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Mark Saunders | Rebel Video

Mark Saunders

Spectacle
London

Born 1956 in London, where he also lives and works today. Filmmaker with Spectacle, an independent television production company.

00:00 Start. 00:17: Growing up in suburbia. 01:10: Rooted in London. 02:31: Parents. 03:11: A new generation. 04:13: Junior school. 04:53: Cinema. 05:56: London College of Printing. 07:12: A video investigation. 09:05: The Tower Hamlet Arts Project and Despite TV. 10:20: Social justice and media participation. 11:18: Sharing and scratching. 13:12: From a local angle. 13:52: Single issue magazines. 14:38: Distribution. 15:12: Exodus, a portrait film. 16:27: Do it yourself. 17:49: Commissioned by Channel 4. 18:37: Funding and use of my archive. 19:50: Another vision of change. 20:21: Credits (German translation: book Rebel Video, p. 121-148)
Commentary

Despite the Sun

Despite TV
London

1986, 50 mins, U-matic, color, 11 mins (excerpts), original available through www.spectacle.co.uk

In January 1986, Rupert Murdoch moved his printing operation News International from Fleet St to Wapping in East London. Over 5,000 print workers, clerical staff, cleaners, and secretaries were sacked in one day. Despite the Sun is an investigation into the year-long dispute, which shook the print industry. Produced from the point of view of the residents and print workers, the camera records the effects on residents harassed by the police and Murdoch’s trucks alike, and cavalry-like charges of police horses on the picket lines. Vital questions are raised about the ownership and control of the media, access to it, the organization of work, and the impact of the so-called “new technology.”

Sean Cubitt, City Limits, 1986
It’s a phenomenal piece of work. It was using the aesthetic of both the recording equipment (VHS) and the playback, the immediate circulation for Despite the Sun were people in the immediate area of the dispute over moving the Murdoch group newspapers down to the Isle of Dogs and the famous picket lines. The BBC crews, which they interviewed, weren’t allowed through the police lines, but these guys were all locals, so they all went scooting round through people’s houses and so on to get stories that the national media weren’t getting, and it’s a fabulous piece of work, but it was designed to be shown locally and distributed through the library service in Tower Hamlets, so they were expecting domestic TV and VHS playback, so it was pretty raw, and also released very swiftly, I think they cut it in less than a week from about three weeks of shoots. So it was very important aesthetically as well as in terms of its politics.

Battle of Trafalgar

Despite TV
London

1990, 52 mins, U-matic, color, 14 mins (excerpts), original available through www.spectacle.co.uk

The film is an account of the anti-poll tax demonstration on March 31, 1990 in London and raises questions about public order, policing, the independence and accountability of the media, and the right to demonstrate. Eyewitnesses tell their stories against a backdrop of video footage showing the day’s events as they unfolded.

Sheridan Morley, The Times, September 19, 1990
The second “Battle of Trafalgar” has yet to find its place in the history books and will probably not qualify for the waxwork reconstruction at Madame Tussauds. But the anti-poll tax events of March 31 this year (1990) do have some historical fascination, and “Battle of Trafalgar” (Channel 4) suggested that they will resonate for some time yet. A freelance video company called Despite TV produced an hour-long documentary, which carefully reconstructed the demonstration from freelance footage, shot on the hoof and largely unscreened at the time. What it showed was often elderly people of distinctly un-student-like demeanor being violently attacked. Various caveats need to be entered: the film did not claim impartiality, nor did it attract spokesmen from either the police or any of the television news organizations, which the program accused of bias in their subsequent coverage. It was there—as the film company’s title Despite TV might suggest—to prove there was another side to the story of how an initially peaceful mass demonstration became a riot on a spring Saturday evening in central London.

 

Exodus Movement of Jah People

Spectacle
London

1995, producer and director: Mark Saunders, 45 mins, beta sp, color, 10 mins (excerpts), film available through www.spectacle.co.uk, also with French subtitles, German and Italian dubbing.

Squatting and renovating decayed buildings, the Exodus movement pursues a quest to regenerate their disaffected community. Exodus offers work and viable solutions to many of society’s ills like poverty, crime, drugs, unemployment, and the breakdown of community. Exodus blends a mixture of Rastafarianism, new-age punk, and streetsmart politics.

An introduction
The Luton based Exodus Collective came into existence in 1992 as part of the growing DIY culture, which arose in response to unemployment, poverty, and frustration amongst young people. They organized free “rave” parties, renovated derelict homes, and set up a community farm. Some of their activities border on illegality, but they are peaceful. Their philosophy has a spiritual strand, appealing to notions of community and justice in its struggle for survival and renewal. However, their utopian project presents a challenge to the status quo and has met with powerful opposition. Exodus from Babylon investigates the intricate web of this opposition, from aggressive policing to local government obstruction. It reveals the shift in policing from reactive peacekeeping to proactive intervention, involving a series of special operations by Bedfordshire Police.

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