Joe StrummerThe Future Is Unwritten
As the front man of the Clash from 1977 onwards, Joe Strummer changed people’s lives forever. Four years after his death, his influence reaches out around the world, more strongly now than ever before. In “The Future Is Unwritten”, from British film director Julien Temple, Joe Strummer is revealed not just as a legend or musician, but as a true communicator of our times.
Drawing on both a shared punk history and the close personal friendship which developed over the last years of Joe’s life, Julien Temple’s film is a celebration of Joe Strummer – before, during and after the Clash.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s the Clash revolutionized rock’n’roll and changed young people’s attitudes forever. The Clash endure as icons, not just for their music but also as a band who stood for something above and beyond commercial success. In a world increasingly lacking in inspirational cultural figures, their story is an epic adventure.
The Clash front man, songwriter, human rock’n’roll dynamo and guiding spirit behind this unrivalled legacy is the late, great Joe Strummer, who with prophetic intensity is still changing people’s attitudes all over the world. With unique, authorized access to Joe’s personal archives and astonishing unseen footage, British film maker Julien Temple digs deep beneath the myths which surround the Clash and punk in general to place Joe in the broader cultural context of the world during the last half century. “The Future Is Unwritten” is a film to celebrate his life.
Structured around the idea behind Joe Strummer’s ‘London Calling’ shows, going out to 40 million listeners on the BBC World Service between 1998 and 2002, and the legendary Strummerville campfires which he once hailed as “more important than any music I’ve written”, it is Joe himself, and the people closest to him, who are with us throughout the film. Reflected in the flickering flames of the fire and the depth and intensity of the soundtrack he chose, we are taken to all the places, and all the people, we need to know to fully understand him.
Unlike anybody else, Joe Strummer managed to break down boundaries and communicate directly and honestly with his audience, establishing a uniquely personal relationship with millions of people. Joe transcended geographic and social divisions – in the film Julien Temple, the first to film the newly formed Clash in 1976, then a close personal friend for the last 10 years of Joe’s life, reflects the many ways that his life held the keys to understanding what lies at the heart of being alive in our times.
Many of Joe Strummer’s lyrics strike an eerily prophetic note, predicting events such as the Iraq war and the consequences of global warming – decades before we are now having to come to terms with them. Joe’s music was about inclusivity – rock, folk, reggae, cumbia, bhangra, Cuban son, music from all over the world – with the man himself embracing, celebrating, questioning it all.
It was this ability to understand, distill and reflect a multitude of opinions which gave his lyrics their universal, yet personal, power. Joe had his own strongly held opinions too, but these were forged within a furnace of contradictions which are critical to any understanding of the man. But from his impeccable manners his instinctive distrust of any social hierarchy, he always wore his contradictions on his sleeve.
In “The Future Is Unwritten” we see the whole man for the first time; not simply Joe the musician or lead singer of the Clash. Joe the actor, the film maker, the thinker, the poet. Animated and illustrated with Joe’s own incredible legacy - cartoons, drawings, paintings, Post-It notes and artefacts stored in the voluminous plastic bags which he always kept with him - we see Joe Strummer writ large by his own hand - by his art, his experiences and his choices.
A man remarkably untouched by fame, A man who changed lives simply by his belief in people. A man who always insisted upon moving on at almost any cost, even if it meant repeated destruction of his own past...
“The Future Is Unwritten” tells the story of a life in the way it was lived. A ripped, raw, cut-up, hand-spliced patchwork of iconic images and found footage, newsclips, movies, TV ads and unseen home movies, all carrying the powerful imprint of authenticity; the pure essence of a time and a place. To use the man’s own words, this is “spontaneous combustion” on screen, where ideas, clues and tributes spiral through the narrative like wildfire, combining to illuminate the many different dimensions of Joe.
“The Future is Unwritten” is both an intimate memorial to a friend and an epic celebration of a global icon. From the director of the acclaimed “The Filth and the Fury” and “Glastonbury”, it is a dramatic and very human exploration of the man behind the legend, telling the story of his whole life – before, during and after the fierce spotlight of the Clash – to his international legion of fans.
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