Bitter Lake - Adam Curtis Film on BBC

Phlebas

The Force is Strong With This One
There is a new Adam Curtis Film on the BBC website.

Politicians used to have the confidence to tell us stories that made sense of the chaos of world events.

But now there are no big stories and politicians react randomly to every new crisis - leaving us bewildered and disorientated.

And journalism - that used to tell a grand, unfurling narrative - now also just relays disjointed and often wildly contradictory fragments of information.

Events come and go like waves of a fever. We - and the journalists - live in a state of continual delirium, constantly waiting for the next news event to loom out of the fog - and then disappear again, unexplained.

And the formats - in news and documentaries - have become so rigid and repetitive that the audiences never really look at them.

In the face of this people retreat from journalism and politics. They turn away into their own worlds, and the stories they and their friends tell each other.

I think this is wrong, sad, and bad for democracy - because it means the politicians become more and more unaccountable.

I have made a film that tries to respond to this in two ways.

It tells a big story about why the stories we are told today have stopped making sense.

But it is also an experiment in a new way of reporting the world. To do this I’ve used techniques that you wouldn’t normally associate with TV journalism. My aim is to make something more emotional and involving - so it reconnects and feels more real.

BBC iPlayer has given me the opportunity to do this - because it isn’t restrained by the rigid formats and schedules of network television. It's a place you can go to experiment and try out new ideas.

It is also liberating - both because things can be any length, and also because it allows the audience to watch the films in different ways.

The film is called Bitter Lake. It is a bit of an epic - it’s two hours twenty minutes long.

It tells a big historical narrative that interweaves America, Britain, Russia and Saudi Arabia. It shows how politicians in the west lost confidence - and began to simplify the stories they told. It explains why this happened - because they increasingly gave their power away to other forces, above all global finance.

But there is one other country at the centre of the film.

Afghanistan.

This is because Afghanistan is the place that has repeatedly confronted politicians, as their power declines, with the terrible truth - that they cannot understand what is going on any longer. Let alone control it.

The film shows in detail how all the foreigners who went to Afghanistan created an almost totally fictional version of the country in their minds.

They couldn’t see the complex reality that was in front of them - because the stories they had been told about the world had become so simplified that they lacked the perceptual apparatus to see reality any longer.

And this blindness led to a terrible disaster - support for a blatantly undemocratic government, wholesale financial corruption and thousands of needless deaths.

A horrific scandal that we, in our disconnected bubble here in Britain, seem hardly aware of. And even if we are - it is dismissed as being just too complex to understand.

But it is important to try and understand what happened. And the way to do that is to try and tell a new kind of story. One that doesn’t deny the complexity and reduce it to a meaningless fable of good battling evil - but instead really tries to makes sense of it.

I have got hold of the unedited rushes of almost everything the BBC has ever shot in Afghanistan. It is thousands of hours - some of it is very dull, but large parts of it are extraordinary. Shots that record amazing moments, but also others that are touching, funny and sometimes very odd.

These complicated, fragmentary and emotional images evoke the chaos of real experience. And out of them i have tried to build a different and more emotional way of depicting what really happened in Afghanistan.

A counterpoint to the thin, narrow and increasingly destructive stories told by those in power today./quote]

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p02gyz6b/adam-curtis-bitter-lake



I have enjoyed Adam Curtis films since the 90's but I am a bit disappointed with this latest effort. Maybe the fact that this film isn't planned to shown on TV raised my hopes that this longer format film would go into deeper detail than some of his earlier films ( which to be fair is quite in-depth to begin with) but the opposite seems to have happened. It has always puzzled me why he never really engages with the psychopath subject directly, at the end of his films there is a line that the only people who act in their own interests in all situations are Psychopaths. I think my main issue is the film suggests that Adam Curtis believes the official Osama Bin Laden was behind 9/11 story.

Really ! you have spent the last twenty odd years making films about the slippery folks in power and then all of a sudden you knock back the biggest bowl of BS going.
 

Divide by Zero

The Living Force
Phlebas said:
I have enjoyed Adam Curtis films since the 90's but I am a bit disappointed with this latest effort. Maybe the fact that this film isn't planned to shown on TV raised my hopes that this longer format film would go into deeper detail than some of his earlier films ( which to be fair is quite in-depth to begin with) but the opposite seems to have happened. It has always puzzled me why he never really engages with the psychopath subject directly, at the end of his films there is a line that the only people who act in their own interests in all situations are Psychopaths. I think my main issue is the film suggests that Adam Curtis believes the official Osama Bin Laden was behind 9/11 story.

Really ! you have spent the last twenty odd years making films about the slippery folks in power and then all of a sudden you knock back the biggest bowl of BS going.

It was also really odd to see him talk about what happened with the British troops mistaking everyone as Taliban as something that was a mistake. He was acting like British intelligence had no idea that the local police and politicians were corrupt and would cause this problem.

Exactly like you said, psychopathic thinking was to blame and he didn't even get close to questioning why western intelligence couldn't see the obvious.

It reminds me of people who act like Vietnam was a disaster because of a mistake, not because it was planned to be.

I also disliked the looping random videos, I didn't recall this much looping in his other documentaries.
 

Iosif

Padawan Learner
Divide By Zero said:
Phlebas said:
I have enjoyed Adam Curtis films since the 90's but I am a bit disappointed with this latest effort. Maybe the fact that this film isn't planned to shown on TV raised my hopes that this longer format film would go into deeper detail than some of his earlier films ( which to be fair is quite in-depth to begin with) but the opposite seems to have happened. It has always puzzled me why he never really engages with the psychopath subject directly, at the end of his films there is a line that the only people who act in their own interests in all situations are Psychopaths. I think my main issue is the film suggests that Adam Curtis believes the official Osama Bin Laden was behind 9/11 story.
Really ! you have spent the last twenty odd years making films about the slippery folks in power and then all of a sudden you knock back the biggest bowl of BS going.

It was also really odd to see him talk about what happened with the British troops mistaking everyone as Taliban as something that was a mistake. He was acting like British intelligence had no idea that the local police and politicians were corrupt and would cause this problem.

Exactly like you said, psychopathic thinking was to blame and he didn't even get close to questioning why western intelligence couldn't see the obvious.

It reminds me of people who act like Vietnam was a disaster because of a mistake, not because it was planned to be.

I also disliked the looping random videos, I didn't recall this much looping in his other documentaries.

I think the film is good until the final conclusion, which I don't think is worthy of someone who did The Trap, The Century of the Self and The Power of Nightmares. After watching those last three I wondered why the BBC finances him to make such good documentaries, I will see if his latest documentary HyperNormalisation gives me the answer.

These are his last words in the film:

Al Zarqawi was powerfully influenced by bin Laden's ideas. But he took them much further. He and his group killed anyone who they decided did not believe in their fundamentalist ideas and deserved to die.
Even the original founders of Al-Qaeda were shocked, and they sent him a letter telling him to stop killing civilians. But al-Zarqawi ignored them. He was convinced that the insurgency in Iraq could be used to spread an Islamist revolution throughout the Arab world.
But before he could do this, the Americans found al-Zarqawi and dropped a large bomb on him.
But it didn't stop the spread of the idea. Despite al-Zarqarwi's death his organisation survived, and began to mutate into something even more ferocious and ambitious.
But as it did so, it was possessed by ghosts from the past. What re-emerged was the fierce, intolerant vision of Wahhabism that had survived from the 1920s. It had spread outwards through Afghanistan in the 1980s and '90s where it had become mixed with modern Islamist ideas
But now, faced by the nihilistic horror in post-invasion Iraq, any ideas of building a new revolutionary future disappeared, and, instead, the conservative and backward-looking Wahhabism became the dominating influence, with its desire to retreat to an imagined past.
In 2013, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant was formed. Known as ISIS in the West.
Its aim is to create a unified caliphate throughout the Islamic world. And although it uses the techniques of modern media it is, at heart, the same violent dream that had driven the Bedouins who had created the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the 1920s.
Back then, the King of Saudi Arabia had found it necessary to try and exterminate them because they, too, wanted to go on and conquer the whole of the Islamic world. He machine-gunned them in the bleak sands of the Arabian Peninsula.
And now the Saudis, along with the British and Americans, are trying to do the same thing again to kill the jihadists and their ideas in the sand dunes of Northern Iraq and Syria. But it is an uncertain war.
Western politicians are having to accept that the simple division between good and evil doesn't exist. By bombing ISIS, they are helping the evil President Assad to remain in power.
And those in charge don't even know how big a threat ISIS really is. Is it a dark, existential threat? Or is it really a front, being used in an ongoing complex power struggle inside Iraq? We just don't know.
At the end of the Soviet science fiction film Solaris, the astronaut returns home. Everything seems real and normal. But somehow he doesn't trust in anything any longer.
Although we have the returned from Afghanistan, our leaders also seem to have lost faith in anything. And the simple stories they tell us don't make sense any longer.
The experience of Afghanistan has made us begin to realise that there is something else out there but we just don't have the apparatus to see it.
What is needed is a new story. And one that we can believe in.
 

Iosif

Padawan Learner
Gaby said:
Yes, I remember watching the trailer at Sott:

Adam Curtis - Bitter Lake Preview
http://www.sott.net/article/290862-Adam-Curtis-Bitter-Lake-Preview


https://youtu.be/wcy8uLjRHPM?rel=0

I see this now, in the full documentary the information about Putin, his advisor and how he controls public opinion doesn't appear, at least in the copy I have. What do you think about that? There is no comment in Sott's article. That seems to be the subject in his latest documentary
 

SlipNet

Jedi Council Member
Just a heads up, Curtis has a new series out, entiltled "Can't get you out of my head", which explores the effects on sheer consciousness by the various mind-jobs done on us in the last 100 years. As with all his documentaries, it's superbly edited and he steps back from making outright statements, preferring to leave space for the viewer to make his/her own understandings. It's quite a skillful collage of moments, ideas and images, and even if things seem vague and nasty smelling, he remains hopeful of the indomitable spirit of humanity. I genuinely hope he's right on this. Parts 1-6 are available to UK residents on BBC iPlayer, but parts 1-3 are on youtube. Part 1 I link below. Well worth a watch.

 

Michael B-C

Ambassador
Ambassador
FOTCM Member
When it comes to Adam Curtis the old adage 'Beware Greeks baring gifts' comes somewhat to mind.

Yes, I've also enjoyed his work ever since the late 90s when I first found myself seduced by the slick editing, the soft toned 'perception' of his personal VO style and the apparent lateral daring of his thinking. But as I learned some more about the actual nature of our reality I became increasingly circumspect about succumbing totally to his spellbinding digital powers. Yes I think he raises some very interesting material but does he actually follow through on the 'logic' he seems to present by offering a substantive and cohesive vision - or is it more a potpourri of temptation that is inherently post modernist and deliberately vague? There is a something of a hypnotic state his work generates which gives one the sense of being in the presence of a visionary but actually at the end, what are you really left with? And may be that's the point. Which of course brings up the question how is he allowed to get away with such radical seeming thought on of all things the BBC - and for so many years? Are we actually in the presence of a very subtle gatekeeper phenomenon, designed to capture the BBC2 Guardian thinker class and wrap them up in a nice bubble of self-satisfaction - because being on the inside they are so clever - like him?

James Corbett reviewed some of these issues in the following video. If you are a Curtis fan its worth a look, as is the following on message parody of Curtis' questionable style over content accuracy - and if you find yourself laughing out loud, you may be getting some valuable personal feedback!

Just some food for thought, as self vigilance must never end...


 

SlipNet

Jedi Council Member
James Corbett reviewed some of these issues in the following video. If you are a Curtis fan its worth a look, as is the following on message parody of Curtis' questionable style over content accuracy - and if you find yourself laughing out loud, you may be getting some valuable personal feedback!

Thanks for the words of caution. I'm never fully sold on anything in the media, I always practice discernment in my viewing, but it's always good to have different perspectives. I'll watch that Corbett vid you've cited, haven't seen much from him in recent times.
 

itellsya

SuperModerator
Moderator
FOTCM Member
When it comes to Adam Curtis the old adage 'Beware Greeks baring gifts' comes somewhat to mind.

[...]

Yeah. Some friends and i checked out the doc Curtis released before this latest one, and, if i remember correctly, it was basically anti-Russia propaganda. I don't remember it that well because it was such garbage.

Considering his previous work, which i thought (at the time at least) was thought provoking and critical of the establishment, i was surprised at how warped his perspective on Russia was. Then again, his work is being aired on the BBC, infamous for being the establishment mouthpiece, so i guess it's to be expected.

Still, i'd be willing to give him another chance. Just in case there's any interesting nuggets of info in there. And i do like his style. Although, because of the previous disappointment, i'm in no rush and i'll probably wait to see if any peeps here watch it and see whether they think it's worth it!
 

Niall

Administrator
Administrator
Moderator
FOTCM Member
Yeah, Curtis is rather 'artsy', a Guardianista, and very British! Still, I think it's worthwhile checking out his documentaries. In his previous one, for example, the anti-Russia one, I found his exposition of Vladislav Surkov's political philosophy of 'managed democracy' useful - not because it accurately captures Putin's Russia but because it betrays the very 'thinking' (projected outwards) that lies behind Western 'democracy' (specifically, the technocratic manipulation of the mass mind by deliberately confusing and terrorizing people, while regaling them with endless infotainment, thus inducing submission and apathy).

Often, artists themselves don't see the 'mosaic' their hodge-podge narrative exploration has revealed.
 
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