The Inertia Variations, Dir. Johanna St Michaels, Sweden/UK 2017, 85 mins
Matt Johnson of the English band The The, known for his intensely personal and political songs, has remained silent as a singer-songwriter for the last 15 years. Conflicted by creative inertia, he has observed from the sidelines as corporate state propaganda has swamped the cultural airwaves.
To try and purge his feelings of disenchantment – and to attempt to relocate his mojo and muse – Johnson decides to challenge the narrow media consensus through his own radio broadcast. A long-term listener of shortwave radio, he launches Radio Cineola, his conceptual version of this romantic medium, via a live midday to midnight marathon.
The show includes not only live music and poetry, but also interviews and discussion about where local, national and international democracy now stands in the 21st century. The guests range from geo-political analysts to local activists, from students of mind control to semiotics experts, from teachers to healers.
A promise to the director of the documentary, his ex-partner Johanna St Michaels, to write a new song for the broadcast stirs up old demons of inertia and bereavement.