Tag Archives: BFI Southbank

Terence Davis ‘Children’ at the BFI South Bank – A discussion with Terence Davies

Here is a chance to listen to the discussion that Mamoun had with Terry at the showing of his first film ‘Children’ on 16th March this year.

Terry was, as always, charming, funny, witty and illuminating. Mamoun and the audience had a wonderful hour with Terry, taking him away from post-production of his latest film.

Special thanks must go to David Somerset of the the BFI for curating the event – It couldn’t have happened without his involvement.

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Discussion at BFI Southbank, NFT3 – Terry Davies ‘Children’ 16th – 2.00pm March

Mamoun will be taking part in a discussion with Terry Davies following a screening of Terry’s first film, CHILDREN, which Mamoun backed when he was Head of Production, BFI Production Board.

Before CHILDREN, Terry’s film diet was almost entirely Hollywood; he saw hardly any foreign films. He had no contact with people in the business, yet in CHILDREN his style seems already fully formed. You would have to look hard to find Hollywood but you might catch glimpses, and hear echoes, of Ozu, Bresson, Satyajit Ray, even Dreyer, but he had seen none of their films at this stage. This is both puzzling and phenomenal. Artists rarely understand their own inner workings, nonetheless, it will be interesting to learn what Terry has to say about this.

The following day Mamoun travels to the European Film College in Denmark

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Introduction to ‘Rome Open City’ – 9th February at BFI Southbank

936full-rome-open-city-posterRoberto Rossellini’s Rome Open City is the first great epic of Italian Neorealism. Seventy years on, the movement still survives. At any one time a neorealist film is being made somewhere in the world. These films are forever ‘neo’ or new because they are fresh and unexpected, focusing on people not considered worthy of attention and/or events which are ignored or suppressed. The originating neorealists were not only introducing an aesthetic but also challenging the view that ‘human kind cannot bear very much reality’ in its cinema.

As a movement neorealism is flexible, adaptable and generous. Its essence is to be found in its bone marrow and not in a set of rules – there are no obligatory twists and turns in a neorealist screenplay, for instance. Rome Open City ushered in a cinema that can flourish and is authentic in every society and every condition. Neorealism is universal.

Mamoun is very pleased to have been invited to introduce Rome Open City (Roma città aperta) on Monday 9th February 6.10pm at the BFI Southbank in NFT1 as part of the Passport to Cinema.

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Passport to Cinema: Ozu’s ‘Late Spring’ afterword

The great Alexander Mackendrick said that drama is about life ‘with the boring bits left out’. Yasujiro Ozu saw it differently. He embraced the ‘boring bits’, the everyday. Ozu weans us, for a while anyway, from the need for action and spectacle. He enhances the ordinary to the level of both entertainment and poetry.

At a superficial level Ozu’s films are not about very much. Many scenes comprise housework (the sequence in TOKYO STORY is simply thrilling), leaving and entering the house, making tea, drinking tea, preparing the bath, sitting quietly, drinking sake (a great deal of that) – and a lot of walking. There are shots of empty rooms and corridors, and abstract exteriors that are often just part of something. For instance, Tokyo in TOKYO STORY is first symbolised by a shot of three industrial chimneys – Tokyo is outside the frame. Ozu invites one to contemplate, think, consider and interpret. It sounds like Art House cinema at its nadir. It is the opposite.

Ozu made more than fifty films and they were regularly in the top five at Japan’s box office. His popularity is puzzling considering that the stories are remarkably similar – but then so are Jane Austen’s, Dostoevsky’s, Chekhov’s. It is almost an aspect of greatness. But one has also to look at the style; Ozu’s is like no other. The narrative is precise and plot is minimal, often perversely so; the mise-en-scène guides us to what is directly important; the editing is spare, creating a sense of real time; characterisation leaves out much, leading us to put in much; performance is almost free of ‘acting’. Ozu pares away everything and what is left is essence and engagement with the audience.

After seeing a couple of Ozu’s films, the rest of cinema and television seems overworked and loud, serving entertainment to a supposedly febrile audience. One goes back to Ozu and the everyday domestic world, where happiness and pain begin for most of us. Despite, or because of, his stylisation, he creates the real world, the inner spiritual world.

Hollywood, Aristotle’s town, admired Ozu but could not follow. For the rest of us Ozu is a miracle.

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An introduction to Ozu’s ‘Late Spring’ at the BFI South Bank, Dec 8th

Late SpringAccording to the lists of 10 and 100 best films the world is a small place consisting primarily of the US and Western Europe. It seems only a small number of films have ever been made as the same ones appear over and over again. Convergence is the first step to entropy. It comes as a surprise to find that Japan exists – thanks to Kurosawa, Mizoguchi and to Ozu whose TOKYO STORY occasionally makes it to the top of the pile. Ozu’s LATE SPRING got to 17 and was called the ‘perfect’ film. It is more important than that.

LATE SPRING is Ozu’s first film with Setsuko Hara as Noriko – and she carries that name, but not the character, in the following two films EARLY SUMMER and TOKYO STORY. The three films are sometimes referred to, somewhat arbitrarily, as the Noriko trilogy.

Ozu is an elusive director. His films appear to be straightforward domestic dramas; the stories are not very different; the characters are played by a repertory of the same actors. In recollection, a scene or a moment from Ozu could come from a number of his films, rather like a Beethoven or Mozart theme when you have to think hard about its context. Soaps work through scattering plotlines outwards; Ozu digs inwards and downwards. LATE SPRING started a process which ended with the sublime AN AUTUMN AFTERNOON.

Mamoun will be introducing LATE SPRING (Banshun) at the BFI South Bank, Screen NFT2, December 8th, 6.10pm.

Mamoun would like to thank Dominic Power, Head of Screen Arts at the National Film and Television School for inviting him to introduce this classic of world cinema.

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Introducing Fritz Lang’s ‘M’ at the NFT

Poster for Fritz Lang's 'M' by Rodolfo Reyes

Poster for Fritz Lang’s ‘M’ by Rodolfo Reyes

Mamoun is delighted to have been invited by David Somerset, the education curator of the British Film Institute, to introduce a screening of Fritz Lang’s ‘M’ on 12 September 2.00 pm at NFT3.

Mamoun says,  “It’s a basic truth that where there’s one there’s another. In Germany there were four: George W Pabst,  F W Murnau,  Fritz Lang, Ernst Lubitsch. Four great artists of cinema, who helped both evolve and revolutionise cinema from the silent era onwards. The order is from the oldest to the youngest. In the compelling but silly game of who’s best, I would be influenced by what I saw last. Fritz Lang’s M would certainly  put him first among the firsts.”

Mamoun has written a review entitled  ‘Beauty and the Beast’ for The Times Higher Education Supplement of Patrick McGilligan’s biography of Fritz Lang, The Nature of the Beast:

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by | August 2, 2014 · 12:43 pm

Some of the Palestinians

I landed in Beirut with my wife and young family on 19 April 1974 to take up my appointment as Head of Films Branch, UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees). A leftist leader had been assassinated in South Lebanon the previous day and that event is regarded  as the start  of the civil war. A few days later I drove down to Nabatieh Palestinian refugee camp in South Lebanon to film the consequence of Israeli bombing. The camp had been obliterated. A few days later I filmed the effect of bombing in Rashidieh, a camp further down the coast near Tyre.

The brief was to document the services – Housing, Education, Health, Rations – that UNRWA offered the Palestinian refugees.  My immediate boss and chief of the AV division was the legendary Myrtle Winter Chaumeny (writer, photographer, sailor, dancer); the director of Information was John Defrates, the bravest man I have ever met, who was a Navy pilot in the icy waters near Vladivostock during WWll. I was given a fairly free hand but editorial control rested with UNRWA. What I saw in South Lebanon and elsewhere gave me the form of the film: the experience of life in the camps in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan  – but not the West Bank because Israel refused me entry. Myrtle filmed that sequence.

So the story is about war in Lebanon; life in one the oldest camps near Aleppo established in 1948; work in Baqa’a in Jordan which accommodated thousands of fleeing refugees after the 1967 war;  and education in Ramallah.

Since then everything has changed for the worse for the Palestinian people. The locations for the film are now war zones or something very similar.  The tragedy continues.

Mamoun

The film was invited to the London Film Festival and Teheran Film Festival. A copy is held by The National Film Archive.

Some of the Palestinians is being shown as part of the Refugee season at the BFI South Bank, London. NFT 2, 19th June 2014. Tickets from the BFI ticket office and website.

We would like to give special thanks to David Somerset of BFI education for his support, and including this film in the season.

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Introduction to Antonioni’s ‘L’Eclisse’

Dominic Power, Head of Screen Arts at the National Film and Television School, invited me to provide an introduction to Antonioni’s L’Eclisse on 3rd March as  part of NFTS/NFT’s Passport to Cinema.

I would like to thank David Somerset of the BFI for making the record of the event, and for his continued support.

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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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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 – http://www.bfi.org.uk.

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

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