It’s 40 years ago that punk first burst upon the public imagination and left its indelible mark on pop culture. The music, artists and, most of all, the attitude are celebrated later this month in a special programme of events at the EYE cinema in Amsterdam. Esther O’Toole finds out more.
Lead programmer Ronald Simons freely admits that he didn’t know much about punk until a few months ago when, together with fellow programmer Anna Abrahams, they set out to devise FURY! Punk Culture for the EYE.
‘To begin with we asked ourselves is there a punk film movement?’ said Simons. ‘Our starting point was not the music but the films.’ They soon discovered that, like anything prefaced with ‘hippie’ in the years prior to punk, there were various movements within the movement and many different interpretations of the term.
‘Even today it’s difficult to say what punk is and the EYE doesn’t want to try and define it for audiences, but we will be asking every guest what it means to them’.
That being said, shared values resound through the movies Simons and Abrahams uncovered: anti-establishment, hands-on, do-it-yourself, ideas that hold just as much relevance today as they ever did.
The Filth & the Fury, The Great Rock ’n Roll Swindle, Jubilee, Sid and Nancy, Patti Smith: Dream of Life and Blank Generation are among the film line-up.
Don Letts (the iconic British DJ and film maker, who first started playing punk and reggae at London’s The Roxy in the mid-70s and later moved on to films) will be performing live on opening night, May 26, before a special showing of his much lauded movie Punk Attitude (2005).
‘It was a very DIY way of film making,’ says Simons. ‘Not using any money from funds but running it all on donations – super independent. In the background always the inner city’s urban decay. Very documentary style. There was no money for lighting but they were trying to show reality anyway.’
The punk experience
Of course the music remains essential. During the three weeks of the programme Zaal 2 will be transformed into a punk podium, complete with bar, where films will be projected alongside live performances by bands and spoken word artists. The programme includes legendary Amsterdam punk band The Ex and punk poetess Diane Ozon.
For a real insight into contemporary punk bands, the EYE called on Ivo ‘Trash’ who runs the music programming at Het Patronaat music venue in Haarlem to put together the line-up. There will even be a tiny punk museum put together by collector Bert Broodje and a punk walk through the city on Sunday June 12.
Simons is hoping to attract a diverse crowd with younger, contemporary punk fans and makers coming for the music and art, and perhaps those who were there in the heyday for the films and discussions.
Speakers include professor Dick Hebdige, Amos Poe and Frank Wiering who will touch on the parallels and contrasts between punk in different countries. One example of this is the anti-royalist sentiments expressed in the Sex Pistols iconic album God Save the Queen (1977) and Amsterdam squatters protests around the 1980 coronation of Queen Beatrix.
All just rebels and rioters?
The main thinking behind the programme is to show a wider perspective than the rebels and the rioters.
‘I always thought it had a very negative vibe but having researched it I found it was far more positive than that. It’s a way of living; it’s producing many works of art. I want people to come to the EYE and make up their own mind,’ Simons says.
‘You either feel Punk or you don’t,’ Simons concludes. ‘They say it’s not in the hair, it’s in the heart.’
Fury! Punk Culture is on at the EYE from Thursday May 26 to Wednesday June 15. More information