THE SECRET POLICEMAN'S FILM FESTIVAL
December 10 - 15
2009 marks the 30th anniversary of the first in Amnesty International's pioneering "Secret Policeman's Ball" series of benefit shows. The June 1979 show was a landmark in galvanizing comedians and rock musicians to use their influence as entertainers to raise consciousness for human rights and other social and political causes. Artists who cite the show as the starting point for their social activism include Bono, Sting, Peter Gabriel and Bob Geldof.
The "Secret Policeman's Ball," co-created by Monty Python's John Cleese, took place in London in June 1979. That show, and the now legendary series of benefit shows that followed in the UK over the past three decades, brought together the cream of Britain's comedic performers and rock musicians, and were disseminated to a worldwide audience in a series of movies, TV specials and record albums. This festival celebrates the 30th anniversary of the series and presents some of the highlights from the three decades of performances for Amnesty. (Courtesy of Amnesty International - UK, Amnesty International - USA and the Mods & Rockers Film Festival)
AFI Member passes will be accepted at all screenings in The Secret Policeman's Film Festival.
Click here for more information about Amnesty International
TRIUMPH OF THE BALL
In Person: Introduction by "Secret Policeman's Ball" co-creator/producer Martin Lewis
A new compilation specially created for this film festival by series co-creator and co-producer Martin Lewis. It presents highlights from 30 years of the "Secret Policeman's Ball" series and of Amnesty's legendary music tours and concerts.
DIR/PROD Martin Lewis. UK, 2009, color, 40 min. NOT RATED
Thursday, December 10, 6:00
Tickets are free and will be available at the box office on the day of the show ONLY; limit 4 per person.
In Person: Q&A between films with "Secret Policeman's Ball" co-creator/producer Martin Lewis and music critic/cultural writer Richard Harrington (December 10 screening); Q&A before films with Martin Lewis (December 12 screening)
THE SECRET POLICEMAN'S BALL
The first stage show (and film) to deploy the now iconic title that gave the entire series its name was "slightly directed" by John Cleese (his words) and features half the Pythons, plus Eleanor Bron, Billy Connolly, the breakthrough debut of Rowan Atkinson, and what many consider to be Peter Cook's finest performance: his savage satire of one of Britain's most salacious political sex scandals, hysterically funny even without knowledge of the details. The film also captures the birth of the "unplugged" phenomenon and the rock community's longstanding support of Amnesty International with stunning acoustic performances by The Who's Pete Townshend. This original, uncut 1979 UK film was never released in the US and includes 20 minutes cut from the DVD version. (Courtesy of Amnesty International - UK)
DIR Roger Graef; PROD Martin Lewis & Peter Walker. UK, 1979, color, 91 min. NOT RATED
THE SECRET POLICEMAN'S OTHER BALL (UK version)
This--the really big show--was co-directed by John Cleese, who revived several classic skits for the event from his pre-Python stint with Graham Chapman in the legendary AT LAST THE 1948 SHOW. It features three Pythons, Billy Connolly, Rowan Atkinson, the BBC's NOT THE 9 'O CLOCK NEWS team and newcomers Victoria Wood and Alexei Sayle. Series co-creator Martin Lewis built on his earlier success of securing Pete Townshend's participation by recruiting a slew of established rockers (Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Donovan) and emerging talents (Sting, Phil Collins, Bob Geldof) to the Amnesty cause for memorable musical interludes that inspired Live Aid-creator Geldof to follow suit on a far bigger scale. Note: This uncut, UK version was never released in the US, not to be confused with the quite different US version released by Miramax. (Courtesy of Amnesty International - UK)
DIR Julien Temple; PROD Martin Lewis & Peter Walker. UK, 1981, color, 99 min. NOT RATED
THE SECRET POLICEMAN'S RARE NUGGETS!
Hilarious rarities from the "Secret Policeman" vaults including promotional spots, premieres, TV appearances and outtakes featuring John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Peter Cook, Billy Connolly and Rowan Atkinson. With a few exceptions, this material has never been seen in the US.
DIR/PROD Martin Lewis. UK, 2009, color, 12 min. NOT RATED
Thursday, December 10, 7:30; Saturday, December 12, 10:00
*In Person: Q&A between films with "Secret Policeman's Ball" co-creator/producer Martin Lewis and music critic/cultural writer Richard Harrington, December 11 screening only!
PLEASURE AT HER MAJESTY'S
The first Amnesty International benefit show and progenitor of "The Secret Policeman's Ball" was instigated in 1976 by John Cleese, who rounded up his friends from Monty Python and other Brit-com luminaries including Peter Cook, Eleanor Bron, Neil Innes and Dame Edna for an historic gathering of greatest hits performances stage-directed by Beyond The Fringe's Jonathan Miller. Cleese titled the show "A Poke In The Eye (With A Sharp Stick.") Verite director Roger Graef captured the live stage show, as well as the preparations, rehearsals and between-the-skits dressing room banter and titled his film using a play on a British colloquialism for imprisonment. (Courtesy of Amnesty International - UK)
DIR/PROD Roger Graef. UK, 1976, color and b&w, 101 min. NOT RATED
THE MERMAID FROLICS
This television special of Amnesty's 1977 benefit, stage-directed by Monty Python's Terry Jones, includes very rare John Cleese performances: teamed with his then-wife Connie Booth, of FAWLTY TOWERS fame, and with one of his inspirations, Jonathan Miller. Plus Peter Cook, Terry Jones, Peter Ustinov, Sue Jones-Davies (Judith in MONTY PYTHON'S LIFE OF BRIAN), and Julie Covington (ROCK FOLLIES). (Courtesy of Amnesty International - UK)
DIR Roger Graef; PROD Peter Luff & Martin Lewis. UK, 1977, color, 52 min. NOT RATED
Friday, December 11, 7:00*; Sunday, December 13, 5:20
In Person: Introduction by "Secret Policeman's Ball" co-creator/producer Martin Lewis and music critic/cultural writer Richard Harrington
THE SECRET POLICEMAN ROCKS!
"Secret Policeman's Ball" series co-creator and co-producer Martin Lewis, who first recruited rock musicians for Amnesty, was commissioned to create this brand-new music special celebrating the 30th anniversary of the series. Features historic performances by Pete Townshend, Sting, Peter Gabriel, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, David Gilmour, Mark Knopfler, Dave Stewart, Kate Bush, Phil Collins, Bob Geldof and more. (Courtesy of Amnesty International - UK)
DIR/PROD Martin Lewis. UK, 2009, color, 60 min. NOT RATED
FROM CHILE...AN EMBRACE OF HOPE
Never seen in the US!
Amnesty had wanted to visit Chile as part of the "Human Rights Now" tour in 1988 - but the presence of General Pinochet's dictatorship prevented that. In 1990, Pinochet was finally banished and Amnesty helped the people of Chile celebrate with a two-day music festival in the very stadium where Pinochet's thugs had once imprisoned and murdered Chilean citizens. The festival was headlined by an eclectic lineup including Sting, Peter Gabriel, Jackson Browne, Sinead O'Connor, Wynton Marsalis, Ruben Blades and a newly-politicized New Kids on the Block. Never on home video or DVD anywhere in world. (Courtesy of Amnesty International - USA)
DIR Larry Jordan. US, 1990, color, 68 min. NOT RATED
Friday, December 11, 10:00
THE SECRET POLICEMAN'S OTHER BALL (US version)
As of spring 1982, none of the "Secret Policeman's Ball" films had been released in the US -- they were considered "too British" for American audiences. Producer Martin Lewis finally contracted with budding distributors Bob & Harvey Weinstein and their recently-formed Miramax Films to produce a US version of the latest UK film. Lewis created a new film that fused the highlights of the 1979 and 1981 films into one "made-for-America" movie -- replete with a Don Pardo-narrated prologue. Fueled by an artfully-generated feud with the Moral Majority that saw Graham Chapman's TV spots for the film (as a member of the ORAL Majority) banned by US networks -- the film became a big success in the summer of 1982 -- Miramax's first. This unique hybrid film was briefly available on VHS and then permanently deleted. Never on DVD. (Courtesy of Amnesty International - UK)
DIR Roger Graef & Julien Temple; PROD Martin Lewis & Peter Walker. US, 1982, color, 99 min. RATED R
THE SECRET POLICEMAN'S PRIVATE PARTS
Following the success of the 1982 hybrid US film, Amnesty asked Lewis to create a US-only sequel combining the stellar footage from their 1976 and 1977 shows -- and the unseen (in the US) sequences from the 1979 and 1981 shows. Also delving into the original negative of all four films to find outtakes (rare Python and Pete Townshend material) and deploying specially-created animation, Lewis fashioned this rarely-seen TV special for Cinemax. Seen with the US version of "The Secret Policeman's Other Ball," this is a virtual "best-of" the first four Amnesty shows - stuffed with Pythonesque comedy routines and rare musical treasures. This special was briefly available on VHS and then permanently deleted. Never on DVD. Because the content in these US-only releases has now been standardized back to the original UK films for worldwide DVD release--these two US-only 1980s films are unlikely to ever be released on DVD or publicly seen again in this form. (Courtesy of Amnesty International - UK)
DIR Roger Graef, Julien Temple; PROD Martin Lewis. US, 1983, color, 77 min. NOT RATED
Sunday, December 13, 8:20
THE SECRET POLICEMAN'S THIRD BALL
After a six-year hiatus, the "Secret Policeman's Ball" shows resumed with a strong hybrid of comedy and music. The humor reflected the emergence of a new wave of comedic performers in the UK, including Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, Robbie Coltrane, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Lenny Henry and the SPITTING IMAGE puppets. Lending support and continuity was John Cleese. The stellar lineup of musicians includes Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush, Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, Dire Strait's Mark Knopfler, Joan Armatrading, Bob Geldof, Duran Duran and, for the first time, some American guests: Jackson Browne, Lou Reed and Chet Atkins. (Courtesy of Amnesty International - UK)
DIR Ken O'Neill; PROD Neville Bolt, Tony Hollingsworth. UK, 1987, color, 89 min. NOT RATED
THE SECRET POLICEMAN'S BIGGEST BALL
The 1989 show returned the Ball to its roots as primarily a comedy gathering--featuring a mixture of the (by-now) older guard of John Cleese, Michael Palin, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, in their last appearance together, and the new wave, including Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, Adrian Edmondson, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Ben Elton, Robbie Coltrane, and the SPITTING IMAGE puppets. In a reflection of the cross-generational spirit, the stage show was directed by John Cleese and Jennifer Saunders. (Courtesy of Amnesty International - UK)
DIR Mike Holgate; PROD Judith Holder. UK, 1989, color, 94 min. NOT RATED
Monday, December 14, 7:30
HUMAN RIGHTS NOW!
In 1988, Bruce Springsteen, Youssou N'Dour and Tracy Chapman joined Amnesty stalwarts Sting and Peter Gabriel for this worldwide follow-up to Amnesty's 1986 "A Conspiracy of Hope" tour of the US. The global trek was to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and featured guest performers, including Bono. This exhilarating film presents the tour's grand finale concert in Buenos Aires augmented by highlights from the preceding six weeks of performances from exotic locales throughout the world. Highlights include Sting and Springsteen's duets on The River and Every Breath You Take, and ensemble performances of Bob Marley's Get Up, Stand Up Get Up, Stand Up and Bob Dylan's Chimes Of Freedom. (Courtesy of Amnesty International - USA)
DIR Larry Jordan. US, 1988, color, 180 min. NOT RATED
Tuesday, December 15, 7:30