Melbourne Underground Film Festival

Richard Wolstencroft, director of the Melbourne Underground Film Festival (MUFF), has responded to a series of questions in relation to this blog post, which was originally published last Thursday (September 2) and focused on an online smear campaign against him conducted by an ex-MUFF volunteer with some heavy accusations and a big axe to grind. The original post is, unedited, below.

Wolstencroft, whose contribution to the indie film scene in Melbourne has not gone unappreciated by myself and many other local film aficionados, has candidly answered some difficult questions. As I wrote in my post: you don’t need to be Miss Marple to deduce that there may have been some bad blood between him and his vitriolic online enemy in the past. Reporting on this makes me feel a little like I’m the meat in the middle of a very weird, acidic sandwich.

There are some tricky issues at play here, ethical and otherwise, particularly the anonymous blogger’s use of Facebook images to build a condemnatory portrait of Wolstencroft. As I understand it, Wolstencroft doesn’t deny the veracity of such materials – though he vehemently denies the associated commentary, particularly that he is racist – but certainly questions the integrity of publishing what he describes as “stolen and copyright violating screen shots from me and my pals’ Facebook pages.”

Readers of this blog may recall that in late July I leaked private emails between the filmmakers of Son of Babylon and Richard Moore, Executive Director of the Melbourne International Film Festival. Moore wouldn’t have been happy with my post, nor the subsequent media covered it spawned, and Wolstencroft certainly wasn’t happy with this one either. While I respect the work these men have achieved for Australian film culture, matters that invariably relate to the commercial and ethical viability of the film festivals they represent – such as financial links to the state of Israel and allegations of neo-fascism and dictatorial organizational structure – are, I believe, a matter of public enquiry.

As I wrote in my original copy, everybody deserves a right of reply. In the Q and A series below – unedited and conducted via email – Wolstencroft discusses the allegations made against him, articulates some of his controversial political views and sheds some light on what it’s like to be the director of MUFF. His blog can be found here and the original story prompted by the anonymous blogger can be found directly below this interview.

Q: As I reported in this blog post, an online campaign has been launched by an anonymous person with the sole intention of smearing your name and tarnishing your reputation. In your opinion, why did this campaign come about? What started it?

A: I know the identity of this ‘anonymous’ person “Harald Dohrn.” He is a former associate of MUFF from 2001 who programmed one selection of Super 8 films. After he was not asked back to program and we rejected a (terrible) film of his he went literally mental at me for reasons I still do not understand to this day. It’s some form of personal vendetta for him and is clearly some kind of vaguely psycho obsession. He has created three or four of these web sites over the years attempting to defame me and MUFF that have come and gone. This is his latest (and lowest) one yet as it is entirely made up of stolen and copyright violating screen shots from me and my pals’ Facebook pages. All obtained by stalking my FB site under a false name for two years! I must be critical of your decision to publish a link to a defamatory supposedly anonymous website based on the illegal stalking of Facebook profiles. That’s just my two cents on that…

Q: Do you feel your personal and political views have been misrepresented? If so, how would you describe them?

A: First of all my main concern with MUFF is to foster indie genre cinema in Australia i.e. a second wave of Ozploitation filmmaking. That’s the only politics of mine that matters. But, as the issue of my own personal, philosophical and intellectual politics has been raised, here it is: I have an interest in a transformative and revolutionary Right Wing politics. The Left (Communism, Socialism, Marx, etc) that is embraced on most Uni campuses is an ideology responsible for the death of over 100 million people in the 20th century. See The Black Book of Communism. The Right’s (…which includes the atrocities of Nazi Germany) death toll comes to around 30 or 40 million when you include all those who died in non war crime battles of WW2 in Western nations, also. So both ideologies can be extremely nasty if taken to extremes. But, I believe there are peaceful and cool Left wingers who don’t want Stalin and I have met many of them. Same can be said of the Right, though.

All I ask is: can there not be the same latitude in political discourse allowed for The Right as The Left? The Left and Marxism has many amazing intellectuals of note and worth studying. But so too does Rightist, Conservative and even Fascist thought: Martin Heidegger, Nietzsche, TS Eliot, WB Yeats, Oswald Spengler, Ernst Junger, Carl Jung, Ezra Pound, LF Celine, Yukio Mishima, Charles Mauras,Wyndham Lewis, Marinetti, Curzio Malaparte, Gabriele D’Annunzio, Konrad Lorenz and on and on. Most recently Alain De Benoist of the European New Right and GRECE is a thinker whose thought is close to mine in some ways. Excellent Israeli Historian Zev Sternhell has said the Right has a fully functional, comprehensive and deep intellectual basis equal to that of the Left. Now you wouldn’t know all this from Tony Abbott now would you!? My humble wish is to discuss (sometimes) Right wing ideas freely and without prejudice as Leftists do their own ideology. I have stated many times I am interested in a non racist form of Rightism, so this should make my concerns more palatable. My opposition to further mass immigration to Australia is, I claim, not racist. Indeed, it is the exact opposite. It is based (ala Dick Smith) on sustainability and maintaining cultural identity, difference and cohesion. I may make slightly reactionary and off color remarks based on my deeper thinking on Facebook because I love being cheeky, confrontational, etc. In a nutshell I merely wish to discuss some Right and often Left wing ideas as a political synthesis (ala Hegel) and that this is a matter for my blogs, my philosophical and University writings or my private Facebook pages. It has very little to do with my running MUFF and I honestly cannot see the relevance apropos this whole ‘storm in a tea cup’.

Richard Wolstencroft

Above: Richard Wolstencroft in Uganda 2009 showing a former Child Soldier how to use a handy cam (from his new documentary Heart of Lightness).

Q: Generally speaking, how would you describe your ten year tenure (or thereabouts) as director of MUFF? Do you find organising the film festival is an inherently political environment?

A: I run MUFF like Caligula in a bad mood! Hehe. Only joking. Most people dig the way I do things. There are no committees at MUFF. I fucking HATE committees and think the lack of individual personality, ideas and leadership is one reason why the OZ film industry is so fucking dull. Outside of one idiot (you know who!) all our past collaborators and volunteers love MUFF! And what’s not to love? I do not find the general Oz festival atmosphere that political in Left/Right terms. Though your traditional art film wanker or poser is a champagne Socialist making films about the working class but living in a pad with a Harbour view. I obviously enjoy getting up their noses a little.

Q: During a recent interview with introuble.com.au you reportedly said “I am a Transcendental Fascist (TF)… My view is a radical re-visioning of the Right.” Can you elaborate? What exactly does that mean, in layman’s terms?

A: Most of that is explained above but basically TF is attempting to create a friendly, green, peaceful and new Rightism or fascism ( I use that term mainly to shock) devoid of all the nasty stuff one associates with, say, Nazism. I know the idea is slightly perverse and the use of the word ‘fascism’ upsets people. That’s partly the point. I like to challenge the status quo, upset people, etc. I have made a career out of it in fact. Some say my ideas are not even fascist. Including some fascists! I am an extreme social libertarian for example: no censorship, full gay marriage and rights, legalize and tax drugs, full support of women’s rights, abortion, more women in positions of power, a lot more money spent on the arts to create a new “Athens” and a golden age of Australian culture and art, give the Northern Territory or some part of Australia back to the Aborigine nation for self rule, etc. I also conjecture we live in a multi ethnic society which is great! But, not a truly multicultural one. I do not like multiculturalism (MC) as a political strategy and find it forced, fake, against the working class whose discourse it replaced and whose secret function is in the service of Capitalism that needs fresh bodies for it’s ponzi scheme structure. I think when MC gets out of hand it leads to cultural fragmentation, societal breakdown and alienation to name just three ills. That’s a sample of some of my ideas.

Q: You introduced the illegal screening last week of LA Zombie with the words “sit back, enjoy and fuck censorship!” As a champion of freedom of speech, do you believe that blog posts such as the one you are responding to now should be allowed to be publicly available even though you may not personally be thrilled by their content?

A: I think the blog you link to is a deliberate attempt at defamation. I do not consider defamation free speech. If anyone wanted to write a blog against me – go right ahead. But all these stolen screen shots from private Facebook pages? It is just not cricket. Plus no right of response from me has been allowed. I assure you I have asked. If I was to build a site calling you a rapist you have a right to object to it. This site accuses me of being a racist Neo Nazi, which I strongly conjecture I am not. On FB sometimes you can say something off the cuff, outrageous, slightly off color, silly or meant to shock, etc. That is part of FB’s fun isn’t it people? The material on this site are not my mature and considered opinions. They are taken out of the jokey and silly context they were written in, also.

Q: I wrote in my post “MUFF has no board as such and, given its underground cache, isn’t likely to be greatly affected by commercial concerns.” Is that a fair description? Is the organisation of the festival significantly affected by sponsorship opportunities and, if so, do you think those commercial concerns are in any way jeopardised by your controversial opinions on subjects such as immigration?

A: MUFF has sponsors of all types. They support free speech and a right to hold different political opinions, I’m sure. They are welcome not to support MUFF if any of this causes concern. I keep MUFF independent to maintain its indie voice, its position against dull Oz cinema and its integrity. I think it has earned this after 11 festivals. I must say not a single complaint has been received in regards to this site from anyone: filmmaker, sponsor or punter alike! In other words people just don’t care. This attack on me is a cheap shot attempting to bring down one of the few festival outlets for indie cinema in this country. Indie genre cinema is what MUFF is about. Not my silly opinions on this or that on FB.

Q: Words like “neo-fascist” and “transcendental fascist” naturally generate strong interest and strong opinions from readers. In the past you do not seem to have shyed away from expressing yourself as such. Do you accept that the views of a person such as yourself, in a position of significance within the Australian film industry, are in any way a matter of public inquiry?

A: Sure. That’s why I am answering these questions. People have asked before. I tell them. I do not think it’s a big deal. I do not hide my views. 1300 people on Facebook love my non PC comments. They are varied, diverse and not at all represented by this site. Many agree with them! When I describe my views on bordering up our Western utopias a little, but allowing new vital, virile and promethean artistic and social elites to be fostered with new energies, ideas and freedoms for those within our polis, etc. Well, let’s just say many hipsters, free spirits, independent thinkers, rebels, iconoclasts, young people, etc., are attracted to some of these ideas instinctively. Most of the old values, standards, morals and political paradigms are dead, let’s be honest. It is our time now and the future might belong to such a synthesis of Left and Right wing ideas.

I hope these responses clear up my positions a little. Viva MUFF!

——————————-

Original blog post:

Ferocious film politics: ex-MUFF volunteer launches smear campaign against festival director

By now some of you may have read my account of last Sunday’s illegal screening of director Bruce LaBruce’s banned feature film LA Zombie, the final event of this year’s Melbourne Underground Film Festival (MUFF).

A big question mark hovered over the evening, particularly whether cops would storm the building and seize the projector in a blaze of pro-censorship righteousness. That wasn’t out of the question given the film was banned by Australia’s Office of Film and Literature Classification, and precisely that situation unfolded when Margaret Pomeranz attempted to screen Larry Clark’s provocative (but comparatively mild) suburban yoof-in-trouble drama Ken Park in 2003.

However, the LA Zombie evening went off without a hitch and the audience squawked and squealed as almost unthinkably awful things unfolded in front of them. The film was terrible, but it wasn’t interrupted. And it also wasn’t the only MUFF-related controversy I encountered on the weekend.

Around midday on Sunday I received an email from a person (they wish to remain anonymous) whose objective was obviously to derail the screening by leaking details to the media. I soon discovered this person – an ex-volunteer for the festival – has an elephantine sized grudge against MUFF director Richard Wolstencroft and has launched and sustained a vitriolic online campaign against him. You don’t need to be Miss Marple to deduce that there may have been some bad blood between them in the past.

Here’s a snippet from the email I received on Sunday:

The only reason I’m leaking the details of the “secret” LA Zombie screening tomorrow night is because MUFF is run by a profoundly racist Nazi apologist. He is also exploiting grassroots filmmakers to line his own pockets and to advance his fantasy of being a player in the Australian film industry. If my leaking this prevents the screening from happening then so be it.

This person runs the somewhat oddly titled blog Richard Wolstencroft’s Unconcealedness which consists of “a collection of damning quotes from the “Aristocratic Fascist” and director of the Melbourne Underground Film Festival, taken from Facebook and elsewhere.”

The blog, which includes photographs, screenshots of Facebook conversations and links to interview articles, paints Wolstencroft as an extreme ideologue. According to one screenshot, Wolstencroft wrote – on the subject of Germany and WWII – that:

“….the Nazis only wanted a united Europe like the EU, anyway, in essence. They were a little excesses (sic). But that can be forgiven now given some historical distance…Hitler would have protected the British Empire and it would exist in a greater glory to this day if he had been allowed to.”

The blog is littered with other examples of Wolstencroft’s wacky opinions, some of which may have been taken out of context, others which probably aren’t relevant or necessary to bring to public scrutiny. But they are hard-hitting and perhaps even damning, given your personal political and ideological perspectives. Worse perhaps, at least for the film festival, the anonymous finger pointer also accuses Wolstencroft of having a dictatorial style and taking advantage of budding filmmakers.

There are of course two sides to every story and Wolstencroft – like everybody else – deserves a right of reply. If MUFF were a major film festival, I imagine the board would be congregating for long late night meetings to fret about advertising revenue while scoffing down Chinese food (and least that’s what happens in the movies). But MUFF has no board as such and, given its underground cache, isn’t likely to be greatly affected by commercial concerns. Having said that the event’s major sponsor, Canon, presumably wouldn’t be chuffed to learn that they are now commercially aligned with an alleged “racist neo-fascist.”

More than that, the anonymous finger pointer claims MUFF has “squandered” the promise the festival once showed and alienated the media “through abusive responses to criticism.”

Wolstencroft himself – who I had a quick informal discussion with before last Sunday’s screening – dismissed the blog as a crude attempt to besmirch his reputation but admitted that his views on subjects such as immigration are “controversial.” If a fraction of what has been written/captured about him is true, that is something of an understatement.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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