Several participants talk about the experience working on the production of radical British filmmaker Peter Watkins most recent epic film, La Commune, Paris 1871. Their views counterpoint those of corporate television executives attending the world’s largest television market in Cannes in the south of France. Peter Watkins’ values, philosophy, goals, and way of working with ordinary citizens puts into stark relief the difference between television as business and television as culture.
The Universal Clock is a term used by broadcasters with global television operations. It refers to the standardization of program lengths, including advertising breaks, so that every television program can be slotted into any tv station anywhere in the world. ‘The Universal Clock’ refers to the complete industrialization and commodification of television programming. It’s the TV program equivalent of McDonald’s. On a deeper level it refers to the conditioning of our perception of time from a more human scale to something that is dictated by the preferences of a global, free market economy.
Completely opposed to this trend is the filmmaking approach by radical British director, Peter Watkins. At the heart of The Universal Clock:The Resistance of Peter Watkins are portraits of several participants in Watkins’ major new film La Commune, Paris 1871). Their eloquent, personal reflections testify to the empowering, consciousness-raising effect Watkins’ filmmaking process has on the ‘ordinary citizens’ with whom he chooses to work. Juxtaposed with the community building and humanist approach to television evident in the making of La Commune are scenes of television executives at one of the largest bi-annual film and television markets in the world, located in Cannes, France.