By Robert Van Egghen
With the 2015 State of the Union address showing a rejuvenated and confident Barack Obama, a panel of experts met at the Frontline Club on Wednesday 21 January to debate his legacy, the partisan nature of US politics and whether racial divides have been healed by the nation’s first black president.
By Antonia Roupell
The subject of Egypt’s tempestuous recent history was brought to the Frontline Club on Monday 19 January in the form of the documentary film, Mubarak’s Egypt. The screening, which was the English language premier following its broadcast in Arabic on the al Arabiya news channel, was followed by a Q&A with director Charlie Smith and executive producer Christopher Mitchell. Poignantly, the screening closely followed the recent acquittal of Hosni Mubarak over numerous charges of murder and corruption allegedly committed during the 2011 uprising.
In a debate at the Frontline Club on 16 January 2015, in the aftermath of the attacks on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo on 7 January, a panel of expert commentators strongly backed the continued promotion of free speech and warned against responding to the attacks with a curtailment of rights and liberties.
Members of the panel urged governments to resist the temptation to try to legislate, or fight, their way out of what was characterised as a crisis of identity for the European continent. Europe must be mindful of the risks of societal polarisation, argued the panel, as well as being aware of the likelihood of further terrorist attacks in the year ahead.
By Olivia Acland
On Friday 16 January, the Frontline Club was at full capacity for an evening that showcased the diverse faces of documentary filmmaking, both journalistic and poetic. The documentaries screened offered snapshots into five very different worlds, allowing the audience to glimpse the lives of remarkable individuals in addition to illuminating pressing issues, such as female genital mutilation and the rise of ISIS in Syria.
By Graham Lanktree
At the Frontline Club on 14 January, Shiraz Maher, a senior research fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ISCR) at King’s College; Moazzam Begg, a former Guantánamo Bay prisoner turned activist with the UK group Cage; and former MI6 director of global counter-terrorism Richard Barrett, now a senior VP with security consultants The Soufan Group, joined CBS News foreign correspondent and the evening’s chair Clarissa Ward for a discussion on the fate of Syria’s foreign fighters. The panel largely debated how an understanding of returning fighters’ motivations should inform the UK’s response, both in terms of new laws and de-radicalisation programs.
By Francis Churchill
“It’s just useful when we see today the narrative of conflict to remember that it was actually possible for faiths to coexist quite remarkably,” said Gerard Russell, referring to Baghdad in c. 800 C.E.
On Tuesday 13 February, the former United Nations and British diplomat joined an audience at the Frontline Club to share insights from his latest book, Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms. Ian Black, Middle East editor at The Guardian, chaired the evening.
In light of current events, namely the rise of Islamic State, the ongoing attacks by Boko Haram in Nigeria and continued religious repression in Iran and elsewhere, the night’s reflection on the history of Islam was a reminder that coexistence was once the norm in the Middle East.
By Javier Pérez de la Cruz
“Wherever you go in the world, democracy has been corrupted by individuals with a lot of power”, said Anthony Baxter by way of an introduction to a screening of his latest film, A Dangerous Game, at the Frontline Club on Monday 12 January.
The documentary, which follows on from Baxter’s first international success You’ve Been Trumped, depicts the devastating impact of luxury golf resort developments on local communities around the world. The film travels to locations as diverse as the historic site of Dubrovnik, Croatia, and the Scottish seaside town of Balmedie, to explore how tycoons influence authorities to concede to their lucrative plans, despite opposition from the residents who are most affected.
This Christmas Frontline Club member and journalist, Peter Greste, along with his colleagues Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed will mark one year since they were arrested and imprisoned in Egypt.
On 1 January their case will be heard before the Court of Cassation. The court will decide whether or not they have grounds to appeal their convictions.
Join friends and colleagues on 29 December, 12 PM at the Egyptian Embassy, 26 South Street, London W1K 1DW, to show your support for Peter, Mohamed and Baher this Christmas. If you can’t be with us in person make sure you show your support using #FREEAJSTAFF.
By Agnes Chambre
A preview screening of The Billion Pound Base – Dismantling Camp Bastion, followed by a Q&A session with director Richard Parry, producer Leslie Knott and executive producer Mike Lerner, was held at the Frontline Club on Thursday 27 November.
The film about Camp Bastian in Afghanistan is reportedly the first of its kind. Although a large number of films have been made about the country, including many made by the three people that were in discussion last night, this film was about the infrastructure of the camp. Learner described it as “Catch-22 meets The Office”.
By Georgia Luscombe
On Tuesday 25 November, the Frontline Club hosted Jonathan Powell to discuss the topic of his new book, Talking to Terrorists. Powell was Downing Street chief of staff, during the entire tenure of Tony Blair as Prime Minister and a chief negotiator with Sinn Fein before the Good Friday Agreement. He was interviewed by The Times’ roving correspondent, Anthony Loyd.
By Robert Van Egghen
“How can you have a war on terror when terror is a tactic?” asks one of the American counter-terrorism analysts interviewed in Greg Barker‘s new film, Manhunt, about the decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden, which was screened at the Frontline Club on Monday 24 November. Director Greg Barker joined the packed-out audience afterwards for a Q&A via Skype.
By Will Worley
A preview screening of Concerning Violence, followed by a discussion with Swedish director Göran Hugo Olsson, was held at the Frontline Club on Friday 21 November.
The film is based upon the seminal anti-colonialism book, The Wretched of the Earth, by Frantz Fanon, a Martinique born psychiatrist who became involved with armed anti-colonial struggles, significantly in Algeria.
The production follows segments of archive footage, some extremely graphic, linked throughout by excerpts from the book, read by singer Lauryn Hill. Clips used were from African countries affected by the violence of colonisation in the late 20th century, such as Mozambique, Guinea Bissau and Burkina Faso.
Olsson started the discussion by saying: “The film for me was just about the text. For me it’s just like a commercial for Fanon’s thinking.” He felt that the book “hadn’t had its proper place in society” and wanted to use it to illustrate problems of the modern day.
By Will Worley
Science and journalism came together on the evening of Thursday 20 November as the Frontline Club launched a new collaboration with the Scientific Exploration Society. Chaired by Vaughan Smith, explorers and journalists discussed their work and the stories they are trying to tell.
By Graham Lanktree
As many major news organisations close foreign bureaus, freelancers are called on more and more to cover global conflicts. They face risks often without the structure, training and resources that come with having a large media outlet behind you.
Continuing a conversation that began at the end of October in New York at the Overseas Press Club of America (OPC), Vaughan Smith, founder of the Frontline Club, spoke with leading editors at the club in London on Tuesday 18 November. They discussed the importance of pay to reflect risk, training, and new ways of determining how much responsibility for freelancers news outlets should take on.
By Elliott Goat
“Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible.”
Janet Malcom, The Journalist and the Murderer
Hosting a debate on the role of fiction/nonfiction in documentary storytelling, David Wilson, founder of True/False film festival, chaired a panel of past True/False filmmakers Kevin Macdonald, Sarah Gavron and Beadie Finzi. He began by asking them all what it was that guided their decision making process that ultimately skirted the line between fictional representation and factual accuracy.
“When you find yourself in a position where you are investigating how to shape a story, how to shape a narrative, how do you determine whether you are going too far or you have not gone far enough . . . that this is right and this is wrong?”