Salute to Fernando Birri

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!

 

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Radical Film in Birmingham

One of the notable features at the inaugural conference of the Radical Film Network in Birmingham last weekend was the mix of generations, from new blood to survivors from the days of the IFA (Independent Filmmakers Association) in the 1970s. Speaking as one of the latter, it was pleasing to find that what the comrades did back then has not been entirely forgotten, but more important, that this new initiative has a genuine sense of history, of historical inquiry, and is disposed to look to past experience both in order to commend what was achieved and to mull over its weaknesses.

But of course the political conjuncture of post-crash times is markedly different from those days, and there’s been a signal change in the political modus operandi. Continue reading

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Arbitrary automated censorship at Edublogs

This term, I’m running a class blog for a module about Music on the Screen – not film music, but the representation of music making in different forms of film and video. Because the blog tools on the University’s digital learning platform (we use Moodle) aren’t very good, I’ve been using an external platform called Edublogs, which is basically a version of WordPress set up for ease of use in educational environments.

So far, so good. Until now. Continue reading

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Upcoming Screenings in London

‘Interrupted Memory’ at Birkbeck
Friday 9 January at 6pm

memory pointing (small)One of the interviewees in Interrupted Memory (Memoria interrumpida) (Michael Chanan, 2013, 116mns) recalls being detained in the 1976 coup in Argentina. She was beaten and raped. She began, defensively, to play a role. ‘Me, I know nothing about politics. I’m just a girl, I’m 17.’ Her captors let her go with a warning, ‘You don’t leave this place twice. Behave properly, don’t say anything.’ She was so traumatized that she went on playing the role of the naïve girl for years. Real life was suspended.

Michael Chanan’s film charts not just the public history of recent political violence in Chile and Argentina, but also the intimate and inner damage it has wreaked.

Free entry. To attend this event please RSVP: www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/bisr-guilt-screening-tickets-14629456097 or just turn up!

‘Secret City’ at SOAS
Saturday 24 January at 4pm, Khalili Lecture Theatre

Aldermen and judges (small)

16:00  London is Burning (Haim Bresheeth, 2012, 45′)
17:00  Secret City (Michael Chanan, 2012, 72′)
18:30 Panel presentations and discussion:
Chair: Prof. Annabelle Sreberny (SOAS)
Prof. Costas Lapavitsas (SOAS): “Non-Productive Capitalism and its trail of destruction”
Owen Jones (Guardian) TBC
Prof. Doreen Massey (Open U): “The city of London: The invisible demon”

Continue reading

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Apocalipsis de nuestro tiempo (Apocalypse of Our Time)

Ishtar Yasin’s film about the work of the Chilean painter Julio Escámez.

Film de Ishtar Yasin sobre la obra del pinto chileno Julio Escámez.

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Cuba in Nottingham

A short note on the Cuba Research Forum conference which has just taken place at Nottingham, which suggests that international research on Cuba is in good health. Under the as-ever cheerful helm of Tony Kapcia, we heard from speakers of various nationalities, either based in the UK or abroad, and several Cubans, ditto, including, from Havana, the redoubtable Fernando Martínez Heredia, who spoke about the diverse origins of Cuban socialism. We also enjoyed a special lecture delivered with great verve by the distinguished Cuban-American historian, Louis Pérez, outlining his current work on the nineteenth century Cuban middle class and the figure of the coquette, a suggestive rethinking of cultural history. As always the forum was multidisciplinary and covered an impressively wide range of topics: Continue reading

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Remembering Richard Attenborough

 

Attenborough shooting OWALW

This is how I remember Richard Attenborough—setting up a shot for Oh! What a Lovely War, in a photo I took myself. He’s the one in the hat. The news of his death takes me back to where I started, because that first film of his as director was also the occasion for my own first effort at filmmaking, and I’m eternally grateful to him for the chance (rare in those days) to have made a film of the filming.

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