Nottingham has a vast expanse of film societies so we interviewed Alastair, a psychology lecturer at the University of Nottingham, of The Kneel Before Zod Video Club of Nottingham Club (TKBZVCONC) to get to know a little bit about the club and the wider Nottingham cinema environment. This is the extended interview of the article which appears in this month’s IMPACT magazine.
How would you describe Kneel Before Zod as a film club?
Alastair Smith: It’s getting harder and harder to answer that question, which is nice because I quite like that, but it has completely changed in form over time. So when we started it was a nice opportunity to put things on that we wouldn’t usually get to see. Often those were films that were a bit ropey in some way shape or form, but in a way that was kind of heartening and entertaining, as much as they had their ropey qualities there were much more captivating elements of it. So that was the original remit kind of ‘put some stuff on’ but over time it has grown and mutated into something that is getting harder and harder to put our finger on what it actually is.
I guess, at its core, what we still try and do is put things on. What we try and put on are films that people may not have seen before or we feel have been unduly forgotten. Like things that are gems that seem to be missing from people’s consciousness. I think what we also want to do is evoke a kind of nostalgia from growing up of the joys of video rental, going to your local garage and seeing these amazing allure of boxes just thinking ‘Oh God, I really want to see that’. It’s awful, I was musing upon this on my walk to work today and it suddenly occurred to me that, it is going to get further and further away from people’s memories. I bet that the next generation of first years we get may not have memories of renting from a shitty garage, but I wonder how many of them will have been to Blockbuster or something like that. What we are trying to hold on to is definitely dead it’s not even moribund it’s just fucking dead. But that’s part of it, the joy of finding something special I suppose. The reason why I say its harder to say what we do is because we don’t just show films anymore, we’ve been doing visuals for gigs, we’ve done a number of big ones for that now, we’ve been doing people’s album artwork. It has just completely turned into a multimedia bastard.
It’s a really interesting film as it is but it has the most rousing beautiful bastard of a soundtrack that completely transformed it
You screen a lot of films, what would you say is your favourite film you’ve put out?
AS: There’s a point at which I felt we’d reached our kind of zenith if you like, that was when we put on Friday the 13thPart III in 3D .We had Richard Brooker who was Jason in Part III and he came on and that was just amazing. What we had been doing until that point was putting things on in weird little spaces because firstly we liked moving, secondly we didn’t know where the best places were to do these things, always in a weird warehouse or something like that. This was an opportunity where we had quite a large room where it was totally full and we had someone in the back from the film who was shouting and surprising people. That was the point where I thought ‘brilliant this is what I’ve always wanted’. The atmosphere was brilliant, the film was great and we had someone from it and he did a Q&A after and he was a beautiful warm funny engaging man. That’s definitely for me a high point, I think we’ve had some achievements that are a bit more highbrow if you like, so we had a performance of Turkskib at The Broadway, which is an old Soviet propaganda film but with the soundtrack being a live score by Bronnt Industries Kapital. It’s a really interesting film as it is but it has the most rousing beautiful bastard of a soundtrack that completely transformed it. That was when I felt we’d achieved something of artistic merit and integrity.
How would you say your showings differ from a standard cinema experience students are more used to?
AS: The things we’ve tried to do from the outset is adhere to a certain set of rules, that is, firstly try and mix things up a bit, although we are kind of unofficially based at Broadway we have been doing things at arts spaces and warehouses and different cinemas. So I think getting to watch things in different spaces, not in a kind of secret cinema or a hot dog stand space just making a point of using a space. We used to, not so much these days as it’s getting harder, reconfigure things with a reel of old trailers and things harking back to times that we miss I suppose.
We tend as much as possible to try and get in contact with people involved. We have had some really good responses from directors or stars of films they’ve either been with us, like the Friday 13th one or testimonies from directors and we’ve had them offer to skype in if they can, just to provide a really nice introduction to the film. This is to provide a nice bit of context to the film as the stories that they come up with are kind of the beauty of it, it’s really nice. So for example, sometimes it’s hard to find the rights for certain films we managed to show Chopping Mall at the Broadway. We managed to find out who had the rights for that and it’s just a bloke who owned some supermarkets in Leicester and so he said you don’t need to pay me for it just give 50 quid to charity. So what we try and do is inject the sense of the story of what’s going on even if it’s the story of how we came to show the film. We used to give people pork scratchings and stuff but it’s hard to steal them in the Broadway.
People were shaken and coming up to you after like they’d had some kind of religious experience
How do you think the audiences tend to react to what you’re screening?
AS: The consensus is its usually very positive and uplifting and lovely as what you’ve attracted is people who are looking for that and that’s for me something that differs from a standard cinema experience. we all go see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes because it might be interesting but if you’re gonna go and see Society its either because you’ve never seen society and you’d really like to, or you don’t know what it is but you bet its interesting. I think we’ve at least got a kind of reputation where people are like I don’t know what that is but I bet it will be fun. So as a result people are really up for it. Sometimes people are much more up for it than you’d expect. With Friday the 13th for example, it felt like a massive party. With Turksib which I thought this is on the face of it a respectable thing but people are so blown away by it especially with the soundtrack, people were shaken and coming up to you after like they’d had some kind of religious experience. I think Society shook a lot of people, if you don’t know it, it’s essentially Billy Warlock, who was in Baywatch, is sort of aware that he is an outsider who lives in LA which is very cliquey. He keeps getting insights into what’s going on and it transpires that what they’re doing is having this secret society and they do this thing called ‘shunting’ and their bodies merge into one massive fleshy lump. So it’s almost kind of a teen movie until the end when its loads of practical effects of people merging into each other inside out and I think some people were not disgusted just a bit… it took them by surprise.
The name Kneel Before Zod, where did that come from?
AS: Its complete happenstance really, it genuinely was we were just having a chat and we were talking putting a film club together for a laugh then a completely different conversation we were talking about Superman 2 and someone said ‘Kneel before Zod’ and someone else said that would be a good name and that’s it. We love Superman 2 but as time goes on I hate the name more and more but also its too late, but the name doesn’t mean anything anymore. Like ‘Radiohead’ what the fuck does that mean, it’s kind of just become a label. We either play with it ourselves so at the moment we are actually called TKBZVCONC just to be a bit of cheese. But also what’s lovely is the way it’s been written in different bits of press is completely different, so like we were doing something at Nottingham Contemporary and they called us Neil Beforezod as a surname. There’s so many slight errors that its actually quite funny now, I like the fact that it’s a crap name that people can’t even get right.
Your facebook page describes you as a club that ‘likes to deviate’ how important is deviation in cinema?
AS: It’s remarkably important, I think firstly, you do need to sort of ask yourself why am I doing this? It’s worth having a gentle sense of what you’re MO is. Ours was slightly set out on deviation from mainstream but it doesn’t mean that we won’t show mainstream things but just that it’s about looking at nooks and crannies but other people’s deviancy can be surprisingly normal. Other people explicitly want to show feel good 80s stuff and you can see that MO and the attraction of that. There comes a point where if enough people are doing things it becomes hard to distinguish ourselves. IT is good to deviate in what you’re doing and what you’re showing. If you think about the things you get excited about it does tend to be the things you have forgotten about that has a quality or magic you otherwise wouldn’t see. You have to sort of search out the deviance to uncover those sort of things. Before you know it you’ve made a mainstream thing and ruined it anyway. It good to search out deviance and be a little deviant yourself and get out there a little bit.
Take advantage of Scalarama as it is active now
What makes KBZ different to other Nottingham film clubs?
AS: They are far better at what they do; we are more amateurish than them in a way I rather like. They are much more knowledgeable than us and much better at organisation than we are. I have a lot of respect for them in a way I don’t for myself. I think we have fewer qualms about showing crappier things and I don’t mean that in ‘we just want to be a bad film club’. We put on Necromantic for Scalarama last year and I’m not sure everyone would want to touch that film. So I think we have a little less shame than the others and I don’t mind the fact that we don’t really know what we’re doing or what we want as it means we aren’t constrained.
How can students get involved in the wider Nottingham film culture?
AS: First things first, take advantage of Scalarama as it is active now. There are a lot of people doing a lot of things; twitter is awash with these things. Follow Cinema Diabolique, Watergate, Impact Film, Mayhem and ourselves for example you’ll get an insight there. Broadway is a bit of a hub for all that as its Nottingham’s proper arts cinema, but that’s not the be all and end all of it. If you pay attention to bits of social media, we all know each other and like each other so stuff gets shared around.
If you could recommend one film to students what would it be and why?
AS: I really really really love The Shout which I’m pretty sure is about to get a really nice Blu-Ray release. It’s got John Hurt and Alan Bates in it it’s essentially about a composer and his wife who live in the middle of the sand dunes of Devon and their lives are interrupted by this man who controls them and their household. He claims he has learnt the ‘death shout’ from aborigines in Australia and when he shouts people can die. John Hurt wants to record that as he makes music so it’s just about what leads up to and after that incident. It’s just pure poetry. It’s got an astounding soundtrack by that dude out of genesis the good one…Tony Banks! We did show this at Broadway, but for me this sums up everything that Zod is about. A kind of really beautiful and strange tautologise labyrinthine bit of film making that’s gonna stick with you for ages.
Kneel Before Zod can be found on their Facebook page by clicking here
Impact is hosting a Scalarama double bill. To buy tickets, click here
George Driscoll and Henry Stanley
Image: Tara Hill of Kino Klubb