Sharing the ‘documentary masters’ catagory at this year’s États généraux du film documentaire, Lussas, with Marc Karlin, was the experimental filmmaker, Michael Snow. Lussas curator, Federico Rossin, here introduces Snow.
Michael Snow (Toronto, 1929) is a major figure in contemporary art. His production is characterised by the close links binding works created using different types of media (film, photo, installation, painting, sculpture, music, writing). The modernity of Snow’s cinema pertains to his perception of the essential cinematic gesture, the camera movement, and the relations he explores between sound and image. His works have both a psychic and physical impact on the audience; they shake up the visible and plunge us into a profound experience of the perceptible. His films tend to be focussed on a cinematic strategy, on a process of film construction: yet they are never “minimalist”, making always sure that their forms can be apprehended by the spectator. They are rites of passage between pure perception and its representation, conceptual and extatic games playing with time and space, games that sometimes break the rules in order to put them in the spotlight.
Federico Rossin via États généraux du film documentaire – Lussas
For further viewing, here is an interview and profile of Michael Snow from 1983. It includes extracts from his films, ‘Back and Forth’, ‘Wavelength’, ‘La Region Central’, ‘So Is This’ and gallery piece ‘Two Sides To Every Story’.
The film was made for Channel 4 ‘Visions’ and broadcast 19 January 1983.
Interview: Simon Field; Director: Keith Griffiths
Thanks to Large Door.
A seminal figure of activist and ‘engaged’ cinema, British filmmaker John Akomfrah has been leading the charge for over 30 years. As one of the founders of the Black Audio Film Collective, which sought to use documentary to explore questions of black identity in Britain, Akomfrah has continually pushed boundaries in both form and content. In this session he discussed his remarkable career with Francine Stock, the presenter of The Film Programme on BBC Radio 4. From Sheffield Doc/Fest 2015.
John Akomfrah’s essay on Marc Karlin, Illumination and the Tyranny of Memory, can be seen in Marc Karlin – Look Again, edited by Holly Aylett, published by Liverpool University Press. Available now at the BFI shop.
Identity in the British frame. It is a salute to the pioneering voices of Black British cinema; those independent storytellers, community griots, radical documentarians and counter-culture moving image activists who animate the unseen and amplify the seldom explored narratives.’
TERRITORIES (UK, 1984, 25 mins) Dir. Isaac Julien An experimental documentary about Black British culture; Territories critiques the ways in which traditional media represents Black people. Exploring the power dynamics that influence Black British identities, the film’s title evokes multiple agendas and experiences at work. These agendas – or ‘territories’ – involve race, class and sexuality. Notting Hill Carnival is the symbolic cultural battleground. The film locates the event within the struggle between White authority and Black youth; in this case over the contested spaces of the carnival. Territories invites the viewer to question everything and to protect and preserve spaces of self-identity.
HANDSWORTH SONGS (UK, 1986, 60 mins) Dir. John Akomfrah Originally commissioned by Channel 4 for their series ‘Britain: The Lie of the Land’; Handsworth Songs takes as its point of departure the civil disturbances of September and October 1985 in the Birmingham district of Handsworth. Running throughout the film is the idea that the riots were the outcome of a protracted suppression by British society of Black presence.
Steve Sprung, Cinema Action member and long time Marc Karlin collaborator, will be present for a Q&A with fellow Cinema Action member, Ann Guedes at the BFI, Southbank on Tuesday 23 June 2015 20:20 NFT3.
The Q&A follows a screening of two films by the bold political film collective, formed in the wake of May ’68.
Directed by Cinema Action
Formed in the revolutionary firmament of May ’68, film collective Cinema Action rejected the idea of the cinematic auteur and reimagined film production as a non-hierarchical creative practice centred on the class struggle. Their stark, black and white film Squatters challenged the Greater London Council regarding their lack of investment in housing, and provided important – if controversial – information about the use of bailiffs in illegal eviction.
So That You Can Live
Directed by Cinema Action
Widely recognised as one of Cinema Action’s finest works, this extraordinary film follows the story of inspiring union convenor Shirley and the impact global economic changes have on her and her family’s life in rural South Wales. The landscape of the area, with all its complex history, is cross-cut with images of London, and original music from Robert Wyatt and Scritti Politti further reinforces the deeply searching, reflective tone.
The Marc Karlin Archive is please to announce Marc Karlin – Look Again, edited by Holly Aylett, published by Liverpool University Press, is on sale now!
So please come and celebrate with us at our book launch at BFI Southbank on Thursday 30th April, courtesy of Liverpool University Press and the British Film Institute.
The launch will follow on from an Essential Experiments screening of Between Times (50′), curated by William Fowler, in NFT3, April 30th at 6.15pm, with a panel discussion led by Gareth Evans with Holly
Aylett, Sophie Mayer, Steve Sprung, and John Wyver.
There will then be a foyer break with wine on the house and books available.
At 8.40pm there will be a further double bill with The Outrage (50′) and The Serpent (40′). See the link below to book! If you are interested in attending both screenings, then please call the BFI box office to purchase a joint ticket – 020 7928 3232 – 11.30am to 20.30pm daily.
Hope to see you there!
UK 1975 Directed by Berwick Street Collective 90 min. Presented in a new digital scan.
Nightcleaners began as a traditional campaign film about attempts to unionise the women who cleaned office blocks at night. It ended as an open, experimental work incorporating optical printing effects and other self-reflexive strategies, encouraging us – and the filmmakers – to consider the true complexity of the situation and the broader issues regarding invisible labour. A classic of its time, Nightcleaners remains direct, accessible and extremely engaging.
To mark Fernando Birri’s 90th birthday, Michael Chanan, documentarist, writer and contributor to the forthcoming book Marc Karlin-Look Again, recalls his first meeting with Birri. He also includes a film made with Marc Karlin Archive co-founder, Holly Aylett, on the Havana Film Festival broadcast on Channel 4 in the early 1980s.
There was something magical about the first time I met Fernando Birri, who celebrated his 90th birthday a few days ago. I had just arrived in Cuba for the first Havana Film Festival in 1979. Checking in to the Hotel Nacional in the late afternoon, I looked for a bar to quench my thirst, where I found this strange but very friendly figure—all the more mysterious in the dim light—with his long straggly beard and wearing the hat which I later discovered he never took off. I found out who he was—happily still is—over the following days. Three years later, he became a key figure in the documentary I made for Channel Four about the New Cinema movement in Latin America, of which Fernando is one of the founding figures. This portrait is drawn from those films (with a snippet—the short sequence with Fidel—taken from the film I made a couple of years later on the Havana Film Festival with Holly Aylett, also for Channel Four.) Enhorabuena, Fernando!
BFI Southbank Guide, April 2015