Adventures in outdoor cinema: Liverpool CAAT screen a film onto their local arms company!

In August, Liverpool activists began planning an ambitious event – screening an anti-arms trade film onto the side of their local arms factory. But when they arrived to set up, they ran into a series of problems which nearly scuppered their plans. That is, until their audience pulled together to make it happen! From hot-wiring generators to spontaneous dancing, James Crawley explains what they got up to next.Film screening

We arrived at the site for our film to find we’d forgotten the extension cable. So a friend cycled home to get one….a solution.

We’d brought along the wrong type of laptop to fit the projector AND the sound cable was missing from the speakers. So our friends drove across the city to collect them…a solution.

Everything was in place and ready to start. But the lead to kick start the generator snapped. My dear friends from the Kurdish community laughed. “We’re from Kurdistan! This is no problem for us!” So they got down on their knees and hotwired the generator…another solution.

By working together and collaboratively we managed to get the films under way, and what a shared moment of achievement that was! Everybody cheered with joy once the generator powered up and the projector cast its first images against the wall. It was such a magnificent moment; one I will not forget for as long as I live. Collectively we found solutions to each of our problems. We became a community who worked together.

The ideological purpose of projecting an anti-arms trade film against an arms factory came from an inherent belief that the arms industry represents everything that is so terrible and destructive about neoliberal Capitalism. Neoliberal Capitalism leads to vast inequality and insecurity in our world, as the rich get richer by exploiting the domestic poor and those living within developing countries. The arms industry makes profit from war, death and destruction. As peoples whole lives are bombed – their homes, schools, families, hospitals, communities – they sink into poverty: financial, cultural, and spiritual poverty; while those who sign the contracts at BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, MST and other multinational corporations extend their riches by supplying weapons to bomb and destroy yet more communities.

Neoliberal Capitalism demands that everything that is public should become private, that every space should be utilized to create profit. As a community we worked together to reclaim our public space, enjoying a free community cinema experience, and projecting an anti-war, anti-Capitalist message against the walls of those who are waging ideological and literal warfare against the poorest people within our world while their own power, wealth and privilege continues to grow.

Our cinema highlights were:

  1. Neighbours: an Academy award-winning short film by Norman McLaren (1952) is a simple, romantic and enthralling art piece with a melancholic undertone. Delicately stylized with symmetrical simplicity the film portrays a peaceful and loving friendship between neighbours turning into a sour conflict. United by their appreciation of the natural wonders of our world they admire a solitary flower, but due to ideals of ownership and possession they destroy their friendship, their connection, the very nature they admire so deeply. Discussion after the movie drew parallels with the root causes of the current refugee crisis, the Kurdish diaspora, and the Palestinian conflict. You can watch Neighbours here.
  2. Hell Unltd (1936) was made by Helen Biggar & Norman McLaren as a protest against profits in armaments during a period when fascism was growing throughout Europe. The film expertly combines stop motion animation and allegory to form a powerful argument against the war industry. Our version overlaid the silent movie with a beautiful deep-house soundtrack, which echoed out across the River Mersey, creating a shared electricity, a buildup of adrenaline towards the movie’s climax. The final scene sees the people realizing they are the majority and the capitalist elite are the minority, as they push the weapons off a chess board and dance in a circle holding hands, celebrating peace.

As this happened and the end credits rolled up the screen, our community spontaneously cheered, held hands, jumped up and began dancing in a circle. It was an incredibly beautiful moment. Absolutely awe inspiring. The planned discussion after the film wasn’t needed. We all connected with the message, celebrating the accomplishment of the evening by dancing together as equals.

By working collaboratively – as a community – as a network of friends – we managed to achieve a truly interactive cinema experience and enjoyed a wonderful evening together. By working as friends – collaboratively – as a community – we can continue to reclaim our urban spaces by using art, film and culture to expand our ideals and change the neoliberal system that puts profits before people.

And by working together we can continue to change the public consciousness that will eventually lead to the majority of people in our world standing in opposition to the arms trade, which facilitates the destruction of so many lives within our world.

Hell Unltd was screened by CAAT & L15 Projector & Cinema Cooperative as part of Scalarama Film Festival, 5th September 2015, to raise awareness about the London arms fair, DSEI.

CAAT would not exist without its supporters. Each new supporter helps us strengthen our call for an end to the international arms trade.

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