Could this film change the world?

Caution: this article contains some graphic descriptions that some will find distressing.

Today at work I saw an excerpt from Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields, a film that has been made over a period of two years by Channel 4 News.

The broadcaster invited its staff to attend a screening of some of the devastating footage present in tomorrow’s hour-long documentary, and to ask questions to Channel 4’s Head of News and Current Affairs, Dorothy Byrne, director Callum Macrae and Channel 4 news journalist Jon Snow (who narrates the film).

We were given warnings prior to viewing the footage, and were told that we were welcome to leave if necessary. Although I knew that staying would be incredibly difficult – both in the moment and in the aftermath – something kept me rooted to the small rostrum I had used as a seat (the cinema was packed).

And so it began. The 13 final, chilling minutes of the documentary that Channel 4 will be screening from 11.05pm on Tuesday 14th June and releasing online to the world (geo-unblocked) shortly afterwards. The brutal footage provides uncompromising evidence as to the atrocities committed after the 25-year Sri Lankan civil war had ended in 2009. It is widely acknowledged that war crimes were committed by both the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the Sri Lankan government during the war. The first part of the film documents this – and Channel 4 news have always presented this as such.

The end of the film shows what happened to those who freely surrendered, and those who, blindfolded and bound, knelt silently had had their deaths captured on videophones as a prized ‘trophy’ by their executors. Still photographs are also present. Naked bodies – many of raped and murdered women – are filmed by government forces who laugh, gurn for the camera and discuss their victims. One soldier is heard to comment on a corpse; “This one had the best figure”, whilst in a separate film, a militant professes a desire to mutilate the breasts of the body of the woman he observes through his camera lens. During a time of surrender, these are no longer purely war crimes – these are crimes against humanity.

In an article written for the Guardian, director Callum Macrae writes about the necessity of making these images available to the world and what must be done with the footage captured:

These pictures push to the limit every normal rule of what is acceptable on television. You will see prisoners, bound and gagged, being executed in cold blood. You will see innocent civilians dying in agony on the ground in makeshift hospitals, which have been denied medicines and supplies by the Sri Lankan government. But if this is the only way to make people take this seriously, we believe it is the right thing to show these images.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon has been questioned about his resistance to bring the perpetrators of these heinous crimes to account, claiming that he does not have the authority to put mechanisms into place to investigate them. With his intentions to rerun for his title clear, could it be that Ban Ki Moon is eager not to displace the support of Russia and China? This article seems to think so.

For Macrae, who has shown the film to the UN and will see his film screened around the world and at the Houses of Parliament on the 22nd June, the ball is firmly in the UN’s court – and they need to take action swiftly.

If the UN fails yet again, the message to every tyrant and repressive government will be clear: if you want to kill your own people with impunity, you will probably get away with it.

Around the world, civilians are uprising. But what happens when the dust settles? What happens when more of our troops return to the safety of home? What happens if we do not hold this government accountable, and others around the world feel safe in their own reprehensible actions?

When we left Sri Lanka in 2009, we left the people to die. And if we leave them without justice then we deserve to be left with them in our minds, and their final moments, captured on shaking videophones, at the forefront of our consciousnesses.

One resounding question rang out through the cinema after the screening; what can we do?

This list is by no means exhaustive but you could:

  • Tweet your local MP and tell him to attend the screening on the 22nd June at the Houses of Parliament
  • Write on your own blogs about the atrocities and share
  • Share the link to the film on via blogs, Twitter and Facebook

Gearing up for Get Frank

The news in briefs (aka bulletpoints)

  • I’ve just finished my last bit of work for uni and now just have  a dissertation proposal meeting (weds) and a 9am-5pm audition on tues to go.
  • Am about to launch a podcasting project on Burnfm.
  • Have been offered (and taken) the position of Generation Next Future Media Production Assistant for Channel 4 (more on that later.)
  • Have a featured open mic slot at The Phoenix, Coventry on Monday
  • Am preparing for my first gig with a full band at The Rainbow on Friday 29th May…

So firstly the ‘big gig…’ I’ve been dreaming of playing The Rainbow in Digbeth for over a year. It’s literally my favourite Brummie venue so I can’t believe I’m getting to play there. I’m playing with the wonderful Dan Smith, who I played at the Yardbird with in March. You can check out my myspace or my youtube if you’ve not heard my music before. All tracks on myspace are available to download for free! I’ve got five extra people helping me so expect glockenspiel, keyboards, guitars, drums, bongoes and a saxophone…

Also big thanks to all the lovely tweets about the Channel 4 internship I was very pleased too! I’m going to be focused on the Big Brother website and a few others I’ve not been told about yet. It’s my first proper paid internship so hopefully I won’t be too overdrawn at the end of summer like I was last year.


Hope to see you at the Rainbow on Friday!

Frank x


Swine Flu – How to strike the balance between fear and ignorance

The current subject of major international focus is the Swine Flu.  Of course, you don’t need me to tell you that – it’s probably the most talked about thing on the internet right now, seemingly stealing the focus from the ever depressing recession. Being a student I’ve felt slightly cushioned from the talk of unemployment and bankers’ distress, preferring to concentrate on my deadlines and my final year of study before I’m thrown into a world of economic turmoil.

When I last checked today, just before starting write this article, it seems that there have been 91 cases of Swine Flu confirmed by laboratory testing in America (51 of those in New York) and sadly one death (a child in Texas.) There have been five UK cases affirmed, with one woman being treated from her home in Redditch. On the TV as I am currently writing a news anchor reports from outside a health centre in Northfield reporting that ‘we must hope that the threat in the West Midlands remains mild’ and that a victim’s uncle could not obtain tamiflu from 6 different pharmacies. If this was a confirmed case of tamiflu then I am sure that the patient would have been given tamiflu directly by the hospital so I’m not entirely sure what that victim was suffering from… (I’d been briefly watching Newsnight on the other side…)

The following was published from this article on the BBC news website:

The BBC’s Alex Bushill in Paignton, Devon

No school expected to be at the centre of a national media storm, but for the pupils of Paignton Community and Sports College in south Devon, there were to be even more shocks and surprises.

A little after 1300 BST this afternoon, the 2,000 pupils were told that one of their friends had contracted swine flu from a recent trip to Mexico. They did not know it, but already satellite vans and cameramen were gathering outside the school gate and the prime minister had announced on the floor of the Commons that a 12-year-old girl at the school was ill with the virus.

Although she is now responding well to drugs, there is a great deal of anger amongst parents and pupils alike that they were not told in advance.

In amongst the tears, parents came to collect their children as the school was closed. Reeling not just from the shock that swine flu had arrived on their doorstep, but in the manner that they had heard the worrying news.

It is the content of stories like the one above that make me worry about the way that the potential pandemic is being handled. The fact that 2,000 students and their parents reacted with hysteria surely reflects what a nation constantly accompanied by the media must be enduring. I myself have become uneasy this evening particularly after seeing footage of Dr Margaret Chan of the World Health Organisation officially raising the alert over the level of swine flu to 5 – one away from the level of ‘pandemic (human – human transmission in two countries.) This means that countries must ready their ‘pandemic preparedness plans.’ In Britain this appears to be stockpiling as many doses of tamiflu as possible (and hoping that the virus does not mutate to become untreatable.)

All of this is news that we, as members of the public are perfectly entitled to of course and most coverage by the media has been greatly informative, particularly by sites such as the BBC. However, for the next few weeks I would not even consider buying a tabloid newspaper for fear of seeing sensationalized pictures or ‘survivors stories.’ For example this story on The Sun’s website starts to read as a fairly factual piece until a silly picture of random people arriving at Heathrow airport is followed by text in bold to make you feel INDIGNANT AND BETRAYED BY THE GOVERNMENT the piece ends by saying that ’25 million could catch it here in months.’ Surely this is scaremongering? The content about the lack of masks is completely unnecessary, particularly as we have already been informed that masks are only useful to members of the medical profession as touching the masks after using them renders them pointless.

So what I have deducted from the oodles of internet, tv and print info is that people should carry tissues, get out the old festival anti bacterial gel and to not sneeze on people. To be honest I’m going to be doing this namely because I have a bit of a cold at the moment and my hayfever is rather chronic and is beginning to flare up.

Personally I am going to try not to worry; I have an exam tomorrow and an interview for an internship with Channel 4 as part of their Generation Next scheme next week. My exam is a practical performance of an Alan Aykbourne play called Invisible Friends. In it I play an angry middle aged dad and the voices of a tv, including a speech about rising inflation which suddenly feels all the more relevant!

The Channel 4 interview is for a new media post, as an assistant to the producer of the Big Brother website. When the program is on each Summer I’d say I probably visit the website more than I watch the program itself so therefore I’m quite excited about it! Aside from being keen generally my experience online and also through running I’d say I’ve got as much a chance as any. As long as they don’t think I’m too young or don’t like that I’ve not finished my degree hopefully I’ll do well. The internship is from July to mid september and therefore I’ll be free to devote all my time to the job. (Put it this way; I really, really want to do it!) A task created video of Ulrika Johnson and Verne Troyer performing the Diana Ross and Lionel Richie duet, Endless Love from this year’s Celebrity Big Brother got over 81,000 views in a matter of days (the task was to get at least 10,000) which shows exactly how cross platform content is becoming increasingly popular amongst mainstream audiences. 

Hope you are all equally well and that this article hasn’t caused a panic!


Skins: Courting controversy for the sake of it?

This is the first full trailer for teen focused drama, Skins.

The third series will focus on former lead character Tony’s sister Effie, and her friends. I’m looking forward to a casting change as I felt that the former characters lacked something (um…realism?)

Skins is one of those marmite programmes. I personally find it irritating, completely unrealistic, often poorly scripted, (the line “whoa nice swearing!” haunts my dreams…) and yet still utterly compelling.

The very first trailer for Skins a couple of years ago mixed semi naked revellers, sexual activity and lots of booze. The new trailer, as above, is oddly full of violence and more of the expected ‘aren’t we cool’ posing.

In the original series Effie, who at first appeared to be a dedicated privately educated school girl (but actually spent her evenings out partying) was involved in one of the more interesting plot twists concerning her adventure filled evenings out and her brother’s part in her double life.

This advert is probably nothing to do with the series, bearing in mind that the characters are just sixteen (!) It reminds me somewhat of the scene in Trainspotting when Begbie throws a glass over a balcony just because he feels like fighting. That however is not a scene that takes place with 6 posh teenagers in a Bristonian pub!

The second series took advantage of the fact that most of its cast had turned 18 and were legally allowed to flash more than before…one of the production team even wrote about having to film certain scenes late on in the schedule because they were waiting for a cast member to come of age. If they couldn’t shock with the partying, booze and drugs of the previous series they could fill it with sex and they did, usually with one sex scene per episode- Skins therefore telling teenagers not only how to party but how to ‘do it’ as well…

…what ‘how to’ will series three give us? How to draw blood without displacing elaborate hair?