Author Archives: Gemstone

Introduction to Bergman’s ‘Persona’ at the NFT

Bibi Andersson and Live Ullman in Persona

Bibi Andersson and Live Ullman in ‘Persona’

This week I was asked by Dominic Power, Head of Screen Arts at National Film and Television School (NFTS) to introduce a screening of Bergman’s Persona at the National Film Theatre Southbank, London.

It’s taking a liberty telling an audience how to view a film minutes before seeing it.

I prefer to give them a perspective, often by referring to the director’s other work. I talk primarily about form and style, sometimes about subjects that recur. I try to keep it simple. The film’s the thing.

Here is a recording of the event, montaged with a few slides:

The film was shown as part of the NFTS ‘Passport to Cinema’ season – a continuous and comprehensive overview of every facet of cinema, from its beginnings to the present day.


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Wojciech Smarzowski’s ‘Rose’ sparks a debate at the BFI

I recently  took part in a panel discussion on Wojciech Smarzowski’s 2011 war drama ‘Rose’ which was screened as part of Refugee Week at BFI Southbank, London, June 18th.

The screening was organised by David Somerset of the BFI who invited me because I was a member of Human Rights Jury of the Cairo Film Festival that awarded ‘Rose’ the Tahrir Square Prize in December 2012. (How bitterly ironic the word “Tahrir” meaning “liberation” is now).

The other contributors,  a Professor of History from LSE, and representatives of UNHCR and the Refugee Council, were seeing the film not only as a film but as reference to many other things.  

Film does not exist in vacuum and certainly ROSE does not. This debate was well received at the Institute and shows how necessary it is to have public discussion about cinema.

We have edited a clip of the panel debate filmed by the BFI. It opens with an introduction to the film from the historian Anita Prażmowska.

Camera was Ace Ashun, who had to shoot from a poor position due to health and safety regulations at the National Film Theatre.

A number of audience contributions followed but sadly the sound quality was not good enough to include them.        

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Congratulations to Andrés Wood: ‘Machuca’ listed as top 20 Latin American film

Still from Machuca - Matias Quer

‘A stunning film’ Film Journal International

‘Machuca’ the 2004 feature I co-wrote and co-produced with Andrés Wood has been selected for the CasAmerica, Madrid season of ‘Twenty great films of Latin American cinema” which celebrates the most notable films of the past 20 years.

I am delighted for Andrés because this lists him up there with the greatest Latin American directors of his generation.

Machuca was my first proper collaboration with Andrés – although I had helped him with the editing on his previous film Loco Fever.  Working with Andres was very enjoyable, challenging and educative.  Andrés’s next film, La Buena Vida, (my credits: screenplay and co-producer) was less straightforward and the film was affected by the limitations of the budget. Still, it won a Goya amongst many other awards. Our next collaboration has already started. La Lutte Continua:

Mamoun Hassan

Machuca will be shown at CasAmerica, Plaza de Cibeles, Madrid on Wednesday, 25 September. For the full listing visit the CasAmerica website.

Cine poster

Buy Machuca on DVD

Machuca ART302DVD

 Machuca / Chile-Spain-United Kingdom-France 2004 / Directed by Andres Wood. Distributed in the UK by Artificial Eye

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Passport to Cinema: ‘La Ronde’ and ‘Persona’ at the BFI Southbank

I will be giving introductions to two great films at the National Film Theatre at the British Film Institute (BFI) Southbank next month:

LaRondeDVDLa Ronde: Monday 2 September
France 1950
Max Ophul’s masterpiece – an adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler’s controversial play Reigen.


persona05Persona: Monday 23 September
Sweden 1966
Ingmar Bergman’s highly influential minimalist work. Considered by some as one of the 20th Century’s greatest works of art.


Passport to Cinema

The films appear as part of the National Film and Television School’s Autumn 2013 ‘Passport to Cinema’ season – the theme of which is Masquerade! Cinema and its Masks.

The screenings are open to the public and National Film and Television School students.

For current ticket prices, reservations and further information visit the BFI website –

The Passport to Cinema schedule and accompanying essays are published on the NFTVS website.

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Bill Douglas: Childhood Trilogy in Le Monde: Justified Sinner

Bill Douglas: Childhood Trilogy

Three of the most compelling films about childhood and adolescence – ever made – released for the first time on DVD by BFI.

Bill Douglas has always been appreciated in France but the enthusiastic response of the cinephile media to the DVD release two weeks ago of the Trilogy shows that his status is now higher than ever. He is spoken of as in the ‘pantheon’ of British directors.

It is particularly gratifying to read a glowing tribute to Bill’s work by Thomas Sotinel in Le Monde*. His piece also recognises the role the British Film Institute played in helping the young Scot get his first feature film off the ground in the early 1970’s – and contains a reference link to an account on this very website: Bill Douglas – his ain man – (as published by Sight and Sound in 1991)

It is my greatest regret that after I commissioned Bill to write a screenplay adaptation of James’ Hogg’s 19th Century Classic, Confessions of a Justified Sinner, no funding was forthcoming to make what I believe was a personal and inspired adaptation. I stand by what I said in the article more than 20 years ago:

I hope that when the film is made — and it will be — I can, in my mind at least, make peace with him.

* published at subscription only,  but may be read in full if you put ‘Le Monde’ and ‘Bill Douglas’ into your search engine!

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Movie Masterclass: Pather Panchali

Indian child - scene from Pather PanchaliExplore Satyajit Ray’s masterwork scene by scene

Date: 17 August 2013

Place: National Film Theatre, Southbank, London

Time 1.00pm – 4.00pm

You are invited to come and join Mamoun Hassan for a stimulating afternoon at the NFT where he will be leading a scene-by-scene exploration of Pather Panchali, Satyajit Ray’s extraordinary and acclaimed debut.

Mamoun’s trademark Movie Masterclass technique is a uniquely engaging way of teaching the art and craft of filmmaking, suitable for filmmakers and film-lovers alike.

His accessible approach evolves from a practical analysis of the whole filmmaking craft, a technique he established for the Channel 4’s Movie Masterclass series.

This participatory seminar will require prior viewing of Pather Panchali.

DVD cover: The Apu TrilogyYou can book tickets to view Pather Panchali at a NFT screening in August or you can purchase the DVD as part of The Apu Trilogy box set in the UK.

Seminar tickets cost between £8.50 and £11.00. You are strongly advised to book in advance at the BFI website – places are limited!

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Mamoun filmed by students at European Film College

During my recent visit to the European Film College in Denmark, I was delighted to be asked by a group of students to appear in their 4-minute documentary final project.

Watch,  ‘Behind the Scenes 2013’

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