Tagged: Marc Karlin

BETWEEN TIMES: MARC KARLIN WEEKEND Fri 4 – Sun 6 March 2016 AV Festival, 2016


Sat 27 February – Sun 27 March 2016

This weekend includes screenings of eleven films by Marc Karlin including talks and discussions in collaboration with the Marc Karlin Archive.

In the 1980s–90s Karlin’s work was persistent in its questioning of the future of the British Left. It takes us on journeys through socialism, political change and cinema itself, critiquing both Thatcherism and Blair’s New Labour. Undeterred by these fundamental societal shifts and the crippling confusion affecting the Left, Karlin invested himself in the continued exploration of socialist themes.

On his death in 1999, Karlin was described as Britain’s most significant, unknown filmmaker. Present in Paris around the events of May 1968 and inspired by the work of Chris Marker, Karlin submerged himself into London’s newly formed independent film collectives. Although informed by an international perspective, most of Karlin’s work focuses on the UK. An exception was the remarkable series of five films on the Nicaraguan revolution, presented in full here on Sun 6 March.

A Film Pass is available with special discounted tickets for all the weekend screenings. AV Festival


LUX’s Artists’ Moving Image Publications of the Year 2015 – Marc Karlin – Look Again

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Marc Karlin – Look Again, edited by Holly Aylett. Book published by Liverpool University Press.

‘Overdue reader on British independent filmmaker and advocate Marc Karlin’.

Artist’s Moving Image Publications of the Year, 2015

Many thanks to LUX Artist Moving Image

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


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


Memory And Illumination The Films of Marc Karlin – 30 OCT, King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center, NYU


Marc Karlin (1943-1999) is widely regarded as Britain’s most important but least known director of the last half century. His far-reaching essay films deal with working-class and feminist politics, international leftism, historical amnesia and the struggle for collective memory, about the difficulty but also the necessity of political idealism in a darkening world.

Chris Marker hailed him as a key filmmaker, and his work has inspired or been saluted by moving-image artists and historians such as Sally Potter, Sheila Rowbotham, John Akomfrah, Luke Fowler and The Otolith Group. Yet, in large part because his passionate, ideas-rich, formally adventurous films were made for television, until recently they were lost to history.

Memory And Illumination: The Films of Marc Karlin, the first US retrospective of his work, offers a broad survey of what the latest issue of Film Comment calls “the most daring docu-essays the public at large has yet to appreciate”. They include explorations of the emergent women’s liberation movement he made as part of his early membership of the Berwick Street Film Collective, his chronicles of the 1980s aftermath of the Nicaraguan Revolution, and his enduringly resonant meditations on post-1989 politics.


King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center, 53 Washington Square South

6:30pm: NICARAGUA: VOYAGES (1985)
Voyages is composed of stills by renowned Magnum photographer Susan Meiselas taken in 1978 and 1979 during the overthrow of the fifty-year dictatorship of the Somoza family. Written in the form of a letter from Meiselas to Karlin, it is a ruminative and often profound exploration of the ethics of witnessing, the responsibilities of war photography and the politics of the still image.

A film about aftermaths and reckonings. Revisiting material for his earlier four-part series (1985), Karlin returns to Nicaragua to examine the history of the Sandinista government, consider its achievements, and assess the prospects for democracy following its defeat in the general election of 1990. (Sponsored by King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center)

Room 674, 721 Broadway (at Waverley Place)

12pm: THE SERPENT (dir. Marc Karlin, 1997), 40 min
The Serpent, loosely based on Milton’s Paradise Lost, is a blackly funny drama-documentary about media magnate and fanatical scourge of the Left Rupert Murdoch. A mild-mannered architect dreams of destroying this Dark Prince, but is assailed by his Voice of Reason which reminds him of the complicity of the liberal establishment in allowing Murdoch to dominate public discourse.

2pm: BETWEEN TIMES (dir. Marc Karlin, 1993), 50 min
Room 674, 721 Broadway (at Waverley Place)
A strikingly resonant work, not least in the wake of the recent re-election of the Conservative party in Britain, this is a probing and sometimes agonised essay – partially framed as a debate between socialism and postmodernism – about the paralysis of the Left and the need to locate new energies, spaces and forms of being that speak to emergent realities.

3:30pm: THE OUTRAGE (dir. Marc Karlin, 1995), 50 min
Room 674, 721 Broadway (at Waverley Place)
Echoes abound of Mike Dibb and John Berger’s Ways of Seeing (1972) in this hugely compelling film about Cy Twombly, about art, about television itself. According to director Steve Sprung it’s a film not about “the art of the marketplace, but the art that most of us leave behind somewhere in childhood, in the process of being socialized into the so-called world. The art which still yearns within us.”

5-6:30pm: Roundtable – TBA

7:30pm: FOR MEMORY (dir. Marc Karlin, 1986), 104 min
Room 674, 721 Broadway (at Waverley Place)
Beginning with a powerful interview with members of the British Army Film Unit who recall the images they recorded after the liberation of Belsen concentration camp, and conceived as an antidote to the wildly successful TV series Holocaust, For Memory is a multi-layered exploration – pensive and haunted – of cultural amnesia in the era of late capitalism that features historian E.P. Thompson, anti-fascist activist Charlie Goodman and Alzheimers patients.

Room 674, 721 Broadway (at Waverley Place)

2pm: NIGHTCLEANERS (dir. Berwick Street Film Collective, 1975)
Made over three years by the Berwick Street Film Collective (Karlin, Mary Kelly, James Scott, Humphrey Trevelyan), Nightcleaners is a landmark documentary that follows the efforts of the women’s movement to unionize female night workers in London. It eschewed social realism and agit prop in favour of a ghostly, ambient and sonically complex fragmentage that elicited both hostile and ecstatic responses. Screen journal declared it the most “important political film to have been made in this country”, while Jump Cut claimed it was “redefining the struggle for revolutionary cinema”. (Sponsored by Gender and Sexuality Studies)

3:45pm: 36 TO 77 (dir. Berwick Street Film Collective, 1978)
Room 674, 721 Broadway (at Waverley Place)
Very rarely screened since its original release, this film was originally conceived as Nightcleaners Part 2. A portrait of Grenada-born Myrtle Wardally (b.1936), a leader of the Cleaners’ Action Group Strike in 1972, it features her discussing the partial success of that campaign and also her childhood in the Caribbean. It’s also an experiment – as probing as it is rapturous – in the politics of film form, and a fascinating deconstruction of the idea of Myrtle as a “symbol of struggle, the nightcleaners, working women, immigrants, mothers, blacks”.


Look Again

Holly Aylett, Marc Karlin: Look Again (2015) http://liverpooluniversitypress.co.uk/products/60519



Presented by the Colloquium for Unpopular Culture with the support of the Department of Cinema Studies, New York University



QUERIES: ss162@nyu.edu

Close-ups on Revolution: the Nicaraguan Films of Marc Karlin, 30th Oct, organised by @autumnfarewells


Friday, October 30th  6:30pm



VOYAGES (1985), 42 min.

SCENES FOR A REVOLUTION (1991), 110 min.

MARK KARLIN (1943-1999), one of the greatest British filmmakers of his generation, created an outstanding body of philosophically rich, formally bold work that explored themes of history, memory, labour, and political agency in a time of neoliberal despair.

Foremost among his achievements are the five films he made on the Nicaraguan revolution: spanning the Sandinista decade, focussing on rural and urban grassroots movements, attentive to the sadness and disappointments of the revolutionary process, they are a remarkable chronicle of a remarkable era.

MEMORY AND ILLUMINATION: THE FILMS OF MARC KARLIN, the first US retrospective of his work, begins with two works from this period. VOYAGES (1985) is composed of stills by renowned Magnum photographer SUSAN MEISELAS taken in 1978 and 1979 during the overthrow of the fifty-year dictatorship of the Somoza family. Written in the form of a letter from Meiselas to Karlin, it is a ruminative and often profound exploration of the ethics of witnessing, the responsibilities of war photography and the politics of the still image,

SCENES FOR A REVOLUTION (1991) is a film about aftermaths and reckonings. Revisiting material for his earlier 4-part series (1985), Karlin returns to Nicaragua to examine the history of the Sandinista government, consider its achievements, and assess the prospects for democracy following its defeat in the general election of 1990.

Post screening discussion with:

Susan Meiselas, Magnum photographer since 1980 and 1992 MacArthur Fellow.

Hermione Harris, Marc Karlin Archive

Jonathan Buchsbaum, author of Cinema Sandinista: Filmmaking in Revolutionary Nicaragua, 1979-1990.

Susie Linfield, author of The Cruel Radiance: Photography and Political Violence.

Organized by Sukhdev Sandhu. QUERIES: ss162@nyu.edu


Experimental filmmaker, Michael Snow – Channel 4 ‘Visions’. Broadcast 19 January 1983

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.


Building Networks in a Contested Space: DMZ International Documentary Film Festival 2014

Here is a festival report from Ma Ran, reviewing the DMZ Documentary festival from September last year. Via Senses of Cinema

To visit the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) dividing North and South Korea might be a thrilling touristic option for Seoul’s visitors if they feel bored by the repetitive shopping and gourmet options in this vibrant Asian metropolis. Yet the DMZ as a buffer zone, evidence of division and Cold War remnant has also lent its symbolic weight to an emerging film festival – DMZ International Documentary Film Festival (DMZ Docs), launched in 2009. Taking Seoul subway line number three to its final stop, we find ourselves in the city of Goyang, which hosted all the DMZ Docs events this year, although the nearby city of Paju co-organised and co-funded the festival.

I want to approach DMZ Docs here as a “projective” film festival (to borrow a concept from Claire Bishop), based on a neo-liberal logic that foregrounds “projects” designed to foster connections, from three angles (1). Firstly, the idea suggests how we can think of film festivals as part of a series of arrangements made by the festival organisers in connecting with the urban setting and the national/regional cultural industries. Secondly, the idea also reinforces our understanding of film festivals as never isolated from global “networking,” both spatially and temporally. A network-based, projective film festival is capable of generating new visions and trends in both content and structure via programming and other events. Thirdly, a project-cantered logic is embodied in and through project markets and pitching sessions.

The relationship between a film festival and its hosting city is always intriguing in the Asian context. As the tenth largest city in Korea, Goyang impresses as a well-planned satellite city, with blocks of modern exhibition centres and shopping malls. Actually, the festival’s main multiplex theatre is located in a mall surrounded by sparse residential quarters and expansive undeveloped land. For sure, the entanglement and tension of the DMZ could be faintly sensed in this modern new town. But what was more strongly felt was Goyang and Paju’s joint official efforts to boost the local cultural industries via the film festival, especially given that Goyang aspires to become “a mecca for broadcasting and visual media in the northeast in the near future,” according to the vice chairman of the film festival Mr Choi, who is also the mayor of Goyang.

Indeed, DMZ Docs’ timing in late September is revealing about the interconnections and competitions between this festival and two other major documentary film festivals in East Asia – namely theTaiwan International Film Festival (TIDF, established 1998 and held annually held since 2014, this event takes place just after DMZ Docs in early October) and the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival in Japan (YIDFF, established in 1989, this biennial event takes place in mid-October). Kicking off on September 17, DMZ Docs’ sixth edition boasted a line-up of 111 documentary films and three major competitive sections: the International Competition (twelve films), the Korean Competition (nine films) and Youth Competition (Korean short films by students), besides themed sidebars. Although the festival promoted a too generalized value of “peace, communication and life” in its booklet this year, its highly diversified programme incorporated some of the most exciting 2013-14 productions from around the world, to highlight refreshing methodologies, daring experiments and pressing issues in documentary cinema. It seemed as if the programmers were trying to bombard festivalgoers with as heterogeneous a selection as possible, in order to leave “what counts as a documentary” an open question.

At the same time, the retrospectives on Marc Karlin and Italian documentaries (from filmmakers such as Pier Paolo Pasolini and Cecilia Mangini) were simply too valuable to be ignored this year. The festival paid tribute to Karlin (1943-1999) in its “Masters” section, with a body of work that was introduced to the Asian world for the first time. The screenings also anticipated two major publications in the UK on this highly significant, yet little known British filmmaker.

Karlin carefully constructed his politically charged cinematic essays with hybridized materials from reenactments, found footage, interviews and even installations. Karlin’s filmmaking sets out to carve a space for what the director calls a “dream state,” full of the tension “between a world that is being illustrated and a world that is being illuminated” (2). While you might find in films such as Nightcleaners (Berwick Street Collection, 1975), For Memory (1982) and Utopias (1989) the Marker-esque traces of insightful contemplations and debates upon memory, history and the agency of people, we also notice that Karlin’s obsession with a cinema which reasons and thinks is also rooted in the sociohistorical undercurrents of his time. Instead of didactically addressing issues of class, gender, ideology and so forth, Karlin’s pursuit actually ventures into effectively engaging with the spectators via formal/structural experimentations.

In Nightcleaners, for example, Karlin and his colleagues approached the issue of unionizing underpaid women office cleaners in the 1970s by turning away from the conventions of observational documentary filmmaking of the time. That the film is a work being directed and constructed is revealed at the very beginning, as it “contains within itself a reflection of its own involvement in the history of the events being filmed” (3).

Even images of the interviewed subjects prove to be an unorthodox study of physiognomy, as the camera zooms in and out, adjusting its distance from the interviewee, while the spectators are confronted with partial facial expressions, movements of eyes and sometimes mismatching voice tracks which disrupt any authoritatively imposed meaning of the images. The filmmakers’ manipulation of images and sound therefore not only throw up questions about documentary truth and photographic images, it also positions the night cleaners’ fight and their campaign in a multi-layered, historically complex space in which tensions exist between the cleaners, the Cleaner’s Action Group and the unions.

DMZ Docs might be one of the contact points, no matter how limited the scope of reception, for spectators to trace the genealogy of global political filmmaking. Thus we may want to rethink the significance of a retrospective such as the one on Karlin. If films like Nightcleaners “could provide the basis for a new direction in British political filmmaking” in 1975 (festival catalogue), is a Karlin retrospective in 2014 simply about the rediscovery and redefinition of a lesser-known filmmaker vis-à-vis film history? Or could it also be a programming gesture of broader social significance? The retrospective may also offer documentary filmmakers and the like working with socially engaged methods and topics a certain framework of reference in speaking from a geopolitical perspective, as democracy protests and civil campaigns are renewed across East Asia in locales such as Okinawa, Seoul, Taipei, Hong Kong, and even some Mainland Chinese cities.

Read the rest of Ma Ran’s article here.

Senses of Cinema – Festival Report – Dec 2014 – Issue 73