Tag Archive | Trauma film screenings

A Successful Screening

A quick post to say thank you to everyone who came along to Friday’s screening of The Officer’s Wife. It was great to see so many people (over 100 we think) in the theatre, and the Q&A afterwards showed how enthusiastic the audience were about both Piotr Uzarowicz’s film and the work of the Kresy-Siberia organisation. All in all it was an educational, moving, and rewarding evening.

The audience had plenty of comments and questions

Some people present had experienced directly the privations and the horror of Siberian deportation. Others, of varying age, nationality and background, were there to learn about a largely overlooked (and deliberately suppressed) part of history which the film explores skillfully and without bias, despite the deeply personal motivations of the director. Interviews with survivors, historians and activists are combined to great effect with voice-over narration, animation, and an evocative soundtrack by Oscar-winning composer Jan Kaczmarek, so impressed with The Officer’s Wife that he agreed on first viewing to provide an original score.

The film’s director outside Manchester Lecture Theatre

Hopefully Trauma film screenings will host similarly worthwhile events in the future. Tomorrow This evening a new season – hosted by Merlyn Taylor – starts. Coincidentally enough it will explore animated films which deal with stories of war and conflict, including Persepolis by Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi, and Studio Ghibli’s Grave of the Fireflies. Hope to see you there!

A still from Grave of the Fireflies

The Officer’s Wife

Last week I was contacted by Eva Szegidewicz of the Kresy-Siberia Group Foundation, a charitable organisation devoted to inspiring, promoting and supporting “research, remembrance and recognition of Polish citizens’ struggles in the Eastern Borderlands of Poland (the Kresy) and in Exile during World War 2”. The foundation was looking for a venue to screen an award-winning documentary titled The Officer’s Wifewhich examines the Katyn Forest Massacre of 1940 and its legacy. Around 22,000 Poles were murdered by NKVD agents at Katyn following the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939 and the crime was subsequently denied and covered-up (both by Stalin and by his newfound Allied partners in London and Washington, who were aware of Russian culpability but who needed their support in order to defeat the Nazis).

The Officer’s Wife explores individual and collective traumas.

TRAUMA (the film group I help run at MMU) is more than happy to host and raise awareness of this important film which is due to be shown at venues around the UK throughout September. For those of you reading this blog that live in the area, the screening will take place on Friday 21st September at 6pm in the Manchester Lecture Theatre. Everybody is welcome and entry is free. It is hoped now confirmed that we will have a Q&A session with Producer/Director Piotr Uzarowicz afterwards. New Manchester Polish Consul Łukasz Lutostański will also attend and give a short introduction.

If you want to know more about the history and people of Kresy-Siberia, the Kresy-Siberia Virtual Museum is a fantastic example of how collective efforts and internet technologies can be combined to support, educate and preserve documents, archives and memories which might otherwise be lost, forgotten, or disassembled.

The Life Traumatic…

Next week I will be introducing Le Serpent, the last film of my second TRAUMA season (a collection of modern French crime movies – aka, Policiers or Polars). So far the season has had a good reaction from everyone who’s made it along and I always enjoy putting my presentations together to introduce and contextualise what we’re going to watch (although admittedly I now know more about the life and crimes of Jacques Mesrine than I ever intended)! Still, for some reason we are finding it hard to tempt new people along to our free Monday night film club/group/society [delete as preferred] at the moment. This is truly a bit of mystery – at the same time as attendance has dropped, the lovely TRAUMA brochures that Ben W. and MMU Print Services kindly produce for us have been going like hotcakes! We can only conclude that their graphics are so beautiful, people are hoarding them away like rare and precious works of art.

Some people wonder if TRAUMA is just for academics, or if you have to be a part of MMU to come along. The answer to both of these questions is “no”. Anyone can come drop by and there are no conditions for attendance other than a love of off-the-beaten-track cinema. You don’t need to be an expert in film studies, and you don’t need to be able to cite theorists and critics. But we do enjoy a lively informal discussion at the Sandbar after every screening – where we also get a 10 per cent discount at the bar and a free pizza. What could be better? 😀

Seasons coming up offer something for (almost) every taste. Featured films include: Night of the Hunter (1955), starring the inimitable Robert Mitchum; Kung Fu classic The Street Fighter (1974), Jean-Luc Godard’s Vivre Sa Vie (1963), with the wonderfully expressive Anna Karina, and Sidney Lumet’s masterfully acerbic satire of the U.S media industry, Network (1976). Ana Miller, Sean Cleary, Dom Harbot and Tony Boffey will be treating us to some illuminating presentations about those. Hopefully over the coming months we’ll get a chance to meet some of the fans of our brochures… 😉

Long Live City Culture

I don’t think I’ve ever seen as many films in such a short space of time as I have since arriving in Manchester – and that probably includes four years spent as an Undergrad at the University of Glasgow! Actually, my whole time here so far has marked something of a “cultural revival”. Just this weekend I went to see Steve McQueen’s “Shame” – a complex and difficult film which manages to be aesthetically cold and narratively detached at the same time as arousing deep sympathies for its two troubled lead characters; and then to a small exhibition of photographs by Kevin Cummins, in a little Northern Quarter gallery not far from me. The works on display were mostly of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis, another troubled soul who died (by his own hand) at just 23 years old. There were also pictures of Curtis’s personal notebooks, his Vox Phantom – and a few of desolate 1980s Manchester roadways and streets. This was a striking reminder of how much regeneration work has gone on in UK cities in the decades since Joy Division were hanging around. Revealing in a different way was the fact that although each Cummins print was identically and expensively priced (£995 if you’re curious), the photographer has insisted that the dense, glossy hardcover book accompanying the exhibition be sold at only £25 a copy. Maybe that still seems a lot but this is a volume that would usually retail at say, £50, with a gorgeous design by a very hip Swedish studio. So at least fans and admirers are able to go home with something reasonable!

My first poster!

Provocative

Nightmarish

Back in the world of cinema, and I can report with great excitement that all the posters for this Term’s TRAUMA screenings are now “in the press”. My first ever season is all about Scottish cinema, but I must say that the last season – Impaired Cinema, presented by Tony Boffey – is going to be a tough act to follow! Still, I’ll try my best – and a little Whisky in advance of introducing the films to the audience seems only fitting, right? 😉 One of my new jobs is putting the Trauma posters up on various walls around the University and (of course) in our favourite post-screening pub, the Sandbar. Would you believe that the MMU Vice Chancellor has apparently taken an intense dislike to the putting up of “unofficial” and “untidy” posters? This makes finding places to position the very beautiful A3 sheets (designed by resident Graphics Guru, Ben Wissett) tricky. I wonder if in future the sense of a vibrant, colourful, culture-dominated University and city centre so prevalent in Manchester will be replaced by a sterile and polished pseudo-corporate environment where only adverts for “student experience surveys” and private sector recruitment fairs are granted visibility on campus?

At the moment, you often find yourself walking past multiple hoardings around the perimeters of city centre building sites. These are covered in quotes from famous Mancunians and are all about the city and what it means to them. Much of this council-approved street art comes from musicians, including Noel Gallagher and Ian Brown. But right now, I think this quote from a former Manchester University lecturer and one of the 20th century’s most “brilliant historians” is pretty appropriate:

Manchester has everything but good looks…, the only place in England which escapes our characteristic vice of snobbery.” – AJP Taylor.

A Few Wee Films

I am becoming a bit of a regular at Monday night’s Trauma film screenings, as well as at their post-screening pub sessions. This means that the Trauma team have very kindly agreed to let me put on a little film season as part of next year’s line-up. 🙂 At the very moment of leaving my country of origin I’ve noticed myself starting to feel ultra-patriotic about it. So, in recognition of that, I have decided to introduce the locals to 3 excellent Scottish movies (two of which are set in Glasgow) that they might not have seen. Below is a sneak preview of what I’ve written for the always enticing and soon to be in-press Trauma promo material.

Scotland on Screen: Against the Odds
Nowhere is Scotland’s masterful combination of politics, poetry, pathos and humour more apparent than in its varied — and often low-budget — film productions. A keen eye for the ironies (and the comedies) of injustice gives the nation’s cinema a particularly strong and always relevant modern identity. Even when situations and characters seem rooted in particularly “Scottish” cultural perspectives the appearance of parochialism is generally deceptive. A distinctly realist approach is typical – but so too are moments of the dream-like and the absurd. At its best, Scotland’s cinema is a provocative and lively cinema of truth: with tradition, history, and myth never far from shot.

Local Hero, with a cast of familiar Scottish faces and featuring Hollywood legend Burt Lancaster, shows how small town folk and corporate giants alike lose all sense of proportion when it comes to matters of money. With just the right lightness of touch, director Bill Forsyth keeps the audience laughing out loud with an array of wittily observed and wonderfully acted characters.

Just North of England...

Lynne Ramsay’s Ratcatcher is a truly incredible film that quietly insists on drawing you in. Set during the 1975 binmen’s strike, we are offered a haunting, beautifully composed, and deeply lyrical account of how one 12-year old boy perceives the squalor, the tragedies, and the little glimmers of hope that fill his environment alongside the rats and the growing heaps of rubbish.

Poetry from tragedy

Peter Mullan’s NEDS, a bold take on familiar themes of masculinity, class, violence, and Catholicism, is also set in 70s Glasgow. 16-year old John is conflicted over how best to make use of his intelligence, moving swiftly and angrily from academic success and educational aspiration to the destructive spiral of gang life. With a young handpicked cast of local ‘non-actors’, there is nothing amateurish about this gritty and semi-autobiographical tale that lifts itself above cliché.

Lynne Ramsay’s We Need to Talk about Kevin, based on Lionel Shriver’s novel, was just released last month. Hopefully that means people will be curious to see, or re-see her astonishing debut, Ratcatcher. I was barely born when Local Hero was released (in 1983) so for me, seeing it on the big-screen will be good fun. What do you think? Any comments on the film choices – or my text – welcome! Wouldn’t any of these be a good way to spend a cold Winter Monday? I’ve added a few screenshots which I’m pretty sure come under “fair use policy“.

Play and Work

Many of my posts so far have been non-academic (i.e. not about the PhD research which this blog intends to document). What can I say? It’s not that I’m unsure about my “communicative purpose”. The blog is intended to offer a representative mixture of the different pieces that currently make up my life: all of which relate back to arriving at MMU to start my studies. Work hasn’t been too intensive so far. It might be interesting to observe over time how the categories and tags I use on the blog become narrower and more focused.  Hopefully it will be a fairly reliable mirror of what has been keeping me busy.

Yesterday was the first day of official faculty induction activities. There was only a small group of us: two M.A. Film Studies students and four of us starting PhDs (two in English Literature, one in Philosophy, and myself, in InfoComms). Dick Hartley, Director of the Institute, asked us all to introduce ourselves and our work. Every topic sounded great. Being in the same department as the Literature, Language, Media, and Philosophy students feels like exactly the right fit. The complementary range of subjects, students, and approaches that can be found in the Information & Communications Department and more widely in the HLSS faculty is for me, ideal. My project will of course take me to other areas (including Science) to keep my work inclusive and to allow us to study and map cultural and other differences. Anyway, it was encouraging that my topic seemed to interest people!

Yesterday was also a chance to go along to one of the weekly “Trauma” film group screenings. This time it was the cult classic “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” by Russ Meyer (which doesn’t in fact have much to do with Jacqueline Susann’s always popular “Valley of the Dolls“). Not my usual sort of film, but that’s part of what made it interesting to go along: the Trauma group’s idea was obviously to attract attention and create a bit of a buzz. I doubt that the film (a silly comedy at heart) is meant to be taken seriously, although its tongue in cheek “critique” or deconstruction of the clichés and stereotypes of swinging Hollywood has probably been written about well by those who know the genre better than me. After the screening, it was time to go to the Sandbar to discuss what we thought of the film – and drink too much beer for a Monday night. The programme for the next few months’ screenings is eclectic and broad; so going again could be fun.

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Maybe you’re wondering why I’ve not yet reviewed The Yang Sing restaurant, where I went last weekend with my Mum? Here goes. The room, the lighting, the staff, and the food, were wonderful. To be honest though, I’m not sure I made the best selections from their menu! It would be good to have an advisor on how real Cantonese cuisine differs from what we might be able to get in supermarkets. The Chinese greens were delicious but the oyster sauce they arrived in didn’t bear much relation to what I expected. That’s my own fault I guess: but it was far too heavy and jelly-like, detracting from the vegetables rather than adding to them. Anyway, the desert I ordered made me smile. I’m guessing they really only expect kids to bother with something sweet after the meal…(see the picture above).

Other highlights of the weekend included a trip to the Manchester Art Gallery to see “Ford Madox Brown: pre-Raphaelite Pioneer” where we got to take a close-up look at “The Last of England“, “Head of a Girl”, “Work”, “Take your Son, Sir”, and various other pieces, many on loan from the Tate. The audio guide by Julian Treuherz (formerly Keeper of Art Galleries at National Museums Liverpool), which included some original poetry by Angela Thirlwell, shed contextual and creative light on the exhibits.

After many rejections, Madox Brown finally won a commission in 1879 to create murals for Manchester Town Hall, narrating through his images the history of commerce and in particular textiles and weaving, in the city. Maybe it was appropriate then that we also wandered down in the rain towards Salford and visited The People’s History Museum. For me, it was a bigger and brighter version of Glasgow’s “People’s Palace” – a place to learn about the social and political struggles of the “ordinary” people of Manchester throughout the past few centuries. What stood out most was the temporary exhibition of protest banners designed and made by Ed Hall. I’ve included a few pictures here. Powerful, provocative, sometimes serious and at times, with a touch of humour. Banners like these must definitely be a dying art: a shame since clearly they are quite a bit more memorable than a hastily thrown together cardboard-wood-and-marker pen placard. Anyone who wants a banner like one of Hall’s at their march must be serious about their cause.