in Russia, where you are supposed to have a classless society, you see.

So these are the things I noted in anarchism, and increasingly I came to the conclusion that if we were to avoid—or if we are to avoid—the mistakes in over one hundred years of proletarian socialism, if we are to really achieve a liberatory movement, not simply in terms of economic questions but in terms of every aspect of life, we would have to turn to anarchism because it alone posed the problem, not merely of class domination but hierarchical domination, and it alone posed the question, not simply of economic exploitation, but exploitation in every sphere of life. And it was that growing awareness, that we had to go beyond classism into hierarchy, and beyond exploitation into domination, that led me into anarchism, and to a commitment to an anarchist outlook.”

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Emma_Goldman 1901 mugshot

Worth noting that Bookchin left anarchism behind, too, due to what he saw as the antisocial element to American style anarchist thought.

There’s one particularly amazing piece of footage (among several included in the film) that I wanted to call to your attention. It’s the demonstration of how a policeman’s truncheon fares against various food items such as an egg, squash, and an eggplant before moving on to a Yippie’s head. That clip comes from an “answer” film made by the Yippies in the aftermath of the Chicago riots that was played on television there due to the “equal-time” rule specifies that U.S. radio and television broadcast stations must provide an equivalent opportunity to any opposing political parties who request it. When Mayor Richard Daley got to tell the city’s side of the story in something called “What Trees Did They Plant?” the Yippies got to tell their side in an extremely whacked-out short film scripted by Paul Krassner. That starts at 30:50 but if you want to see the entire thing, click over to archive.org, they’ve got it. (The guy with the truncheon is Chicago-based lefty humorist and radio broadcaster Marshall Efron, who played one of the prisoners in George Lucas’ THX 1138. He was also the voice of “Smelly Smurf” and works as a voice actor in animated films to this day.)

Toward the end of Anarchism in America, Jello Biafra and Dead Kennedys are seen onstage performing “We’ve Got a Bigger Problem Now,” while in the interview segment a level-headed young Biafra suggests that anarchy, or some sort of revolution in the USA, is probably a long, long way off. If they do make the sequel, he’s one of the first people they ought to interview for it. I’d be curious if he still feels that way. I would suspect that he’s much more optimistic these days.

sam

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Stop the Insanity…
PTSD caused by Gang Violence!
Documentary Now Showing

Los Angeles is many different things to many different people. To some, it’s a place of nothing but fun in the sun. But to others it’s like living in a third world country within a first world country. Gang violence and poverty has touched many lives in the city of dead angels, and with this has come a generation that’s dealing with the effects of urban PTSD…Check out this thought-provoking documentary on the subject created by Vice.

Photo by Donna De Cesare

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26 Shows, 16 Days, and 1 Van:
On the Road with Thou and Cloud Rat
Short Film Now Showing!

One Van, Two Bands, 16 days and 26 shows…sounds fun? Well, from what I can see from the film that Mitch Wells of THOU created called ONE VAN about their most recent tour with CLOUD RAT, it was all that. Check out this cool short film about music and friendship below…Much respect due to both bands for creating amazing music and for making sacrifices to bring their art to the people!

ONE VAN from Mitch Whales on Vimeo.

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Living HELL!!!
Life Beneath The Streets of Romania
Documentary

via channel4

Deep under the streets of Bucharest – in Europe, in the 21st century – there is a network of tunnels and sewers that is home to hundreds of men, women and children stricken by drug abuse, HIV and TB.

This video contains strong scenes of drug use that some viewers may find distressing. All photos courtesy of Radu Ciorniciuc / Casa Journalist

You can travel to the heart of the EU from Bucharest’s Gara du Nord, write Paraic O’Brien and Jim Wickens, but our journey will take us just a few metres.

On the surface, the newest member of the European club has worked hard to redefine itself. But there’s another Romania, underground.

When Ceausescu fell there were tens of thousands of children in orphanages and in state “care” in Romania. But in 1990 a series of reports revealed what a nightmarish misnomer that was. Scenes of neglect and cruelty reminiscent of the concentration camps.

So what happened to those children?

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We’ve been told that some moved into the tunnels underneath Bucharest. Drug addiction is rife, some have had children of their own.

The entrance to this underworld is a hole in the pavement on a traffic island in front of the station. By late afternoon they start to wake up, clambering up out of the ground like the undead.

Among them is a little boy, Nicu, who looks about 12. We find out later that “little” Nicu is in fact 17 but his development has been stunted by the drug abuse. He agrees to send word down that we would like to meet the boss.

This underworld, we’re told, has an overlord and you only get to go down by invitation. A couple of hours later and word comes back up: he will see us now.

On our hands and knees we pothole down into the darkness and a parallel universe. It’s the heat that hits you first. These old tunnels were part of Ceausescu’s grand design to centrally heat the city.

Then there’s the smell: a metallic paint called Aurolac, snorted by the addicts from small black bags. Next up the music.

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The whole place is wired with electricity, there’s a stereo system pumping out dance music. If they had a club night in hell it would feel like this.

We’re in the first chamber: they call it The Office. You try not to gawp. Out of the corner of your eye, a woman with a syringe between her legs; a little boy stares at you with the Aurolac bag at his mouth, pumping slowly, like a black heart.

Everyone here is HIV positive, a quarter have TB. They’re all on their way to “the counter”.

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The man behind the counter is called “Bruce Lee” (pictured above) after his street fighting days. He points to a tattoo on his inner thigh, it reads: “Bruce Lee, King of the Sewers”.

He will be our guide down Bucharest’s surreal, tragic rabbit hole.

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krautcol

TIME TO REBUILD…
Krautrock – The Rebirth of Germany
Documentary Now Showing!

When we hear music, we don’t always know where the foundation lies. Krautrock is at the foundation of a lot of music we like. For instance, if you asked many musicians who create black metal, positive punk (goth), space rock or doom metal, many of them would cite Krautrock as a major influence on them. On a personal level, I think this type of music is the shit; bands like Neu and Can are awesome. Here is a killer documentary that the BBC made about the birth of Krautrock. Enjoy this cool CVLT Nation documentary special.

http://youtu.be/cHUwkYkn_kA

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Assholes With Wild Pets!
Exotic Animal Trade Documentary
Now Showing!

Text via Vice

Wildlife trafficking is estimated to be a $19 billion per year global business, surpassed only by black-market sales and trafficking of drugs, humans, and firearms.

In the United States, regulation of private ownership of exotic animals is determined by each state, allowing for loopholes and oversight. Animals are bought and traded through auctions, backyard breeders, illicit online sales and more. The industry is growing right in our backyards!

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Best!!!
80′s UK Punk Documentary
You Will See This Week!

Yesterday I watched the Dazed Digital documentary Soap & Stamps about the 80′s hardcore scene in the UK. For almost the entire film I had chills, because it was just so spot on and reminded me how special it was to grow up during this period. I’m not going to say much, because it’s up to you to watch this film and see why it will be the best punk doc you will watch this week! Respect due to all of the bands in the film!

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Photos Dazed Digital

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CVLT Nation Presents
Ink, Blood and Spirit
The Life of Little Swastika Documentary

When filmmaker Claudio Marino asked us to sponsor his beautiful documentary about legendary tattoo artist Little Swastika, Ink, Blood and Spirit, we were honored. Little Swastika may be a controversial subject because of his reappropriation of the swastika as a symbol of peace, luck and harmony and not as representative of a dark time in history, but we appreciate this point of view and have so much respect for his artistry with ink and gun. He has a completely unique style, using human skin as a canvas to be painted with his inks, using patterns and blocks of color rather than self-contained pictures, and even completing mural projects across several people. Claudio’s documentary explores his life and his creativity in a moving way, bringing us closer to this influential skin artist with stunning cinematography and by allowing Little Swastika to tell his own story. Ink, Blood and Spirit will be screening starting April 25th with dates so far in Sweden, Belgium, Latvia, the U.S., Finland and the Czech Republic (see dates below). Stay tuned for updates on the IBAS Facebook page and if you are able to, head out to one of the screenings – take our word for it, this is a documentary that any of our readers will love!

Ink, Blood and Spirit – Teaser 1 from Claudio Marino on Vimeo.

Ink, Blood and Spirit – Teaser 2 from Claudio Marino on Vimeo.

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Ol’ Dirty Bastard On Parole Documentary

I remember when I first heard WU TANG CLAN‘s Protect Ya Neck; it was at a party in South Central and the DJ played it like 12 times. Then I saw the video, and I was hooked – I knew this hip-hop group was on some next shit. One member that stood out was ODB, but you knew that when he was around, anything could happen! Honestly, it seemed like people were almost waiting for him to do something fucked up and could not take their eyes off of him, like a human car accident! Looking back on it, I was pretty lucky that I got to see him live many times, even when he took the mic from Biggie at the Vibe Awards in NYC. Besides all of his off the wall antics, ODB was a true artist who created magic when he got in the vocal booth. All you have to do is peep the video for “Brooklyn ZOO” to see his genius in full effect. He left this planet way too soon, but when I blast his music I know I’m getting WU EAR WORMS all in my skull. Check out this documentary 40 min with Ol’ Dirty Bastard about who he was towards the end of his life, plus some of our favorite RAW visuals!

GANESH4

How the Nazis Hi-Jacked An Ancient Symbol:
The Story of the Swastika Documentary

Symbols carry power in many different cultures, and this power can also be hi-jacked by others. Such is the case with the Swastika, a symbol of good luck and peace that was around for thousands of years before the Nazis decided to use it as their symbol of hate. Now when people see a Swastika, many people think of the industrial program of murder that the Nazis instated against Jews and many others. To Hindus, the Swastika means something totally different, being that it has been a sacred symbol in their faith for thousands of years. BBC’s The Story of the Swastika is a in-depth, thought-provoking film that takes a hard look at what this symbol means to different cultures. I think everyone should watch this film, because it might change their perception of an ancient symbol that was desecrated by a bunch of racist cowards!