“The defining documentary of the most globally and politically aware generation in a lifetime…”
A documentary film – Tony Benn: Will and Testament – which was already being produced for some time prior to the veteran Labor politician’s sad death last week, is set for a full, mainstream cinematic release in late Spring 2014.
The longest-serving Labor MP in history, and one of the most popular UK politicians of all time, Tony Benn’s singular brand of socialism has long struck a chord with people across all ages and social backgrounds.
Through intimate conversations and the late political heavyweight’s personal, photo and film archives, Will And Testament is certain to be in equal measures a highly personal, poignant and informative film, highlighting among other things Benn’s campaigning for more open government and in more recent years his Presidency of the Stop The War coalition.
“I think there are two ways in which people are controlled. First of all frighten people and secondly, demoralise them.” – from Tony Benn’s interview with Michael Moore in Sicko.
Speaking as someone broadly numb and indifferent to modern mainstream party politics, Tony Benn always struck me as perhaps the only prominent British political figure in my lifetime who seemed not only someone of great substance and authenticity, but also someone credible – that being the key combination lacking in almost everyone else afforded significant exposure.
Sure, there might every now and then be a conspicuous, outspoken political figure breaking out of the normal, barren discourse, but they more-often-than-not end up being attention-seekers and mavericks lacking the credibility or authenticity that someone like Tony Benn always seemed to possess (I won’t name names, but there a few right now I’m thinking of in fringe parties in the UK).
Gravitas is the key word; that, combined with the aforementioned authenticity is a very rare combination that seems to elude almost everyone else. But Tony Benn had it, and along with it a gift for expression and a powerful voice that served as an amplifier for passionate, non-election-geared views.
It’s extraordinary that someone who looked and sounded so much like a man displaced from his time, like someone from a bygone era, nevertheless managed to speak so potently to today’s issues and connect with young people and others on the fringes of mainstream society and politics, people largely unsympathetic to the mainstream establishment.
George Galloway has cited Tony Benn as ‘without doubt the greatest Prime Minister we never had’; which may be true, but I can’t imagine someone as genuine, as outspoken and as ‘in touch’ with the common mood as Benn was could ever function as something as compromised as a Prime Minister.
It feels like his passing marks the departure of the only such figure of substance and gravitas left in the British political arena; an arena which now basically amounts to what I’ve been calling ‘The Clone Wars’; as in a continuous factory-line, conveyor belt of watered-down, career-orientated politicians all cut from the same cloth, all with the same bearing, the same haircut, the same teeth, the same glib family unit, and increasingly the same politics and discourse.
Some mad, Victor Von-Doom-like Etonian scientist is rubbing his hands together with a gleeful look on his face, as his sinister Prime Ministerial Cloning Project comes to fruition.
Soon a marginally modified version of the same person will be in every position of power in the country, like some weird ‘Agent Smith’-like, dystopian nightmare out of The Matrix or The X-Files.
Against that dull backdrop, Benn often seemed like the lone voice crying in the wilderness.
A voice that has now fallen silent. One wonders when or if another voice of equal substance and authenticity might come along; probably not any time soon.