Tuesday, 16 March 2010
Monday, 22 February 2010
Sunday, 13 July 2008
Saturday, 26 April 2008
The biggest news since my last post is my acceptance onto the JET programme in Japan (teaching English), the levity of which didn't sink in for at least a whole week. When it did though, I felt thrilled and nervous at the same time, and am glad that my exertion learning kana has not been in vain. I'll fly out in late July or early August with 30lbs of luggage and a positive mental attitude. Soon enough I'll be able to call myself part of an ethnic minority for the first time in my life.
At the moment I'm staying with old friends in Edinburgh, occasionally pausing to admire the view of the castle from the front window while listening to a vinyl of Tom Waits' Rain Dogs.
My purpose for this visit is a work placement at The List magazine, at which my first week has gone well, culminating in a phone interview with the excellent Tina Malone from Shameless. She's got some mouth on her and gave a cracking interview, but the publisher seemed slightly nervous as to the sensitivity of its content so I hope it gets salvaged rather than slaughtered during the editing process next week.
Today has been relaxing though. I've decided I have put off riding a bike for far too long and so I submitted myself to public scrutiny this afternoon as I took to the Meadows on a borrowed (girls') bicycle. A few folk seemed a bit annoyed by my serpentine steering across the full width of the pathway, with consternated faces typical of the Scottish capital. Others were game though, offering the assistance of a push-along as I struggled uphill. Downhill on the other hand, was an exhilarating experience and made me re-evaluate how much of my childhood I must have wasted to Sonic the Hedgehog.
I also visited a lovely shop in Grassmarket called the Owl and Lion. It specialises in hand made notebooks, post cards and the like; I treated myself to one of a limited edition of 50.
It appears black until tilted to the light, where it reveals the image of several beautifully drawn crows. It was pricey but something to savour, and the plan is to put pencil to page on my first night in Japan. I also think it's endearing that it has a stamp inside it certifying its authenticity as a Scottish item. It'll make a change from keeping a journal on the internet all the time.
I'm off to watch a DVD now; my friend suggested Shogun Assassin, but I'm had my fill of old-school Japanese bloodshed after watching Golgo 13 the other night. It's between Marie Antoinette and Raging Bull right now. Decisions, decisions.
Thursday, 20 March 2008
Monday, 17 March 2008
Mumia Abu Jamal, a former Black Panther and current death row inmate, was incarcerated in the early 1980s for the shooting of Philadelphia officer Daniel Faulkner. There has been controversy ever since regarding what really transpired that evening, with claims ranging that the officer was attacking Abu Jamal’s brother in a race-related attack and that he was acting out of self defence.
On the same night the events transcribed, December 9th 1981, William Francome was born, and this coincidence sparked an interest in Jamal’s case as a boy. Francone’s apparent obsession in Jamal’s activism and growing fame has culminated in a new documentary project, In Prison My Whole Life, which was well received at last year’s Cannes as well as the London Film Festival.
The director of the film, Marc Evans (Snow Cake, My Little Eye) was present at a post-screening Q and A session with Cardiff University students, discussing his motivation for making the documentary.
What do you think the film is really about?
The line of inquiry with the film was to go on a journey, and ask questions and not to start off thinking, “well, we’re going to make a film about race, or the American justice system,” you know? I suppose essentially, and it’s a bit of a copout, but the film is about what Mumia represents, because in a way, he’s not quite Che Guevara, but he’s got that sort of mythical quality.
The journey for Will was to get to the bottom of who he was, what he means, and the repercussions of it. In a way, it does become a film about the death penalty, about race, and about potential solutions to social problems.
How did you get involved in the project?
Well to be honest, I didn’t know about the story and that was the point. Will is a computer geek of a certain age who has been spending a lot of time following the trials and tribulations of Mumia Abu Jamal online. It’s tinged with a bit of campaign and celebrity I suppose, inasmuch as it has Colin Firth as one of the executive producers on it, who I had worked with a few times in a few dramas, and he’s very political as a person and his wife (Livia Giuggioli) is very political, and they were at dinner with this kid who is a friend of a friend and Livia asked him what he was doing with himself, and he said he really wanted to do this Mumia film.
So she called me up and my initial reaction was that in this day and age of digital cameras, why couldn’t he go and make his own film, in the tradition of Supersize Me or similar personal odysseys. The truth of it was though that he wasn’t a filmmaker, he was just someone with an obsession and an interest in Abu Jamal for all the reasons stated in the film.
What appealed to you about Mumia initially?
I heard Mumia’s voice, and it’s not just the sort of voice and reaches out and grabs you and speaks to you, but also something that seems to me to have something heroic about it and something tragic about it as well. It felt like it was stuck in a timewarp – the sort of voice that belonged to Martin Luther King or the other great orators of the 50s, 60s and 70s.
Did you find it hard to get people from the government or the prosecution to contribute their ideas to the film?
It’s a fair point and to be honest, it’s a campaigning film and Amnesty are behind it, so it would probably be disingenuous for me to say there was no bias there.
But from Will's point of view, from someone who isn’t a trained journalist used to penetrating difficult situations to get interviews in, we felt there was due diligence.
There’s a lot of Mumia fatigue (in Philadelphia), especially in relation to the death penalty issue, so on both sides there were people selected to speak about it, and we found some resistance from elements of his support groups as well as the “kill Mumia” factions. I feel there is just more to talk about from this side of things somehow. It’s the nature of opposition I guess.