Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Review of 'Grasp the Nettle'

I watched this last night at the Earl Haig Hall in Crouch End, projected from a laptop (as is typical of such showings, there was a low battery warning on the screen at around three quarters of the way through).

This is a zero-budget, over-long, slightly shapeless, but honest and evocative film about two overlapping communities of activists; an eco-village of benders on a site awaiting development near Kew Bridge, and the 'Democracy Village' in Parliament Square. Both communities no longer exist, having been evicted by bailiffs and police. Both were affected by an influx of the casualties of life - junkies, alcoholics, and nutters, with whom they found it increasingly difficult to deal. The early phase nutters included David Shayler, the ex-MI5 agent who in the film dressed as a woman, said that he was Jesus and rambled on about the Zionist World Government. Later he came to seem quite reasonable as the next wave arrived, including 'Freemen' who denounced Shayler and others as police agents.

After the Freemen came the drunks, the junkies and the mentally ill. Several of the activists complained that they were 'not social workers', and at least one hoped to camera that they would lose their forthcoming court case so that they wouldn't have to deal with the problem people any more.

It would be hard to say that either community achieved anything at all. Some of the people who were watching at the same time were inspired by the dedication and selflessness of the activists, and the way in which they did look after the victims who they found themselves looking after. I was just depressed by all the wasted energy, and the way that the communities got progressively smaller rather than bigger as the nutters made life unbearable for others.

I do remember that student occupations in the 1970s used to have a no-drugs, no alcohol rule. That seems like basic common sense now. I can see that eco-anarchists don't like the idea of having rules (after all, who can enforce them?) but I'd say that the need for that nettle to be grasped is one of the key learnings from the film.

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