Monday March 9th, Phoenix Picture House (Jericho), 6.30pm, with Q&A session with Rex Bloomstein after the screening

‘Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.’

These are the well-travelled words with which Rex Bloomstein’s latest documentary, An Independent Mind, begins. But as well as offering the film a literal point of departure, these words are also a thematic foundation for the series of well constructed case studies that are to follow.

Significantly all the individuals depicted are allowed to tell their own stories with little directorial intervention. This has a powerful effect on the audience, ensuring that An Independent Mind comes across not as a film about the general concept of ‘freedom of speech’ with a number of case studies offered up as diverting examples, but as a film whose ultimate concern is with what ‘freedom of speech’ actually means in the lives of a whole host of men and women – from the protest singer from the Ivory Coast to the sex blogger from China, the cartoonist from Algeria, the revisionist historian from England (yes, that one), the comedians from Burma. Out of this emerges, not a sense of any bias in what the subjects say, rather a sense of their confessional honesty, of their desire to offer some explanation for the way what they say and do has impacted upon their lives.

Bloomstein’s decision to tell the stories of people whose reasons for defending the right to freedom of speech are arguably less palatable to a British audience (denying the holocaust, support for terrorism), alongside the more traditional figures of the rebel poet and the courageous journalist is laudable, and makes for a fuller understanding of what freedom of speech actually entails.

The opportunity to see a director of such experience and talent screen his own work this Monday is one well worth exploiting – and the prospect of a Q&A session with Bloomstein after the screening is exciting to say the least. With a film that depends so heavily on the rapport between its subjects and the camera, it will be very interesting to hear how Bloomstein approached the individuals involved, and how he got them to talk so frankly about their lives. If you have the time, this is an event well worthy of your Monday evening.

five stars