Tagged: Cinema Action

(1971) The Train Rolls On Chris Marker Le Train En Marche (1971)

First the eye, then the cinema, which prints the look….

“If Chris asked you to do something you did it: There was no question”, recalls Marc Karlin in one of his last interviews before his death in 1999.  ‘Chris’, needless to say, was Chris Marker, Karlin’s friend who he called ‘le maitre’. The task was to provide an English version of Marker’s recent film Le train en marche (1971) – a celebration of the Soviet era filmmaker Alexander Medvedkin and his mythical ‘kino-poezd’ – a ‘cine train’ re-fitted with cameras, editing tables and processing labs, that travelled the breadth of Russia to make films for and with the workers. Films made on the spot, in collaboration with the local people, (workers in factories, peasants in kolhozs), shot in one, day, processed during the night, edited the following day and screened in front of the very people who had participated to its making… Contrarily to the agit-prop trains which carried official propaganda from the studios to the people, here the people was his own studio. And at the very moment bureaucracy was spreading all over, a film unit could go and produce uncensored material around the country. And it lasted one year (1932)!

This train that pulled out of Moscow January 25th 1932… 

Medvedkin saw his kino-poezd (294 days on the rails, 24,565m of film projected, 1000km covered) as a means of revolutionising the consciousness of the Soviet Union’s rural dwellers. Marker hoped his recent unearthing would incite similar democratic film-making. In tribute, Karlin and other kindred spirits in London joined Cinema Action.” There was a relationship to the Russians. Vertoz, the man and the movie camera, Medvedkin, and his agitprop Russian train; the idea of celebrating life and revolution on film, and communicating that. Medvedkin had done that by train. SLON and Cinema Action both did it by car. Getting a projector, putting films in the boot, and off you went and showed films – which we did”.

The people were brought the filmmaker’s cinema, in the same way they were brought the artist’s art and the expert’s science. But in the case of this train the cinema was to become something created with contact through the people and was to stimulate them to make their own intervention.

…the train of revolution, the train of history has not lacked reverse signals and switched points but the biggest mistake one could make was to believe that it had come to a halt.

Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 16.52.05Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 16.52.19Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 16.52.43

A big thanks you to Espaço Sétima Arte for posting this great find.

https://grunes.wordpress.com/2007/12/23/the-train-rolls-on-chris-marker-1971/

The Last Bolshevik by Chris Marker

http://www.film-philosophy.com/index.php/f-p/article/viewFile/206/204

http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/scope/documents/2011/june-2011/mayer.pdf

In Between Times – Courtisane Festival 2016 – Programme Selection

“I believe people accept there is no real alternative.” Thus spoke the Iron Lady. After the freezing Winter of Discontent came the long-awaited “winter of common sense”. An era is drawing to a close, she claimed, meaning that the time for foolish dreams and misguided actions was over. There were to be no more diversions from the one and only course worth pursuing: that leading to the triumph of global capitalism and liberal democracy. While those in power started to pursue vigorous reform programs of neoliberal economic policy and regressive social agendas, some of those who lost their bearings blamed the “bloody-minded” commoners for having invited and brought such ravages upon the dreams of another future. As the memories of struggle faded, counter-forces retreated to a defensive position, where they could merely see fit to protect the freedoms and entitlements that had been acquired with so much grit. 

“Wanting to believe has taken over from believing,” a filmmaker observed. But the uncertainty did not stop filmmakers from making films, just as it didn’t stop movements from occupying the spaces that the traditional counter-forces had excluded and abandoned. Instead of holding on to the plots of historical necessity and lures of an imagined unity, they chose to explore twilight worlds between multiple temporalities and realms of experience, situated in the wrinkles that join and disjoin past futures and future presents, memories of struggle and struggles for memory.

This program presents a selection of British films that has documented and reflected on the changing political landscape in a period that stretched from the mid-1970s to the beginning of the 1990s. At its core is the work of a filmmaker who was pivotal within Britain’s independent film community: Marc Karlin (1943-1999). He was a member of Cinema Action, one of the founders of the Berwick Street Film Collective, director of Lusia Films, and a creative force behind the group that published the film magazine Vertigo. He also made a major contribution to shaping Channel 4 into a platform for experiment and discovery. Described by some as “Britain’s Chris Marker”, with whom he became friends, he filmed his way through three decades of sea change, wrestling with the challenges of Thatcherism, the demise of industrial manufacturing, the diffusion of media and memory, the crisis of the Left and the extinguishing of revolutionary hopes.
The resonant work by Marc Karlin and the other filmmakers assembled in this program allows us to feel the pulse of an era of transition, whose challenges and transformations are still with us today. At the same time that the Iron Lady is being immortalized as “a force of nature”, while the arguments for the austerity policies that she championed are crumbling before our eyes, a time when the present is declared to be the only possible horizon, it may be worth our while to revisit this era, if only to discover that history is not past – only its telling.

 

via Courtisane

Courtisane Festival 2016, 23-27 March!

fest-cta-en

The themes of political cinema and the essay film will be explored in the next instalment of the Coutisane festival running from 23-27 March 2016.  Pieter-Paul Mortier and Stoffel Debuysere have curated a vital selection of films over the weekend 25-27 March, including Poster Collective, Cinema Action, Black Audio Film Collective, Berwick Street Film Collective and Marc Karlin. Below are some beautifully crafted extracts from the programme.

There is a traffic of images, he wrote, with controllers qualifying and quantifying and giving these images permission to arrive, telling them where to arrive. These controllers then turn themselves into custom officers – Art Cinema this way – Commercial Art that way – Author Cinema straight ahead – Popular Cinema over here – Genre this and Genre that. You can declare your preferences. Experimental Cinema, may we open your bags, please?

And yet, he continued, there not only exists a welcome space for surprise, but there is also a real need for a cinema that will leave its designated niche; a cinema where the tension between a world that is being illustrated and a world that is being illuminated can make us live again in that dream-state so necessary to our very breathing; a cinema, therefore, that will hurt itself against that current order of things, a cinema that will deliver once again that wonderful surprise – that which is still possible.

An echo from far away, yet so close. These thoughts were formulated just over two decades ago by Marc Karlin, who is one of the key figures in this year’s festival programme. Never really at ease amongst the mourning choir of those grieving the irrevocable demise of cinema, he chose to keep on tirelessly searching for a cinema of the possible, one that sets out to keep discovering the world we are living in. This festival is dedicated to the work of reluctant heroes such as Karlin and countless others who today continue to embark on the path of cinematic discovery. Oftentimes ignoring guidelines and sidestepping roadmaps, regularly haunted by uncertainty and confronted with precarity, time and again forced to be on the defensive and pushed towards the margins, but always driven by a single stubborn belief: that cinema continues to offer us possibilities of life.

A few years ago, a six-year-old girl accompanied her father to one of the screenings at the festival and she asked him: “When I blink my eyes, don’t I interrupt the image for the other people here in this theatre?” With this 15th jubilee edition, Courtisane hopes to stay young, to create a meeting space where this question is at home.

“I believe people accept there is no real alternative.” Thus spoke the Iron Lady. After the freezing Winter of Discontent came the long-awaited “winter of common sense”. An era is drawing to a close, she claimed, meaning that the time for foolish dreams and misguided actions was over. There were to be no more diversions from the one and only course worth pursuing: that leading to the triumph of global capitalism and liberal democracy. While those in power started to pursue vigorous reform programs of neoliberal economic policy and regressive social agendas, some of those who lost their bearings blamed the “bloody-minded” commoners for having invited and brought such ravages upon the dreams of another future. As the memories of struggle faded, counter-forces retreated to a defensive position, where they could merely see fit to protect the freedoms and entitlements that had been acquired with so much grit.

“Wanting to believe has taken over from believing,” a filmmaker observed. But the uncertainty did not stop filmmakers from making films, just as it didn’t stop movements from occupying the spaces that the traditional counter-forces had excluded and abandoned. Instead of holding on to the plots of historical necessity and lures of an imagined unity, they chose to explore twilight worlds between multiple temporalities and realms of experience, situated in the wrinkles that join and disjoin past futures and future presents, memories of struggle and struggles for memory.

This program presents a selection of British films that has documented and reflected on the changing political landscape in a period that stretched from the mid-1970s to the beginning of the 1990s. At its core is the work of a filmmaker who was pivotal within Britain’s independent film community: Marc Karlin (1943-1999). He was a member of Cinema Action, one of the founders of the Berwick Street Film Collective, director of Lusia Films, and a creative force behind the group that published the film magazine Vertigo. He also made a major contribution to shaping Channel 4 into a platform for experiment and discovery. Described by some as “Britain’s Chris Marker”, with whom he became friends, he filmed his way through three decades of sea change, wrestling with the challenges of Thatcherism, the demise of industrial manufacturing, the diffusion of media and memory, the crisis of the Left and the extinguishing of revolutionary hopes.
The resonant work by Marc Karlin and the other filmmakers assembled in this program allows us to feel the pulse of an era of transition, whose challenges and transformations are still with us today. At the same time that the Iron Lady is being immortalized as “a force of nature”, while the arguments for the austerity policies that she championed are crumbling before our eyes, a time when the present is declared to be the only possible horizon, it may be worth our while to revisit this era, if only to discover that history is not past – only its telling.

Special thanks to Andy Robson / Marc Karlin Archive.

1

KASKcinema, Don/Thu 24 maart 12:30
Nightcleaners
Berwick Street Film Collective
1975, UK, 16mm to video, English spoken, 90’
Nightcleaners was originally conceived by members of the Berwick Street Collective as a campaign film about attempts to unionize women working at night as contract cleaners in large office blocks. But in the process of making the film, it became, as Marc Karlin observed, a film “about distances”.

“The film was about the distance between us and the nightcleaners, between the women and the nightcleaners, and was choreographing a situation in which communication was absolutely near enough impossible. I mean, there were these women who were in the offices at night who would wave, or sign or whatever, and sometimes we had to get into offices through very, very subterfuge-like means. The women’s movement came mainly from a kind of middle-class background, and I got in terrible trouble for even saying there were distances, or making a film about distances, and that is what I wanted to do, by and large… The nightcleaners haven’t changed, and it always comes back to this idea, you know, of W.H. Auden and all those people who say: “Well, you know, a poem won’t stop a tank.” Maybe not, but a poem can actually reveal a tank and… I think with Nightcleaners what we did was we revealed the situation of the nightcleaners on the one hand and on the other, the impossibility of capturing those lives.” (Marc Karlin)

2

Sphinx, Don/Thu 24 maart 22:30
‘36 to ‘77
Marc Karlin, Jon Sanders, James Scott, Humphrey Trevelyan
1978, UK, 16mm to video, English spoken, 85’
Nightcleaners was originally conceived as the first of an ongoing series. Material subsequently shot for Part 2 eventually became ’36 to ’77, in which Myrtle Wardally, one of the cleaners in the earlier film, reflects on the strike and on her life, then and afterwards.

“To me ‘36 to ’77 is very important for the way it changes the understanding of how you live with representations. The normal film or television experience leaves you without any trace. It doesn’t hurt you at all to look at it. With ’36 to ’77 I realised how people desperately desire a certain normality for film. It’s such an obsessive need, and when for instance political people see the idea of rendering their politics visible, it completely breaks them apart. A film does test how real your politics are, to the extent of confronting you with something that breaks the very boundaries in your writing. Film acts as a sort of dislocating lever. There’s a lot of left rhetoric about personal politics which is actually a refusal to take personal politics seriously – it’s a refusal to dismember yourself, to re-think, re-phrase, re-constitute yourself in the light of your actions and the things in front of you. It’s a refusal to see age, to see change, to see distances, always taking the same photograph of yourself, wherever you are…The representation of workers on film is normalised because it’s always surrounded by and held in the situating of them as workers in a recognisable political situation, and which a lot of people might not be sharing. The idea that they might have other things that would contradict your idea of them never obviously comes into play now.” (Marc Karlin)

3
KASKcinema, Vri/Fri 25 maart 13:00
For Memory
Marc Karlin
1982, UK, 16mm to video, English spoken, 104’

Produced between 1977 and 1982, this film remained on the shelves until the BBC finally broadcast it in a sleepy afternoon slot in March of 1986. For Memory is a contemplation on cultural amnesia, written as a reaction to Hollywood’s Holocaust films, a serialisation of the genocide. Karlin asks: how could a documentary image die so soon and be taken over by a fiction? Seeing that an enormous amount of documentation exists, why did it take a soap opera to have the effect that it did?

“The film came out of a showing of a Hollywood series on the Holocaust. I was deeply shocked by it because of its vulgarity and stupidity… And yet, and yet…! In a sort of Auden-tank sense, it had an enormous effect! In Germany, for instance, where children saw it and were given history books or packages to do with the camps, and so on. I was really disturbed that something like this Hollywood series established some kind of truth, and I just wondered where another kind of truth had disappeared, which was that of the documents. The documents had died to the point where, much later on, in Shoah, Lanzmann would not use a single document. So, I was interested in kind of pursuing them. That led me to think out how, in the future, an imaginary city would remember – because it was the very convenient thing to say that modern times are totally to do with amnesia.” (MK)

4

KASKcinema, Vri/Fri 25 maart 15:30
So That You Can Live (For Shirley)
Cinema Action
1981, UK, 16mm to video, English spoken, 83’

So That You Can Live developed from a project called The Social Contract, which the Cinema Action collective began in the mid-1970s. When filming in Treforest, South Wales, the filmmakers met Shirley Butts, a union convenor who was leading a strike by women demanding equal pay. In the subsequent five years, they documented the impact that global economic changes had on her and her family. As Marc Karlin remarked, So That You Can Live is “a film of and in transit – from city to countryside, from employment to the dole, from generation to generation, from power to powerlessness”.

“The most important British independent film since Berwick Street Film Collective’s Nightcleaners, Cinema Action’s So that you can live (For Shirley) is in many ways a very simple film, about a family in a South Wales valley community which has been struck down in the last five years – the period over which the film was made – by the socially destructive consequences of pit and factory closures and the resulting unemployment… Slow and beautifully controlled, a poetry unfolds in this film of enormous depth of feeling and lucid intelligence, and in this way it becomes a passionate plea for the voice of conscience to be heard again in the labour movement. For the word and the idea to become once again part of our vocabulary, as it was for previous generations. For us all to look around and see, in the shapes and forms of our environment, what parents and grandparents tell to those who ask of what is only recently past, the history of Living memory.” (Michael Chanan)

5

KASKcinema, Vri/Fri 25 maart 17:00
The Year of the Beaver
Poster Collective
1985, UK, 16mm to video, English spoken, 78’

The Year of the Beaver documents the strike at the Grunwick film processing factory in North London in 1976-‘78, which was then described as “a central battleground between the classes and between the parties”. The film, which incorporates a lot of the material from the reporting that was being produced at the time, is not only a documentary of a strike, but a portrait of an historical period, as it underwent transition to the modern ‘civilized’ state under Thatcherism.

“It wasn’t until the early eighties that a film called The Year of the Beaver emerged and I first really met Marc Karlin as he hugged me on seeing it. A film which had, for all the efforts of the inexperienced people who had worked on it, managed to create layers of meaning and make connections between the myriad of things it had had to take on board. It showed what had come to be viewed as the seeds of Thatcherism developing long before her reign. This mammoth work had been years in the making, years in editing rooms struggling for ways and means to illuminate a story that needed to be told, to find an adequate form in which to tell its tale.” (Steve Sprung)


Followed by a DISSENT! talk with Ann Guedes (Cinema Action) and Steve Sprung (Cinema Action, Poster Collective).

DISSENT! is an initiative of Courtisane, Auguste Orts and Argos, in the framework of the research project “Figures of Dissent” (KASK/Hogent).

6

Paddenhoek, Zat/Sat 26 maart 13:00
Nicaragua: Voyages
Marc Karlin
1985, UK, 16mm to video, English spoken, 42’

The first film in Marc Karlin’s four-part series on the Nicaraguan revolution that brought down President Somoza’s regime in 1979, Voyages is composed of five tracking shots, gliding over blown-up photographs that Susan Meiselas took during the insurrection. The film takes the form of an imagined correspondence, which interrogates the responsibilities of the war photographer, the line between observer and participant, and the political significance of the photographic image.

“Photographs are in a way far ahead of our ability to deal with them – we have not yet found a way of dealing, living with them. We have appropriated them in a channel – ‘language’, ‘papers’, ‘magazines’, ‘books’ – all of which seem the only tools by which we can give them an earthbound gravity. We brush past them, flick them, demand of them things they cannot give… Liberate photographs from its priests and jujumen – including myself. We do not need interpreters. We need looks – and thus the task is up to the photographer to renew his or her contract i.e. what can photographs and their arrangement do to defy the prison house interpretation à la John Berger – and make us think of ourselves in relationship to Nicaragua.” (MK)

Black Audio Film Collective / Auguiste Reece

Twilight City

1989, UK, 16mm to video, English spoken, 52’

“A love story about the city and its undesirables,” this third film by the Black Audio Film Collective evokes the New London – in the filmmakers’ words “a fading world of being and unbelonging, invisible communities, the displaced and the rise of redevelopment.”

“The film presents an imaginary epistolary narration of a young woman’s thoughts as she writes to her mother in Domenica about the changing face of London, then in the throes of the new Docklands development. She fears it is a city that her mother would not now recognise should she return. The film cuts between this narrative voice and interviewees bearing witness to their youthful experience of the city as a territory mapped by racial, cultural, sexual, gender and class boundaries, a place ‘of people existing in close proximity yet living in different worlds.’ This polyvocal narrative moves restlessly back between past and present, reflecting on the loss of roots and erasure of history caused by the demolition of old established neighbourhoods. The further displacement of already marginalised communities falls under the shadow of the films’s recurrent motif of the public monument to a heroic British imperial history notable for its effacement of its disruptive descendants.” (Jean Fisher)

7

Paddenhoek, Zon/Sun 27 maart 17:00
Scenes for a Revolution
Marc Karlin
1991, UK, 16mm to video, Spanish spoken, English subtitles, 110’

Revisiting material of his earlier four-part series, Marc Karlin returns to Nicaragua to examine the history of the Sandinista government, to consider its achievements and assess the prospects for democracy following its defeat in the 1990 general election.

“For ten years, the Sandinistas had tried to make democracy mean access to education, health, nationhood, and the sense of collective responsibility. Now in one swift move Nicaragua found itself suddenly transplanted to the political events of Eastern Europe. It was as if differences, identities, separate histories, could all be electronically and democratically jammed. But then in this day and age, anyone and everyone could speak the word democracy. What it meant, what it felt like, what it could be as opposed to what it was not no-one would dare say. As if a democracy to really work had to be by definition valueless, orderless,  heard but not seen. As if democracy could be about nothing else but the right to be left alone… For ten years Nicaragua had been out of the headlines. Now that it was officially declared a democratic nation, it was hardly ever heard of. As if democracy instead of making voices heard was there to silence them, a confirmation after all that history and all its wrongdoings had officially ended. But these images, so often seen in films on the third world, to the point of invisibility, were the product of a bitter poverty which had not been erased.” (MK)

Cinema Action – UK Radical Film Collective films available to buy and stream

Cinema Action was among several left-wing film collectives formed in the late sixties. The group started in 1968 by exhibiting in factories a film about the French student riots of that year. These screenings attracted people interested in making film a part of political activism. With a handful of core members – Ann GuedesGustav (Schlacke) Lamche and Eduardo Guedes – the group pursued its collective methods of production and exhibition for nearly twenty-five years.

Cinema Action‘s work stands out from its contemporaries’ in its makers’ desire to co-operate closely with their working-class subjects. The early films campaigned in support of various protests close to Cinema Action‘s London base.  Not a Penny on the Rent (1969), attacking proposed council rent increases, is an example of the group’s early style.

By the beginning of the seventies, Cinema Action began to receive grants from trades unions and the British Film Institute. This allowed it to produce, in particular, two longer films analysing key political and union actions of the time. People of Ireland! (1971) portrayed the establishment of Free Derry in Northern Ireland as a step towards a workers’ republic. UCS1 (1971) records the work-in at the Upper Clyde Shipyard; it is a unique document, as all other press and television were excluded.

Both these films typify Cinema Action‘s approach of letting those directly involved express themselves without commentary. They were designed to provide an analysis of struggles, which could encourage future action by other unions or political groups.

The establishment of Channel Four provided an important source of funding and a new outlet for Cinema Action. Films such as So That You Can Live(1981) and Rocking the Boat (1983) were consciously made for a wider national audience. In 1986, Cinema Action made its first fiction feature, Rocinante, starring John Hurt.

via BFI

UK independent filmmaker Chris Reeves has made a selection of Cinema Action’s films available to stream and download on his Vimeo On Demand page.  See them all here.

 

Cinema Action – Struggles of the Sixties and Seventies: A Film Festival at Marx Memorial in collaboration with Platform Films

Between 1968 and 1981, the London-based collective Cinema Action produced numerous “socialist campaign films,” on themes including housing, workers’ rights and international questions. A selection of these films will be shown at Marx Memorial Library’s Main Hall on Saturday afternoons in the coming months. The films themselves carry a unique, contemporary perspective of the class struggles of this era. For only £5 per session, participants can watch original archive films and take part in an informed discussion with a guest chair.

The first screening will take place on Saturday January 30th 2016 at 3pm:

A short silent campaign piece called “White Paper” will be shown, alongside two longer films, “Fighting the Bill” and “Arise Ye Workers.”

White Paper” deals with the Labour government’s proposal to reduce the power of Trade Unions, titled “In Place of Strife,” and uses animation and stills to argue against the suggested plan.

After that, “Fighting the Bill” details the overwhelming trade union movements campaigning against the Conservative government’s 1971 Industrial Relations Act. The film sets the struggle in the context of the time, when international disdain with capitalism was increasing, and when trade unions in Britain had to push back once again against threats of state suppression. The film uses historical footage and interviews to demonstrate the will of working people in 1971 to oppose such a bill. “Arise Ye Workers” also deals with the same Act but instead follows the dockworkers’ fight against redundancy and wage cuts caused by containerisation. The film moves from the struggles against land speculation and profiteering, to police harassment of pickets, and finally to the arrest of the Pentonville Five after the enforcement of the Industrial Relations Act, which led to the TUC calling a general strike. After successful demonstrations of solidarity with those arrested, the Act was effectively dismantled, showing the power of the working class. This film showcases notable historical footage of police harassment and dockers successfully convincing Fleet Street printworkers to strike with them.

Carolyn Jones, from the Institute of Employment Rights, will chair the discussion and analysis of these films.

Subsequent events will follow each month:

 

  • Saturday February 27th at 3pm: Showing of “The UCS Struggle,” a film about workers fighting to retain their jobs at Upper Clyde Shipyards, and “Class Struggle – Film from the Clyde,” a documentary made about the occupation and work-in at the same Shipyard from July 1971 to October 1972.
  • Saturday March 26th at 3pm: Showing of “GEC1,” a short supporting GEC Merseyside stewards calling for factory occupation; “Vauxhalls,” a partly animated short film against the introduction of Measured Day Work at the company, and “The Miners’ Film,” which documents the industrial action of miners in the winter of 1973-4 that altered the political landscape by helping to bring down Edward Heath’s Conservative government.
  • Saturday April 30th at 3pm: Showing of “Not a Penny on the Rents,” a campaign film opposing GLC attempts to raise council rents which includes footage of tenants’ demonstrations; “Squatters,” a film that shows support for squatters in various London boroughs resisting eviction by private landlords, and “Hands off Student Unions,” which documents students’ struggle to preserve the autonomy of their union from state control under Thatcher.
  • Saturday May 28th at 3pm: Showing of “People of Ireland,” a full-length documentation of the 1969 self-declared autonomous area of Free Derry, including interviews with militants, community leaders, ministers and unemployed workers.
  • Saturday June 25th at 3pm: “Viva Portugal,” a full-length film tracing the first year of the Portuguese Revolution, including the effects the revolution had on the people and the infrastructure of Portugal.

The MML is keen to develop its facilities to host events like this. Donate to our audiovisual fundraising appeal – we need £700 for a new projector and screen.

For information on these film events and other lecture, evening classes and book sales, please see MML website:

http://marx-memorial-library.org.uk/education/upcoming-events

The Inoperative Community, 3 December 2015 – 14 February 2016, Raven Row

2881_rr_tic_web_lores-2

Serge Bard, Eric Baudelaire, Ericka Beckman, Cinema Action, Patrick Deval, Lav Diaz, Mati Diop, Stephen Dwoskin, Luke Fowler, Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Pierre Gorin, Johan Grimonprez, Marc Karlin, Stuart Marshall, Anne-Marie Miéville, Pere Portabella, Yvonne Rainer, Jackie Raynal, Anne Charlotte Robertson, Helke Sander, Jon Sanders, James Scott, Albert Serra, Leslie Thornton, Humphry Trevelyan

 Curated by Dan Kidner

‘The Inoperative Community’ is an exhibition of experimental narrative film and video that address ideas of community and the shifting nature of social relations. It draws on work made since 1968 for cinema, television and the gallery, reflecting the overlapping and entangled histories of these sites. The exhibition’s title is borrowed from Jean-Luc Nancy’s 1983 essay of the same name, and while this connection did not determine the selection of works, they all bear witness in their own way to what Nancy characterised as the ‘dissolution, the dislocation, or the conflagration of community’. Many concern the limits of political activism and the fate of left political subcultures, and all use narrative as a means to explore social and political issues.

Encompassing over fifty hours of material the exhibition can be navigated by means of a printed or downloadable programme. Each visitor will only be able to see a fraction of the works on offer, but connections can be made between works on any particular course through the exhibition, which has been designed to accommodate both prolonged viewing and shorter visits. A screening room will show five daily programmes, in a more structured approach to the exhibition’s historical and political framework. These begin with an Anglo-French focus before expanding to include international filmmakers reflecting on the radical political movements of the 1960s and 1970s.

The exhibition focuses on a period that could be described as the long 1970s (1968-84) – all the works were either made during this time, or reflect on the radical social and political movements of the era. The defiant video installation about the Aids crisis, Journal of the Plague Year (1984) by Stuart Marshall (1949–93, UK) has been specially restored for the exhibition. Also included is a new edit – within an installation designed for the exhibition – of Peggy and Fred in Hell (1984–2015) by Leslie Thornton (b. 1951, USA), featuring footage shot whilst in residence at Raven Row; and newly available reels from the epic Five Year Diary (1981–97) by Anne Charlotte Robertson (1949–2012, USA), preserved by the Harvard Film Archive, will be screened for the first time in the UK.

Extended gallery opening hours: 11am-7pm, Wednesday to Sunday

theinoperativecommunity_programme_ravenrow_1

Ann Guedes and Steve Sprung on Cinema Action

Cinema Action members Ann Guedes and Steve Sprung discuss their work with BFI curators William Fowler and Ros Cranston. Guedes and Sprung talk about their productions, made with access to sites like Glasgow’s shipyards, and filmed during and in support of various protests across the country in the late 60s.

Ann Guedes – “I hope, especially with these films, that they are not a lament, they are actually still a call to action”.