Category Archives: Film matters

Memories of Memories

With Memories of Overdevelopment the young Cuba film-maker Miguel Coyula has made a remarkable sequel to one of the classic films of the Cuban Revolution, Memories of Underdevelopment by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea. Intriguingly, the new film, like the old, is based on a novel by the Cuban author Edmundo Desnoes—who settled in New York after quitting Cuba in 1979—which itself is a sequel to the first novel. Coyula himself is one of the new wave of independent Cuban film-makers, born in Havana in 1977, graduate of Cuba’s international film school in San Antonio de los Baños, who went to show his highly experimental digital shorts in New York in 1999, where he was offered an acting scholarship and stayed. This would seem to place him closer to Desnoes than Alea, who remained in Cuba where he died in 1996, but it’s still surprising: an avant garde film by a 33-year-old in collaboration with an eminance grise of 80.

Showing at Riverside Studios, Monday 22 Nov 2010


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Vertov remade

Michael Nyman’s Palimpsest of Man With A Movie Camera

In a new work called NYman With A Movie Camera, Michael Nyman has conducted a really interesting experiment by taking the music he wrote a few years ago for Vertov’s Man With A Movie Camera, and employing it again, this time for his own remake of Vertov’s original using his own visual archive as source material. Nyman’s archive largely consists of footage he has filmed himself since the early 90s in different parts of the world he has visited to give concerts. This produces the first difference between Vertov’s film and his own version. Where Vertov’s film is a utopian pre-Stalinist vision of the Communist city, Nyman’s becomes a dystopian vision of global post-communist capitalism. Continue reading

William Raban’s new London film

One of the themes running through the work of artist film-maker William Raban is the creation of a counter-image of London to the classic and generally stereotypical representations of the city we are all too used to. I’m thinking here of work like Thames Film of 1986 and Island Race ten years later. His new film, About Now MMX, premiered last month at the Tate Modern, is very much in this mould. Continue reading

Martí according to Pérez

Screening at the Barbican on September 25, 2010

For his new film on the Cuban national hero Martí, Fernando Pérez has returned to classical narrative after a run of offbeat movies, both fiction and documentary. In Martí, el ojo del canario (Martí: The Eye of the Canary), he reinvents the childhood and adolescence of Cuba’s nineteenth century national hero  José Martí,  covering the years he lived in Cuba before being sent into exile for political sedition at the age of seventeen.  Not a subject to be approached without care, since Martí is a figure, as Guiteras points out on La Joven Cuba, who is adored and put to use by contrary political tendencies to legitimise their own position. Continue reading

Screen Grabs, Fair Use, and the Digital Economy

There is continuing confusion about the use of frame grabs for illustrating books and articles about film. It’s a question I get asked regularly, and yesterday there was a query about it on a discussion list I subscribe to, which prompts this post. My understanding is this. Continue reading

Demise of Film Council

There is something very seriously rotten in the State when the Government can decide to abolish the Film Council to save £15m a year at the same time that the head of BP is said to be about to take a severance package of approaching the same amount. The disparity is all the more striking when you register that while BP is writing off more than £20 billion to pay for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the Film Council has been responsible for allocating a mere £160m of Lottery funding to more than 900 films which have entertained over 200 million people and helped to generate over £700 million at the box office worldwide, or almost £5 for every £1 of Lottery money thus invested. Continue reading

Rocha on DVD

Glauber Rocha’s Antônio das Mortes is surely one of the most astonishing films to come out of Brazil in the 1960s…

See my review of the new DVD release in Sight & Sound here

Music Documentaries

Back from ‘Sights and Sounds’, a small but stimulating and enjoyable conference on music documentary in Salford. Films about music and musicians have been a major strand of documentary since the 1960s, so it’s odd, especially given the huge predominance of music in popular culture, that they’ve escaped systematic study, even among documentary scholars. This was therefore a pioneering event, and a lot of ground was covered.

It’s a subject in which I have a special interest, since this is the field that I entered at the start of the 1970s with two films I made for BBC2. Continue reading

Release Osama Qashoo & the Gaza Flotilla activists


The figure in this grab from C4 news on Monday evening of the scene aboard the Mavi Marmara at the moment of the Israeli attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, is Osama Qashoo, an award-winning documentary film-maker, a Palestinian peace activist from the West Bank, and a member of the Free Gaza Movement. He arrived in England in 2003 as a political refugee, gained a place at the National Film School, and now holds British nationality. Continue reading

Three Stooges

The new ministers at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport:


Someone help us!