Tag Archives: BFI

Considering ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ – live at the BFI Southbank

‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ (Dir. Lewis Milestone 1930 – based on the novel of the same name by Erich Maria Remarque) was shown during a season curated by Christopher Nolan to celebrate the release of his new film ‘Dunkirk’, as a film that is a major influence on his work.

Chaired by David Somerset, Kevin Brownlow and Mamoun Hassan discussed the film before a live audience following its screening at the National Film Theatre, BFI Southbank, 6 July 2017.

Kevin Brownlow is the acknowledged authority on the films and history of silent cinema. His first book, ‘The Parade’s Gone by…’ (1963), was transformative in our understanding and appreciation of that era. Satyajit Ray called it ‘one of the most important film books of our time’. Brownlow is the author of many outstanding books and documentaries, and, with Andrew Mollo, he wrote and directed two of Britain’s most controversial political films: ‘It Happened Here’ and ‘Winstanley’. In 2010 Brownlow was awarded an honorary Oscar – ‘For the wisdom and devoted chronicling of the cinema parade’.

Mamoun Hassan is a producer, director, screenwriter, film executive, teacher and deviser of C4’s innovative ‘Movie Masterclass’ series. Most recently he was co-writer on Andres Wood’s ‘Machuca’, Chile’s most successful film, and screenwriter on Andres Wood’s ‘La Buena Vida’, a winner of the coveted Goya Award.

This event took place through the determination, commitment and passion of David Somerset at the BFI.

The recording of the event was marred by the failure of the close up camera.

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Mamoun’s introduction to Werner Herzog’s ‘The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser’

Mamoun introduced The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser on Monday 2nd November at the BFI Southbank in NFT2. It was a very different experience from other introductions and to that end, we have produced a different kind of re-presentation to enhance the experience.

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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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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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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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We’re on a journey to Italy: two Italian films at the BFI

Join me in March at the National Film Theatre, London to see two outstanding Italian films which knock the stuffing out of most of modern cinema.

Introduction

leclisse

L’Eclisse
3 March 2014: 18.10
National Film Theatre, BFI Southbank London:
Passport to Cinema Programme

Dominic Power, Head of Screen Arts at the National Film and Television School, has invited me to provide an introduction to Antonioni’s L’Eclisse as  part of NFTS/NFT’s Passport to Cinema.  The film is often seen as part of a trilogy of L’Avventura (which won a Special Prize at the Cannes 1960 ‘For a new movie language and the beauty of its images‘); followed by La Notte(1961) and culminating in L’Eclisse (1962). All three starred Monica Vitti, who was Antonioni’s inspiration, muse and, for a while, his companion.  These films are more than fifty years old  so qualify as antiques. But apart from the cars and clothes (fashion photography cannibalised L’Avventura and unconsciously feeds off it still) the films feel mint new.

rome

Masterclass

ROME OPEN CITY
8 March 2014 13.00 – 17.00 (with breaks)
The Studio, National Film Theatre
BFI,  Southbank London

I am pleased to be invited by David Somerset, BFI Education Programmer/ Curator to hold a  masterclass on Rossellini’s ROME OPEN CITY .

A towering work which heralded Italian Neorealism. After nearly seventy years, Neorealism still inspires filmmakers. It is a strong seed that continues to find suitable soil somewhere in the world.

Tickets for both shows are available online from the BFI.

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