Pontecorvo Double Feature!

Anti-Bourgeois Film Festival
9th Anniversary Double Feature

Pontecorvo Night @ The People’s Forum

Presented by The Left Academy & The Marxist Education Project

5:30 pm
The Battle of Algiers
1965, 100 minutes

The celebrated, newsreel-like film, shot in Algiers in black and white details the national war for independence as fought in Algiers against the occupying French forces. Director Gillo Pontecorvo and writer Franco Solinas created several protagonists in their screenplay, who are based on historical war figures. The story begins and ends from the perspective of Ali la Pointe (Brahim Haggiag), a petty criminal who is politically radicalized while in prison. He is recruited by FLN commander El-hadi Jafar. This character is played by Saadi Yacef, who was a veteran FLN commander.

7:45 pm
Presentation and discussion of significance of Pontecorvo’s two great films during his time and ours

8:30 pm
Quemada (Burn!)
1969, 108 minutes

A film of revolt set in the Caribbean, could be any of the colonized islands. Marlon Brando plays a British agent who advises Jose Dolores as leader of a slave revolt, to advance English colonial interests. In 1848, revolutionary Jose Dolores, disgusted by the white government’s collaboration with British interests–leads a second uprising, jeopardizing the Antilles Royal Sugar Company. After six years of the uprising, in 1854, the company brings Walker (the Brando character) back to Queimada with the consent of the British Admiralty, tasking him with suppressing the revolt and pacifying the island. Walker attempts to save Dolores’s life but the rebel leader rejects his assistance, asserting that freedom is earned, not received.

Soundtracks to both films by Ennio Morricone

From an interview with Gillo Pontecorvo by Maria Esposito for the World Socialist Web Site
June, 2004

“…About three years ago the BBC defined my work as “the dictatorship of truth”. In my cinema, when faced with the choice of distancing oneself from reality or using an effect that might be used to win the popularity with the public, I always renounce these possibilities and stay close to reality.

ME: Is this why you decided to make The Battle of Algiers in documentary style?

GP: Yes.

Let me explain how much this love for reality, the reality that surrounds us, weighed on me. I only spent four days doing the screen tests for the actors in The Battle of Algiers, but a month looking for the right kind of photography that would best convey this sense of truth.

The difficulty was to find the right sort of look that would imitate grainy photography with strong contrasts, like those of the newsreels, and yet, because it had to be shown in the cinemas where people paid to see it, it had to retain a certain formal dignity, a formal beauty. It therefore took us a month to discover the technique required. The method that finally guided us was to take the original negative and make a copy of it and then re-photograph the copy.”

From a 1999 Gerald Peary interview with Pontecorvo

Cineaste: Could you talk about your brilliant casting in Burn!, using a non-actor as the West Indian guerilla leader, Jose Dolores, opposite Marlon Brando.

Pontecorvo: It was a fight! United Artists wanted me to use Sidney Poitier. I didn’t want to, though I like him as an actor, because his face wasn’t wild. Then I went looking to off-Broadway for black actors. I didn’t find the right one.

In Colombia, during a location scout, we were searching for a forest to burn. We drove very far into the wild in a jeep. Suddenly we saw this peasant man on a horse. This is the face I’d been looking for for four months. But instead of coming to me, he ran away! It was very hot, people around me were furious when I said, “Sorry, we have to find this man.” We asked the local chief to order the playing of a drum. All the people came out, including this man, Evaristo Marquez. He’d never seen a movie but he understood money. He said, “OK.”

I called Marlon on his island. He said, “If you believe he’s right, don’t worry about me.”

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The Chinese Revolution: 1930-1949

An 11-Week session with The Revolutions Study Group

Of 20th-century revolutions, the upheaval in China that culminated in the declaration in 1949 of the People’s Republic was arguably just as significant as the Russian Revolution of 1917. We begin with the Chinese Revolution in 1930, after the nationalist party led by Chiang Kai Shek turned on the mass movement, slaughtered militant workers and peasants, and declared war on Communists. The Communist Party regrouped in remote rural areas and reoriented its activity from urban industrial working class to organizing a peasant rebellion from these rural bases. This led to a prolonged civil war, interrupted by a Japanese invasion, which in turn became part of World War Two. After the war, the struggle between the armies of Chiang Kai Shek and the Communists resumed, ending with Chiang’s fleeing to Taiwan and the final victory of the Communist army in 1949. The primary reading will be Mark Selden: China in Revolution: The Yenan Way Revisited. Check marxedproject.org for updates to the reading list.

THE REVOLUTIONS STUDY GROUP (originally at the Brecht Forum) has been meeting since 2009. Individual participants have come and gone, however the group has held together, studying in depth a wide range of history including the French Revolution, the Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917, the Mau-Mau Revolt in Kenya, the Haitian Revolution, the European Revolutions of 1848, the May movement in France of 1968 and the Hot Autumn of Italy the following year, the Spanish Civil War, the Mexican Revolution, the Socialist (2nd) International, and Russian Social Democracy prior to World War I.

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African Literature: Colonialism, Liberation, Disillusionment

We will meet for nine more weeks
Thursdays, February 9 through April 6, 7:30 to 9:30 pm
Organized by Ibrahim Diallo of the Indigenous People’s History and Literature Group

Once you allow yourself to identify with the people in a story, then you might begin to see yourself in that story even if on the surface it’s far removed from your situation. … this is one great thing that literature can do – it can make us identify with situations and people far away. If it does that, it’s a miracle. –Chinua Achebe

With the reading of novels by Ousmane Sembene (Senegal), Tayeb Salih (Sudan), Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria) and Ngugu wa Thiong’o (Kenya), we examine four different areas of Africa as the peoples there emerge from European colonization. We witness the struggles of workers on strike before their full independence, anti-colonial resistance spanning from Mount Kenya to academic circles in London. As nations become independent we discover new and recycled forms of oppression, exploitation and war. In the midst of disillusionment, we see resolve and signs of what remains possible.

Les Bouts de Bois de Dieu (God’s Bits of Wood) considered to be Ousmane Sembene’s masterpiece, rivaled only by Xala. The novel fictionalizes the real-life story of a railroad strike on the Dakar-Niger line that lasted from 1947 to 1948. Though the charismatic and brilliant union spokesman, Ibrahima Bakayoko, is the most central figure, the novel has no true hero except the community itself, which bands together in the face of hardship and oppression to assert their rights.

Season of Migration to the North (Arabic: موسم الهجرة إلى الشمال ‎‎ Mawsim al-Hiǧra ilā ash-Shamāl) is a classic post-colonial Sudanese novel by the novelist Tayeb Salih. Salih was fluent in both English and Arabic, but significantly chose to write this novel in Arabic. The novel is a counter-narrative to Heart of Darkness. It was described by Edward Said as one of the 10 great novels in Arabic literature.

Petals of Blood by Ngugu wa Thiong’o The novel largely deals with the skepticism of change after Kenya’s liberation from the British Empire, questioning to what extent free Kenya merely emulates, and subsequently perpetuates, the oppression found during its time as a colony. Other themes include the challenging of capitalism, politics, and the effects of westernization.

Half of a Yellow Sun, a novel by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, tells the story of the Biafran War through the perspective of the characters Olanna, Ugwu, and Richard. The book jumps between events that took place during the early 1960s and the late 1960s, when the war took place, and extends until the end of the war.

Ibrahim Diallo was born in Guinea but has lived in Brooklyn, New York since his childhood. He has lived, worked, studied and/or travelled in nearly a dozen African countries. Ibrahim is one of the initiators of The Indigenous People’s History and Literature Group at The MEP.

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Day 3, Session 5—Devils & Dust: Resisting War in New York, the Pacific, & the Middle East

Panel presentation with discussion
Claude Copeland, Laurel Mei-Singh, Yuko Tonohira

Claude, Laurel and Yuko will survey the tremendous resistance to US and other capitalist occupations taking place in the Pacific, the Middle East and speak about the network of resistance that is developing in NYC.

Claude Copeland is active in community organizing in the Bronx and is a long-time member of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

Laurel Mei-Singh serves as a Postdoctoral Research Associate in American Studies at Princeton University. Her current research develops a genealogy of military fences and their relationship to Hawaiian struggles for national liberation and self-determination in Wai‘anae on the island of O‘ahu in Hawai‘i. She has worked with the Wai‘anae Environmental Justice Working Group, Hawai‘i Peace and Justice, and CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities.

Yuko Tonohira is a member of Sloths Against Nuclear State (SANS). She is a graphic designer and illustrator working in a wide range of fields in healthcare, book publications, music, and across environmental and social justice movements internationally.

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Re-Discovering Fanon: Preview to a work in progress

Re-Discovering Fanon: Preview to a work in progress
An evening with outtakes and director Rico Speight

Re-Discovering Fanon will make evident Fanon’s unrelenting hatred of racism and his uncompromising determination to set forth a dialectic of disalienation in order to bring about a new humanity. Using quotes from his writings, archival footage, still images, and interviews with scholars, colleagues and family members, the documentary will probe the question, “Who was Frantz Fanon?”

Rico Speight is an independent producer/director/writer of film and theatre; he is also a film and video editor and educator. His production credits include documentaries, narratives, television productions, web productions and live theatre. His documentary, Who’s Gonna Take the Weight?, the first installment of a two part series on the parallel lives of African American and Black South African young people was released in 1997; in 1999, that documentary screened at the 52nd Cannes International Film Festival. In 2007, Speight released a follow-up production titled, Where Are They Now?, that is a sequel to Who’s Gonna Take The Weight?

For Re-Discovering Fanon, Rico traveled to Martinique in 2005 and conducted extensive research for the documentary; in November of 2007 he began actual production in Martinique, interviewing members of Fanon’s family in Fort de France. He currently lectures on film production at Sarah Lawrence College and is a freelance television studio director for CUNY Television and NYU-TV in New York City.

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