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VID: This Sullen Welsh Heart

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Summary: You can't keep on struggling when you're alone.

Made for Festivids 2015/6. For purplefringe.

Video: Pride (2014) with additional footage from All Out! Dancing in Dulais – Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (1986).
Music: Manic Street Preachers featuring Lucy Rose (2013)
Edited by Lila Futuransky (2016).

This is a transformative work.

Thanks to [personal profile] beccatoria and [personal profile] cathexys for beta feedback.

Download large file here (354MB, .mov)
Download subtitles here (srt format)

***

One of the reasons I decided to sign up for Festivids this year was because I hoped it might be an opportunity to make a Pride vid; in the end, I didn't only make one, I received one as well (the beautiful Solidarity Forever, to Judy Garland – an incredible vid that I think dovetails with mine in some really interesting ways). Though I would also have been happy to vid in any of the other fandoms I offered, I was delighted when I matched on the film. And even more when I realized that my recipient, [personal profile] purplefringe, is a fellow British person on whom I could rely for some shared cultural references, such as having heard of Manic Street Preachers and having a reaction of deep visceral horror at the sight of Margaret Thatcher's face. (Okay, perhaps the second one is more me).

When I started to think about vidding the film, I knew I wanted to try and capture what the emotional impact of it is for me. It is an undeniably uplifting film, but it is also devastating; I've only watched it all the way through twice, and by the time I got to the end both times, I was crying so hard I could barely breathe. That last scene brings a combination of joy and despair that tears me apart.

I'm queer, and I'm an academic (US-based now) specializing in, among other things, LGBT/Queer Studies; a field whose then-emergent existence was banned from discussion during my schooldays thanks to Margaret Thatcher. I also grew up in a working-class urban area in Scotland in the 1980s and 1990s, where Thatcher's policies led to social and economic devastation. The miners' strikes didn't touch me directly and I'm a little too young to remember them well, but Pride is a film that hits me right where I live.

Because here's the thing, here's the thing about all of it: they lost. We lost. Thatcher broke the miners' strikes. Those communities, those unions, those songs, those banners: they don't exist any more like they did in the film, and they haven't in a long time. The miner characters we see were fighting for their lives, and they lost. And union power more generally lost. The film closes with the British Labour Party putting gay rights on their agenda thanks to a sponsoring block vote from the National Union of Mineworkers, an act of solidarity that stemmed directly from lesbian and gay support for the striking miners. But by the time Labour managed to get into power, after more than a decade more of Conservative government, there were no more union block votes and Labour was no longer the party of workers' solidarity.

The politics and histories are, of course, complicated, and unions are certainly not above criticism. But I think of the scene where the women of Dulais rise to sing Bread and Roses – hearts starve as well as bodies – and I have to think of how many hearts have starved since then. Bodies, too.

It's easy for many people not embedded in those histories, I think, to look at the film and to see the ways in which we – LGBTQ people – won. We can get married now, most of us are not so likely to be spat on in the street, I get to teach our history at universities. All of this is true. Gay's the Word bookstore is still open (I bought my Pride T-shirt there) and I dare say the owners haven't had to clean spray-painted epithets off the windows in a while. But our Pride parades are sponsored by major corporations now. Whose banners have we stopped flying?

This is why the film destroys me. That last scene is a moment of what might have been; the politics we could have had, that some of us desperately continue to try to have, offered up at a moment when it was already too late.

It's actually difficult for me to say how much of that ended up in the vid, which ended up being as much about invididual character moments as a larger political picture. But when I heard this song by the Manic Street Preachers, the lyrics' balance of cynicism and despair with obstinate, pessimistic-yet-persevering hope seemed to capture precisely the affective state that the film evokes in me.

I spent my teenage years obsessed with the Manics, whose Welsh working-class origins, spiky intellectual style, and deep left politics were exactly what I needed to survive high school. I hadn't listened to their more recent albums until I was assigned this vid and thought that their perspective would be an excellent fit. It turned out that I was more right than I knew; I was surprised by how much of their new material, especially from the mellow and melancholic 2013 album Rewind the Film, I loved.


I don't want my children to grow up like me
It's just so destroying, it's a mocking disease
A wasting disease

I don't want my children to grow up like me
It's just so destroying, it's a mocking disease
A wasting disease

Some times I wake up with love still alive
I just want to go to sleep, but I cannot close my eyes
I cannot close my eyes

I can't fight this war any more
Time to surrender, time to move on
So line up the firing squads, kiss goodbye to what you want
Go with the flow, go home
You can't keep on struggling when you're alone
When you're alone
This sullen Welsh heart
It won't leave, it won't give up
The hating half of me
Has won the battle easily

This sullen Welsh heart
It won't leave, it won't give up
The hating half of me
Has won the battle easily
The battle easily

The act of creation saves us from despair
A phrase that keeps repeating in my head
In my head

It's not enough to succeed others must fail
My unhappy mantra I wish I could escape
I wish I could escape

This sullen Welsh heart
It won't leave, it won't give up
The hating half of me
Has won the battle easily
The battle easily

This sullen Welsh heart
It won't leave, it won't give up
The hating half of me
Has won the battle easily
The battle easily

This sullen Welsh heart
It won't leave, it won't give up
The hating half of me
Has won the battle easily
The battle easily