The latest Bars for Change film has got it wrong by focusing on Muslim extremism in the UK, argues Jody McIntyre, who wants to dissociate himself from it.
The EDL have been portrayed as a group trying to 'peacefully protest.'
Photo by Gavin Lynn under a CC Licence.
I agreed to be involved with the Bars for Change films [a Channel 4 series of online music documentaries] with the intent of giving a voice to young people who find themselves marginalised, discriminated against and ignored. Unfortunately, I spent the duration of the project battling against a television production company, Windfall Films, spearheaded by series producer Christian Broadhurst, intent on pursuing an elitist agenda. This ideology was revealed in the third film they have released which amounts to little more than a piece of pro-government war propaganda.
'If it wasn't for the Muslims Against Crusades,' said Broadhurst, on the eve of the film's release, 'then the English Defence League wouldn’t exist.' Broadhurst is the producer of the film, and even after the online backlash, he told me he was ‘editorially, completely happy’ with it.
He has spent the last few weeks filming with the EDL, but footage in the film of them beating up two Muslim youths is darkened out. Instead, we see the following message:
'The EDL claim to be non violent. But violence seems to follow them.'
Violence is portrayed as an unwanted guest, tailing the EDL everywhere they go, rather than an act voluntarily and willingly being carried out on the screen in front of us. In the very next shot, as if to counter this already half-hearted suggestion of violence, we see the co-founder of the EDL urging members to protest peacefully. How sweet of him.
In reality, Windfall Films have not tried very hard to disguise the agenda behind this film. The very first text we see on screen begins with, 'According to the government.' So much for the tag line ‘your voice, your opinion’ that was supposed to define this series. In addition, the film was, before being forced offline by a unified online response, listed on YouTube in the ‘Non-Profit and Activism’ category, despite Windfall Films being a corporate television production company being paid a large amount of money to produce the series.
Windfall Films consistently failed to faithfully represent the musicians and performers on board with the Bars for Change series. Black The Ripper was instructed to change his lyrics for the film, but refused to do so. ‘Sanna,’ who is actually Yemeni poet Sanasino and whose name they didn't even bother to spell correctly, was lied to about the topic of the film and not told what footage of her would appear in the final cut. Producers originally told her the film was about ‘the dangers of far right extremism’ rather than extremism in general.
From recent conversations with people involved in the film, including Black The Ripper, Sanasino and SBTV, as well as my own numerous experiences, I worry that Christian Broadhurst has made a career out of tricking his way to a final product. This manner of dealing with people, with so little respect, always results in negative consequences.
It is not only Sanasino whose footage was not included. Other key scenes were also glaringly absent. At the height of the student movement, Windfall Films recorded me interviewing Vince Cable MP, but no one has seen it since. For episode two of Bars For Change, I conducted an interview with Sayid Javid MP. Where is that footage? And where's the footage of my interview with Stephen Lennon, founder of the English Defence League?
These interviews were intended to challenge those in power and celebrate the strength of our culture. Not to act as Windfall Films’ mouthpiece for the government.