Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Films and History

by Kathryn Hadley

The BFI Southbank's Cinema and the Spanish Civil War film season begins today with screenings of The Spanish Earth, a film written and narrated by Ernest Hemingway showing people's daily lives in their struggle to survive, and Espana 1936, a propaganda film depicting the resistance of the Republic and the involvment of the International Brigades, which the Republic's Ministry of Foreign Affairs entrusted to Luis Bunuel. Seventy years after the events, the film season explores the Spanish Civil War in film cultures as diverse as Hollywood, the USSR, Spain, France, the UK and East Germany, offering different views of the period and its consequences. The season runs until the end of June featuring both documentaries and films that address the war directly, as well as others that use it as a backdrop to their storylines. Films span over 70 years, from 1936 to 2008, and also include a selection of Noticiarios Documentales or News and Documentaries, cinema propaganda newsreels that were broadcast by Franco’s regime to update the population about the latest official truths.

On Thursday, the 11th edition of the annual Mosaïques Festival will also open at the Institut français. The festival is designed to celebrate cultural diversity and will feature screenings of films from across the world, music and live events. Although events primarily address contemporary issues across the world as diverse as poverty in the Parisian suburbs, the effects of the 2004 Tsunami in Thailand or street life in Casablanca, the film festival features two films which address French colonial history in Algeria and Indochina.

The Sea Wall (Un Barrage contre le Pacifique)
June 13th, 7.30pm
Isabelle Huppert stars in this adaptation of Marguerite Duras' 1950 novel as the widowed matriarch of a small land-owning family in 1930s French Indochina who eke out a living from rice fields located perilously close to the ocean. Deceived by the colonial administration, she has invested all of her savings in worthless, regularly flooded farmland. Driven to fight against both nature and the corrupt bureaucrats who conned her and threaten expropriation, and refusing to accept the triumphant injustice of the system, she devises an imaginative scheme to build a dam against the sea with the help of the villagers.

June 16th, 6pm
Set during Algeria's civil war of the early 90s, the film tells the story of doctor Amel whose journalist husband is abducted by fundamentalists. Following his abduction she heads for the hills to find him accompanied by Khadija, a nurse who once fought for Algerian independence against the French. Despite their massive differences in outlook, politics and breadth of experience, the two women forge a bond of mutual affection and respect, and, over the course of the search, arrive at a deeper understanding of how their lives have been shaped by their country's history.

Cinema and the Spanish Civil War
June 9th – 30th
BFI Southbank
Belvedere Road, South Bank
London SE1 8XT
Telephone: 020 7633 0274

Mosaïques Festival
June 11th – 18th
Institut français

17 Queensberry Place
London SW7 2DT
Telephone: 020 7073 1350


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