Thursday, 14 July 2011

The Just Do It Premiere: An Adventure In Pictures

Last week Mrs The Incredible Suit expressed an interest in Just Do It, a new documentary about "environmental direct activists". She basically wanted to use our marriage as a way to get herself into a preview screening, and it warmed my stone cold heart that after nine years I could still be of some use to her.

To prove my worth as a husband, I decided to go one step further. Preview screenings are for lesser spouses: I was going to get her into the premiere. Red carpets, free booze, paparazzi: these are the things that keep a marriage alive, right? So I put in a call to one of my many "contacts" "on the inside" (hi Will) and before I knew it there was an invitation to Saturday's premiere in my inbox.

Because Just Do It is all about what Home & Away's Alf Stewart would describe as
everything about the premiere was recycled, and the dress code was "glamour recyclage". This panicked me a little because no clothing I own is glamorous or recycled, so I nipped round to the Cancer Research shop and bought a £15 suit that almost fit me. I thought everyone else would be wearing newspaper shirts or trousers made of potato peelings so I didn't think a couple of slightly short jacket sleeves would matter.
The venue wasn't Leicester Square but an unassuming building on Shaftesbury Avenue. Although the door was shut I knew we were at the right place because there was a poster outside and a few people standing about looking retro and confused.
It turned out to be one of those great forgotten buildings that cities hide in plain view, like a cross between a church and a Walkabout bar. It had been decorated with banners that looked like they'd been salvaged from the last few climate camps, and at this point I began to wonder if I was going to stick out like a sore thumb, having had a wash in the last seven days THAT WAS A JOKE BASED ON UNFOUNDED STEREOTYPES.
As luck would have it, there was a goody bag on each seat which contained, amongst other things, a bar of Lush soap, which is officially the most potently fragranced substance known to man, so there were no incidences of unpleasant whiffery. There was also free elderflower champagne which was bloody good, and free popcorn, one piece of which lodged itself in the back of my throat and refused to budge for 24 hours.
Sadly the audience was not made up of Levellers fans and soap-dodging crusties, but in an attempt to take a photo of one man's magnificent face furniture I unwittingly snapped four literally amazing fizzogs at once:
Eventually the film's director, Emily James, appeared to introduce her film. She was lovely and enthusiastic and excited and interesting but for reasons best known to herself she was wearing a dress which made her look like she had male genitalia, around which she had tied an elastic band.
And so the fun ended and the film began.
Just Do It follows several groups of activists as they secretly plan their next mission to expose the wrongdoings of one multinational corporation or another, and throughout the film we get to know a few of them as they attend the G20 protests of 2009, break into power stations and airports to set up climate camps and disrupt the daily business of bank headquarters, risking arrest at every turn.

Now don't get me wrong: I take my hat off to anyone who's prepared to go to extreme lengths to fight for something they strongly believe in. The world needs people to take a stand and stick it to The Man every now and again, and it's good to see how these people work and what makes them tick.

However, there's a strong feeling out there that most of these activists are spoiled posh kids having a jolly good wheeze while living off Mummy and Daddy instead of going out and getting a job, paying taxes and contributing to society. And rather than take the opportunity to refute that theory, Just Do It instead reinforces it with an almost uninterrupted stream of mildly annoying people having boffo fun D-locking themselves by the neck to the top of stepladders erected inside revolving doors, as if they're protected from the very real chance of a broken neck by their unswerving allegiance to "the cause" and their nose piercings.
If ever a documentary invited a game of stereotype bingo, this is it. Callous, heartless police? Check. Dreadlocked, middle-class white boys? Check. Man with acoustic guitar singing folky lament straight into camera? Check. Alf Stewart would pop a sprocket if he saw this lot in action.
Emily James never set out to make a balanced documentary depicting both sides of the argument, and as an inside look into the world of direct activists, Just Do It does indeed just do it. It just feels like a wasted chance to convince a nonpartisan audience that the causes featured are worth fighting for, instead bashing them over the head for 88 minutes with a message that takes a fraction of that time to make as an animated .gif:
Mrs The Incredible Suit didn't like it either.

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