Posted: March 10, 2011
interviewed by Chris Richards, February 2011
“Franklin Lopez is a fantastically talented filmmaker, who has created a powerful and important film about the most important topic ever: how to stop this culture from killing the planet.”
-Derrick Jensen, Author of Endgame
Franklin is on tour right now showing his latest film End:Civ. We were fortunate enough to catch him in Portland and Eugene, and interview him about the film and his experience with it.
We are fortunate enough to have caught up with Franklin Lopez who is on tour showing his new film END:CIV, Franklin why don’t we start with you giving us a brief explanation of who you are and what you do?
I am Franklin López and I am a film maker, video activist, and trouble maker based in Vancouver BC. I run a website called Submedia.tv. Submedia features videos by myself and other video makers about radical politics, radical activism, and what I call the motherfucken resistance. I recently completed a film called END:CIV, which is inspired by the writings of Derrick Jensen, who is one of the most prolific writers in the radical environmental movement right now.
What goals do you have for END:CIV, submedia, and their impact on the world?
With submedia, specifically with the new show I do called ‘the end of the world and I feel fine’, my goal is to show people that we are not alone in the struggle and resistance. Where the mainstream news may show a little bits of resistance here and there, I kind of collate the best of resistance news that particular week and put it in one block. My goal with this to show that we are not alone and to remind people that resistance does work and resistance can get us the goods. The response I usually get from people is very positive; no matter where I go people say don’t ever stop doing the show, because this is what keeps me going.
With END:CIV, I made the film specifically for activists, people who have a certain amount of political analysis already, I didn’t do this film for the majority of the population. The reason I made this film was to make activists question whether or not what they were doing or what they have been doing over the years is working or not. My goal was to push these people over the edge. To basically take more direct action, to basically solve the problems that we are facing right now; with very a deep critique of industrial civilization.
What first led you to the decision to utilize your gifts as a filmmaker as a tool for expressing your personal views on environmental, social, and political issues?
Definitely my dad, who ran a TV station in Puerto Rico that was the first TV station there that did any investigative reporting within that medium of television. I’m from Puerto Rico and most of the TV stations have an action news format, very fluffy, and a lot of entertainment news, and the station my dad ran was all news. I was able to work there after school and during summer breaks, while I was in high school, and I cut my teeth editing tape machines and also learned how to shoot video. I was hooked around that age of fifteen or sixteen, that’s when I decided that I loved making videos and decided to make it my life’s work.
Being from Puerto Rico, has being a person of color influenced your politics and art?
Yeah, there is no way to get around that, maybe if you live in Puerto Rico and your living amongst Puerto Ricans you might not notice that you are different from other people, but having spent a lot of time in the United States and Canada you do realize that you are a minority, and in many cases you are treated differently. It’s inescapable, that whether or not you read Marx, or Bakunin, or Emma Goldman, or whoever, if you are a person of color in North America you’re going to be political.
What response have you had from your community and culture?
For my work the response has been overwhelmingly good. Its just one of these things you never know if its going to work. When I started doing sub-media I had no idea whether or not people would like what I’m doing. I knew I was taking a huge chance, I was basically taking radical positions and I knew by taking those positions it was going to cut me off from any hope of having a career. I decided long ago that I was not really interested in a career, that I’m really interested in creating change. I don’t want this to be a side thing and then if maybe things don’t work out, I can always fall back on some sort of commercial TV job or something like that. I really want to see change in my lifetime and no amount of money is going to change that.
That’s good to hear. In regards to END:CIV in particular, ideally what experience or impact would an audience member take away after seeing it?
I have two favorite parts of the film, the film is kind of broken up into little tiny sections and the first section that I really like is the section that deals with indigenous peoples. I think that when people try to imagine another world they have a really hard time, and people are always asking, “What are your solutions?” Sometimes we don’t have to look very far, we just need to look backwards a little bit in time to see that there are people who have been living here sustainably for thousands of years. They have already figured out a way to live like that, and so I’m hoping that people can see and understand that there is people still around in North America who can give us guidance in getting out of this mess. They can show us ways in which we can apply the indigenous voice of living in our current world.
The second part is the critique of non-violence, and sort of an examination of how the victories supposedly won through non-violence are white washed. It is a historical white wash. What I’m trying to do with that is not to promote violence but certainly to think about how bad our situation is. Look at history, and look at how movements have actually won victories by the use of all tactics. I think that if there is anything that I really want to push with this is that we need to be pragmatic and also realistic and also look at history with a very fair eye. When one looks at the struggle of the civil rights for instance, even though most of them give tribute to Martin Luther King, there was a lot of militant activity that happened that also put pressure on the government to cave and give folks their civil rights.
What personal lifestyle choices have you made which reflect the views and opinions expressed in your movie?
That’s a tough question to ask, because for me riding a bicycle might not be the way to change the world but when I was developing a deeper environmental consciousness I gave up driving. That has changed recently because I’m on tour, and it was the cheapest way for me to get around, but I’m certainly not very happy that I’m driving a beast around the country. I think the biggest lifestyle change I’ve made is that I’ve become a fulltime activist. So I just don’t do anything else, I don’t have a job, my job is to create media for the movement and for the resistance, and to organize an independent media infrastructure. I recently helped set up an independent media coop in Vancouver that’s still going strong, and now that media coop is part of a national network in Canada, and we are trying to spread this idea of cooperative media making elsewhere as well.
Great, is there any hope for success?
Yeah absolutely, I think that as the situation gets worse and worse the media is always going to try to find new ways to lie to people about what’s going on, and we are doing our part as media makers to get the truth out there. But the truth is going to be so plain that I think more and more people are going to start waking up. They are going to start seeking our media because they will finally realize that they have been lied to, we need to be ready and have good quality material out there. And if we are, if we have not just a media but an infrastructure of resistance set up, then once people are ready to join us we’ll be ready to receive them and I think that’s totally possible.
Do you have advice for other writers, musicians, or artists who are creating politically focused art?
Yeah, make your art like your life depended on it. Don’t half ass anything; try to make the best art you can possibly make under your resources and abilities. You will see that you get better, I will certainly say that a lot of people get turned off by independent media, just because not a lot of effort is put into creating quality work. What I tell people, is that if you look at Hollywood and mainstream media they’re in a way somewhat perfectionist. We need to beat them at that perfectionist game and out smart them but also give something palatable that people can actually watch and digest. If we make something crappy we’re not going to get our message out there.
How important do you feel it is for artists or writers to communicate and discuss these topics and themes by art as appose to spending time directly involved in a resistance movement? Can you do both?
Yeah you can certainly do both; this is a conversation I have been having with people lately. Art and music are easier ways to infiltrate a persons mind and heart; my own example of politicalization was Public Enemy. If it wasn’t for them, I’m not going to say that I wouldn’t of been politicized, but I was certainly more attracted to their beats first. Then I started reading their lyrics, and so they created this amazing highbred of really interesting music, but with a hard hitting political message. That, in many cases, was like reading a newspaper, a newspaper from the streets but in the form of a track. I think that art and music are probably the things that are going to get us the most converts, and then there’s going to be the second tier of media makers who can do the more intellectual, factual work that those folks can actually feed into as well.
We appreciate you taking the time to catch up with us, is there anything else you want to offer to our viewers before we end the interview?
Yeah always plugging the websites: