Sicario: Mexican Drug Cartels & the US-led War on Drugs

February 8, 2016 | Frontline Bloggers

By Jonathan Bucks

Journalist and writer Ed Vulliamy was joined by Empire film critic Dan Jolin on Friday 5 February at the Frontline Club, to watch and discuss Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario.

The Academy Award-nominated film, the title of which translates to ‘assassin’, tells the story of the inextricably linked worlds of US law enforcement agencies and Mexican drug cartels. 

Abbas – Documenting Iran from 1970

February 4, 2016 Frontline Bloggers Comment

By Charlotte Beale

Legendary Iranian photographer Abbas joined journalist and filmmaker Maziar Bahari in a conversation at the Frontline Club on 3 February 2016, chaired by CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer.

Bahari and Abbas have collaborated to launch, a platform showcasing Abbas’s photographic body of work on Iran since 1970, including his coverage of the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

My Jihad: Confronting Extremism in Belgium

February 2, 2016 Phoebe Hall Comment

By May Bulman

Belgian journalist Rudi Vranckx joined an audience at the Frontline Club on Monday 1 February 2016 to discuss his documentary My Jihad, in which he explores how a small Belgian community is confronting extremism.

War Zone Freelance Exhibition – in Pictures

January 29, 2016 Phoebe Hall Comment

Photos by Tolly Robinson
Thursday 28 January 2016 – panel discussion with journalists Benjamin Hiller, Osie Greenway, Jeffry Ruigendijk and Anne Alling on the subject of freelance conflict reporting and the War Zone Freelance Exhibition.


War Zone Freelance Exhibition – The Story Behind the News

January 29, 2016 Frontline Bloggers Comment

By Thomas Colson

A panel of freelance journalists and photographers joined an audience at the Frontline Club on Thursday 28 January 2016 to discuss the story behind a new exhibition of freelance war photography. Osie Greenway, Anne Alling, Benjamin Hiller and Jeffry Ruigendijk introduced photography and footage from their time in the Middle East – particularly Iraq, Syria and Lebanon – and explained that the exhibition’s purpose was to bring to light to the complexities that surround freelance journalism, which are rarely recognised by those who ultimately view the content produced. 

Gordon Brown, Julia Gillard & Kevin Watkins Discuss Funding Education for Syrian Child Refugees

January 26, 2016 Frontline Bloggers Comment

By Charlotte Beale

United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education and former Prime Minister Gordon Brown joined chair of the Global Partnership for Education and former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the Overseas Development Institute’s Executive Director Kevin Watkins at the Frontline Club on 25 January 2016 to discuss Funding for Syrian Child Refugees, on a panel moderated by foreign correspondent David Loyn.

‘Trumpmania’ and the US Election Year

January 26, 2016 Frontline Bloggers Comment

By Elizabeth Jackson

On Wednesday 20 January 2016, in front of a sold out audience at the Frontline Club, a panel of experts – chaired by journalist Michael Goldfarb – set out to discuss what is in store for this election year in the United States.
Panel prepares for Q & A .

Professionalising Citizen Journalism

January 25, 2016 Frontline Bloggers Comment

By Adam Barr

“We all work in closing spaces around the world where journalism is becoming more and more difficult.”

The challenges of reporting on places and conflicts forgotten by the mainstream media were laid bare on Tuesday 19 January, as the Frontline Club hosted an in-depth discussion on the professionalisation of citizen journalism.

Trevor Snapp, director of programs at Nuba Reports, chaired a discussion that ranged from the increasingly savvy media strategies employed by governments, to the dangers faced by emboldened eyewitnesses looking for a big payout.

Power, Politics and Performance in Russia: Collective Memory and the Cult of Stalin

January 15, 2016 Frontline Bloggers Comment

By Elliot Goat

“It took me years to make sense of my own history, and Russian society will take a similar time.”– Vladimir Ashurkov, Russian opposition politician

In collaboration with Theatre Royal Plymouth and the Sputnik Theatre, on Thursday 14 January the Frontline Club presented a staged reading of Grandchildren: The Second Act by Alexandra Polivanova and Mikhail Kaluzhsky as part of its Power, Politics & Performance in Russia series.

Told through a series of overlapping testimonies, Grandchildren explores how people construct and ultimately justify the actions of family members who – as members of Stalin’s inner circle or of the secret police – contributed to the atrocities and purges of the Soviet era.

Chairing the subsequent debate that covered the performance itself and the question of collective memory, BBC foreign correspondent Gabriel Gatehouse began by asking the panel what parallels they saw between the period depicted in the play and contemporary Russia.

John Freedman, theatre critic and former theatre critic for The Moscow Times, said that one of the strengths of the piece was that it “points no fingers, it has no answers, it does not say somebody is guilty or innocent.”

“What it messes with is life and the reality of a life that people live. Any one of us can look back into our own pasts and find difficult moments that we rationalise.”

And it was this, said Freedman, that causes him to despair, “because I see the same thing happening now. People around me are finding the exact same answers to similar questions.”

Writer and broadcaster Oliver Bullough stressed that each nation seeks to define itself by its past, but that in the case of Russia it is far harder to simplify into didactic terms and to challenge the narrative that has already been established. “People need stories to live their live by,” he said, “in order to make sense of it.”

Touching on a recurring theme that a lack of lustration – a process of reckoning akin to the Nuremberg trials – was one of the primary causes of the current situation in Russia today, Vladimir Ashurkov, a prominent opposition politician and executive director of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, said this is perhaps best illustrated by the resurgence in mass support for Stalin.

Russians have a long history of authoritarianism, said Ashurkov, but key is the role that government plays. “It can take steps to bring people closer, to make sense of their history and to be in touch with reality.”

He added that, over the past 15 years, the Russian government has sought to rehabilitate the cult of Stalin as a means of inspiring and imposing a new wave of xenophobia and nationalism.

Freedman touched on the building of this Stalin brand as an increasingly powerful tool: “What I see is people using the name of Stalin, using the picture of Stalin, as a sign to say ‘this is good, this is strong, this is part of the Russia I want’ – and running towards that.”

Alexandrina Markvo, a leading figure of the Moscow art scene currently living in exile, added that this use of the Stalin-myth as a tool for propaganda was resoundingly clear when you examined the teaching of history in schools across Russia, and specifically the way in which Stalin is presented.

On the subject of complicity, one audience member reiterated the panel’s earlier argument that the historical divide between victims and perpetrators had become far harder to define in Russia, and – over the course of 70 years of Soviet rule – had frequently become interchangeable. He argued that this had made it more difficult to point fingers of guilt, and suggested instead the existence of a complex of collective guilt versus collective innocence.

Ending with the question of whether Russia had entered a period akin to that under Soviet rule, speaking from the floor, artistic director of Teatr.doc Elena Gremina said: “Of course not, because the current government is much more dangerous and, in a sense, much more anti-people, and anti-state than even the Soviet government.”

The Fight Against Daesh: Symptoms and Causes

January 8, 2016 Frontline Bloggers Comment

By Antonia Roupell  

A panel discussion focused on The Fight Against Daesh made for a timely first First Wednesday of the year at the Frontline Club. The packed event on 6 January was chaired by David Loyn, foreign correspondent for the BBC for over 30 years. The speakers included Richard Spencer, Middle East editor of The Daily and Sunday TelegraphShiraz Maher, research fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College; and Robin Yassin-Kassab, journalist and author of The Road From Damascus and most recently co-author with Leila al-Shami of Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War. Completing the panel was Azadeh Moaveni, lecturer in journalism at Kingston University and former Middle East correspondent for TIME magazine, and author of Lipstick Jihad and Honeymoon in Tehran.

The Lives of Others: Character Driven Documentary

December 1, 2015 Phoebe Hall Comment

By Thomas Colson

On Monday 30 November, a panel of acclaimed documentary filmmakers came together to discuss the difficulties and rewards of character-driven documentary.

Beadie Finzi, one of the founding directors of non-profit film foundation BRITDOC, moderated the discussion and was joined by filmmakers Brian Hill, David Sington, and Edward Lovelace.

Sun Mu: From North Korean Propagandist to Pop Art Defector

November 23, 2015 Frontline Bloggers Comment

By Heenali Patel

On Friday 20 November, the Frontline Club hosted a premiere screening of the documentary I Am Sun Mu, a remarkable insight into the life and work of North Korean defector and political pop artist Sun Mu. The film follows Sun Mu as he prepares for his first solo exhibition in Beijing in 2014 while trying to remain hidden from the Chinese authorities – a feat that proves more challenging than he, or the filmmaker, had anticipated. The screening was followed by a Q&A session with director Adam Sjöberg.

Spotlight: Investigative Journalism at the Boston Globe

November 19, 2015 Phoebe Hall Comment

By Isabelle Gerretsen

On Wednesday 18 November, Sacha Pfeiffer and Mike Rezendes from The Boston Globe’s Pulitzer-prize winning Spotlight team discussed their 2002 exposé of the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal, the subject of the new film Spotlight. They spoke to Richard Sambrook, former head of BBC News and director of the centre for journalism at Cardiff University, and were joined by the film’s  director Tom McCarthy and co-writer Josh Singer.

In the Picture with Giles Duley: “Anti-War Photographer”

November 19, 2015 Frontline Bloggers Comment

By Ratha Lehall

On Wednesday 18 November, the Frontline Club hosted photographer Giles Duley to discuss the themes and individual images in his latest project, One Second of LightDuley was joined by Roger Tatley, director at the Marian Goodman Gallery, and Jon Levy, a photo editor currently working with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

One Second of Light is a diverse collection of photographs that Duley has taken over the last seven years. He explained to the Frontline Club audience that he began to work on self-funded projects ten years ago, in order to maintain more control over the content and time dedicated. The project features photographs from a wide range of countries, including Angola, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Jordan and Ukraine.

Gulwali Passarlay’s Journey as a Refugee from Afghanistan to the UK

November 19, 2015 Phoebe Hall Comment

By Aletha Adu

On Wednesday 18 November, Gulwali Passarlay enlightened a packed audience at the Frontline Club into his journey as an unaccompanied child refugee from Afghanistan to the United Kingdom. Joined by former Afghanistan correspondent for the BBC David Loyn, and Nadene Ghouri who co-authored his book The Lightless Sky, Passarlay was keen to address the complexities of the refugee crisis from both a personal and political perspective.

Yallah!: Underground Music in the Middle East

November 17, 2015 Frontline Bloggers Comment

By Ratha Lehall

On Monday 16 November, the Frontline Club hosted a screening of the documentary Yallah! Underground, a vibrant look at a diverse groups of Arab artists and musicians using culture to challenge the status quo. The film is set in the years prior to and during the Arab spring, and focuses on artists from Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon. The film was followed by a Q&A with director Farid Eslam, via Skype.

Corruption, Violence and Impunity in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico

November 13, 2015 Phoebe Hall Comment

By Molly Fleming

On Thursday 12 November, award-winning reporter Sandra Rodríguez Nieto spoke with author and journalist for the Observer and the Guardian Ed Vulliamy about life and death in Juarez, the Mexican murder capital of the world.sandra rodriguez

Water Wars: Is a Drying World Stoking the Migration Crisis?

November 12, 2015 Frontline Bloggers Comment

By Hannah Lawrence

In a heated debate on Wednesday 11 November at the Frontline Club, a panel of writers and scientists discussed the extent to which a drying world is a contributing factor in the ongoing migration crisis.

Kisilu: The Climate Diaries

November 11, 2015 Frontline Bloggers Comment

By Harriet Agerholm 

On Tuesday 10 November the Frontline Club hosted a preview screening of Julia Dahr’s Kisilu: The Climate Diaries, ahead of the film’s December screening at the UN climate change conference in Paris. The screening was followed by a discussion with the film’s producer, Hugh Hartford.

20 Years After the Dayton Agreement: “The Sky is Darkening in Bosnia”

November 5, 2015 Frontline Bloggers Comment

By Jonathan Bucks

On Wednesday 4 November, the Frontline Club marked the twentieth anniversary of the Dayton Agreement – the peace agreement that marked the end of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina – by welcoming a panel of those who helped shape negotiations at the time, and who reported on the three year conflict.


Nowhere People: The World’s 10M Stateless People

November 5, 2015 Phoebe Hall Comment

By Charlotte Beale

On 3 November at the Frontline Club, photojournalist Greg Constantine spoke to UNHCR’s UK representative Gonzalo Vargas Llosa about Nowhere People, Constantine’s body of ten years of photographic work on the world’s estimated 10m stateless people.

1915: The Last Survivors of the Armenian Genocide

November 2, 2015 Frontline Bloggers Comment

By Anna Speyart

‘[Photography] isn’t necessarily about creating images; it’s about experiencing life and experiencing stories. Images are just a side effect.’

Nawal El Saadawi: Religion, Feminism and Egyptian Politics

October 27, 2015 Phoebe Hall Comment

By Ayman Al-Juzi

On Monday 26 October, renowned Egyptian writer, feminist and activist Nawal El Saadawi joined journalist Wendell Steavenson and a packed audience at the Frontline Club for a discussion that spanned the topics of linguistic philosophy, feminism and globalisation – all of which were explored in the context of El Saadawi‘s own life experiences and recent developments in Egyptian politics.

Frame by Frame: Photojournalism in Afghanistan

October 21, 2015 Frontline Bloggers Comment

By Anna Speyart

On Tuesday 20 November 2015, the Frontline Club hosted a packed screening of the documentary Frame by Frame, followed by a discussion with filmmakers Alexandria Bombach and Mo Scarpelli. The film follows four Afghan photojournalists who have the challenging task of helping to establish a free and diverse media landscape after years of repressive Taliban rule in Afghanistan, during which photography – and a free press – was prohibited.

The Challenges and Impact of Cross-Border Journalism

October 20, 2015 Phoebe Hall Comment

By Isabel Gonzalez-Prendergast

On Monday 19 October, the Frontline Club was joined by a panel of experts to discuss the increasingly necessary journalism model of cross-border collaboration. Gavin MacFadyen, director of the Centre for Investigative Journalism and visiting professor at City University, moderated the event, which was held in partnership with the Romanian Cultural Centre in London and Frontline Club Bucharest. The panel shared their own varied experiences of cross-border investigations and discussed the potential impact and many challenges inherent in this model of journalism.MONDAY PANEL

Mohamed Fahmy and Amal Clooney: #FreedAJStaff

October 9, 2015 Phoebe Hall Comment

By Charlotte Beale

On Wednesday 7 October, former Al Jazeera English bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy joined a packed audience at the Frontline Club in his first public appearance since his release from a Cairo prison on 23 September. Fahmy was joined in conversation by his lawyer Amal Clooney and BBC chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet.

Fahmy, an Egyptian-Canadian dual citizen, was arrested in December 2013 along with colleagues Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed, and sentenced to seven years in a maximum security prison on terrorism-related charges. He was finally pardoned by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on 23 September.

The Red Web: Digital Surveillance in Russia

September 30, 2015 Frontline Bloggers Comment

By Elliot Goat

“This is not a phone conversation…”

                                                                        – Soviet saying

Introducing his new book The Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia’s Digital Dictators and the New Online Revolutionaries at an event at the Frontline Club on Tuesday 29 September, co-author and founder of Agentura.Ru Andrei Soldatov began by saying that to understand modern Russia you must first understand the mentality and historical relationship between citizen, state and surveillance.

From Damascus to France: A Syrian Love Story

September 25, 2015 Frontline Bloggers Comment

By Francis Churchill


L-R: Sean McAllister, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and Amer Daoud

The plight of Syrians has returned to the headlines following the recent release of a tragic image of young Aylan Kurdi lying dead in the sand. It is easy to forget that the current situation in Syria, and the millions of refugees who have been forced to flee the country, has its roots in the Syrian Revolution of 2011 and the brutal response of the Assad regime.

In his latest film, A Syrian Love Story, Sean McAllister follows the story of one family torn apart by the political imprisonment of a mother, as they experience the civil war and finally find refuge in Paris.

On Wednesday 23 September, McAllister, alongside the film’s protagonist Amer Daoud and journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, joined an audience at the Frontline Club for a Q&A following the screening.

The Changing Face of Myanmar

September 23, 2015 Frontline Bloggers Comment

By Helena Kardova

Myanmar panel
L to R: Richard Cockett, Hkanhpa Sadan, Wai Hnin Pwint Thon, Robert Cooper, Paul French

Meanwhile certain regions of Burma are about to learn how to cast a ballot on November 8, ethnic minorities in rural areas are fleeing their homes that are being burnt by the military forces.

On Tuesday September 22, a panel of experts and activists discussed the uncertain future of the country that has been suffering the longest ongoing civil war.

Shortly after Paul French, commentator on Asia chairing the panel, invited the speakers to make their pitch about the current situation, it became clear that opinions about the value of recent reforms value immensely.

Meanwhile general secretary of the Kachin National Council Hkanhpa Sadan and campaigns officer at Burma Campaign UK Wai Hnin Pwint Thon said they can be hardly excited about the election, The Economist correspondent Richard Cockett  and adviser to EU representatives Robert Cooper sustained that the progress has been palpable.

“What western community did was they gave us furniture so far and television, but we still don’t have a roof to live under. They gave us the furniture, because they want the garden,” Mr Sadan outlined the perspective of the Burmese.

Ms Pwint Thon criticised the constitution introduced in 2008, which in her view gives a fake illusion of a legal state. “The aim of the constitutions is to create an appearance of change while still holding on to military power and while giving the military the power to decide on economy and politics of the country,” she said.

Mr Cockett underlined that the reforms should be considered in a relevant context. “You should judge Burma against the standards of the region, not against standards of western democracy or British parliamentary democracy,” he said numbering increasingly oppressive countries like Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Cambodia.

According to him, the idea of restoring order in the country is inaccurate. “This country has never experienced order. It’s never experienced peace. Indeed, it’s never experienced an existence as a coherent country at all,” Mr Cockett said referring to the conflict ongoing since 1948.

Mr Cooper reckoned that the upcoming election might become the fairest that the country will have witnessed. “It’s been contested by a large number of parties. It’s got a large number of observers, very large number of local monitors and a large number of international observers there. And it’s not happened before,” he said.

Nevertheless, all the speakers concluded that the way towards genuine democracy, peace with ethnic minorities and complete freedom of expression will be long and bumpy.

Ms Pwint Thon criticised the western “wait and see” approach and Mr Cockett admitted that the economic withdrawal from Myanmar didn’t help the situation either. “It meant that the best practices left the country and they were left with Chinese companies who didn’t care or ever thought about human rights,” he said.

The panel also agreed that the anticipated election might not be that key in the transition. One of the root causes of the conflict is oppression of the country’s minorities.

Mr Sadan underlined that Myanmar has introduced one of the most discriminative religious laws in the world. Ms Pwint Thon added it is not only Muslims, but also women who are not treated equally.

Mr Cockett spoke about a “very poisonous sectarian atmosphere” that he considers one of the real dangers of the election. “It could be a real flashpoint that they exploit all this in the run-up to the election and even after the election. It’ll be extremely explosive in Rakhine state itself where the Rohingya have been entirely disenfrenchised and the buddhist Rakhine nationalists will use this to rally opinion and if the attack Muslims,” he said.

The Look of Silence – Truth and Reconciliation in Indonesia

September 22, 2015 Frontline Bloggers Comment

By Francis Churchill

Joshua Oppenheimer

Joshua Oppenheimer

It is estimated that over 500,000 people were slaughtered in Indonesia between October 1965 and the early months of 1966.

Paramilitary militias and vigilante groups, coordinated by the Indonesian army and aided by British and American intelligence agencies, were responsible for mass killings in the country’s anti-communist purge. Nearly 50 years later and the perpetrators still hold power and are heralded as national heroes.

In his groundbreaking 2012 film, The Act of Killing, Joshua Oppenheimer exposed the impunity with which the perpetrators live. On 18 September The Fontline Club screened Oppenheimer’s follow up piece, The Look of Silence.

After the screening Oppenheimer joined the Frontline Club over Skype.