The Journey - Rësan
(Swedish Peace & Arbitration Society, Canadian National Film Board, with local support groups in Sweden, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Soviet Union, Mexico, Japan, Scotland, Polynesia, Mozambique, Denmark, France, Norway, West Germany, USA)
Background: Without a doubt, ‘The Journey’ is the most difficult film to write about within the confines of this website. The production and the organizing of the film was on a scale which I had never undertaken before or have since, involved a great many people in at least a dozen countries around the world, and resulted in a work with a highly complex internal structure and multiple themes.
‘The Journey’ was born directly out of an earlier, collapsed project in 1982, when I tried to organize another anti-nuclear war film, funded by Central TV in England, and working with a number of peace groups across the UK. I felt that ‘The War Game’ was out-of-date, and I was concerned about the escalating nuclear arms race, allied to the then US foreign-policy of a nuclear war which would be limited to Europe. My idea was to create a series of scenes again depicting the consequences of a nuclear attack on Britain, in a larger-scale film than ‘The War Game’, which would allow citizens across Britain to express their concerns through their contribution to the staging of this project. Central TV, however, withdrew funding on the grounds that the budget was becoming too large, and the project therefore collapsed. At the same time, I happened to be showing ‘The War Game’ to the world’s oldest peace movement, the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society (SPAS), in Stockholm. In May 1983, at their 100-year anniversary congress, SPAS unanimously decided to support fund-raising for a new film about the nuclear threat. With a base in Stockholm, and initial funding from SPAS, I immediately began involving the network of friends and acquaintances I had acquired over many years of travelling and lecturing, to build an international fund-raising drive for the new film, and to start research in those parts of the world where I would organize local productions groups for the actual filming.
The film’s central concept started to emerge: I would visit families or groups of people in various countries, and interview them to find out what they knew about the state and consequences of the world arms race, and the effects of nuclear weapons. The interviews would also focus on the role that mass media and educational systems had played in shaping a world view, and the knowledge that these people had - or did not have - vis-à-vis these subjects.
As I travelled and developed a series of support groups in different countries, I discovered more about the global situation, and conceived of other elements and ideas for the film - ones which would eventually emerge as scenes of point and counter-point to the principal interviews with the families. For example, with the help of local activist Shelley Douglass, I discovered that there were railway lines carrying nuclear missiles on a White Train directly to their destination at a submarine base in Bangor, Washington. With the help of other American activists, I found 8mm film material of this White Train, moving across the US from a nuclear weapons plant in Amarillo, Texas to Bangor. Peter Wintonick and others of the support group in Canada filmed Ronald Reagan’s visit to Canada in 1984 - the ludicrous and humiliating ‘Shamrock Summit’. P.Wintonick also filmed revealing scenes of Canadian TV crews filming their own (completely biased) material of this Summit. I discovered the absurd civil defence measures designed for New York State, and on the other side of the world - the semi-underground vault in Hiroshima, where the ashes of people killed by the Atom Bomb are stored in many rows of small tin-cans. I met the courageous women of the ‘September 25’ agricultural collective in the outskirts of Maputo in war-torn Mozambique; the local people on the Island of Tahiti, including those who had worked with (and consequently suffered from) the French nuclear testing on the atoll of Murarowa; the Lopez family in an impoverished village in the State of Morelos, Mexico; the Drinkwine family in Seattle, Washington, who were paying a high price for Al Drinkwine’s refusal to continue working on a nuclear base; the Kolosov family in Leningrad, USSR, who provided a Soviet perspective, and who described the suffering during World War II, etc., etc. All of these, and many more incredible people, together with this medley of information, including the tragic and the absurd, constitute the complex fabric of the 14 hrs 30 mins film called ‘The Journey’, which emerged in 1986.
Resistance to ‘The Journey’ - by TV
The story of ‘The Journey’ is not only one of amazing support and dedication, but also of great obstacles and resistance. I had first approached a number of international TV organizations to ask if they would fund the filming of scenes in their own country. The following are just two examples of what occurred... In Norway I met with a senior drama producer from NRK (the state TV which had produced ‘Edvard Munch’). This official was clearly perplexed by ‘The Journey’ - “is it fact or fiction?” - he asked. He told me that he would take the project - and this question - into consideration with his colleagues, and get back to me. That was 1983 - and I have yet to hear a response. I also approached a senior producer at the ABC (the Australian Broadcasting Corporation). This official had boasted that there was no project I could propose that the ABC would not tackle (...“We are not the BBC!”). I met with him and a colleague over dinner in Melbourne, and asked for their assistance with the scenes I would film in Australia. A little while later, I got wind of an inter-office memorandum which had been written by the same producer: it was a vicious document stating that he would not help the project, and sneering at me as one overly obsessed with the state of the world. This memo, circulated among a number of his colleagues, was a revealing glimpse at TV’s officially denied, but very real marginalization of work such as mine. As a result of these and other equally unproductive appeals around the world, we ended up with ZERO support from international TV for the world’s first global peace film.
The only financial support for ‘The Journey’ from the global audiovisual sector came from Peter Katadotis at the National Film Board of Canada, who summoned the full post-production resources of the NFB for the project - from developing and printing all the negative material through to the final sound mixing.
Resistance to ‘The Journey’ - by peace movements
I must also draw attention to the multiple rejections for help for this global project from within the international peace movement itself. Although a number of peace groups - including of course SPAS in Sweden, ‘No to Nuclear Weapons’ in Denmark (thanks to the indefatigable Dagmar Fagerholt), several principal groups in Australia (thanks to Belinda Probert, Joanne Lee Dow, Richard Tantor, Pat Jessen, Eugene Schlusser), a few peace groups and institutions in New Zealand (including the Foundation for Peace Studies in Auckland), activists on the Island of Tahiti, and others without whom the film would not exist - did support ‘The Journey’, many others in the US, Holland, West Germany, etc. refused any help whatsoever. I can understand their denying direct funds, but not their refusal to help in raising funds. I am convinced that a principal reason behind many North American and European peace movements declining to help ‘The Journey’ in any way - even though they had all utilized ‘The War Game’ in recruiting new members over the years - was their own discomfort at participating in a new film which would be critical of the role of the mass media. The reluctance of the international peace movement to challenge the mass media for its part in the escalation of the arms race and the withholding of information on the effects of nuclear weapons, was, and remains a very major - and still undebated - problem. We have now entered the new (so-called) Millennium, yet the lack of public debate about the role of the mass media, the lack of knowledge about the world arms race, and the relationship between the two, is exactly the same as it was when I filmed ‘The Journey’ more than fifteen years ago. All of the innovations in digital and satellite TV technology, and on the Internet, have not made one iota of difference to the basic lack of information and critical debate on streets or in classrooms anywhere in the world. And many so-called radical peace and environmental movements share a responsibility for this dilemma, because they also have not budged a millimetre in their position vis-à-vis the role of the mass media - which they seem to think of as a provider of harmless entertainment or objective information, and somehow irrelevant re the issues they are concerned with. The limits to ‘radicalism’ are never as apparent as when attempting to deal with this critical issue.
Support for ‘The Journey’
However, human history is full of exceptions! And here I would like to present information on the support for, and usage of ‘The Journey’ when it was completed...
New Zealand was the country to mostly take up working with ‘The Journey’ as a film, thanks to the support of the NZ Foundation for Peace Studies in Auckland (especially Marion Hancock), people like Katie Dewes Green, an international peace worker living in Christchurch, Derek Bolt, a teacher in Motueka, and others.
There has also been significant support for the film in the US via the writings of Scott MacDonald, a leading historian and chronicler of the American avant-garde cinema, and of Ken Nolley, both of whom have also taught the film - Scott in Utica College, NY, and Ken in Willamette University, Oregon.
Scott MacDonald, whose book Avant-Garde Film Motion Studies (Cambridge Film Classics, Cambridge University Press, 1993) ranges over the work of Yoko Ono, Michael Snow, J. J. Murphy, Hollis Frampton, Trinh T. Minh-ha, Yvonne Rainer and other avant-garde filmmakers, and who produced the segment of the ‘The Journey’ which was took place in Utica, New York, wrote the following:
“The 14½ hours of ‘The Journey’ are organized into an immense filmic weave that includes candid discussions with “ordinary people” from many countries; community dramatizations; a variety of forms of deconstructive analysis of conventional media practices; presentations of art works by others; portraits of people and places; and a wealth of specific information about the knot of contemporary issues that includes the world arms race and military expenditures in general, world hunger, the environment, gender politics, the relationship of the violent past and the present, and, especially, the role of the media and of modern educational systems with regard to international issues ...
The actual filming of the family discussions was extended and private, and I would guess that no one except Watkins understood the depth of his commitment to them. In conventional documentaries, and even more so in standard news coverage, interviews are rigorously edited: the amount of recorded interview that finds its way into a finished film or news item is determined by the director’s assumption about the usefulness or impact of what is said. This is especially the case when the interviewer is not an expert, the subject of the film, or a crucial witness to the actions of an “important” person: interviews with the so-called man-on-the-street are usually little more than decoration. The focus of ‘The Journey’, however is the thoughts and experiences of average people, and Watkins’ commitment to the people who agreed to talk with him was nearly absolute. He was determined to provide them with an opportunity to respond to his questions and to treat the responses with respect, not simply in a metaphoric sense, but literally, in the overall allocation of screen time and in his use of continuous, unedited shots ...
As is true in a number of the films discussed earlier in this volume, the most fundamental and pervasive structural dimension of ‘The Journey’ is the network of interconnections among layers of image and sound. Early in the film, for example, when Watkins is introducing the [CBC] coverage of the Shamrock Summit, he juxtaposes a visual of a Canadian newsperson ... doing a “topo” [a news summary which is either an item in its own right, or which functions as an introduction or conclusion to the filmed and edited main news item - usually delivered while standing and facing the camera] with a voice-over translation of what [the newsperson] says: “Wrapped in a thick cloak of protocol and reception, the Mulroney-Reagan Summit has a full agenda...” The image of [the newsperson] is framed so that, at first, she is seen surrounded by darkness [she was filmed standing in the street on a bleak winter evening in Quebec City] - her face is visible through the space between a technician’s arm and body [this scene was filmed by the Canadian Support Group for The Journey, who followed the Canadian coverage of the Summit]: She is surrounded by a “thick coat” of media protocol and reception. In fact, the documentation of the topo reveals that the primary concern for [the newsperson] and those responsible for recording her is not the issues of the summit, but how she looks and sounds [she was very concerned not only about her speaking rhythm, but also about her makeup, and whether her hair was mussed-up by the wind]; the topo is redone several times, not to provide increased information, but to package the obvious more “professionally.” This concern with appearance, with “cloaking” information in a specialized, elite language is not only parallel to the summit itself, it reveals how fully the commercial media is an arm to the government systems, functioning within the limited spaces and times determined by the government ...
The more one fully attends to ‘The Journey’, the more the coherence of its vision becomes apparent. At first, the film seems to jump abruptly from one place and time to another, but by the end of the film, Watkins has made clear a belief that has been one of the foundations of all his work: that fundamentally, all places are simultaneously distinct and part of one place; all times are special and part of one time; all issues are important for themselves and as parts of a single, interlocking global issue. ‘The Journey’ creates a cinematic space in which the viewer’s consciousness circles the earth continually, explores particular families and places, and discovers how each detail ultimately suggests the entire context within which it has meaning. Like the other films [described in Avant-Garde Film Motion Studies], but more fully than any of them, Watkins’ film develops in the direction not of narrative climax and resolution, but of an expanded consciousness of the world ...”
Aftermath: ‘The Journey’ has been broadcast exactly three times on TV since its completion (WNET in New York, and two local stations in Ontario, Canada) - and the last of these was at least 10 years ago. Otherwise ‘The Journey’ was rejected by all the international TV stations that now regularly refuse to show anything I produce (BBC and Channel 4 in England, CBC in Canada, SVT in Sweden, NRK in Norway, DR in Denmark, the 13 stations of the German ARD, ABC in Australia, NZ-TV, etc., etc). The film was shown at several festivals including the Forum in Berlin, and in one or two cinemas - usually at special screenings - in Sweden, New Zealand, and the US.
A few international film critics saw the value of the work (the Hollywood film review Variety described ‘The Journey’ as “a tour de force”), and several local critics wrote sympathetically (e.g., The NZ Herald: ‘I went expecting a great movie. What I got was more information, emotion, despair and transcendent hope than I ever dreamed a mere length of celluloid could possibly convey.”; The Raleigh Times [North Carolina]: “I did not see the entire film, but the five hours I watched were extraordinary, spellbinding and ultimately filled with hope.”). I also recall several sympathetic reviews in Sweden. But generally critics dismissed ‘The Journey’ - often in very unkind terms - including in a vicious review in Canada by one of the country’s most known film critics, and similarly after the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland.
Edward Ball wrote with prescience in New York’s The Global Village: “I predict that The Journey will tour peace meetings and possibly a few classrooms, but will not achieve an easy distribution. It has already been obscured by the local New York media, which paid no attention to the festival appearance, which was also its New York premiere. At the film’s opening night, where former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark spoke, the theater was perhaps two-thirds full. This can be compared to the circumstances surrounding [Claude Lanzmann’s documentary film on the Holocaust] Shoah, which received practically a ticker-tape parade reception in this country, with long theatrical runs as well as immediate and repeated PBS [TV] airings, no doubt because its nearly 10-hour escalade was hurled in an “assault of memory” against the fascist crime perpetrated 45 years ago on another continent, and not at the more palpable, contemporary, and local crime now being committed by the “nuclear club” of nations, namely the transformation of the whole world into a garrison state.”
Teaching ‘The Journey’
As I have expressed elsewhere in this website, a source of considerable personal disappointment for me has been the overall conservatism in media education during the past two decades, and the marked lack of interest shown by teachers in using ‘The Freethinker’ or ‘The Journey’, which was specifically designed for accessibility in schools. ‘The Journey’ was edited in ‘units’ or parts, each about 45 minutes in length, to fit the standard teaching hour in most classrooms. My wife Vida and I produced an extensive Teaching Guide for use with the film, which has in essence merely sat on our shelves at home for almost fifteen years. Resistance to ‘The Journey’ has been especially strong among media intellectuals and academics, and Scott MacDonald has written elsewhere about our unpleasant experience when presenting the film to academics at the Flaherty Seminar in New York State in the late 1980s - a resistance still manifested by the refusal of many academics to use this film all these years later.
Since ‘The Journey’ was specifically edited (in its structural components) for use in a pedagogical and group discussion environment, I would like to cite four examples of it being included in a pedagogical context - in the hope that this will encourage others to follow suit, either in the classroom or in community group discussions...
‘The Journey’ in New Zealand
Marion Hancock, Derek Bolt, Kate Dewes Green, Peter Fin and others used ‘The Journey’ in various ways in NZ: during and after school hours at a high school in Motueka; at a Continuing Education course in Auckland; a Canterbury University Peace Studies project; a screening in Golden Bay, and on other occasions. Included are a series of edited comments from people who attended the film on these occasions. I am indebted to Derek Bolt for compiling The Journey Newsletter ‘88 - from which I have selected these New Zealand quotations:
“Thank God someone had the energy to make it ...”
“Am impressed by the restraint and lack of hysteria the producer has held to. It could easily have been put across too emotionally. Its impact slowly sinks in and will be most lasting in consequence ...”
“... a strong impression of feeling about the people in the film - everyone agreed that by now we know them and like them ...”
“They keep saying, “What can I do ... it’s only little me?” ...well, the world’s made up of little me’s...”
“It gives you time to think about what you are watching ...”
“Excellent movie, I really like its pace and techniques.”
“... it communicates in feelings ...”
“This film is like a meditation ...”
“It was captivating, drew one in so completely. More should be made of the fact that it is really so effortless to watch. I wasn’t prepared for that ...”
“I find lots of good things in The Journey. BUT I expected more - I began with very high expectations, and these were disappointed. It did not justify its excessive length ... [The film] would have done more good if it were less relentlessly slow moving, earnest and numbing. Where was the humour, the affirmation of energy and hope? ... Whoever hailed The Journey as a masterpiece did us all a disservice - including Watkins. I see it as a very interesting, very ambitious, very noble failure. I would be delighted if the future proves me wrong.”
“A great warmth of feeling for all the families that I’ve spent time with and by patiently staying with them have come to know them, and language wasn’t that important. For some, the simpler they appear the more profound their understanding and responses. Their sheer humanity wins through.”
“Pretty one-sided. Got any other solutions apart from stopping arms production?”
“Peter, your biases are showing beautifully. Thank you for passionate, subjective filmmaking. It is hard for people to break from conventions of editing and pacing. To make it “uncomfortable” viewing is to make the medium itself truly part of the message. Thank you.”
“... the feeling I have is like waking up. I’m not quite sure what’s reality ...”
“14½ hours is just long enough to let a picture of the real people involved sink in. Was surprised at my ability to stay awake through a movie with no plot, suspense, etc. - decided I could because it was about real life, people, and opinions I recognised.”
“Do you feel moved to take any action in response to the film? “No.””
“I am going to write to my friend in America and tell her about this film, because she lives near Hanford Nuclear Plant and I think she should hear what this film has to say ...”
The Global Peace Journey An Introduction to Peace Studies
A Department of Peace Studies was established at Colgate University, New York State, in 1971; since 1985 the Cooley Chair of Peace Studies has been occupied by Prof. Nigel J. Young, a founding member of the Bradford (England) Peace Studies Department.
The following is a description of the syllabus - using ‘The Journey’ - taught this autumn by Prof. Young:
“Peter Watkins’ world “journey” takes us through time and space in an epic documentary film, an odyssey of the nuclear age. Centered on the ethics of nuclear technology, Watkins’ film is as much about “peace” as it is on the preparations for global war; it is critical about the role of media and focuses on families, members of various communities (including Utica, NY, UK and Norway) in twenty countries all around the globe. This, together with the complete script, will be the main text organizing the “trunk” of the semester. The “branches” will be the assigned readings relative to each individual culture in this journey, and on a period of millennial “modernity” (e.g. reading Hiroshima, by John Hersey, studying the Maruki’s Hiroshima panel paintings).
Through comparing these two perspectives - global and local - in a journal each week, and in short, critical statements, students will hopefully look at themselves in the globalizing context of the industrialized and developing worlds and the impact of our western culture (e.g. media, environment, arms trade, consumerism, and waste) since 1945, not least in “nuclear numbing.”
In conclusion we ask whether Universities and Colleges and also media adequately address these planetary issues at a time of uncertainty and instability. Is a more positive peace building strategy through nonviolence conceivable? Can civil disobedience and direct action be justified?
Peter Watkins’ 14 ½ hour film ‘The Journey’ (1985) represents his ambitious attempt (after his notorious 1966 classic, ‘The War Game’ was both awarded and banned) to make a peace film. It is more about living in a highly interconnected global society, which as a species we have been preparing to destroy for over fifty years. It suggests that this environment also contains the germ cells of a more healthy human community. By viewing this epic in as many as thirty segments, we will find a core for this semester’s Introduction to Peace Studies: this spinal “text” and a careful reading of its script, will be the base of intense discussion and frequent, critical written comments each week.
At first, student reaction to this revolutionary work is frequently sheer boredom mixed with puzzlement at so many broken conventions. However, through related readings and viewing, as well as meetings with local people (including several Colgate faculty who helped make this film), we will begin to appreciate, interpret, and critique the various levels of ‘The Journey’, and the ethical and practical issues it raises: equality and democracy, nationalism, cultural oppression and/or language, gender and race as well as environmental destruction and the role of the media.
Through the “War and Peace Atlas”, we will contextualize and assess these diverse cultural journeys, and ask what kind of peace building makes sense as the millennial clock turns. We learn just what a nuclear weapon can do, and where they are. Watkins’ discussions relate past memory to future and present action. Watkins helps us to unravel layers of meaning and identity: encouraging a cooperative effort to learn more about ourselves and our environment in a planet made up of both industrial and developing countries. Many of these are both increasingly militarized, volatile and in conflict. ‘The Journey’ is a trip across all these boundaries of gender, race, culture and political frontiers, as well as the 19th century western academic disciplines. We travel across our own time and geography, history and space. The hope is that we might even emerge with a sharper sense that we are, as well as the source of such problems, the makers of some of the solutions.
This is a basis for studying global peace.”
‘The Journey’ at Utica College, New York State
As Scott MacDonald, who produced the New York segment of ‘The Journey’, and who has also written about the film, has recommended -“The Journey does not have to be shown in its entirety, if circumstances do not allow for this ... Based on my experience using The Journey in classes [at Utica College] and exhibiting it to public audiences, I would suggest that Chapter 8 may be the most effective single section to present, and that Chapters 1, 2, and 8 make a particularly effective feature length presentation (indeed, on anonymous evaluations, my students have indicated that they find Chapters 1, 2 and 8 as powerful as any film experience they’ve had).”
‘A Film in the Global Interest’
‘The Journey’ is, however, most often presented in its entirety. Ken Nolley, who teaches at Willamette University in Oregon, and who was a member of the Portland Support Group during the production of the film, wrote: “I taught a course using The Journey, screening it in 1½ parts (2 school units) over a 10 week period ... and found it worked very well indeed, with no sense among students that it was too long.”
For a glimpse into the pedagogical potential of ‘The Journey’ in terms of film analysis, and an idea of issues and questions which the film can bring to the classroom, I quote Ken Nolley from the concluding chapter of a series of essays (‘The Journey: A Film in the Global Interest’, Willamette Journal of the Liberal Arts, Supplemental Series 5, 1991):
“Although The Journey presents itself to an audience largely by invoking documentary codes, it transforms those codes in a variety of ways, calling attention to certain elements of the coding system and recoding certain other elements. The result is a partially transformed reading space for the viewer, which can (and I would argue should) lead to a transformed reading strategy on the part of the viewer. To begin, Watkins re-presents certain traditionally coded items so that we are forced to reconsider what those items mean in the context of this film. For example, though the hibakusha, survivors, of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are generally used in films as emblems of victimisation, Watkins uses several devices to make that simple designation more complex. Particularly, he employs the image of Jikkon Li, a Korean who was doing forced labour in Hiroshima at the time of the bombing, to speak of Japanese racism against Koreans at the time of the bombing and after, as well as to point out the singularly aggressive nature of Japanese foreign policy in the first half of the century. By adopting such a strategy, Watkins fixes a more complex and troubling code on subsequent images of Hiroshima in the film. In The Journey, speakers are identified upon initial appearance as in a conventional documentary. Apart from television sequences used in the film, however, none of the participants in the film are identified as particular authorities on anything, and they are typically photographed in their homes, usually in their kitchens gathered around a table (except for the Mexican family and the women and children on a Mozambiquan collective farm, both of which appear to lack such facilities). Speech from non-experts in such surroundings is much less clearly marked as authoritative than is most speech in most documentaries, and thus it is more easily questioned or criticized. Furthermore, Watkins lets many of his questions to the participants remain in the film. This is particularly true of the first several hours of the film, where he is often clearly "leading" the discussion by showing the participants a collection of photographs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, along with a group of charts, graphs, and other visual aids. It is somewhat less true as the film progresses, but the reduced presence of Watkins' questions later in the film also seems to correspond with the increased comfort and volubility of the participants. During the filming of the three family sequences which I observed, the early stages of the discussion were more halting and limited, and Watkins probed more with questions and aids; by the second day, however, the families had grown more comfortable with the camera and had thought and talked about the issues of peace and global justice enough that they were beginning to speak more spontaneously and for longer periods of time. But Watkins' strategy here reveals the source and direction of the manipulation which provokes the increasingly comfortable discussion, so that the audience is reminded with some frequency of the presence of a questioner. The Journey also makes use of a large number of charts and graphs, but here many of them are presented in clearly mediated ways. Sometimes Watkins himself (whose arms and hands are often on-screen moving these visual aids around) is the visible mediator. At other times, the mediator is someone like Bob del Tredici, whose photographs, published and displayed elsewhere under the title At Work in the Field of the Bomb, occur at intervals throughout the film; usually these photographs are filmed over del Tredici's left shoulder and they are always accompanied by his gently ironic descriptions. Again, the effect of these more mediated presentations is to make them somewhat more accessible to investigation and question, especially since in Watkins' presentations there are two audiences for these visual aids -participants in the film, whose reactions to the documents we can evaluate and consider, and we in the film audience, who may have somewhat different responses. Watkins himself appropriates the role of narrator. Although his voice in the film shares many of the characteristics of traditional narrators (especially the carefully modulated tone achieved through reading what must have been written script much of the time), that role is transformed partially by the fact that Watkins allows errors in the narration to stand in the finished film. On one occasion early on, for example, he wrongly states that the French nuclear test site in the Pacific is uninhabited, only to correct that error later while pointing out the earlier mistake. Likewise, at another point, Watkins is asked a question by a participant and hesitates in momentary confusion. That moment, too, is allowed to remain in the film, and is followed by a narrator's explanation and clarification. Both point clearly to the fallibility of Watkins as participant, as well as to the hitherto nearly invisible space between the role of Watkins as interviewer (present during the filming) and Watkins as narrator (intervening during post-production work). These moves, too, undermine and problematize the narrator's voice. Finally, The Journey, like all documentaries, modifies and brackets speeches of participants through its use of editing juxtapositions. But whereas the traditional documentary edits small bits of speech on film together to create its own discursive voice, this film allows speakers to talk for relatively long periods of time, and thus individual shots often contain complex trains of thought which do not fit entirely smoothly together to create a seamless discourse. Brian Henderson, trying to distinguish in Godard's work this more complex and problematic style of connection from traditional montage, has preferred to call it collage rather than montage (Henderson, 1970-71:5). And all of these devices are called into more serious question by the extensive use the film makes of television news coverage, which it criticizes extensively and analyzes in detail, noting everything from editing pace (by means of added sounds to announce cuts and changes in image) to the artifice involved in shooting a reporter on location or the choices involved in photographing a news conference or a demonstration. For example, the film documents how television collaborates with governmental power by its cooperative presence at an announced news briefing or by its revealing presence near the police during the demonstrations. Since the film occasionally turns these deconstructive devices back on itself as well (by discussing editing strategy of the sequence under view, or by adding sounds to its own cuts), it pushes viewers to develop a viewing strategy that is somewhat more active, critical and complex than merely attempting to locate the authorial voice of the film.”
Since ‘The Journey’ has been shown so infrequently on TV, no-one knows the film exists, and this has hardly helped to get it into schools. Furthermore, the entire direction of media education in the last decades has been such that a film like ‘The Journey’ - which is critical of the media - is not seen as having any meaning ... As I describe elsewhere in the website, the massive onslaught in terms of teaching (and eulogizing) the Popular Culture of the MAVM has created a climate in which any audiovisual subject with a slower rhythm, which deconstructs the very manipulation of the Popular Culture modes, and which seeks to engage us in a developing process with the people on the screen, is considered passé, boring, and irrelevant. Yet it is precisely because media education has come to this point of condoning intolerance to anything that is not manipulating the audience at an image per second, of automatically accepting on-screen violence, of totally eliminating critical thinking - that it is important for young people to experience seeing a film like ‘The Journey’.
At this time, the situation for ‘The Journey’ is in a state of transition. The original producer, the Swedish peace movement known as The Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society (SPAS), ceased using the film many years ago, and has now passed the world rights over to me. It is confirmed that the original 16mm negative, as well as 16mm prints, are stored at the Cinematheque of the Swedish Film Institute (SFI), along with various duplicate negatives and the sound material.
I am now therefore working with Oliver Groom in Canada to re-release ‘The Journey’ on DVD, as well as using 16mm prints for special screenings of this 14 hr 30 min film. The complete text of the USERS’ GUIDE will be available with this new release of ‘The Journey’ and will be an especially useful adjunct to the DVD version.
For further information please contact Oliver Groom (below).
North America (English version):
Project X Distribution Limited,
223 Humberside Avenue,
Toronto, Ontario M6P 1K9,
1-416-604.2506 tel 1-416-763 6625 Fax
Also, ‘The Journey’ is available from the following sources, though please note that the USERS’ GUIDE is not currently available from these sources:
Canyon Cinema in San Francisco has a 16mm copy of ‘The Journey’ for rental:
2325 Third Street, Suite 338,
San Francisco, CA 94107
Facets in Chicago hold VHS copies of ‘The Journey’ for sale:
Facets Multimedia Inc,
1517 West Fullerton Ave.,
Chicago, IL 60614
A 16mm print (with English subtitles) is kept in the archives of the National Film Board of Canada in Montreal, and is available for special screenings :
National Film Board of Canada / Office national du film du Canada,
3155 Côte de Liesse Road,
St.Laurent, Québec H4N 2N4.
Conservation des collections, NFB/ONF.
(514) 293-9167 tel
(514) 293-9167 fax
A 16mm French version of The Journey is available. For further information, please contact:
Siltadarzio skg. 3-18,
Scandinavia (Swedish version):
In the meantime, Film Centrum in Stockholm, has two 16mm copies and five VHS copies of ‘The Journey’ stored for use. Please note, these copies have Swedish narration and sub-titles.
Therefore, anyone interested in showing ‘The Journey’ in Sweden, Norway, Denmark or Finland, can contact Film Centrum, who will do their best to help.
Yvonne Leff, FilmCentrum in Stockholm AB,
103 12 Stockholm, Sweden.