Sean Mc Allister about the Bread and Roses Film Festival

South London, April, 2012

I often wonder what happened to our wonderful tradition in political documentary filmmaking, it’s funny to think that it was British TV documentaries that inspired me to leave an oily factory in the early 1980’s and become a documentary filmmaker. I cannot imagine finding the same inspiration coming from TV today, sadly. Somehow I still manage to come out of the grey BBC white city building with commissions to go off to far-flung places to make my films, but often, in lonely filming moments, I do wonder where those passionate films that push for social and political change have gone.

When I was asked to show my most recent film in a great local pub around the corner from me called The Bread and Roses in Clapham, I wasn’t exactly sure why. Then I discovered it was housing a fantastic festival celebrating the centenary of the 1912 bread and roses textile strike, where a whole collection of political films marking great moments in history will to be shown – and to help those of us with no money, all the screenings are free! The Bread and Roses pub is a beer workers co-op pub that also sells great independent beer, so there is the chance to get a great pint and see a great movie also. I think this festival is the inspiration I miss from British TV: it has the most amazing collections of films and great timing after an explosive year of revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and hopefully Syria soon too – where I’d spent most of the last year myself.

The festival has been organised by Studio Strike alongside the Kitchen Sink Collective who are an inspiring group of NFTS graduates that got together and formed a filmmaking co-op that they run above the pub, and will also be screening their film ‘The Real Social Network’. There’s a fantastic array of other films including the Oscar-nominated ‘If a Tree Falls’ and Michael Moore’s ‘Capitalism a Love Story’ and an appearance from Nick Broomfield with his first film ‘Behind the rent strikes’ a great depiction of strife in 1970’s Britain in a Liverpool housing estate. Nick will be in conversation after the screening with the godfather of documentary, the great Colin Young, an inspiration. Colin founded the NFTS and has written extensively on documentary filmmaking – he has always been a major influence to me in my own career.

I’m writing from Athens, where I’m developing a new documentary about the Greek crisis, but will be back next week to introduce my most recent film at the festival: The Reluctant Revolutionary (Friday 4th May at 9pm), which charts the Yemeni revolution last year through the ambivalent eyes of a local tour guide, Kais.


Follow Sean on @mcallisterfilms


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