The tie-dyed warriors who make us look stupid

review

Marc Munden's film The Tribe (BBC2) opened in a ruck of policemen, a jostle of black serge, confused shouting, sudden tilts and flares of light. It was a threatening image, one which conveyed what the police might look like if you were dreadlocked and tie-dyed and chained to a mechanical digger. Film can alter your eyeline quite easily like this, as radical video-makers have already discovered. They know how to use our unreflective tendency to empathise with the camera, particularly when the conventions of formal address have been discarded. When a beefy security guard sticks his hand in front of the lens, there is a peculiar sort of intimacy to the affront. "Get outa moy face bwoy," said a bad-tempered policemen to one of the protesters, but the effect of the angle was to convince you that he had been getting in yours.

Permanently changing an audience's point of view, on the other hand, is a little trickier. For all of Munden's obvious sympathy, I didn't, at first, hold out much hope for the Rainbow Tribe. Even as I muttered liberal platitudes to myself ("It takes all sorts", "Live and let live"), I couldn't help snagging on a submerged uneasiness about their uncomplicated zeal. I don't know whether it's the covert thread of hope in their predictions of imminent catastrophe or their ceaseless self-congratulation, but there is something unappealing there, whatever one thinks about ecological evangelism. When Rainbow Lizzie announces that the "economic situation is just going to collapse", you suspect that she has her fingers crossed; she wants the globe to join her in bankruptcy.

But, little by little, Marc Munden's film eroded such suspicions. It helped that his film was funny, even if some of the laughs were a little dismissive. In one scene a young woman addressed the collective as they discussed whether to open a bank account: "If you want to be right on" she said, "then the one to go for is the Co-op. If you want to be practical then the nearest Co-op is in Islington right? And I'm sorry, but I fink if the Co-op were that together they'd have a branch in Camden." Later two Rainbow Warriors wielded their dreadful French on a local resident in an attempt to get her to sign a petition, persisting long after comprehension had curled up and died. The prospects for Warrior expansion into Europe did not look good.

It was also clear that John Major's characterisation of them as shiftless scroungers is a little wide of the mark. They may be irritatingly pious, and they may sing truly dreadful protest dirges ("We are a circle, we are a circle, with no beginning and never ending" - tune to fit the words) but they are also energetic, principled and determined. Active citizens, you could say. Their incredulity that the Criminal Justice Bill should have passed into law without widespread protest made you uneasy in a different way, an uncomfortable reminder that a society should be judged by how it accommodates its critics, not by how efficiently it suppresses them.

Last week Trial and Error gave the police a hard time in two accounts of alleged miscarriages of justice. Last night the BBC contributed to television's continuing supervision of the criminal justice system with Rough Justice (BBC1). The feel of the programmes is identical, from the title sequences to the casebook prose style ("Saturday, 23 May... a warm spring day...") but Rough Justice relied a little more heavily on contradictory expert opinion, a little less on digging up new facts. Even so, they made a fair case that Paul Esslemont's conviction for the brutal murder of Carl Kennedy, a three-year-old boy, was unsafe. You couldn't entirely blame the police for believing Esslemont had committed the crime, even if they had to ignore some inconvenient facts to protect that belief. But your thoughts about the rest of the judicial system were less charitable. Why does it take a television programme to make you feel reasonable doubt?

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory