Session #12: Screening of Tongpan (Euthana Mukdasanit, Surachai Janthimathorn, 1977) with introduction and discussion

Photo © 1977 Euthana Mukdasanit/Surachai Janthimathorn

Thursday 30 March 2017

Birkbeck Cinema,  43 Gordon Square, London, WC1H 0PD

3:30–5:30 | [Free event: Book here]

Tongpan will be introduced and discussed by May Adadol Ingawanij (Westminster), Graiwoot Chulphongsathorn (Queen Mary London)

An exemplary work of collective filmmaking, Tongpan is a re-staging of a seminar which took place in Isan, North East Thailand. The seminar was initiated to discuss the proposed construction of the Pa-Mong Dam along the Mekong river in 1975, two years after the Thai popular uprising in 1973. The seminar was attended by government officials, well known intellectuals such as Sulak Siwalak and Sane Jammarik, local farmers, students, and foreign experts, and it was held at Thammasat University, a space closely associated with leftist student activism. The footage of the re-staged seminar is interwoven with sequences of the daily life of Tongpan, a farmer whose land had been lost due to the construction of a previous hydroelectric dam. The film juxtaposes the event of the seminar with Tongpan being approached by students who try to convince him to tell his story and to join their struggle. Shot in 16mm with a largely non-professional cast, Tongpan fragments and disrupts our sense of realism to present the distance between the intelligentsia and the lives of the rural peasants. The film was created by a group known as the Isan Film Collective, whose student members had emerged from the mid-70s moment when leftist Thai counter cultural activists had inspired several uprisings and student activists continued to promote socialist ideals and support the pro-democracy movement.

“Filmed in the direct manner of the early Soviet silent cinema, the reconstruction of this simple incident has a quiet, unexpected force.”
(David Robinson, The Times)

Tongpan, Euthana Mukdasanit, Surachai Janthimathorn, Thailand 1977, 63 mins, ProRes, Thai with English subtitles.

With thanks to Euthana Mukdasanit, Paijong Laisakul, Pathompong Manakitsomboon, and the Thai Film Archive.

Session #11: Le Moulin, introduced by Luke Robinson

Photo © 2016 Huang Ya-Li

Wednesday 29 March 2017

Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Mall, London, SW1Y 5AH

8:30-11:30 | Cinema 1 | [Book here]

Le Moulin deals with the work of a group of Taiwanese and Japanese intellectuals and poets gathered around Le Moulin Poetry Society and the short-lived magazine Le Moulin [The Windmill] that they founded in 1933, when Taiwan was under Japanese colonial rule. Strongly influenced by the European avant-garde, and by surrealism, whose principles they followed and adapted, the group developed a refined and seemingly detached aesthetics that went against the prevalent literary social realism of the time, subtly defying the cultural and linguistic hegemony imposed by decades of Japanese rule. The film finds an equivalent to the group’s sensual aesthetics with its richly weaved tapestry of imagery and sounds, readings of texts, photography, calligraphy, music, excerpts of radio broadcasts, and beautiful re-enactments evoking the gestures, objects and voices related to Le Moulin. The film provides a fundamental contribution to understanding the importance of how transcultural intellectual exchanges and global modernism helped to shape counter-discourses under colonial rule in Taiwan in a period of emerging political awareness and dissension.

Le Moulin (Ri yao ri shih san pu zhe), Huang Ya-Li, Taiwan 2016, DCP, 162 mins, Japanese/Mandarin with English subtitles

With the support of Birkbeck Interdisciplinary Research in Media and Culture.

Session #10: Perfidious Albion, a programme curated by Catherine Grant and Sarah Wood

Photo © 1984 Derek Jarman

Wednesday 29 March

Birkbeck Cinema, 43 Gordon Square, London, WC1H 0PD

1:00–6:00 | [Book here]

What does it say about British identity that from as early as the 13th century foreign states have shared a single Anglophone slur to describe British double-dealings overseas? Perfidious Albion: the name for Britain when its government operates dishonourably, is treacherous, or betrays a promise.

The promise of British identity has been much discussed in the last twelve months. Two versions are in competition. Britain in the world, outward looking and open. Britain as an island nation, insular, self-interested, maybe closed. In the aftermath of the Brexit vote, as Britain floats off the coast of mainland Europe and dreams its future, this programme looks at how essay filmmakers have analysed the promise represented by modern Britain and estimated to what degree the country lives up to its perfidious reputation. Curated by Catherine Grant and Sarah Wood, it features two recent works by Wood, alongside works by Derek Jarman, Humphrey Jennings, Margaret Tait, Isaac Julien and the Sankofa Film and Video Collective, and Cordelia Swann.

In collaboration with the School of Media, Film and Music, University of Sussex


The Last of England, Derek Jarman, UK, 1984, 35mm, 87 mins


The Dim Little Island, Humphrey Jennings, UK 1949, 35mm, 10 mins

Colour Poems, Margaret Tait, UK 1974, DVD, 11 mins

Territories, Isaac Julien/Sankofa, UK 1985, 16mm, 25 mins TBC

Perfidia, Cordelia Swann, UK 2002, digital video, 13 mins

Boat People, Sarah Wood, UK 2016, digital video, 22 mins

Azure, Sarah Wood, UK 2017, digital video loop, 7 mins, text by Ali Smith.

The Last of England, Derek Jarman, UK 1984, 35mm, 87 mins

England in the future: a nightmarish journey through a dark landscape of totalitarianism and despair.

“In The Last of England, Derek Jarman’s memories, thoughts and fantasies are assembled in a collage of styles (quasi-documentary chronicle, home movies and video), to vent his fury at Thatcher’s England. The use of dream-like imagery, superimpositions and different colour hues express Jarman’s nostalgic yearning for the past, and the film has been compared to Humphrey Jennings’ poetic documentary Listen to Britain (1941), which hymned wartime Britain.” (Kamila Kuc, BFI Screenonline)

The Dim Little Island, Humphrey Jennings, UK 1949, 35mm, 10 mins

“Humphrey Jennings’s latest film is in effect an anthology of four meditations on the present state of England. These are contributed by an artist (Osbert Lancaster), a naturalist (James Fisher), an industrialist (John Ormston), and a composer (Vaughan Williams). “Ichabod, Ichabod”, Lancaster remarks in the opening sequence, “our glory is departed.” The little island is growing dim; looking at it we feel rather like the émigrés in Ford Madox Brown’s picture The Last of England, sad but resigned.” (Monthly Film Bulletin)

 Colour Poems, Margaret Tait, UK 1974, DVD, 11 mins

“Nine linked short films. Memory, chance observation, and the subsuming of one in the other. The titles within the film are: Numen of the BoughsOld BootsSpeed Bonny BoatLapping WaterInsenceAhaBrave New WorldThingsTerra Firma.” (Margaret Tait)

Territories, Isaac Julien/Sankofa, UK 1985, 16mm, 25 mins

“Sankofa’s Territories looks at the Notting Hill Carnival and the 1976 riots. Juxtaposing original footage with archival news reports, Isaac Julien films the carnival as a subversive site for resistance in Afro-Caribbean culture, in direct opposition to mainstream white British society and an increasingly hostile police patrol.” (Cinema Project)

Perfidia, Cordelia Swann, UK 2002, digital video, 13 mins

“A contemporary fable, set in the streets, parks, edifices and firmaments of Paddington and West London, about the day to day life of a woman named Perfidia and her neighbours. Featuring jet trails, a canary, a student, an archbishop, Marlene Dietrich, and the London Fire Brigade.” (Cordelia Swann)

“‘Perfidia’…is also the name of a woman with no particular faith or allegiance. As the soundtrack reminds us she is, like Marlene Dietrich in the film ‘Morocco’, a ‘suicide’, a ‘one way ticket’ who has stepped off the ship never to be seen again. In Swann’s film, she becomes an ‘itinerant and a tourist’, immersing herself in a kaleidoscope of London sights and sounds which manage to allude to a multitude of experiences and beliefs but adhere to none in particular.” (Sotiris Kyriacou, Luxonline)

Boat People, Sarah Wood, UK 2016, digital video, 22 mins

Homelessness is coming to be the destiny of the world’, suggested Martin Heidegger in 1946, in the immediate aftermath of the mass movement of people created by WWII. In 1946, this displacement was a shocking legacy. Sixty years on, with the escalating movement of people escaping conflict and environmental catastrophe across the world, has Heidegger’s prediction come true? Has displacement become the norm rather than the exception?

Boat People is an essay film that explores this question. Taking as its starting point the historic version of Britain as a seafaring nation the film counterpoints the surety of this assertion of identity with the contingency of movement. Boat People also questions the role the moving image itself plays in the representation of human movement and the migration of ideas. Just as the invention of the telescopic lens brought near and far together for the very first time, Boat People is about the way in the twenty-first century the near and far are mediated and transformed by the new ‘perception accelerator’, the digital image.

 Azure, Sarah Wood, UK 2017, digital video loop, 7 mins, text by Ali Smith.

Azure is the colour of the sky on a clear summer’s day. Azure is a colour that suggests openness, ease, possibility. Azure is the name of the card given to the people who arrive in Britain seeking asylum. This short essay film accompanies Boat People in a questioning of the meaning of hospitality.

Session #9: The Illinois Parables with filmmaker Deborah Stratman in conversation

Photo © 2016 Deborah Stratman

Tuesday 28 March 2017

Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Mall, London, SW1Y 5AH

6:30-8:30 | Cinema 1 | [Book here]

Filmmaker Deborah Stratman will be in conversation with critic and film essayist Kevin B. Lee.

Described by the artist as “a suite of Midwestern parables that question the historical role that belief has played in ideology and national identity”, The Illinois Parables proposes a critical and timely reflection on history and the landscape. Arranged into 11 chapters, spanning migratory settlements in 600CE to European colonisation and the political struggles of the 1960s, this exemplary essay film excavates fragmentary histories and collective memories of exodus, forced displacement and natural disaster. Stratman unearths the metaphysical themes of the American sense of self, to reveal the tangled, but rearticulated histories of the dispossessed buried deeper in the layers of the Midwestern soil. “A dense weave of found and original sights and sounds, […] at once an experimental documentary, a work of historical excavation and an insistently moral ideological critique” (Manohla Dargis).


The Illinois Parables, Deborah Stratman, USA 2016, 16mm, 60 mins

Session #8: About The Island, curated by George Clark

Photo © 2015 George Clark

Tuesday 28 March 2017

Birkbeck Cinema, 43 Gordon Square, London, WC1H 0PD

2:00-5:00 | [Free event: Book here]

Sea of Clouds / 雲海

George Clark, UK / Taiwan, 2016, 16mm film transferred to DCP, sound, colour, 16min, dialogue in Mandarin & English

The Pursuit of What Was/物的追尋

Ya-Li Huang, Taiwan, 2008, digital, sound, colour, 22 min

The Boat-Burning Festival / 王船的祭典

Chang Chao-Tang, Taiwan, 1979, 16mm transferred to video, sound, colour, 20 min

Spanning the Tropic of Cancer, the island of Taiwan is located south of Japan with the East China Sea to the north, the Philippine Sea to the east, the Luzon Strait directly to the south and the South China Sea to the southwest. The history of the island can be read in its complex landscapes. Filmed across central Taiwan Sea of Clouds / 雲海 approaches landscape as a contested terrain marked by changing histories of interpretation and occupation. The film is structured around an interview with contemporary artist Chen Chieh-jen. In order to describe the approach to his work, Chen recalls the tradition of using screenings as a means of covert political assembly during the Japanese colonial period. In bringing these materials together the film attempts to map the contours, slippages and broader resonances within the mountain landscapes in order to find ways into the complex history of labour, colonisation and cinema in Taiwan.

For this screening artist George Clark will present and discuss his film as part of his broader research into Taiwanese politics and moving image culture. The illustrated talk will range from the Japanese colonial period to the avant-garde journal Theatre Quarterly and the work of artists such as Chen Chieh-jen and Kao Chung-li, ethnographer Hu Tai-Li and independent filmmaker Huang Ming-chuan.

The talk will include rare screening of Chang Chao-Tang’s The Boat-Burning Festival / 王船的祭典 (1979) and conclude with the film The Pursuit of What Was / 物的追尋 (2008) by Ya-Li Huang (director of Le Moulin). Ya-Li Huang will join George Clark and take part in a discussion on cinema in Taiwan chaired by researcher and curator Julian Ross.

George Clark is an artist and curator from the UK. His solo exhibition A Planter’s Art featured new film works and garden installation at Soulangh Cultural Park, Tainan, June-July 2016. Recent works include his feature film A Distant Echo which premiered in competition at Jihlava Film Festival 2016 and his short film Sea of Clouds / 雲海 (2016) made in Taiwan and structured around interview with the artist Chen Chieh-jen. Prior to this he collaborated with various artists including Luke Fowler and Beatrice Gibson. His curatorial projects have focused on expanding the histories of film and video practice globally. Through his work at Tate Modern (2013-2015), and in independent projects, he has explored histories of expanded cinema, ethnographic film and artists film across the Asia Pacific region and curated retrospectives of Ute Aurand, Julian Dashper, Lav Diaz, Camille Henrot, Luis Ospina, Chick Strand and thematic surveys of the L.A. Rebellion and Japanese Expanded Cinema among other projects.

Julian Ross is a Leverhulme postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Westminster. He holds a PhD on 1960-70s Japanese expanded cinema at the University of Leeds, which has led to curatorial projects at Tate Modern, Eye Film Institute, BFI, Art Institute Chicago and BOZAR. He is a Programmer at International Film Festival Rotterdam.

Huang Ya-Li is an independent filmmaker in Taiwan, who is interested in the linkage between and extension of images and sounds. In recent years, he has been involved in documentaries concerning Taiwan during these Japanese colonial period, hoping to explore the possibility of interpreting reality in the form of documentaries through historical research and examination, and to reflect on the relationship between Taiwan, Asia, and the world. His experimental works include The Unnamed (2010) and The Pursuit of What Was (2008). Le Moulin (2015) is his first feature film.