Film maker Fahim Alam has lot in his mind and his thoughts are conscious on various subjects regarding today’s society. We sat down on the warm grass and feeling kind of nostalgic about his parents, country and the sun that wasn’t helping, he took his shoes and socks off comfortably to really get in the mood to talk about the themes bought up in his film Riots Reframed. That aims to give various alternative view’s on the 2011 London riots.
Why did you use the medium of film to express your dissatisfaction with the police, the mainstream media and the government?
FAHIM: I was in academia for most of my life. I went to school, college, university, a gap year then to the masters. So are up until I started using film, I was completely in my eyes institutionalized. I was just disillusioned by the written form and the power of the written form carries so much weight because it’s black and white, within that you could imagine so much and you can paint any picture you want. But when you go into film, you’ve got images, text, colouring, effect, graphics, all these things that are archives footage, older footage that you can use, so there’s historical element to it. There are so many things to affect people’s mind. So really it was about the power to reach people and I thought that, I could write something, I could write a book, write articles, write essays or whatever but is it firstly going to reach people? And secondly is it gonna effect their minds in their way in which I want it to effect their minds. Is it gonna win their hearts and minds, basically. And is it gonna have that psychological thrust.
One of the messages of the film I picked up was propaganda. Where do you most tend to see this activity in play or what form?
FAHIM: To be honest I think most things are propaganda but I think we have to be careful when we talk about propaganda in terms of structural propaganda so propaganda plus major power. I can have a conversation with you and within that I could propagate ideas because propaganda is just propagating ideas, planting seeds so the conversation we are having now of propagating some ideas into your head, you might think about them that might affect your mind, might change your life in some way. So in that way we all have that power but to me when we talk about propaganda in the kind of colloquial sense in that people use it to talk about big power structures we need to understand that. When you talk about propaganda and major power, so the power of BBC, Channel four, the internet to reach so many people minds at one go like two million, three, four or ten million in one go that is where propaganda becomes powerful becomes power or has there to change but I would say in this society we live in now, more and more the propaganda of the power structure has infiltrated our day to day life. So I think the nature of propaganda is changing. We now have it on our pockets, all around us. It’s developing but more than developing its infiltrating and it’s penetrating.
Do you think people are starting to wake up to the reality of what’s going on in the mainstream media or are they slowly starting to become conscious of what’s happening all around them?
FAHIM: I think it’s difficult to say, there’s this sort of a binary with the power of the internet and new media and kind of the new platforms of information. On hand you’ve got access and on the other hand the power structures have more access to the people’s minds like Facebook. Most young people will go onto Facebook everyday and they will see like whatever. When I open my face book, my news feeds is full of like this article or that article. And I read something about the way all of that works by algorithm, so if you like certain types of article’s on facebook or if you share certain types of articles or interact with a certain person or a certain news institution they will carry on feeding that back to you.
When I buy a book or cloths or something from eBay, I’d see the same brand or a similar product being advertised in a complete different site, these suggestions that I might think to obey.
FAHIM: Exactly, exactly, so now with all this data that they collect through Google chrome or through YouTube that the storing, they’ve got the power to almost know what you’re thinking or what can affect you, effectively. So now you have tailored ads. So the thing about the internet and the social media and all the information where being bombarded with now is all about how you use it and some people they just consume everything every day, some people are a bit more critical and some people will read a lot of book’s and they keep eye on the news so they have an historical understanding so they can make their own interpretation of the information but unfortunately so many people are just almost brainwashed and just absorbed in the media constantly.
A scene I was really disgusted to see was when that girl was being beaten by the police and the brutal length they will go to maintain order. I can see this country moving into a police state. What do you think?
FAHIM: I think we’d lived in a police state for a very long time. We were born into this world as free; we didn’t have any cloths in our back. So if I wanted to remain free in whichever way, like walk naked as an example or I wanted to do whatever, that is regulated by law and if it’s regulated by law, what does that mean, does it mean I have to obey it? But I don’t want to obey it, so I don’t obey it, what happens then? Then the police will come. At the end of this process of behaviour, law and the outcome there is the treat of or actual violence. So in terms of what I mean of a police state is that the police are the final kind of physical violence behind the law, behind the state. So if the state wants me to do something or not do something then they can get the police on me. That law, that rule does not apply to certain people in society, it doesn’t apply to the Queen, to royalty, to MP’S because they can kill people, their allowed to, their allowed to restrict people’s freedom. So I do believe we live in a police state but the infrastructure is changing. It’s just harder now.
What have you most learnt from your experiences making this film?
FAHIM: I’ve learnt so much. I’ve learnt a lot about power. The level of power we all have within our hands. Power is supported by privilege and I have many privileges that a lot of people don’t. But I didn’t realise that it would be possible to affect so many people in such a strong way by myself effectively by just working at home. I mean I kind of new that power existed but anyway it taught a lot about power, about mobilizing people on a more micro level. There’s lots of skills I’ve learnt, lots of people I’ve met, there’s networks I’ve built, so it taught me about how to mobilize and how to develop structures to mobilize against injustice.
What messages do wish people to take away after viewing your film?
FAHIM: It’s interesting when I do screenings, I want people to talk about the film and the messages within the film and people do, do that. But people are more interested in the project, their like “wow”, how did you do that or do this alone? And with no previous, practical knowledge of these things, and that kind of alerted me that there can be more that comes out of this then just the messages, more than the politics of the documentary, like how it is produced, what is possible in terms of inspiring people in terms of to know that the resources. I always quote this from Paul Gilroy, from a speech he made after the riots called “The Dream of safety” and he talks about how the resources that we need to mobilize, to stand against injustice are all there in the community but it’s about how we use them. So right now as theses cars go by there are people with three or four seats empty in the cars and your gonna take the bus or the train home or whatever buts there’s somebody I can guarantee you going pass your house, the resources’ are there but were not just using it properly. It’s being wasted.