North of England

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Earth (Zemlya)_1930_poster18 March

Earth (Dir. Oleksandr Dovzhenko, 1930)  (Screening format – DCP, 83 mins)  Dovzhenko is considered the father of Ukrainian cinema with Earth (Zemlya/Zeme) regarded as his masterpiece. Merging lyricism and ideology the film is constructed as a poetic celebration of man’s unity with nature and demonstrates that political progress is an organic part of the natural process. Dealing with the conflict between villagers and kulaks (rich peasants and class enemy), this political struggle is mirrored in the generational misunderstanding between the peasant farmer and his son. Find out more at Wikipedia  Presented as part of the AV Festival and as part of Levels of Democracy: Ukraine Film Weekend.  With recorded soundtrack by Ukrainian ethno-chaos band DakhaBrakha.  Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle  Link

19 March

An Unprecedented Campaign (Dir.  Mikhail Kaufman  1931)  (Screening format – DCP, 71 Mins) This recently rediscovered and restored Soviet silent film masterpiece was a rare directorial outing for Kaufman who was the brother of Dziga Vertov and the cameraman behind Vertov’s exhilarating The Man With a Movie Camera.   An Unprecedented Campaign was created during the rapid industrialisation and collectivisation of Stalin’s Five-Year Plan. Kaufman countered the poverty of the villages with the geometrical rhythm of mechanised factories; militarisation is shown as the next step of the ‘unprecedented campaign’.  Presented as part of the AV Festival and as part of Levels of Democracy: Ukraine Film Weekend, with a world premiere of a newly commissioned live soundtrack by Test Dept.  Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle Link

L&H_Bacon_Grabbers_1929Bacon Grabbers (Dir. Lewis R Foster, 1929) (Screening format – not known, 20mins) Laurel and Hardy are ‘Bacon Grabbers’ (repo men) tasked with recovering a radio on which Collis P Kennedy (Edgar Kennedy) hasn’t paid installments in the previous 8 years.  He refuses to comply and mayhem breaks out as Stan & Ollie try to break in while the owner tries his hardest to keep them out.  One of Laurel and Hardy’s last silent comedies which incorporated music and synchronized sound effects, plus an early appearance by Jean Harlow as Mrs Kennedy.  Find out more at IMDb  Presented as part of a Laurel and Hardy film night.  Rex Cinema, Elland, West Yorks  Link

20 March

Enthusiasm 1931 Vertov film still-150x150Enthusiasm: Symphony of the Donbas (Dir.  Dziga Vertov, 1930)  (Screening format – DCP,67 Mins)  (Technically a sound film but with no dialogue and a musical (industrial noise!) soundtrack)  Vertov’s first sound film, shot in the coal-rich Donbas area of Eastern Ukraine, was the first time real industrial sounds were used to create an independent musical composition for film. The filmmaker, his wife Elisaveta Svilova and team of kinoks (cinema-eyes) filmed and recorded most of Enthusiasm on location in the Donbas. They aimed to ‘grasp the feverish reality of life in the Donbas, to convey as true to life as possible its atmosphere of the clash of hammers, of train whistles, of the songs of workers at rest.’ The film was dedicated to Stalin’s first Five Year Plan (1928 – 1932), it glorified industrialisation and collectivisation as well as propagandised the fight against illiteracy and religion. Released in April 1931, the film was shortly after removed from distribution and forgotten. It was rediscovered only in the 1960s due to the renewed interest to the Soviet avant-garde in the West. Enthusiasm was restored by the National Dovzhenko Film Studios on request of the State Film Agency of Ukraine in 2011. Find out more at Electric Sheep.   Presented as part of the AV Festival and as part of Levels of Democracy: Ukraine Film Weekend.   Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle  Link

In Spring (Dir. Mikhail Kaufman, 1929)   (Screening format – DCP, 60 mins)  In this declaration of love for the city of Kiev, Kaufman uses a hidden camera for the first time to show the awakening city after winter, with lyrical views of reviving nature acting as a metaphor for the birth of the young proletarian state, full of potency and energy. Kaufman aimed to shoot a film without subtitles that could be more readily understood by the general public. He devotes the film to the spring, linking it with various life moments, both ordinary and sacred: Easter rituals, sporting events, dances, funerals. Man is shown as the master of nature, and his creative energy is contrasted to that of natural destructive forces. Kaufman did not attempt to deliver an explicitly propagandised plot, desiring instead that the audience draw its own conclusions, however he was unable to avoid agitprop altogether. Through the edit he shows remarkable restraint in delivering the ideological message, contrasting symbols of the new order – shots of sporting events – with those of the old – images of drunkenness. Possessing a more subjective view than his brother, director Dziga ertov, Kaufman was more responsive to what he saw, expressing that responsiveness openly. He was more interested in vitalistic rather than mechanistic imagery and in human emotions. Find out more at IMDb  Presented as part of the AV Festival and as part of Levels of Democracy: Ukraine Film WeekendTyneside Cinema, Newcastle Link

26 March

Safetylast-1Safety Last (Dir. Fred C Newmeyer, 1923)  (Screening format – DCP, 70mins) + short.   In Safety Last, Harold Lloyd heads to the big city to make his fortune. Although only a sales clerk he tells his girlfriend (Mildred Davis) he is the store manager. When she comes to visit, he needs to keep up the pretense, avoid the real store manager and escape the police by climbing up the outside of the building. A classic Lloyd comedy with hair-raising climax. Lloyd will forever be associated with Safety Last because of a single image. Even people who have never safetylast_1923_lc_01_1200_070620090310seen a Lloyd film are familiar with the iconography of a bespectacled man hanging off the hands of a collapsing clock on the side of a skyscraper high above teeming city streets. It is one of the most celebrated images in cinema (and one repeated again and again in homage, eg Jackie Chan in Project A (1983) or Christopher Lloyd in Back To The Future (1985)).  Although Lloyd was a good athlete and regularly did many of his own stunts, there were limits.   His insurance company did not allow him to do the entire sequence; an injury to the star could shut down the entire production and jeopardize the studio. Also, Lloyd had only one complete hand—the result of an accident in 1919 in which he lost his right thumb and forefinger. For parts of the climb, therefore, two stand-ins were used. In the long shots of Lloyd climbing the building it was Bill Strother  (who played Lloyd’s pal ‘Limpy Bill’ in the film) while for the shot in which Lloyd hangs from the building edge as a result of a mouse crawling up the leg of his trousers, it was assistant director Robert A. Golden (who routinely doubled for Lloyd) standing in. Find out more at silentfilm.orgPresented as part of an ongoing programme to finance full restoration of the 1920’s Abbeydale Picture House to its former glory.   With live piano accompaniment by Darius Battiwalla .  Abbeydale Picture House, Sheffield.  Link