Dear Derek

By James Marcus Tucker

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I sat down to watch your film namesake this evening – Derek on More4. I could write about how this in itself is testament to the problem I perceive – many years ago, your films were at least shown on Channel 4. In the film, Tilda writes you a letter – and as you are obviously receiving mail, here is another! She, your muse, so rightly points out – walking through the City, that we live in a very neat corporate world now. Maybe it has always been this way really. But where is the antidote NOW? Where is the film maker extraordinaire injecting spirit and passion into this soulless, profit driven and so neatly clean and focussed culture?

Isaac has done you proud. There are moments in his film when I could hear the TV sets being switched off in suburban homes because of the gaps left for breath. There were moments I cried, like when Tilda spoke of your spirit and generosity. There were moments I pined, like when the young beautiful men rode horses across the Sardinian landscape in 1975. Then there were moments I felt a fraud when I realised how much you embodied everything I see as paramount to the life of an artist.

This month's Vertigo magazine highlights for its readers the "Athanasian Oath". It asks of filmmakers, "Do you swear that you will not let your eyes drift, that you will not close your ears to the truly beautiful and the truly horrible..." and most importantly "do you swear that you will not film a single frame that would not be like freshly baked bread; that you will not record a single millimetre of magnetic tape that would not be like clear water". It was a speech made by Fernando Birri in Cuba in 1990, yet, could it not be speaking about your ethos – Derek? An ethos where every frame is recorded for the sake of this spirit and generosity Tilda loved you for.

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I look to you so often still. I think of you when I look at America and its continuing "problem" with homosexuality and defiant stance against truly equal rights. I look to you when I see the images of hanging Iranian teenagers. I look to you when I see a bus-stop poster for the next Hollywood sequel – The Revenge of the Quick Edits for Idiots – or some such. I look to you when I watch Pasolini – how I can see the invisible baton handed down. I look to you when I hear, as I did yesterday, that Doctors will be told to write notes for patients stating what they CAN do. It's the corporate machine gone so wild – our Thatcherite legacy – that even when ill, we are made to continue on as profit driven, cog-like productive citizens. Heaven forbid we stop to get well.

Here's a question for you. Don't you think our problems with ASBOs and happy slapping, with the callousness and ignorance, with the demise of the Left and the rise of the ME, with the racism and the lingering homophobia, with the widening gap between rich and poor, with the desire for fame above service, the need for noise instead of substance...the profit instead of value, the owned instead of shared, derives from everything we can now recognise as the Thatcher 1980s? Fuck the 1960's – literally. Sexual freedom didn't get us into this mess. Sex isn't the problem and it never was. Young people feeling devalued, isolated, not part of the society (of which she claimed didn’t exist) continues to blight, and our continuing dismantle of the welfare state and blinding by America's post-Regan soulless greedy gloss entraps us further. Welcome to the 51st state for the 21st Century.

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The future, when I look to it, has an image of you fading. Like you, the old values I so cherish from the post-war are disappearing. I'm 26, and wonder if I am the only young gay man asking for something more than Madonna records. Isaac's film brings you out of the boxes you inhabit at the BFI for a last look before you disappear forever. But not without a struggle from the remaining soldiers who continue to fight for your memory.

Yours, James xxx


James Marcus Tucker is a film and video maker living in Brighton