I’ve made a map of all the venues, listing the dates when the events are held, just to give you the idea, and you can follow the link to the FFFF website in each of the entries, to find out more. Some of the workshops are taking place at The Met (Bury), The John Rylands Library in Deansgate, the WFA Media & Cultural Centre, and Zion Arts Centre.
Two years ago, during the Late Summer Bank Holiday, the very first Family Friendly Film Festival hit a few venues across Manchester. Back in August 2006 I was doing The LOOK at QT Radio in the Northern Quarter, and jumped at the opportunity to cover this new event. It subsequently made the topic of one of the first blog posts here.
FFFF, curated by Arts About Manchester, has been taken off the ground by the infatigable Leah Byrne who, with the help of her assistant Rachel Witkin and a team of volunteers, is now in the third year of bringing the best in children’s film and animation to the parents and children of Greater Manchester. The screenings at the very first FFFF included some award-winning and nominated films and cartoons (you can find the full list if you follow the link to the 2006 post), but that was only a half of what the FFFF team had to offer. Recognising the importance of the visual impression, the festival organisers wanted to involve children – and their parents – in some hands-on activity, whereby they came up with an idea of creative workshops.
I edited some of the 2006 show – this is a good recap of the aims and programme of the first Family Friendly Film Festival. The first speaker is Leah herself, followed by the one of the WFA Media & Cultural Centre workers, followed in turn by one of the parents who with their children took part in the puppet animation workshop at the Zion Arts Centre. Naturally, because Leah is interested in film, we also got to talk about the Disney films vs. European and Japanese animation. The enthusiasm of the interviewees potently proves that at this event both children and parents learn new skills, and adults relive their childhood moments; and that cinema as a medium is wonderful for bringing the members of family together.
This year the festival has grown far and wide, and lasts not for a few days over a Bank Holiday weekend, but for over a week, from 8th until 17th of August. The venues are as diverse as Urbis, Zion Arts Centre, The John Rylands Library in Deansgate, and The Stockport Plaza. The best thing, as before, is that most of these events are free, drop-in-sessions for kids and parents, although there is a portion of events for which you need to book a seat or to buy a ticket. These are usually the workshops, and also some screenings, but all at £5 or less. The tickets are on sale NOW at www.quaytickets.com or by phone on 0870 428 0785.
This year FFFF also has some activities celebrating the National Year of Reading, and one of these will include the screening of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in the Reading Room at the John Rylands Library in Deansgate. Other events that are part of the National Year of Reading will be taking place at the Central Library, Clayton and Chorlton Libraries, and The Met.
And one the festival’s highlights is doubtless Darius Goes West (dir. Logan Smalley, USA, 2007). To quote the short synopsis,
Darius Weems from Athens, Georgia, was born with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). In 1989, Darius watched his older brother, Mario, pass away from the same disease at age 19. Soon after, he lost use of the muscles in his legs and began using a wheelchair. A group of his friends felt there was no need for his quality of life to disintegrate along with his muscles. So, they decided to take Darius, who had never seen a range of mountains, never dipped his toes into an ocean, and never crossed a state line on the adventure of a lifetime. After raising $60,000, this “band of brothers” rented a wheelchair-accessible RV and hit the road. Their three-week cross-country journey had one major goal: to reach Los Angeles and convince MTV’s popular show, “Pimp My Ride”, to customize Darius’s wheelchair. Along the way, they evaluated wheelchair accessibility at many of America’s major tourist attractions and raised awareness of DMD by holding over a dozen press conferences. They also found joy, brotherhood, and the knowledge that life, even when imperfect, is always worth the ride.
Already the first FFFF was courageous in the choice of some of the screenings, and it goes further to help children of Greater Manchester to learn to see themselves and other children in perspective. Somehow here cinema and animation may be doing a better job for the youngsters who may not yet be able to experience the power of a written word, but are not hindered from learning lessons from film’s sight&sound. Hopefully, there will be many more years for FFFF to come.
Since 2005 I have been writing about arts and culture (cinema, in particular), and when I used to make The LOOK on QT Radio in Manchester I interviewed several film directors (still under my real name then). Now, I was invited to take part in the online version of the Inside the Actors’ Studio with Sky Arts.
In case you’ve never heard of it, “Inside the Actors Studio is a well established American show that attracts the top film and TV actors and interviews them in a one on one situation in front of a studio audience of drama students”. The programme has just been broadcast on Sky through the whole of January, with guests including Barbra Streisand, Michael J. Fox, Liza Minnelli, and Al Pacino. ArtsWOM, the blog sponsored by Sky Arts, has come up with the brilliant idea to invite some arts and culture bloggers to the online version of the programme, by asking them the same ten questions that the presenter and drama teacher James Lipton asks to each of his guests. I feel very pleased and honoured to have been invited to this project. Many thanks to ArtsWOM for inviting me, it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
At the first glance, the questions are simple; in truth, they are anything but simple. The very first question is “what is your favourite word?” I felt it should be the word I very often use, in virtually any kind of situation. And such word is “absolutely“, which I indeed picked from P. G. Wodehouse’s book, A Damsel in Distress. But then I also like the word “okay“, and I realised that I use them both on a very regular basis. I couldn’t possibly choose between them, so I thought it would be absolutely OK to submit two favourite words.
The question that I personally liked the most was about the profession I wouldn’t want to do. For me, it is definitely the dentist. Don’t get me wrong, I’m full of gratitude and admiration for those who work in this field, but I would never ever have gone into this profession myself. I haven’t got the courage, and I wouldn’t be able to stay aloof watching someone’s suffering from toothache day by day. What is interesting, is that a discussion about this profession occurred many years ago, and it showed my ability to use words to a very powerful effect. My mother and I were talking about which profession I should choose, and she suggested dentistry, although she knew well that I didn’t like the natural sciences to such extent. But it wasn’t my dislike of these sciences that I focused on in my short speech. It only took me a couple of minutes to paint a stark ghastly picture of my life as a female married dentist who would dig someone’s cavities in the day and have nightmares of those cavities at night. I explained to my mother that no husband would survive in such conditions. My picture must have been so vivid that my mother never brought this suggestion up again.
And I couldn’t forget about Michel Polnareff. Judging by his song On Ira Tous au Paradis and my liking of it, we’re both fairly sceptical about the church and religion. We may be wrong in our scepticism, but in truth I expect us both to get past the Pearly Gates, au paradis. How did Billy Joel put it? “You may be wrong, but all I know is that you may be right“. Absolutely.
You can read my answers in the part 9 of Inside the Bloggers’ Studio, and I do recommend you follow the link to all parts – ArtsWOM Features (scroll down to part 1 to read them in ascending order). For all the variety of answers we, bloggers, provided to questions about favourite words and professions, there are a few similarities: we all want to go to paradise, and many of us treasure sincerety and dislike fakery and narrow-mindedness. You can all have a go, too: just take these questions and repost them with your answers on your blog.
What is your favourite word?
What is your least favourite word?
What turns you on?
What turns you off?
What sound or noise do you love?
What sound or noise do you hate?
What is your favourite curse word?
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
What profession would you not like to do?
If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
…there was a screening of the film Sophie Scholl – Die letzten Tage by Marc Rothemund. We did an interview with him at Cornerhouse, the article on which you can read here. And on the web there is a video of Mark talking to David Lamble. It’s long, so make sure you’re nice and cosy if you listen to it.
Now, Marc is currently shooting his new film, called Pornorama. Shall I say it sounds intriguing? It certainly does. In the words of Marc himself, he wanted to commemorate the stiff atmosphere of the 1960-70s Germany, in which some dangerous minds (probably inspired by anything from Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! to Deep Throat) decided to shoot a porn movie.
I hope, when the film is released, Cornerhouse welcomes Marc again, not least because he’s a very witty and passionate speaker. With the subject of his new film in mind, I’m sure the Q&A session that could follow would be absolutely unforgettable.
It is no news that early Soviet films are well-known, treasured and studied in the West. Not only many of those films commemorated pivotal figures and moments in Russian history (Ivan the Terrible, Alexander Nevsky and The Battleship Potemkin by Sergei Eisenstein, Peter the First by Vladimir Petrov), they can also shed a lot of light on the early Soviet ideology. Cinema, as many statesmen of the time understood, possessed the immense importance as the way to disseminate ideas in the form of art.
[I have to put in a historical note: unlike the 16th zealous European Reformers, Soviet leaders understood very well that to educate a then largely illiterate population, they had to make emphasis on artistic representation, of which cinema and posters were the most straight-forward. Having said that, one shouldn’t be too hard on the 16th c. people – after all, they did have engravings].
So, here is a very good article by Cara Marisa Deleon about one of the best-known films of the era, Mat’ (Mother) by Vsevolod Pudovkin. You can check the film’s details here, as well as Pudovkin’s filmography, which includes several historical films, Admiral Nakhimov (he was the hero of the Crimean war, 1853-56), and Suvorov (this outstanding soldier was awarded with the title of generalissimus and had crossed the Alpes in 1799, at the age of 70!).
And if you are interested in the history of Soviet Russia and want to read a novel that inspired the film, you’re very lucky because The Project Gutenberg has got an English translation of this famous novel by Maxim Gorky. I hope you have a pleasant reading. If you wish to know which of Gorky’s works to read next, don’t hesitate to ask – he’d written loads, and I’ve read at least a half.
And as I was writing this post I received a voicemail from a friend of mine. He’s been a volunteer with the Red Cross since early this year, has been to many duties, and was interviewed for The LOOK. Now he rang to invite me to appear as a casualty extra on an educational DVD. Things would be as realistic as possible, he said. Which, knowing my luck, might very well turn into a real casualty. I know, Paul, you mean well, but… sorry, no!!!
Update (01 October 2008):
Recently I was researching in the library and saw a book Berlin – Moskau, 1900-1950. This was an extensive exhibition covering the cultural relations between the two capitals throughout the first half of the 20th c., and I attended it at the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in 1996. The book, which is not only an exhibition’s catalogue, but also a collection of essays (in German), sheds more light on the intercultural dialogue between Germany and Russia. One particular article that I read was about the mutual reception of German and Soviet films; the “German” part having been written by Ulrich Gregor. Gregor speaks extensively about the anticipation and reception of Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin among the German film enthusiasts, critics, and intellectuals, but a few words are also spared for Pudovkin’s films, Mother (1926) and The End of St Petersburg (1927).
“A similarly powerful reception was bestowed on Pudovkin’s films… Rudolf Arnheim wrote in Stachelschwein about The Mother: “This film is in the range of Potemkin and is also similar to it in many ways… Pudovkin’s film is so full of ideas that one’s heart doesn’t want to stop throbbing (Pudowkins Film ist so voll von Einfaellen, dass sich das Herz klopfen gar nicht legen will)”.
Above is the poster to the 1926 German premiere of The Mother.
Almost three years on, this has become one of the most popular posts on Los Cuadernos blog. And in the first half of 2009 I saw one site and one video that presented individuals performing self-mutilating acts for art’s sake. First, a pair of twin brothers exchanged arms: one brother’s arm was cut off from his body and reattached to his twin’s body. Thus one man remained with only one arm, while another ended up with three. And the video below taken from TrendHunter explores artistic self-mutilation further, with ten jaw-dropping examples of what is considered art.
Far from decrying anything you see in the video, I will, however, reiterate the point I made in the original post: why, after all wars and losses, do people still need to “practise” pain and mutilation, as if viewing the images of the dead and disabled people is not enough to understand what pain and death is? Three years on, I think I know the answer.
Humanity is fascinated by Death because, like Love and Pain, this is an eternal secret. It is a mystery. Camus said that suicide is the only true philosophical problem, but since the result of a suicide is death, it means that death itself may be the only true philosophical problem. Philosophy, since its origins, has been preoccupied with making sense of Life and of Man as a living being; but much rarely has it delved into the mystery of Death, and this may be its biggest challenge and hurdle.
It is human therefore that everything morbid fascinates, intrigues, and perplexes us. (Zizek comes to mind: people are forever concerned with what they cannot change). Memento mori. Danse macabre. The theme of Death and the Maiden in art (e.g., Hans Baldung, 1517 (right)). Venus at the Mirror as the parable of the fleeting beauty and deplorable life… the list can be continued, and all it will serve to do is to prove to us how truly interested artists are in what philosophy isn’t so eager to discuss. And in this regard it is probably only normal that there are people who use their own bodies to understand the mystery of pain or the secret of being on the brink of dying. In order to live on, art must be experimental, even if it has to experiment with itself.
Having said so, I’d rather not have this kind of art being performed publicly, let alone covered by the media. With our inclination to build hype around things it would be hard to see the forest for the trees.
Most importantly, I am always somewhat confused when artists, writers in particular, claim that in order to write about something they must know it, experience it first-hand. I’m uttering things, but does that mean that Dostoyevsky would need to kill a couple of old ladies to be able to write Crime and Punishment? And at the same time, speaking of literature, can it not help us gain the life experience that we seek?
It may depend on how we read, of course. Reading is both mental and emotional process. However, what is interesting is that because we most often use words to express ourselves, our entire life is one huge text, and each of us is reading it and making sense of it according to our aptitude and experience. We have to translate this text, either in the language of our experience, or in the foreign language, or in the language of other arts or disciplines.
Can it be therefore that after all the millenia humanity has learnt to do pretty much everything, including the genetic engineering and flying into space, but is still rubbish at such important thing as reading? Reading is understanding. Understanding gives one a key to influence things, to change the world. But what is there at the heart of it? Love, no doubt. For we only care to understand things we care about. And nothing can drive us to care about something as much as Love does. However…
…if we cannot love enough to care to understand, does it not mean that even in our Christian world we have never taken Jesus as an example? Does it not mean that we broke the teaching into citations and took to memorise the words without understanding (sic!) their meaning? It’s been a while since I thought: how odd it is that we are told to love God – but not people. How odd that people love God but distrust their neighbours. Maybe it simply means that people inherently distrust themselves. Maybe it means that they find it easier to trust in the Object that is forever absent and therefore cannot let them down more than it already does, rather than trusting another human being whose money isn’t always where the mouth is. But if Art is born in Love, and the present generation of artists often lacks empathy, does this not explain the rising concerns that contemporary art is devoid of essence?
Original post (2 October, 2006)
Several sayings by Pablo Picasso have already appeared on The LOOK’s front page in the past. I also love this photo of him made by Robert Doisneau. A genuine portrait of the genius.
Another portrait of the genius was made by Jean Dieuzaide, and I’ll leave it for you to guess, whose historic moustache you’re gazing at.
I’ve also found this phrase by Picasso a while ago on the web:
What do you think an artist is? An imbecile who has only eyes, if he is a painter, or ears if he is a musician, or a lyre in every chamber of his heart if he is a poet, or even, if he is a boxer, just his muscles? Far from it: at the same time, he is also a political being, constantly aware of the heartbreaking, passionate, or delightful things that happen in the world, shaping himself completely in their image. How could it be possible to feel no interest in other people, and with a cool indifference to detach yourself from the very life which they bring to you so abundantly? No, painting is not done to decorate apartments. It is an instrument of war.
One may say that Picasso’s viewpoint is somewhat outdated, in that people want to live in the world as peaceful as possible, hence art-as-war is no longer interesting. But there are many kinds of war, and not all are fought with tanks and missiles. There are language wars, religious wars, ‘moral’ wars, media wars, and all use art as a type of warfare. Furthermore, as George Orwell has put it, there are four main reasons to write prose, one of which is ‘political purpose‘ – ‘using the word “political” in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certan direction, to alter other people’s idea of the kind of society that they should strive after. Once again, no book is genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude‘ (Orwell, G., Why I write).
It would be very hard indeed to disagree with either Picasso or Orwell, and there are modern artists who follow in their footsteps. Perhaps, they don’t get involved in politics very much, but they nonetheless admit that their art exists because of people. One such artist is Dave McKean, who put it this way:
My own world is just trying to make sense of the real world. I don’t like the sort of science-fiction art and fantasy art that is just about goblins and fairies and spaceships. I don’t really see the point of that. It’s entertaining and it’s fine, but I couldn’t do it. I needed to be about people, who I have to deal with every day, and that’s what I’m interested in. I’m interested in what people think and how they think, and the things that they believe in, and desire, and are frightened of. So I’m interested in that side of life, really. And then I’m trying to sort of look at those things from a different point of view, or from metaphor, or from dreams, or from these other angles, because I think they are just interesting ways of seeing things, you know, that you have to deal with everyday for fresh, and you see them with different eyes, I think. [read full article based on McKean’s interview].
Finally, however, comes this passage from The Wicked and Unfaithful Song of Marcel Duchamp to His Queen by Paul Carroll:
Art? A form of intimate hygiene for the ghosts we really are.
This brings to my mind a TV programme made by Channel 4, which explored the anti-art, particularly in the form of inflicting pain on oneself as a means of teaching the audience a lesson of empathy. One of my ‘favourite’ moments on the programme was the couple who drank tea with biscuits, while literally “hanging down” from the ceiling on chains, hooks perceing their skin. The idea was to explore their experience of pain and also to expand people’s understanding of pain through such performances.
Having read the entire 120 Days of Sodome by de Sade, I wasn’t scared or repulsed by what I saw on screen, but it made me think. The question I asked myself was this: why in the world where there are so many wars and where the footage of deaths and casualties is already available on the Internet, is it necessary to appeal to people’s empathy by sticking iron hooks in your chest? Far from telling the artists what not to do for their art’s sake, I’m simply wondering about the purpose of such art. If the knowledge of the two World Wars and many other military conflicts doesn’t automatically make people detest the very idea of an offensive war, if the photos of destroyed houses, orphaned children and open wounds don’t change people’s view of loss and pain, then why would seeing two able-bodied adults hanging on chains drinking tea influence people’s idea of pain, or make people more compassionate? I’d imagine that after watching such ‘performance’ people would lose interest in pain altogether. If it’s endurable, then what’s the problem?
Some people with whom I discussed this previously have pointed out that this practice of piercing and inflicting pain is ritual in some countries and cultures. The problem, though, is that the only instance of it on our continent that springs to my mind was flagellantism that had spread in Europe in the 13-14th c. and was later revived as a sexual practice. There is evidently a difference between the culture of piercing in African or Aboriginous societies and this ‘hygienic’ European movement, and as far as I am concerned, this difference is much bigger than someone may think. This ‘civilized’ pain-inflicting art, given its purposes, is – in my opinion – exactly the kind of ‘personal hygiene’ Carroll had written about. An artist, no matter how politically involved, is above all a human being, and when he lacks empathy and cannot relate to other people’s experience, unless he shares it physically, forces to raise questions as to how worthwhile, creative and useful his art is.
And don’t quote Wilde’s ‘all art is quite useless‘. Unknowingly, in this witticism Wilde precluded Sartre who would say that culture doesn’t save or justify anyone – but that it is the mirror in which humanity sees itself. Considering that the Wildean phrase comes from The Portrait of Dorian Gray, culture or art as the mirror symbolically connects Wilde and Sartre. Perhaps it is good if humanity finally notices that it spends more time destructing and inflicting pain instead of learning to love. But will it finally start doing something about it?
Another family event that took place across Greater Manchester during the Late Summer Bank Holiday Weekend was the first ever Family Friendly Film Festival. In the words of its co-ordinator, Leah Byrne, the idea has been in the air for some time, and was finally brought to life – and to children and their parents – between 25th and 28th August, 2006. The event was taking place at such venues, as the Chinese Arts Centre, the Cornerhouse, the Green Room, the Manchester Museum, the Zion Arts Centre, and even Princes Park in Irlam in Salford. The festival was supported by Manchester City Council, Salford Council, Manchester Kids, the Workers’ Film Association, Robert Hamilton and Cosgrove Hall, Arts About Manchester, and Arts Council England.
Acknowledging the Children
The tagline for the festival was
“life is just as complex for kids as adults, so why should children’s films be superficial and formulaic?”
Instead of the Disney films there was an amazing selection of cartoons, shorts and features from all over the world. The festival premiered Eve & the Fire Horse (dir. Julia Kwan, Canada, 2005, 92 mins), which scooped quite a few awards, including the Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival this year.
Some other distinguished films were The Fan and the Flower, Chika’s Bird, Lucia, La Grande Migration, to name but a few. Open A Door series (2003) were also shown, an award-winning international exchange of 5-mins silent films. The series is aimed at the young viewers, illustrating the differences and similarities between the world’s cultures. Episodes come from Cuba, USA, Great Britain, Taiwan, Iran, Mexico, and South Africa. Whose Children Are These? (2004) looks at how the 9/11 has affected the lives of three Muslim teenagers. In Leah’s words, the aim of the Festival organisers was to bring such films to Manchester’s youngest viewers that would tell them about the bigger world and children that live in other countries.
Family Friendly Film Making
But children and their parents were not just watching films together – they could also dabble into filmmaking, providing they booked a place in a workshop. Several kinds of workshops were going during this year’s Festival, supported by the Workers’ Film Association. A workshop at the Greenroom was for teenagers between 10 and 15 yrs old, who were invited to create their own short films, using professional digital video camcorders and I-Mac work stations. Two workshops were held at the Zion Arts Centre in Hulme, a session of puppet animation for 5-10 year olds, and a Manga-themed animation workshop for 10-15 year olds. And a workshop at Princes Park in Irlam, Salford, was dedicated to wildlife animation and invited family members of all ages.
I went to the puppet animation workshop on Saturday, 26 August, at the Zion Arts Centre. In a large well-lit room children and their parents were sitting at the tables, absorbed in the task of making figurines of plasticine. The multi-aged and multicultural groups showed formidable team-working skills, especially when it finally came to shooting. The room periodically filled with bursts of laughter, especially when things were not going smoothly. At one point all props (plasticine pines) collapsed at the set of one of the features. At another set two plasticine “actresses” fell face down from their carton board bench. In spite of this, the filmings progressed well, the credits appeared, the “actors” bowed, and then the groups went on to edit their films.
The scripts, composed by children themselves, were anything but simple. One group’s film was about a squirrel visiting another squirrel and bringing a bag of hazelnuts. When opened, the bag contained a mouse, who was eating away the nuts! Another group made a film about two female friends who had to handle an uneasy task of sharing money between themselves. Yet another group’s film (by The Quincy Blake Production) was about two aliens fighting and then befriending on the Sun. In the words of Quincy Blake (a boy of about 7), he enjoyed making his movie. And in the words of one of the mothers, attending such workshop was not just enlightening, but also made her feel like going back to her childhood.
Where Adults Get to Be Kids
I must admit I felt I went back in time, too, despite the fact that I didn’t participate in preparing the sets or props, or in the actual filming and subsequent editing. Simply the glee and the spirit of team-working have filled the ground, so it was almost impossible not to immerse oneself in this wonderful atmosphere.
The first Family Friendly Film Festival will definitely not be the last, although it did take a lot of time, pain and money to obtain clearances for screenings, especially of such films as the multi-winning Spirited Away, Belleville Rendezvous, and Eve and the Fire Horse. However, with the obvious success of this year’s Festival the plans will be growing bigger for the next year, and Leah Byrne has told The LOOK that the BBC is already looking into taking part with a workshop on score-writing. So, watch out for the Family Friendly Film Festival next year (www.familyfriendly.org.uk), and in the meantime check out this year’s list, and try and catch the films you haven’t yet seen!
The List of the Family Friendly Film Festival
Holes (dir. Andrew Davis, USA, 2003, 117 mins) Raju & I (dir. Gayatri Rao, India, 2003, 30 mins) Whose Children Are These? (dir. Theresa Thanjann, USA, 2004, 27 mins) Getting My Goat (dir. Eva Saks, USA, 2005, 2 mins) Colorforms (dir. Eva Saks, USA, 2003, 8 mins) Maya – the Indian Princess (dir. Kavita Ramchandran, USA, 2005, 3 mins) Happy Holy Maya (dir. Kavita Ramchandran, USA, 2005, 2 mins) Dial ‘M’ for Monster (dir. Kevin Nikkel, Canada, 2003, 1 min.) Open a Door (Cuba, USA, Great Britain, Taiwain, Iran, Mexico, South Africa, 2003, 7×5 mins) Welcome to My Life (dir. Elizabeth Ito, USA, 2004, 5 mins) Circuit Marine (dir. Favez Isabelle, France, Canada, 2003, 7 mins 50) The Wind in the Willows (dirs. Mark Hall and Chris Taylor, UK, 1983, 79 mins) Eve & the Fire Horse (dir. Julia Kwan, Canada, 2005, 92 mins) La Grande Migration (dir. Youri Tcherenkov, France, 1995, 7 mins 54) Let’s Play (dirs. Francois Lecauchois, Cassandre Hornez, France, 2003, 26 mins) Confection (dir. Eva Saks, USA, 2003, 5 mins) Lucia (dir. Felix Goennert, Germany, 2004, 8 mins 30) Chika’s Bird (dir. Adam Mars, Canada, 2003, 15 mins) The Fan and the Flower (dir. Bill Plympton, USA, 2005, 7 mins 10) Spirited Away (dir. Hayao Miyazaki, Japan, 2001, 125 mins) Yoko! Jakamoko! Toto! (dir. Tony Collingwood, UK, 2005, 2×4 mins 30) Bark, George! (dir. Gene Deitch, USA, 2003, 6 mins) Eddy and the Bear (dir. Tony Collingwood, UK, 2003, 9 mins 30) The Pipsqueak Prince (dir. Zoia Trofimova, France, 2002, 7 mins) Animal Stories (dir. Tony Collingwood, UK, 2001, 2x 5 mins) Gorden the Garden Gnome – The Veggie Pet (dir. Tony Collingwood, UK, 2005, 11 mins) A Fortune in Frozen Dim Sum (dir. Ling Chiu, 2004, Canada, 13 mins) Belleville Rendezvous (dir. Sylvain Chomet, France/Canada/Belgium, 2003, 80 mins).
(The list has been compiled after the Festival’s brochure).
Before the programme covering the activities in Greater Manchester during the Bank Holiday weekend goes out on September 1 (the back-to-school day in Russia, incidentally), this is a report of some impressions, starting with the Bomber Command exhibition at the Imperial War Museum North.
The story of Bomber Command at the IWM North
Some of the activities at the Imperial War Museum North were linked to a new exhibition, called Against The Odds: The Story of Bomber Command in the Second World War (27 May 2006 – 7 January 2007). It traces the history of the mentioned part of the British Army in the Second World War, its Lancaster bombers, pilots and operations. The curators did not turn a blind eye to some difficult questions, e.g. whether or not some of the well-known operations were justified. The organisers have spent about a year working on this exhibition, which uses mostly the Imperial War Museum North archives.
The proverbial ‘against the odds’ can be applied to almost everything in the story of 1939-45 War, so of course it was interesting to know, exactly how it refers to the story of Bomber Command. In the words of David Hopkins, Special Exhibition Manager, Bomber Command as a military force had “against the odds” risen from a poorly equipped group at the outbreak of war to a vast and respected organisation by 1945. From the start it was a pivotal agent in the British and the Allies’ war effort, but its story was not always smooth or glorious, as the exhibition well illustrates.
Glory and Gore
Several displays are dedicated to personal experiences of soldiers, some of whom had never returned from the duty. One of the stands exhibits the log book, goggles, papers and medals of Leonard Cheshire, including the Victoria Cross that Cheshire, as the Master Bomber, had received for his outstanding gallantry. Other displays cover technical issues, such as the construction and operation of the Lancaster bombers. The very last sections cover major operations, presenting their outcome through the archival photos and films. The general sense, though, is that however important was an operation, one can’t help looking at it through the prism of the number of casualties and the images of the ruins of historic cities. The well-known Dams Raid in 1943 resulted not only in the destruction of the water dams on the rivers Eder, Mohne and Sorpe, but also in the death or captivity of many soldiers. And the infamous raid of Dresden, which still stands out as a senseless operation with devastating effect, has somewhat overshadowed the glory of both Bomber Command and the Allied Forces in general.
Identifying with the Past
During the Bank Holiday weekend, on Sunday 27 August, the visitors to the IWM North were given identity cards, which ‘ascribed’ to them the story of one of the pilots of the Bomber Command. I was identified as Geoffrey Pell Dawson, who was born in Manchester in 1923. An architecture student, he was in the forces between May 1942 and September 1946, serving as a Bomb Aimer and achieving the rank of Flight Lieutenant.
The last page of identity card contains some questions for reflections on the experience of the pilots, asking, in particular, how the exhibition had changed the way visitors feel about the events of the Second World War. The comments left in Reflections area give much hope to pacifists, as the majority of them are written (or even scribbled) by children as young as 7, expressing their resentment to war.
Plane Building for All Ages
And on Monday, 28 August, the activities were celebrating cultural diversity presented in the Museum’s collections. Children of all ages and their parents were invited to build a wooden (!) plane, to hear about the animals who took part in the war, and even to play on the computer. I listened to a couple of really nice stories about animals, including the one about two cows who were the mascots of a Scottish division. I also know that children enjoyed assembling the aircraft (with the help of a volunteer Sean, who admitted that the parts of the plane were quite heavy). But then I looked into a Learning Studio East, where computer-based activities were taking place. And there I saw someone’s father being totally immersed in a computer game of some kind. So, family activities at the IWM North were quite literally attracting all generations.
Britannia Rumba and the Caribbean Music
Still in Salford Quays, a short distance from the IWM North, another one Monday’s hot events was the performance of African and Caribbean music, in the same vein of celebrating the cultural diversity. The band in question turned out to be Britannia Rumba, a Manchester-based musical collective, performing what is usually called here ‘world music’, accompanied by a dance group of four girls in lovely green sarongs, tops and visors. The band was playing on the stage outdoors, it was a bit cold, and the wind was quite strong. Nevertheless, the Afro-Caribbean sounds have filled the surroundings completely, and children, parents and even some of the IWM workers were jiving gleefully. Soon after I packed my equipment and went to catch the bus home. I could long hear the drums and guitars, as I was walking away from Salford Quays.