Brighton Festival Review – Film: Festival of Ideas: I Get Knocked Down at Lewes Depot

This film screening and Directors Q & A turned out to be a very popular event with a packed house at Lewes Depot on Wednesday 18th May.

This brand new film screening of I Get Knocked Down is a version (one band member’s perspective and imaginings) of the origin myth of much loved and innovative Leeds-based anarcho-pop band Chumbawamba.

The audience, largely comprised of people d’un certain age (myself included), were enthralled by the unpicking of existential angst of the film’s protagonist Dunstan Bruce, now a man of 61, experiencing a sort of life ennui and nostalgia for his radical past.

This documentary differs in tone and style from an earlier exploration of his time with the band in the film Well Done, Now Sod Off, which won the audience prize at Leeds International Film Festival. It also forms a partnership with another show created by him, “Am I Invisible Yet?” mentioned below.

The screening was introduced as I Get Knocked Down (a lyric from the band’s most commercially successful 1997 song Tubthumping) –  “The story you never knew, behind the song that you’ve danced to more than you care to remember.”

The film, which on the surface is an exploration of Bruce’s roots and journey to the band and its other members and friendships, offers an ongoing internal commentary, with a sort of Frank Sidebottom creature with separate consciousness running throughout. This figure entitled ‘Babyhead’ allows him to explore the difficult questions surfacing in later life, mostly about what the point of it all is, and does it count?

As a founding band-member, musician and filmmaker Dunstan Bruce talks to a host of colleagues and friends past and present to seek perspective (and validation?) of his own life choices, and how to resurrect his radicalism in a purposeful and relevant way into a new age. The film also features talking heads commentary from (not always positively!) members of the band, Penny Rimbaud of Crass, former record company staff, and family members.

In the post film Q and A hosted by Professor Lucy Robinson from the University of Sussex, Bruce, accompanied by Co-Director Sophie Robinson, discussed how the documentary’s intent originally was about the experience of entering the mainstream in the late 1990s. They described the process of making the film as cathartic and liberating.

Sophie mentioned that this documentary was also about mediating the story of aspects of Chumbawamba for the audience in a more relatable way especially viewers with no context for the group. Note that the film isn’t a collective narrative of the band.

Taking five or six years to make, it forms a sort of companion piece for Dunstan’s recent Brighton Fringe one man stage show – Am I Invisible Yet? He suggests that in a Venn diagram… the show and the film intersect with the exploration of formerly creative and radical middle aged invisibility.

I found this screening rejuvenating. Having reached my own life impasse after decades of living an alternative existence, makes for a process of reconstruction and change at this point. It’s helpful to feel like I journey in good company. As the film is labelled in its publicity, ‘Sometimes it’s better not to just not give a shit what people think’.

You can watch the trailer here:

This is a collaboration with the University of Sussex. The Festival of Ideas harnesses the transformative power of the arts and humanities to fashion new ways of thinking about the past, present and future.

Festival of Ideas: I Get Knocked Down is part of Brighton Festival 2022, running 7 – 29 May

Organised by the School of Media, Arts and Humanities, University of Sussex, in collaboration with Vivienne Westwood’s Intellectuals Unite.


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