News #001 - "So last night I went to a thing, it was a film thing..."
Jan 15–22, 2020: this week's rep cinema news and more
Hello and welcome to Rep Cinema International. This is the first of a once- or perhaps twice-weekly news report on significant events and other assorted links or ephemera related to repertory cinema around the world. I’m starting with a research scope of around 150 venues, festivals or curatorial initiatives across 58 countries, and trying to slowly figure out how I’ll sort through them all. This is a first attempt! Thanks for subscribing and please share to those who you think this might interest.
This week’s repertory cinema highlights
CARNAVAL TOTAAL ! at Nova (Brussels)
“The wheel [of time] keeps turning but the revival needs to be punctuated by a ritual celebration: carnival. The traditions are certainly ancestral, but they live, they evolve and are constantly renewed.” Last week, Brussels’ Nova Cinema kicked off a massive two-month series on representations of carnival across a wide range of older and contemporary cinema, from classics like Black Orpheus (Marcel Camus, 1959, France/Brazil/Italy) and The Wicker Man (Robin Hardy, 1973, UK) to lesser-known documentary, ethnographic and experimental films. Presented in collaboration with La Société de Carnaval Sauvage de Bruxelles, the series also includes a panel discussion around blackface within the context of carnival.
Yennayer film celebration at Centre Algérien de la Cinématographie (Algeria)
Yennayer is the first month of the Berber Year, celebrated in Algeria on January 12. So Algerians have presumably been enjoying an exciting series of films this week presented by the Centre Algérien de la Cinématographie, which runs a series of 10 screening rooms around the country. While each of the cinemas runs a slightly different program, all of them will have shown three classic Algerian films by the wrap of the series: Machaho (Belkacem Hadjadj, 1995), La montagne de Baya (Azzeddine Meddour, 1997) and Fadhma N’Soumer (Belkacem Hadjadj, 2014).
Araya at Planeta (Vilnius)
An exciting new venue opened last month in Lithuania. Planeta: film & media space is the new space run by Meno Avilys, and you can read about their new initiative alongside some great photos in this article. Their series Slow Screenings continues with a screening of Margot Benecerraf’s Araya (1959, Venezuela), a classic of Latin American cinema. The film will be introduced by critic Ela Bittencourt, and Planeta’s series is “dedicated to female directors from various corners of the world who were making films from 1960 to 1990,” including films by Safi Faye, Ula Stöckl, Trinh T. Minh-Ha and more.
Carmiña, Flower of Galicia at CGAI (A Coruña, Spain)
Seemingly reprising a cycle on the Italian silent film director Rino Lupo, who made films in several countries, CGAI presents a 35mm screening of Carmiña, flor de Galicia (1926, Spain)… in Galicia. The series, which mostly took place last fall, was presented in collaboration with the Cinemateca Portuguesa, who have released two of the films on DVD.
Carte blanche à la cinémathèque tunisienne at Institut Jean Vigo (Perpignan, France)
Turning over a selection of four programs to Hichem Ben Ammar, director of the Cinematheque Tunisienne, the Institut Jean Vigo screens a (newly-digitized?) version of the exceptionally-rare short La Chaîne d’or (The Golden Chain, Rene Vautier & Mustapha Farsi, 1956), Ben Ammar’s own Cafichanta (1998) on the Tunis phenomenon of “singing cafes” and recent features by Ala Eddine Slim and Hinde Boujemaa.
Odd Couple at Hong Kong Film Archive
HKFA screens actor-director Lau Kar-wing’s 1979 action-comedy, in which “Kar-wing and Sammo Hung play two roles at the same time—as long-time rivals and each other's apprentice.” Doesn’t sound confusing at all! Kar-wing the actor is most known for martial arts roles in Liu Chia-Liang’s The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978) and Eight Diagram Pole Fighter (1984), and though Odd Couple is one of his more well-known directorial efforts, it seems to only screen rarely (like so).
Dóra Maurer and the Béla Balázs Studio film series at Tate Modern (London)
Alongside the excellent retrospective exhibition of pivotal Hungarian artist Dóra Maurer—on view at Tate Modern until July 2020—Tate Film presents two screenings of short 35mm and 16mm experimental films made by Maurer and other significant artists like Gábor Bódy, Ágnes Háy and Tibor Hajas at Hungary’s renowned Béla Balázs Studio in the 1970s–80s. Having seen a number of these strange and beautiful works over the years, I consider this unmissable for anyone in London this weekend.
Best of Spectacle 2019 at Spectacle Theater (Brooklyn)
The always-inspiring, volunteer-run (!) Spectacle Theater in Brooklyn presents a look back at the best of their 2019 program, chock full of rarities and oddities and near-forgotten classics. Click the link for many of the venue’s trademark tantalizing trailers, the main one embedded below. I’ve seen almost none of these films and feel like I have a lot of homework to do, but will recommend the reader look into Sidney Sokhona’s Nationalité: immigré (1975), a French essay-fiction-doc-everything hybrid production by a Mauritanian immigrant filmmaker in his early 20s. The film, at turns comedic and polemical, reflects interestingly off of Soleil O (1967), another African immigrant film by Sokhona’s countryman Med Hondo. Interestingly, Sokhona’s second feature was narrated by Hondo and Carrie Sembene (wife of Ousmane). Programmer Steve Macfarlane has the scoop on Nationalité: immigré, and I encourage you to shoot him a DM to enquire about it.
Ending one decade and beginning another…
We’ve probably all been inundated by lists covering not only the films of 2019 but also of the 2010s as a whole. Lists are inane, stupid and reductionist, and that’s polite compared to what Elena Gorfinkel has written in Another Gaze.
Nonetheless, the end of the year/decade and beginning of another is certainly time to take pause and reflect on where we’re headed, and where we’ve been. Two things that have done that for me have been the Film Comment podcast The Decade Project #1 and Dennis Lim’s article The Termite’s Return, coincidentally from the same publication.
And while I had a lovely New Year’s Eve, it would have been great to spend it at Moscow’s Illuzion Cinema, seeing 35mm prints of Soviet fairytale films Father Frost (Aleksandr Rou, 1964) and Ordinary Wonder (Erast Garin & Khesya Lokshina, 1965).
I’ve just recently (I know!) started listening to the podcast WTF with Marc Maron. It was a fun surprise to hear him begin his January 13 podcast with Lily Tomlin by describing an experience of attending the UCLA Film & Television Archive’s screening of Spring Night Summer Night (J.L. Anderson, 1967, US). Listen here at 6:30 as he describes an archivist with a “remarkable beard”, who is undoubtedly Ross Lipman, whose film In the Middle of the Nights: From Arthouse to Grindhouse and Back Again (2020) had its world premiere that evening.
As I mentioned in the last post, this week’s interview will be published Friday, and will be a conversation with London Short Film Festival programmers Tom Grimshaw and Jenna Roberts.
The Asian Film Archive in Singapore’s ambitious, annual film and art exhibition/film series State of Motion 2020 is on through February 2, and will be the subject of next week’s Rep Cinema International interview.
The featured image above this week’s listings is of Le Testament de l'âne (2002, France), directed by Hubert Brunou, who will be present at the January 19 screening at Nova Cinema in Brussels, as part of CARNIVAL TOTAAL!.
Thanks for reading! Subscribe if you’re coming to this on the website and please share with friends or colleagues if you find this useful. While the main channel is this Substack page, you can find Rep Cinema International on Twitter @RepCinemaIntl and on Instagram @RepCinemas. Questions, comments or other inquiries: RepCinemaInternational@gmail.com.