Born in Flames - Let’s tear this fucker down

Kate Fahy, 12/05/20

“We will continue to fight … against the system that names itself falsely. For we have stood on the promises far too long now that we can all be equal under the cover of a social democracy where the rich get richer and the poor just wait on their dreams.”

– Honey of pirate station Phoenix Radio

When I sat down to watch Born in Flames, I was already angry. I had just watched Boris Johnson’s mumbo jumbo public speech of nothing-ness. He encourages people who can’t work from home to go back to work, such as those in ‘construction and manufacturing’. I heard this as “I really don’t want to be paying your wages any more so you working class folk can go back to work and put your lives in danger so that I can keep my property investor friends rich and save a few pennies myself”.

Money > life apparently, and that’s not to mention the gross under-emphasis on those who are being most severely affected by COVID 19. The hardship upon those who were already experiencing it – i.e. BAME people, the working class, those with mental and physical illness and disability, and those suffering abuse – has exponentially risen, with seemingly little recognition by leaders.

I had also been reading about the global roll backs on trans rights, and directly harmful and discriminative policy changes amid COVID, such as Trump’s push to allow doctors to refuse transgender patients treatment for the virus, trans women in Puerto Rico being hunted and burned to death with no arrests, and the Hungarian government seeking to no longer recognise the existence of trans people. (The current violent oppression of trans people is an urgent topic that will soon be given greater focus by Vadi? Nevadi.)

That turned into a minor rant, but needless to say, I was pretty agitated when I decided on a whim to watch Lizzie Borden’s 1983 pseudo-documentary, Born in Flames, which had been sitting in my watch list for far too long.It turned out to be exactly what was needed. The film is radical, urgent, and furiously calls for active rebellion. Set 10 years after the American ‘Social Democratic War of Liberation’, it investigates the fragmented injustices that remain in a state that calls itself Socialist and ‘free’. Hierarchies persist in terms of race, gender, and class, and the film gives perspectives of diverse feminist groups that are agitated and willing to scream for equality.

Radical in both content and form, the film was made over several years as an independent film on a shoestring budget. Borden herself has said that she made the film “as an act of rebellion.” I read that independent filmmaking used to be called guerrilla filmmaking – a term that seems apt here. The final product is an aesthetically and conceptually raw film that simultaneously grabs you by the throat and unlocks your shackles.

Born in Flames is overtly outraged and fuelled by anger, yet manages to remain inquisitive, with room for curiosity, multiple perspectives, and open-ended questions and ideas. It stands for unity, for rebellion, and for revolution. I felt it as a call to arms. COVID quarantine has encouraged inaction, but current oppression against already marginalised communities cannot remain overlooked. Global administrations are arguably more violent and more powerful than in 1983. As I began the film I felt angry, but also deflated, defeated, and tired of seeing only a growth of pain, death, and injustice; as I finished the film the anger had grown, but so had my willingness to fight.

P.S If you’re in the mood for some political punk, check out ‘Born in Flames’ by The Red Crayola which runs through the title film.


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