Socialist Worker

Reviews—Sleaford Mods film will do well ahead of the elections

by Nick Grant
Issue No. 2551

Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn (left) in a scene from the film

Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn (left) in a scene from the film (Picture: Ingo Brunner)

This portrait of the musical act Sleaford Mods goes on national cinema release this week.

Its infantile title—Kunst is German for “art”—relates to their regrettably frequent use of the c-word and the title of one of their songs.

Even though the word is typically used in a self-derogatory manner it betrays their blokeish milieu.

So we get a cliched narrative of guys doing their uncompromising thing and winning out.

It’s defined by appearances on Jools Holland and at Glastonbury in 2016 before signing a Rough Trade contract.

The duo of lyricist/vocalist Jason Williamson and beatmaker Andrew Fearn from Nottingham work hard.


Opening for The Specials and The Libertines broke them to wider audiences. Lefty actor Maxine Peake and zombie rocker Iggy Pop are fans.

Gigs in Germany, Spain and New York show their reach.

Their fans of course can mouth each angry syllable Jason spits. In one scene it appears that a father and son crushed in at the stage barrier are doing so in unison.

Fans say things like “they really mean what they say”, “they are the voice of Britain”, “a breath of fresh air in a stagnated industry”.

“Avant-garde record label” boss Steve Underwood is shown leaving his bus-driver mates to go full-time as Sleafords’ manager.

Too much of the film however is spent with him.

This is all pretty disappointing because I do rate this band. Live they are minimalist social realists. A mic. A rapper. A laptop with mute bloke tapping the keys rarely. That’s the image.

But the sound is brutal. Booming, driving, catchy synthesised riffs surround Jason’s furious tales as if John Cooper Clark on speed had joined Public Image back in the punk days.

They renounce “love songs” to talk about what’s going on in people’s lives.

They catalogue zero hours contracts, Poundland, Tory-hating, benefit-denied working class Britain today.

Interviewed on Channel 4 News last year Jason said he was proud to have been expelled from the Labour Party because he had only joined to support Jeremy Corbyn.


Yet here he cantankerously rejects a “voice of the people” label despite the film’s repeated evidence to the contrary. But this film’s crucial failing is that it is far too reverential. It’s as thin as a punk fanzine, a marketing puff rather than critical friend.

There’s no political challenge to or even debate with its protagonists, for example, on their white male audience profile.

Nor does it reveal what a good “behind the scenes” documentary can do in terms of the artistic process. It doesn’t show how the songs are created or what influences they draw on,

But I have an inkling it will do quite well at the box office in this general election period.

Bunch of Kunst is written, directed and produced by Christine Franz and is in cinemas. Go to for details of screenings near you

A tense portrayal of counter-revolution in Egypt

Director Mohamed Diab’s new film Clash is a microscope on resistance and repression in the aftermath of the Egyptian Revolution.

A scene from the film

A scene from the film

In many ways, the film is a sequel to Jehane Noujaim’s The Square. Her film immersed us in the dizzying heights of Tahrir Square and the downfall of the dictator Hosni Mubarak in 2011, but left its protagonists’ dreams thwarted.

Diab’s film gives an intimate portrayal of the different forces at play after this initial wave.

You’re placed in the midst of protests that came after the military reasserted itself and toppled the new Muslim Brotherhood government.

Set in the back of a police van, it is an intensely intimate and personal portrayal. While you see a glimpse of the bigger picture, through the narrow windows of the police van, the focus remains on the individuals inside throughout.

First police grab AP journalist Adam (Handy Adel) and photographer Zein (Mohammed El Sebaey) and throw them into the van.

Outside supporters of the military coup are celebrating—but in the chaos cops also pick them up.

To add to the potentially explosive mix, Muslim Brotherhood supporters are also thrown into the back for throwing stones.

The film focuses on the tension—and asks how it will be worked out.

Because each of the individuals represents a different section of Egyptian society, this is one of its great strengths.

But focusing on the individuals—both the tensions between them and their own humanity— can obscure the bigger picture and leave you lost at times. So there is even a “good cop”—Awad (Ahmed Abdel Hameed).

Such reservations aside, its dialogue and tightly-shot scenes brings the horror of counter-revolution to the screen.

Eshtebak (Clash) Directed by Mohamed Diab on limited release 21 April

Bookmarks events next month to look out for

In more equal countries, human beings are generally happier and healthier, there is less crime, more creativity and higher educational attainment.

Danny Dorling talks about his new book, The Equality Effect, which presents evidence so overwhelming that it should be changing politics and society all over the world.

Also look out for Gregor Gall talking on his book on Bob Crow.

1 Bloomsbury Street, London WC1B 3QE.


Alex May’s play links struggles from the 1913 Dublin Lockout to the 1984-5 miners’ strike to the 2004 Liverpool social workers’ strike.

And on the way a range of historical characters join three retired workers to discuss the lessons of the past.

Showing as part of Leverhulme Drama Festival

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Article information

Tue 25 Apr 2017, 16:25 BST
Issue No. 2551
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