contradictions: film screenings & workshops
- When: November to January – see specific dates and times below
- Where: Nonstop Institute
- Cost: Pay-as-you-can
- This international series features 5 provocative, acclaimed, and rarely screened films produced from 1959-2006. Films by Italian Gillo Pontecorvo, American Jonathan Demme, and Nick Read (BBC, UK) are informed by the anti-colonial struggles of the 1960s—Algeria, and the 19th century Caribbean as an allegory for Vietnam; the de-humanization of prison—a WW2 concentration camp and the New Orleans Parish Prison during Katrina; and an independent radio station through decades of political strife in Haiti. The series includes both narrative and documentary genres and most of these projects represent radical departures from conventional filmmaking in chronicling revolution and contemporary social crises. The films in this series will be presented by Bob Devine and Chris Hill, who are media scholars, educators, and independent producers. Background materials about the films will be provided, and audiences are encouraged to participate in discussions following the films. People are welcome to attend any individual screenings or the entire series.
The Battle of Algiers (1965, 121 min) by Gillo Pontecorvo – Tuesday, November 16 @ 7pm
- This narrative, shot in the style of a newsreel, inspired by Italian neo-realism, and produced with mostly non-professional actors, was written by Gillo Pontecorvo, Franco Solinas (State of Seige), and FLN fighter Saadi Yacef (who also plays a fictionalized version of himself in the film) and chronicles a major battle in the Algerian war for independence, only a few years after it occurred. This film focuses less on the violence than the fundamental characteristics of urban revolutionary warfare and organization. Literary critic Edward Said has said that Pontecorvo’s Battle of Algiers and Queimada!/Burn! were “the two greatest political films ever made.”
Queimada!/Burn! (1969, 112 min) by Gillo Pontecorvo – Tuesday, November 30 @ 7pm
- Made during the war in Vietnam, Queimada!/Burn! was intended as an allegory of that war, restaged in the 19th century on a Portuguese-controlled Caribbean island. In Burn! Pontecorvo also employed many non-professional actors, including Evaristo Marquez, a slave who becomes a revolutionary leader, together with Marlon Brando as an agent provocateur, who arrives first in the employment of the British crown and returns 10 years later as a military strategist for a British sugar company. Brando’s character, a student of history, clinically notes: “Very often between one historical period and another, ten years suddenly might be enough to reveal the contradictions of a whole century.” Brando apparently has remarked that he was most proud of his work in Burn!
Kapo (1959, 117 min) by Gillo Pontecorvo – Tuesday, December 7 @ 7pm
- In this film about survival in a Nazi concentration camp, Pontecorvo focuses on “kapos,” those prisoners who, as wardens, had the role of keeping their fellow prisoners in order, thereby saving their own lives. Susan Strasberg received international awards for her lead role as a young Jewish woman in this film, described as “a philosophical examination of the impossible choice between survival and dehumanization on the one hand, and altruism and self-sacrifice on the other.” The film is notable for being one of the earliest post-war to depict life inside the camps. Pontecorvo, an Italian Jew, joined the Italian Communist Party in 1941, and was a leader of the underground Resistance in Milan from 1943-45.
The Agronomist (2003, 91 min) by Jonathan Demme – Thursday, January 6 @ 7pm
- This riveting documentary profiles the life of radio journalist and human rights activist Jean Dominique, who established Haiti’s first independent radio station, Radio Haiti-Inter, with his wife, journalist Michele Montas, and managed its survival during multiple regimes. Frequently disagreeing with his country’s repressive governments, Dominique, originally trained as an agronomist, spent time in the 80s and early 90s in exile in New York, where Demme first interviewed him in 1986. Dominique is a stunning, engaging interviewee, and the film weaves historical footage with a decade of interview material on the critical nature of independent media along with the shifting political situation in Haiti. Dominique, a national hero, was assassinated in 2000.
Prisoners of Katrina (2006, 60 min) by Nick Read – Thursday, January 13 @ 7pm
- This BBC documentary investigates a story largely untold to American audiences—the conditions faced by almost 7000 prisoners in the New Orleans Parish Prison during Katrina, who had no food, water, light, or power for days, followed by an extended detention crisis where many were “lost” to public record. As the water rose in the prison some inmates were able to eventually knock cell doors off hinges while others died. Guards and their families were isolated by the flooding as well. Following the hurricane and the flooding, prisoners were moved to other facilities in Louisiana and nearby states, records and forensic evidence were lost, and inadequate legal resources were engaged to manage the chaos, triggering human rights investigations. This documentary was made one year post-Katrina, and calls attention to both the devastation of Katrina and the crisis around incarceration in the U.S.