Trevor Johnston talks to Giles MacKinnon about his film Needle.
LISTINGS: WEEK ONE 79 WEEK TWO 80
To the point
Scots director Gillies MacKinnon‘s latest project is Needle, a fictional story from the heart of Britain’s ongoing drugs crisis. Trevor Johnston reports on a controversial drama that doesn’t take the easy way out.
‘We‘re trying to show something that exists.‘ reﬂects director Gillies MacKinnon ofthe drugs drama Needle, which closes the current BBC 2 Screenplay season. ‘We’re not making it up for , our own ends but trying to show the problem in as fair a way as possible. If anyone was encouraged to shoot up from this film they‘d have to have some kind of suicidal streak in them. It’s very 4 clear from the piece that the protagonist and ' other young people like him are probably doomed.’ l ‘ Scripted by regular Brookside writer Jimmy ' McGovern, Needle is set in a northern city in the near future, and follows the progress of Sean McKee’s young husband as he gradually loses touch with his wife, home and job in the pursuit of another heroin high. In the outset, he gets together with his friends to form a group smoking session but. although he's unwilling at first. the day comes when he and his buddies begin to inject. Eschewing the usual heavy-handed and rather obvious just-say-no tack. MacKinnon‘s credibly performed film tries to examine the wider issues at stake in the problem. looking at the politicians' and the police force's efforts to come up with a drugs policy that‘s both effective on the street and satisfies the public's demand for significant action.
‘The thing I liked in the script.‘ explains MacKinnon, who came to the project fresh from his highly acclaimed work on the Leith-set film
adaptation of Manfred Karge‘s The Conquest of The South Pole. ‘was the chorus ofdifferent voices from all the diferent parties involved. Even the most unreasonable. like the guy on the radio phone—in who wants the smack infected so that his kids know they’ll die ifthey take any ofit. Somewhere though. in the film‘s many ‘ arguments there's one that's a little more persistent than others. and it comes from the drugs counsellor who says it‘s been proven again and again that prohibition leads to a greatly M increased crime rate. llis solution is that you try to control rather than ban the drug by giving out clean needles. which helps you to stop the spread of'AIDS. Still. it‘s a lesser-of—two-eyils argument and in some ways you‘re damned if you do. damned if you don't.’ '
As in Conquest. MaeKinnon the director has opted for a fluid. highly cinematic style that belies the constrictions of his teley'isual resources (he's
probably the perfect British filmmaker in that respect). and his willingness to let all sides of the story be heard results in a piece that‘s adult enough to show that there is something attractive about drugs (‘That’s not to say we should make it seductive. because that would clearly be wrong‘) and honest enough to admit there are no easy answers.
'()nce you start showing a lot of people sticking needles into themselves. and I think we have kept in that real sickness ofaddiction. it may be that some of the audience out there may not be able to take it. ljust hope the film gets a fair viewing because if it works. if it has a social purpose. it's to bring the issue to the fore. so that the people who can do something about it — the real police. the real politicians. the real drugs counsellors— can create their own forum to talk about it some more.’
Needle, Wed 12 Sept. BBC2 9pm.
silenced its transmitters on 31
I- KISS BEFORE DYING
What with the advent of Radio 5 and John Peel transferring to weekends, radio seems to be in a state of upheaval at the moment. A plethora of new stations, ‘spllt frequencies“ and audience targeting have left many a listener bewildered. All this activity is as nothing, however, when compared to the behind the scenes negotiations and deals over the last two years at tamer pirate stations endeavouring to
A documentary on Channel 4, Radical Radio, traces the development of the London pirate station Kiss FM, from its early days of illicit broadcasting from high-rise council blocks in Camden, to its attempts to become a viable and legal station, with the attached paraphernalia of marketing consultants, publicists, and large financial backers.
It's an eye-opener for those who still cling to the romantic image of radio pirates as rebellious outsiders. Kiss FM, founded as a pirate in 1985,
78'l‘he List 31 August —- 13 September lWll
December 1988 to begin its campaign to go legitimate. Nine months later it won the franchise to operate a dance music station aimed at the 15-34 age group. The fun began then, as the station, supported by Virgin Records, and publishers EMAP. found new offices, built new studios and recruited extra staff. A new sales team was appointed and the station aimed to reach a million listeners within a year. The documentary traces the changes
from the pirate days, to the first legal transmission and provides a
fascinating insight into the transition from street-cred radical radio, to ongoing business concern, with the attendant media middlemen becoming increasingly involved. It’s not just a tale of a London radio station, more about a small fish learning to swim in a big and dangerous pool. Look out for the boys in the stripy shirts. (Tom Lappin)
Radical Radio: The story of Kiss FM Channel 4 Friday 7 September 12 35am.