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?

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Arts and Entertainment
Panic! In The Disco's Brendon Urie performs on stage

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform