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netribution > features > interview with paul o'connor > page two

I imagine the filmmakers have pretty close and frequent contact with the police. Do express they sympathy with what you are trying to do or exercise leniency compared with their handling of protestors?
No, the police have no respect for alternative media. This is probably because they have no control over our message. Mainstream media rely on the police for so many of their crime stories that I suspect they will not rock the boat too much. Alternative media has no qualms in reporting accurate accounts of violent police. Camcorders have placed them under public scrutiny and hopefully make them more accountable for their actions.

Who is your audience?

Originally we set up to empower the 17 million people who send their £17.50 or whatever each month to Greenpeace or WWF or any large NGO to take action themselves rather than paying others to take action on their behalf. The videos we distribute show a wide cross section of people involved in stopping destructive practises carried out by governments, industries, and individuals. We focus on the positive side such as empowerment, education, results, and actions of individuals in each video.

Our audience has now expanded to schools, universities, campaigners worldwide, journalists, as well as the general audience through terrestrial TV and the internet worldwide.

Is it a contradiction to attempt to get your films seen by as many people
as possible if that means using a broadcaster with any dubious motives or history?

Depends on the strategy, if we could get a program on to one of Murdoch's outlets challenging the corporate media then I think that's great. But I think that a focused smaller audience has more impact and potential that any mass audience.

Can you list some major events that have been covered by Undercurrents over the years?
The mass protests against road building and car growth, GM food, the Right
to be naked in public, Globalisation direct action from brazil to Seattle
to Prague to Indonesia to Italy, climate change, legalisation of cannabis and more.

What was the most interesting or contentious of those for you?

The anti roads movement because it touched so many people. Everyone is directly affected by traffic pollution and we have had a great deal of progress in mobilising and educating people on the role of the oil companies, media, hauliers, government ministers, in the construction of roads. Stopping the Tory roads programme was a victory as well. Sadly however Labour are now going back on their word and are relaunching a new road building programme.

What has been the role of Undercurrents during the Genoa protests?

Undercurents worked with and uploaded text and video reports from the street protests. Also we trained people how to hold their cameras to get a steady shot and record for legal witness purposes. We also co-ordinated people with video cameras to record all over the city to get a better picture of the dozens of demonstrations occurring.

I imagine there is a sector of those protesting that would rather not be filmed for fear of video evidence being brought against them. How sensitive do filmmakers have to be at these events?
Very. It is important that video activists think about WHY they are recording anything. If we record a McDonalds junk food joint being destroyed we have to ask ourselves what we are going to do with the images. The result is that we generally don't record anyone destroying corporate property. This ensures that we do not act as unpaid evidence gatherers for the state. Police are increasingly crossing the journalist lines and demanding all the tapes from any form of civil unrest, which is unacceptable and will put reporters at great risk when reporting demonstrations in the future.

Do you have an archive of footage and who has access to that?

Yes, 2000 hours worth and it's used by everyone except the police - as far as we know anyhow.

Do you organise regular screenings of these films, indeed, is there a film festival specific to the type of films that come your way?

Yes we do organise screenings. We are setting up as a touring/internet hosting area for activists' films. We work with Groovy movie, a solar and wind powered cinema which show our videos all over the country.

What's the future for Undercurrents?
Revolution. Staying ahead of the curve and not forgetting where we grew from.

Undercurrents Alternative News
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