Alan Clarke Remembered

Alan Clarke. He’s the guy that directed Scum. The brutal cinematic indictment of the borstal system, his most famous film and initially made as a television drama and subsequently banned then remade as a feature film. The television production was only shown for the first time in 1991 on Channel 4.

Lesser known than Ken Loach who, to me, share the same blistering anger at showing society’s darkest moments around them, Clarke seems to be mostly forgotten in history and his work is hardly screened outside of the odd retrospective but filmmakers can learn from his work and his filmic output needs to be brought back for public analysis. Find a copy of Diane, a teenager who lives in a dilapidated block with her father which I discovered in some obscure digital portal and rarely shown since 1975, Christine about heroin addict filmed in an uncompromising manner that far from glamorizes drug addiction or Elephant, about the IRA killings which indirectly influenced Gus Van Sant’s film of the same name. Even Larry Clarke’s Kids has a similar voyeuristic tone.

If you think his films are of another era and not relevant nowadays then think again, they are a stark look at the society around him in showing real people in its most raw. His films have made a difference in the case of Scum and pushed people to see what they want to brush under the carpet (The elephant in the room). The modern equivalent is Hanif Kureishi’s My Son the Fanatic and Kidulthood to name two films.

Remember, Scum changed the laws on borstal institutions after it was released and if you want to make films or even documentaries that challenge what the government or society is doing then take note, watch and learn. This is the prime medium to make a change and sometimes people forget that.

Don’t be fooled, his films make for uncompromising and often difficult viewing but you want to make an impact he is the granddaddy of them all.

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