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Upcoming Event: HERITAGE FIGHT

1 Jun

Join us for an evening of film and discussion in an exploration of protest, conservation and environmental values in our screening of award-winning documentary HERITAGE FIGHT (2012).

Heritage Fight Image

Directed by Eugénie Dumont, HERITAGE FIGHT follows the citizens and traditional owners (the Goolarabooloo) of lands in a small town in Australia’s last great wilderness. The film documents their daily struggle against the imminent danger of a liquified natural gas plant. HERITAGE FIGHT questions and listens. It draws on the perspectives of scientists, activists, politicians and businessmen, all determined to fight and protect what is priceless to them and all driven by a remarkable collective consciousness.

The screening will be followed by a panel discussion / Q&A featuring Prof. Jenny Pickerill (Professor in Environmental Geography at University of Sheffield and author of ‘Cyberprotest: Environmental Activism Online’), Dr. Adam Barker (Geography Teaching Fellow at University of Leicester and author of forthcoming ‘Settling: Invasion, Space-Making, and the Northern Bloc of Settler Colonialism’) and Dr. Peter Kilroy (British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Film Studies/ Menzies Centre for Australian Studies at King’s College, London. His current project explores the proliferation of documentary films made by, about or in collaboration with Australia’s ‘other’ Indigenous minority, Torres Strait Islanders).

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Monday 6th June / 6:30pm Doors / 7:00pm Start / The Book Club, 100 – 106 Leonard Street, London, EC2A 4RH /£5 Tickets

Buy tickets here.

Venue information here. 

Facebook event here.

Guest post: Gavin Bridge on ‘Who mines sulphur anymore?’

18 May

Over at, Gavin Bridge shares his thoughts from our February event, Toxic Materialities, about the film ‘Where Heaven Meets Hell’.

the back office

Passengerfilms – a London-based ‘car crash of cinema and geography’ – invited Ian to suggest a film and panel discussants for a screening in February this year. He chose Sasha Friedlander’s documentary Where Heaven meets Hellin which audiences get to know four men who mine sulphur from inside a live volcano in Indonesia. A new page was published on the film and he recommended it again as part of the film programme for the Museum of Contemporary Commodities in Exeter. The screening is tonight. Is all sulphur mined in volcanoes? NO! Says London panellist Prof Gavin Bridgein this guest post. It is ‘mined’ in perhaps even more surprising places…


Where Heaven Meets Hell conveys the aspirations, social relations and hard physical labour of a group of men who earn their living by prying chunks of sulphur free from the mouth of an Indonesian volcano…

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The Monster that ‘Google’ Created: some thoughts on EX MACHINA (2015)

27 Mar

Here are the superb thoughts of Pip Thornton on our Being Human // Human Being event.

pip thornton art & research


Earlier this week I curated and co-hosted Passengerfilms’ latest event in London (quite aptly within a stone’s throw of Silicon Roundabout). Called BEING HUMAN // HUMAN BEING, the event featured a screening and discussion of Alex Garland’s 2015 film Ex Machina. The fact that we sold out before we even started advertising I think goes to show not only what an awesome panel we had in Lee MacKinnon, John Danaher and Oli Mould, but that the possibilities, ethics and potential dangers of Artificial Intelligence really are at the forefront not only of academic debate, but also of a wider public imagination.

Ex Machina is such an incredibly rich and provocative film that it was impossible to cover everything in one short night, so I wanted to write a few thoughts down here, some of which were raised on the night, but others for which there was no…

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Precarious Geographies of Nightcrawler: Passengefilms Recap.

4 Feb


by Katy Lawn

Passengerfilms is back! Our first event in a while, in collaboration with Precarious Geographies (Ella Harris and Mel Nowiki) and Genesis Cinema, kicked off with a showing of Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler. Set in the hyper-precarious world of L.A., this complex and disturbing film raises more questions than you can shake a stick (or – perhaps more appropriately – a cheap camcorder) at.

Having never seen the film before, and not quite knowing what to expect – I have to say that it wasn’t an ‘enjoyable’ watch. That said, the best films are not always ‘enjoyable’. And it was a really, really great film – it’s one of those films you’ll sit and ponder over for hours after it ends. The sense of optimism at the beginning of the film as our protagonist, Lou, starts to make his way – finally gaining skills, money and influence after so many false starts in an impenetrable labour market – slowly crumbles into something nightmarish.

With such a darkly thought-provoking film, the ground was fertile for debate and comment from our two speakers: Dr Oli Mould (Royal Hollway) and Dr Will Davies (Goldsmiths). Much of the initial comments centred on Lou, the protagonist. Was he an embodiment of neoliberal capital itself – expanding and expanding, creating the conditions for expansion and monetary gain at any cost? Or is he symptomatic of the type of personality that that such a system engenders – an automaton, lacking empathy and spouting incessant management-speak?

Panel Pic

In any case, it is clear that  Lou personifies neoliberal logic in some sense – and this is a logic which produces a degree of precarity. At the very beginning of the film Lou hints at this himself, whilst trying to persuade the owner of a metal yard to give him a job: “Having been raised with the self esteem movement so popular in schools, I used to expect my needs to be considered. But I know that these days, our culture no long caters to the job loyalty that could be promised to earlier generations.” His attempt at securing employment inevitably fails, and it falls to him to create his own opportunities. The shift from secure employment to freelance ‘self made’ workers is emblematic of a precarious labour market and the way in which entrepreneurship and independence are demanded. Lou’s eventual turn to gonzo-crime-scene-paparazzo as a career choice was, then, not really a conscious choice but a last resort. There is an irony at the heart of the film; a contradiction in which Lou embodies these attributes which are praised by the rhetoric of the American dream – making your own opportunities, being an entrepreneurial ‘go-getter’ – but these are eventually writ large to the point of perversion.

In this sense it is possible to say that this is a satirical look at an economic system in which one is actually required to radically overhaul your ‘self’, to alter your subjectivity, until you develop the level of ruthlessness to become rich. If not… you stay a scrap metal thief, living hand to mouth in the dirt of L.A. The exploitation of Rick, Lou’s assistant is also perhaps emblematic of a sort of psychological precarity. If we take Lou as an emblem of neoliberal economics, we can also see that he changes the psychological state of those around him through a baffling mixture of obscure management speak and blackmail. Lou’s immorality is exposed in its fullness when Nina, the veteran news anchor to whom he sells his footage, somewhat reluctantly agrees to go to a Mexican restaurant with him. This is perhaps one of the worst scenes in the film: he blackmails her for sex (in order to secure their working relationship) in a matter-of-fact way: “I have to think you’re invested in this transaction.” Horrified gasps from the audience ensued.

Audience Pic

There seems to be an interesting subtext here – something like a cautionary tale. In this film, immorality triumphs. And that’s what makes it such an uncomfortable viewing experience – the audience feels complicit in the horror – watching Lou, being a part of viewing the tragedies he records and augments. And there’s more: the sickening feeling of injustice that those who are predatory and immoral make it to the top of the food chain. In this film, ruthless business expansion seems to win out over morality and humanity. This leaves open the question of whether this is inherently necessary in order to ‘make it’, or whether this is a choice we can make. In some ways, the film turns out to be a tragicomedy of people crossing moral boundaries simply to stay afloat: this is precarity in all its forms – emotional, monetary, psychological, moral.

Many thanks to Mel and Ella for leading the event, and to our wonderful speakers Will Davies and Oli Mould for their thoughts on the film. A huge success – hope to see some of you at our next event in February.

Upcoming event: Lives Off the Grid

24 Aug

Lives off the grid poster - final-page-001

When: Saturday 5th September, 7pm – 10pm

Where: The Actors Temple, 13-14 Warren Street, London, W1T 5LH (directions)

How much: £5 at the door – please reserve a place here.

Join us for a unique event that explores the everyday lives of people living off the grid, featuring two brand new documentary films: Off the Grid (2015) and Life off Grid (2015).

Being off the grid in today’s fast-paced world is a challenge, it involves complete isolation from state utilities and has an enormous impact upon people’s lives. These two films explore both those who pursue this lifestyle and those who have no alternative to it in two different communities across the world. Off the Grid is as short documentary by Meghna Gupta and Raihana Ferdous set on the remote island of Sandwip in Bangladesh. The film documents the arrival of solar energy to the community and the impact it has on everyday life. Life Off Grid is a film by Jonathan Taggart and Phillip Vannini about people who have chosen to build their lives around renewable energy in Canada, with beautiful, inspiring, and often challenging results.

The event will include short talks and a panel discussion by the film makers. Phillip Vannini is a world-renowned ethnographer, Canada Research Chair in Innovative Learning and Public Ethnography, and a Professor at Royal Roads University in Victoria, Canada. Raihana Ferdous is a PhD student in the geography department at Durham University who researchers the growth of solar energy in Bangladesh and the impact on everyday lives. Meghna Gupta is the film director behind Off the Grid.

Facebook event page can be found here.

Reserve your place here.