Documentaries Give Props to Pirate Radio

My pal Paul Riismandel over at Radio Survivor recently wrote about a new pirate radio-based mockumentary that’s airing on the BBC. People Just Do Nothing profiles the principals behind “Kurupt FM,” a fictitious Garage-format pirate station in the London area.
People Just Do Nothing found its roots in (and lampoons) another pirate radio documentary, Tower Block Dreams. Aired in 2004 on BBC Three, this flick profiled the booming pirate scene in the London area, with special attention on how pirate radio stations helped disenfranchised youth do something more creative with their lives than “thieving and grass dealing.”
People Just Do Nothing‘s main characters, MC Sniper and DJ Beats, are spot-on caricatures of the folks found in Tower Block Dreams. Relatively accurate with regard to the conditions under which pirate radio stations operate, the funny comes when you realize that Sniper and Beats have no real idea what the f*ck they’re doing. It’s a send-up that really drives home the differences between the U.K. and U.S. pirate scenes.
In related news, I finally had a chance to watch Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles. One of Roger Ebert’s top five documentaries of 2011, the film revolves around two people – one with an obsession for spreading a curious message of human salvation, and the other with trying to find out who this messenger is. Toynbee tiles have appeared in multiple cities around North and South America, and Resurrect Dead slowly but compellingly unravels who the (likely) culprit is.
The tiles were only one way the culprit tried to get his message out to the world. Another involved running a shortwave pirate station from his car. He was not only heard from afar but also interfered with television sets in the Philadelphia area.
Resurrect Dead isn’t just a mystery – it’s also a revealing look into one man’s creative use of culture jamming and street art, and raises some interesting questions about the fine line between genius and insanity.
On top of this, there’s yet another pirate radio documentary in the works. Produced by Wayne Hepler, a professor of mass communications at Harford Community College, it features interviews with Dutch and British pirates from the offshore days, as well as profiles and perspectives of shortwave broadcasters in the United States.
Unfortunately-titled The Pirate Radio Documentary, it will nonetheless constitute the first work of its kind to pay homage to the U.S. shortwave pirate scene. Not much else is known yet about its master narrative, though. Post-production is underway and the Documentary will be complete in time for a screening at the North American Shortwave Listening Association‘s 2013 Winter Fest in March.
In the last ten years there’s been nearly a dozen documentaries produced on pirate radio. That’s a surprisingly high number given the phenomenon’s mercurial nature.