Kevin Winter, Getty Images Nominees for the 2013 Teen Choice Awards are trickling…
- Posted on Jun 15th 2010 3:30PM by Steve McLean
"It's a funny feeling being the subject of a film," Letts tells Spinner. "It's hard to be objective. I actually liked it. This kid was trying to do something and I tried to help him out, and it's alright. I'm not embarrassed."
The dreadlocked Letts started out as the DJ at London, England's Roxy nightclub in the late '70s and introduced dub and reggae sounds to the young musicians who would go on to become the prime movers at the forefront of Britain's punk rock movement. Most of them, including the Clash, the Sex Pistols, Generation X, Siouxsie and the Banshees, X-Ray Spex and the Slits (who Letts also briefly managed), were featured in his first film, 1978's 'The Punk Rock Movie.'
Letts made music videos for the likes of Musical Youth and the Pretenders and co-founded Big Audio Dynamite with former Clash singer-guitarist Mick Jones, despite not having a clue how to play a musical instrument. But he pioneered the use of samples and inserting film dialogue into pop rock songs on the group's 1985 'This is Big Audio Dynamite' debut, which was reissued in a two-CD Legacy Edition in April.
Letts returned to filmmaking after leaving B.A.D. over a fallout with Jones. His numerous music-based movies have included 'Dancehall Queen,' 'Punk: Attitude' and the Grammy-winning 'The Clash: Westway to the World.'
It's Letts' connections to the Clash that led to him making 'Strummerville,' which premiered at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas in March, and will be shown in Canada for the first time on June 20 at 6:30PM.
Strummerville is a registered charity that was created in Britain after the 2002 death of Clash singer-guitarist Joe Strummer to keep his memory alive. Strummerville offers support, resources and performance opportunities to artists -- most of whom are too young to realize the influence of their late benefactor -- who might not normally have access to them.
Strummer and Letts lived together for a while when they were younger and the director thought Strummerville deserved more attention for its good work. This includes supporting worthy organizations like Jail Guitar Doors, an initiative named after a '78 Clash song and founded by British singer-songwriter Billy Bragg to provide musical instruments to prisoners as a means of rehabilitating them.
Letts hopes the film "shows the power of music and its ability to inspire people and potentially make the world a better place."
'Carnival!,' which will premiere on June 16 at 7:30PM as part of NXNE, tells the story of the Notting Hill Carnival. The festival was created in 1959 in response to widespread racial attacks a year earlier. It's now recognized as the world's second largest street festival and every August attracts a million people to the London neighbourhood from which it takes its name.
"The Notting Hill Carnival, for me, is a barometer of the journey of multiculturalism in England," Letts says. "If you look at how and why it started, it was to unite the people and extend the hand of friendship when the racial climate was a lot more tense in the late '50s.
"Culture can bring people together and unite people, and the film basically traces the carnival's journey and how it mirrors the history of multiculturalism in the UK. I'm very pleased with it and proud to have done it."
The '76 Notting Hill Carnival was marred by violence as young West Indian community members fought with police, who they felt were unduly harassing them. Letts was there, and a representation of a photo of him standing in front of a phalanx of officers was later used on the cover of the Clash's 'Black Market Clash' EP.
Letts' involvement in dub and reggae and how it influenced punk, hip-hop, '80s pop and modern dubstep was ample reason for director Raphael Erichsen to make Letts the subject of his own documentary, 'Supersonic Sound: The Rebel Dread,' which will also screen at NXNE (June 17 at 4:30PM).
"It would be an ambitious idea to tell my life story. We'd have to get Coppola in for that. It's a slice of my life in music and as it pertains to bass culture."
Letts hosts two shows a week on BBC Radio 6, has overseen several compilation albums and published his autobiography, 'Culture Clash: Dread Meets Punk Rockers,' in 2007. And there's that chance that he could return to making music again with the original Big Audio Dynamite lineup after Jones frees himself of his musical obligations to Gorrilaz.
"I can neither confirm nor deny a reunion," Letts says of the speculation. "I'd give it a shot. But I'm the only one who can't play anything, so it would be easy for me."