Journey Journey Journey Journey

The Journey - (Resan in Swedish)

A global peace film produced in 1983-86 by the Swedish Peace & Arbitration Society and local support groups in Sweden, Canada, USA, Australia, New Zealand, USSR, Mexico, Japan, Scotland, Polynesia, Mozambique, Denmark, France, Norway, West Germany, with post-production support from the National Film Board in Montreal, Canada.

    • Released on film in 1987
    • 14 hrs 30 mins

The Doriane Films / Project X Distribution release of The Journey DVD is in the original English language version with optional French subtitles. The box-set cover of the first available version (see below) is currently in French. It includes 3 sleeves with 5 DVDs that contain a total of 19 chapters (or Parts) each approximately 45-50 minutes in length. This release of The Journey is NTSC region 0, which means that it will play worldwide on all except first generation DVD players.

Formed in 1883, the Swedish Peace & Arbitration Society (Svenska Freds- och Skiljedomsföreningen) is the world's oldest and Scandinavia's largest peace movement. To find out more about its work, please contact www.svenskafreds.se

 

 

Teaching / Discussion Aide

IN 1990, Vida Urbonavicius and I completed a 339 page Users’ Guide that proposes ways of utilizing The Journey, including for in-depth discussions and analysis of the film. As noted, the film is divided into 19 parts that vary in length, but average ca. 45 min. each. The Guide has 4 parts: an introduction; a summary of each part; an index of people and themes (e.g., role of media, role of education, etc.); a detailed analysis with possible further questions for each part. These are followed by a reproduction of the credit reel, which lists all of the support groups and film crews, and gives brief descriptions of the scenes that accompany them (this chapter was prepared by Derek Bolt of Motueka, NZ).

Some years ago Oliver Groom scanned the entire Guide, but the scanned version is not included with the DVD at this time. We plan to produce it as a separate unit for educational screenings or public debates, and are looking at ways to package it (as a separate file on the internet, or a CD addition in the box-set). The text in the present scanned version is somewhat “contrasty and blocky” - it was scanned from the original paper version, which was printed on a dot-matrix machine 25 years ago. However, the text is completely legible, though we hope to be able to eventually produce a “cleaner” version.

Copies of the scanned Users' Guide (in English only) are available from Oliver Groom at Project X Distribution for North America, and from Cecile Farkas at Doriane Films for Europe and elsewhere. We hope that a summary version in French may appear in future.

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 were on a scale that I had never undertaken before, nor have since; it 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 a collapsed project in 1982, when I tried to organize another antinuclear war film, to be 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, that was allied to the US foreign policy of a nuclear war that would be limited to Europe. My idea was to create a series of scenes, again depicting the consequences of a nuclear attack on Britain, on a larger scale than The War Game, that would allow citizens across Britain to express their concerns via their involvement in the production of this project. However, Central TV withdrew its funding, on the grounds that the budget was becoming too large, and the project collapsed. After rethinking the scale of the project into a more global film dealing with the general silence on the burgeoning nuclear arms race, I appealed for funding to a number of international TV channels.

Without exception, every TV channel that I contacted refused, even though I was only requesting support for filming an ultra low-cost segment in each country, where I would ask local people what they knew and felt about the world arms race.

As it transpired, the only financial support for The Journey from the global audiovisual sector eventually came from Peter Katadotis at the National Film Board of Canada in Montreal, 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.

But that was a few years later. During the time while I had no funding from the professional sector, I happened to be showing The War Game (BBC, 1965) to the world’s oldest peace movement association, the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society (SPAS), in Stockholm. In May 1983, during its 100th anniversary congress, SPAS unanimously decided to support fund-raising for a new film about the nuclear threat. Based in Stockholm, and with initial funding from SPAS, I immediately began to involve the network of friends and acquaintances that 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 core 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 played in shaping a world view, and on the knowledge that these people had - or did not have - vis-à-vis these subjects.

As I travelled, and developed support groups in different countries, I discovered more about the global situation, and conceived other elements and ideas for the film - ones that would eventually emerge as scenes of point and counter-point to the principal interviews with the families. For example, in the United States, 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 footage 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. Peter Wintonick also filmed revealing scenes of Canadian TV crews filming their own (completely biased) material on 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 numerous 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 (at that time suffering the brutalities of the right-wing South-African backed Renamo 'resistance' movement); Hinano Lucas, his family and friends 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 (this was still the period of the Cold War), and who described the suffering during World War II, etc., etc.

I also met with – and filmed in discussion - the Hendricks family from New York State; the Barnes family from Victoria, Australia; Gerard and Ouza, of French-Algerian origin, in Toulouse, France; the Mori family in Japan; the Vikan family in Norway; the Smillie family in Scotland; the Crippen family in Portland, Oregon; the Ponce family in Mexico; Toshiko Saeki, Hajima Hamada and Hiroshi Shindo, survivors of the atom bombing of Hiroshima; Emma Biermann and Werner Brasch, survivors of the firestorm following the Allied bombing of Hamburg during World War II; and Frida Tiare and Miron Matad in Tahiti, with their children Hiro, Ayona, Ariioehau, Camelia, Tahuka, Sairah and Joanna.

They, and many other incredible people, together with all the information gained - including the tragic and on more than one occasion, the utterly absurd - constitute the complex fabric of the 14 hr 30 min film called The Journey, that emerged in 1987.

Reactions to The Journey

THE FIRST reactions were generally positive. The film was shown in the Forum at the 1987 Berlin Film Festival, and at a number of venues in Sweden, New Zealand, France and the U.S. Some of these screenings were organized by peace groups, others as special courses in local colleges. Interestingly, in 1989, The Journey was even shown on TV by 3 local channels in New York City and in Canada.

Then a counter-reaction set in. I should have been alerted when a producer at the National Film Board came into the auditorium part-way through our first preview screening of The Journey, stared at the screen for a moment, and then yelled out, “what's all this about?!” Also, at the Berlin Film Festival, a West German TV commissioning editor slammed up the bottom of his seat after the first 3-4 minutes of the screening, and then demonstratively stormed out of the cinema. Were these men having a visceral reaction to a film that was visibly different from the Monoform? Whatever, it soon became clear that TV channels were avoiding The Journey - its long and complex process, its subject matter and its explicit critique of the role of the mass audiovisual media (MAVM) in suppressing information on the global arms race and the developing environmental crisis. To date (to the best of my knowledge), no TV organization anywhere in the world has shown the film since those initial screenings in 1989.

The Journey also discusses the complicity of education systems – which has apparently not helped in the distribution of the film. With the exception of the early college screenings, and perhaps a dozen more in subsequent years (see the following articles), few schools or universities have worked with The Journey - despite its having been structured with educational screenings in mind. In my opinion, The Journey is 'problematic' for media educators because it analyses the role of the MAVM in withholding, or subverting, information on the world arms race (among other serious issues) - including by the application of the standardised Monoform in virtually all audiovisual material. Countless media classes and teaching institutions worldwide extol the manipulative and hierarchical aspects of the Monoform 'popular culture', and its overt bias in favor of mass consumerism, and encourage students to view such material as harmless 'entertainment' or a source of 'aesthetic pleasure'.

The role and use of the DVD version of The Journey

I WOULD like to hope that the possible reasons for the prolonged resistance of The Journey are the very ones that continue to give it crucial relevance in our problematic world today. I believe that the form and process of this film, including that it gives people time to express themselves (contrary to standard media practice), is important. I believe that the participants in the film are important – the things they say, the observations they make, their critical opinions. The film allows feeling, emotion, and genuine concern to emerge (hopefully, in most cases, without interruption by the filmmaker). The Journey allows time for silence and reflection, and in doing so, breaks with the standard ideology of the MAVM, which is anchored on the premise of 'impact' upon a compliant audience.

For these and many other reasons, I believe that it is important for The Journey to be shown, and for its process, themes, and questions, to be debated. Open public debate is more crucial than ever - not debate that is popular culture driven, or given fleeting and fragmented form by the social media, but debate that happens directly among live groups of people.

The Journey can be screened in schools and universities, even within a typical class period. It can also be shown at special sessions in cinemas, to the general public, or within community groups.

One such presentation of The Journey was the excellent screening at the Tate Modern Gallery in London, which took place in May this year (2013) The film began on a Friday evening, and continued through to the Sunday evening, punctuated by debates organized by the Otolith Collective. As I understand it, the cinema was full for the initial evening, after which the audience diminished to a core group of some 30 people, some of whom stayed through to the end, participating in all of the discussions.

Extracts from the Tate Modern booklet for The Journey:

The Journey - Friday 17 May – Sunday 19 May 2013

Peter Watkins, Sweden, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Soviet Union, Mexico, Japan, Scotland, Polynesia, Mozambique, Denmark, France, Norway, West Germany and USA.
1987 870 min.

Friday 17 May 2013
18.00–22.00: Chapters 1–4
Saturday 18 May 2013
11.00–13.00: Chapters 5–6
14.00–18.00: Chapters 7–9
19.00–22.00: Chapters 10–13
Sunday 19 May 2013
1.00–13.00: Chapters 14–15
14.00–18.00: Chapters 16–19

“Following Tate Modern’s 2012 retrospective of Peter Watkins’ work, this special screening event offers the unique opportunity to see Watkins’ monumental film The Journey in its complete duration of 14 hours and 30 minutes. The Journey traces the systemic impact of the global nuclear regime across 12 countries, building an intricate series of connections between the state of the arms trade, military expenditure, the environment and gender politics that are more relevant than ever.

Working collaboratively with activist groups from around the world over three years, The Journey is an astonishing epic that succeeds in expanding documentary’s powers of polemic, reflexivity and inspiration.

Support groups debate the peace process, families discuss their fears of nuclear threat and the cost of world hunger, survivors recall the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki while Watkins analyses the role played by mainstream media in normalising conflict. Peter Watkins’ vision of a political cinema that emerges from and documents the collaborative process which it analyses, reaches its most elaborated form in The Journey which is structured in 19 intricately edited chapters. The result is an unprecedented cinematic constellation whose inspiration and importance has only increased since its release in 1986.

Since the late 1950s, Peter Watkins’ films such as Culloden 1964, The War Game 1966, Punishment Park 1970, Edvard Munch 1973 and La Commune 1999, have reinvented historical drama and future speculation into impassioned, insurgent political cinema. And yet The Journey 1987, Watkins’ most sustained experiment with documentary, has not been screened in London since its LUX screening in 2003. In the wake of the partial meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on 11 March 2011, the critical relevance of The Journey can be neither doubted nor overlooked.”

Support in the U.S.

UPON ITS initial release, The Journey was significantly supported via the writings of Scott MacDonald, a leading historian and chronicler of the American avant-garde cinema, and English professor Ken Nolley, both of whom also used the film in their courses - 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 works 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 that 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 ...”

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, here is what Ken Nolley of the Willamete University, Oregen wrote in 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 onscreen 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’.

Peace Studies in the U.S. and The Journey

A DEPARTMENT of Peace Studies was established at Colgate University, NY, in 1971; in 1985 the Cooley Chair of Peace Studies was occupied by Prof. Nigel J. Young, a founding member of the Bradford (U.K.) Peace Studies Department.

This is a description of the syllabus - using The Journey - taught some years later 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 (Resan) in Sweden

When The Journey was first released, Catherine Bragée, Lena Ag, Thomas Magnusson, Åke Sandin and other members of the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society (SPAS) in Sweden, which was seminal in producing the film, prepared an excellent booklet (Boken om Resan, 1988, Pax förlag, Frölunda, Sweden), with many photographs and all the text and dialogue from the film. During this time, I visited a number of the SPAS peace movement organisations throughout Sweden, and showed the film.

The Journey in New Zealand

Following its release, Marion Hancock, Katie Boanas, Hedy Barta, Derek Bolt and other members of the NZ Foundation for Peace Studies, as well as local teachers, including Roger Horrocks, used The Journey in various ways, both during and after school hours at a high school in Motueka, a continuing education course in Auckland, a Canterbury University Peace Studies project, a meeting in Golden Bay, and elsewhere.

Included are a series of abridged comments from people who watched the film on these occasions. I am indebted to Derek Bolt of Motueka for compiling The Journey Newsletter (1988) from which I selected the following NZ 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 ...”

top
© Peter Watkins 2016