All Watched Over By Adam Curtis


Sitting in front of All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace, it is easy to let the brilliance of the style wash over you. Illustrated with dazzling imagery, one big idea morphs seamlessly into another, while Curtis’s hypnotic narration smoothes away any cognitive bumps. Like attending a lecture by firebrand philosopher Slavoj Zizek, one comes away feeling overwhelmed and inspired by the relentless pace and mesmerising variety of idea. But there remains a niggling feeling you may have been bamboozled, a feeling that if you stopped and thought about the big themes, they would collapse into a pile of … Continue reading

Where to start with Adam Curtis


A friend asked me where they should start with Adam Curtis. It’s a good question. Curtis has been making films since the early 1980s and really came into his own in the 1990s and 2000s. His latest films Bitter Lake (2015) and HyperNormalisation (2016) constitute a break with the past insofar as he has taken his style to its end. What follows next may be a great decline, or it could be a radical new phase in his work. But let’s get back to the question. The latest films may be hard-going for newcomers to the Curtis style. So I’m going to list my … Continue reading

“Don’t take us for granted!” – voters give African National Congress a dose of tough love

TSHWANE, SOUTH AFRICA – Interest in countries’ local elections is usually confined within state borders, while national elections nearly always attract international attention. Not so South Africa’s municipal elections on August 3, which made headlines around the world. The elections saw the ruling African National Congress (ANC) lose its outright majorities in half of the country’s eight urban hubs, the metropolitan municipalities of Tshwane (Pretoria), Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, and Nelson Mandela Bay. The major ascendant parties are the conservative Democratic Alliance (DA) and the left-populist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). A massive 204 political parties contested the elections, 68 per cent more … Continue reading

The Morning After the Referendum of the Sinister Clowns

As I write this some interesting events  are occurring in the wake of the ‘Brexit’ referendum. Labour shadow cabinet members are striving to oust the leader, Corbyn, on the strange grounds that he didn’t back their (losing) position enthusiastically enough,  but rather seems to have more in common with the people who voted the other way. Yes: the best thing these people can think of at a time of national crisis is to pick up the telephone and plot against their leader. Not that they have any kind of plan. They don’t: they’ve no plan. At a time when we need … Continue reading

Beyond the Circus: The EU Referendum

With the referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU less than two weeks away and after a brutal campaign that feels like it’s been going on forever it’s perhaps not surprising that a degree of fatigue is setting in. Indeed the public “debate” has been continually marred by the suspicion that this has more to do with factionalism within the Tory party than any genuine popular will, and the continued spectacle of government ministers tearing strips off each other in public is about as politically engaging as an episode of Jeremy Kyle. Exasperated audience members on Question Time cry “I … Continue reading

The Referendum of the Sinister Clowns.

I feel I’m being forced into this referendum by a political class that is intent on manipulation and jockeying for position, not for substantial social or political reasons. It hasn’t arisen from some profound demand by ‘the people’ to settle an issue of sovereignty and democracy. It’s been foisted on us. We need a politically savvy debate on just these issues, but this certainly isn’t it. No wonder so many people are switched off. None of our masters care a fig for ‘the sovereignty of the British people’, or ‘the democratic will and rights of  the citizen ‘ etc etc.’ It’s frivolous chatter. And … Continue reading