“Film and revolution, or film and arts, or politics and arts are inseparable,” said Japanese director Masao Adachi in an interview in 2006. The program for the Cinema of Protest section at the 17th International T-Mobile New Horizons International Film Festival will feature films by Adachi, one of the world's most radical artists. At a time when we are witnessing a sharp turn toward nationalism and quiet anti-liberal revolts (Brexit), accompanied by a wave of some of the largest demonstrations seen in years—Polish and American women’s marches, anti-government demonstrations in Bucharest, pro-refugee assemblies in Barcelona, just to name a few—we would like to take a look at the connections between cinema and politics, cinema and terror, cinema and protest, to ask the question about what the revolutionary potential of the film medium really is and at what point the camera in fact becomes a tool in the struggle.
Today, 77-year-old Masao Adachi associates the word “Action!” with a partisan call to action, which is something he told Philippe Grandrieuxin his biopic It May Be That Beauty Has Strengthened Our Resolve: Masao Adachi (Il se peut que la beauté ait renforcé notre résolution - Masao Adachi, 2011). In the 1970s, Adachi abandoned his camera for more than three decades so as to, as a member of the Japanese Red Army—declared in its day to be one of the world’s most dangerous terrorist groups—join the armed struggle on the side of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Adachi provides an account of his film and political revolutions in his 2006 film Prisoner/Terrorist (Yûheisha - Terorisuto), whose protagonist is a terrorist named Kozo Okamoto, who was responsible, among other things, for the Tel Aviv airport massacre in 1972.
Cinema can, however, also protest in many other ways, such as by rejecting commercial compromises in favor of the integrity of one’s artistic vision. That is the case with the wonderful, poetic, 285-minute-long Fighting Through the Night (Combat au bout de la nuit, 2017) by Sylvain L'Espérance, which premiered at the last Berlinale.The subject of the film is the political awakening of crisis-stricken Greece. This outstanding Canadian documentary filmmaker spent many many months observing those who refused to be pushed off the streets of Athens into economic and media oblivion: he filmed scenes involving cleaners from the Greek Ministry of Finance who were demanding the right to return to work being pushed up against a wall by police shields and a Roma town being demolished by bulldozers. He watched as self-organizing citizens brought aid to Athenians deprived of access to medical care and others who spent nights with the homeless and refugees, making visible those from whom we continue to avert our gaze. This elegant and poetic Canadian film revives the spirit of film protest, recalling that, even in cinema, poetry is sometimes the most radical and revolutionary medium.
A FIPRESCI winner at the last Berlinale, A Feeling Greater than Love (Shu'our akbar min el hob, 2017), directed by Mary Jirmanus Saba,deals, in turn, with a revolution from the past by excavating recollections of the bloodily suppressed strikes at Lebanese tobacco factories in the1970s. These events, which held the promise of a popular revolution and, with it, of women's emancipation—having brought together countless women activists—were pushed into collective oblivion by the civil war. Rich in archival footage, this young director’s film reconstructs the spirit of that revolt, which was also an opportunity for revolutionary cinema. “Full of [melancholy], it is yet full of hope, the longing for a better future. Documentary cinema at its best, this is exciting, thrilling, encouraging,” wrote the FIPRESCI jury in its justification.
The Cinema of Protest section will also turn its attention to film collectives, which prefer solidarity to the fetish of authorship. We look back at the recently restored Far from Vietnam (Loin du Vietnam, 1967),the work of seven different directors: Agnes Varda, Jean-Luc Godard, Chris Marker, Claude Lelouch, Alain Resnais, Joris Ivens, and William Klein. This is a film omnibus, featuring a multiplicity of artistic voices, that is at the same time a coherent anti-capitalist and anti-war statement from a time when cinematic engagement was a natural, spontaneous reaction to political and cultural upheavals. Is there a chance that our era can produce cinematic revolutions told in a new way and with a new language of film? This is also something we will discuss in August in Wrocław.
Malgorzata Sadowska, curator