Sick, Tired and Angry – Unite! is the latest in a series of online film screenings to be hosted by activist collective Other Ways to Care. The group’s organisers spoke to Indy Film Library on using cinema as a space for conversations on distress, productivity and working conditions.
Other Ways to Care is a collective which emerged around the will to imagine care alternatives drawn out of activist and collective practices that confront, discuss and move beyond the worrying global trend toward the privatisation and individualisation of mental health care. While it remains “a group of many,” with its constituents considered to be “composed by all of those who have collaborated or participated” in its events, the genesis of the group can roughly be traced back to a convergence of several people on an event in London, a little over two years ago.
“We met a few years ago in 2018,” the organisers explain, “through the Antiuniversity Festival. Our friend Susana Caló and Kevin Sarwar-Polley organised a workshop called “Other Ways to Care” there, and we met through that, but have continued to work together to work towards different ways of collaborating with radical mental health organisations ever since.”
The evolving collective of different researchers, mental health practitioners and activists has hosted a range of different events, but these have always ultimately centred on the need to foster conversations between radical mental health organisations and groups, and the wider population. In order to facilitate such interaction, one of the best tools at their disposal has proven to be film.
As the founders of Other Ways to Care recall, “When we first met at Antiuniversity, we wanted a way to continue to meet. From the beginning, there was this idea that instead of making a reading group, we could watch films that were related to mental health, distress, and activism – using it as a jumping-off point for a communal discussion. So, we started as a small group of people using this as a way to continue to meet then, and built some other connections through these events, but once the pandemic began, we realised we could reach a wider audience online – not just have us, but other people watching these films.”
The activists discovered that they could host screenings via Metastream – a platform where all this is required is a link to broadcast a film to digital attendees, but also where there was the possibility of “democratising the discussion during the film.” The platform has a text-chat beside the screening, so people can talk about the film as it screens, rather than waiting for a discussion at the end.
According to the group, “We began experimenting with this in 2020, partially as a means to keeping in touch with the connections we’d already made pre-pandemic, but also to see how films can be used to engage people in conversation. Having learned from the three screenings we put on through 2020, we’re now looking to expand what we do with our latest event: Sick, Tired and Angry – Unite!”
Building on the group’s early momentum, Sick, Tired and Angry – Unite! will see films being exhibited on the 10th and 24th of February and the 10th and 19th of March, with each screening will see a feature-length film paired with an accompanying short, to create a themed programme. While that format may be common to many conventional film festivals, however, what is different is the way attendees will be able to interact with the content.
“As well as having text chat, during the longer films, we interrupt the film,” the organisers confirm. “It’s something we have done before when in a screening of an hour or more – where we bring the conversation into the middle of the film. It’s part of the practice of Cinema Militante in Argentina and Latin America of the 1970s, and people are picking it up again now. We are trying to use films as a means of conversation, and online screenings are perfect for doing that.”
One of the hopes going into the event is that through these cinematic conversations, different aspects of society can be drawn together to deal with the perfect storm of anxieties they have been subjected to before and during the pandemic. In higher education, individuals who have been distressed by the profiteering from students through fees and accommodation can draw parallels with their tutors who have been similarly ground down by institutions chasing profits. Meanwhile, these people can relate to wider elements of society who have also been subjected to job insecurity, excessive workloads, attacks on social security and pensions, and the mismanagement of the Covid-19 pandemic, alongside many other causes of distress.
The organisers add, “We’re putting on this series in solidarity with the strikes and workplace actions taking place in across the UK, as well as a means to helping link them. We’re using this as a way to help prompt people to think about distress in different ways: how the distress universities can create for their staff, and also the distress in our lives: how universities and other institutions can cause distress, and how that links to systemic causes of distress.”
One of the films which will feature on the first night of the event is one which will be familiar to readers of Indy Film Library. Zoltán Debreczeni’s Sola is paired with Charlie Chaplin’s classic comedic polemic Modern Times, and the coupling seems geared toward illustrating how individuals suffering what appear to be different forms of distress have more common ground than initially thought.
Summing up why they selected the film, Other Ways to Care explained, “We came across Sola through the Indy Film Library review, which spoke a lot about the atomisation of distress in contemporary working culture, and that’s exactly the theme we’re tapping into, with the pressures universities are exerting on staff and communities to maintain levels of production which are untenable – stretching people to extents that have huge impacts on people’s lives. Particularly striking in Sola is this element of isolation and alienation in the workplace, which is really powerful – and also speaks to the themes in Modern Times, both using production and alienation of production in very different costumes.”