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.
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.
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!
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 Wife, which 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).
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.
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!
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.