Thursday, June 28, 2018

L'Île de mai

Directors: Michel Andrieu, Jacques Kébadian. Year: 2018. Country: Francia.
    Sog.: da un’idea di Michel Andrieu. Immagini: Renan Pollès, Jean-Pierre Thorn, Jean-Denis Bonan,  Jean-Noël Delamarre. M.: Maureen Mazurek. Mus.: René-Marc Bini. Prod.: Matthieu De Laborde, Iskra. DCP. D.: 81’. Bn.
    Soundtrack includes: "Let's Go" (Lanny & Robert Duncan, 1962).
    DCP from Iskra.
    Introducono Michel Andrieu and Jacques Kébadian.
    E-subtitles in English and Italian by Sub-Ti Londra.
    Viewed at Auditorium DAMSLab, Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato, Documents and Documentaries 2018, 28 June 2018

Jacques Kébadian, Il Cinema Ritrovato: "I was twenty-eight years old, an alumnus of Paris’ Institut Cinématographique (IDHEC). I had been Robert Bresson’s assistant director on two films (Au hazard Balthazar, Mouchette). I had also shot my first medium-length film, Trotsky, starring Patrice Chéreau […]. In this repressive context, together with other filmmakers, I helped set up an organization called l’ARC (Atelier de Recherche Cinématographique), out of which came forth a series of political and revolutionary films. In those days l’ARC was a politically committed cooperative, heavily engaged in the campaign against the war in Vietnam. The cadres all came from anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist and anti-Stalinist backgrounds. Some were situationists or anarchists. I was the only person connected with the Jeunesse communiste révolutionnaire. Our means were initially limited: a Coutant camera, a Nagra plus a few wind-up cameras, a Pailland Bolex, a Pathé Webo and a Uher sound-recorder. When the police surrounded the Sorbonne, we were right there, in the Latin Quarter, with our gear. No one was expecting such revolutionary events to blow up. We lived through them in a daydream, even as our cameras were rolling […]. We all felt we were experiencing our very own October revolution!"

"May 1968 was a month of oratory, a month of egalitarian decision-making and direct democracy in every group and committee. It was like a fugue, a vibrant and living heightening of spirits, a break with the past, heady with the magic of saying no, the joy of sharing and caring for others and for each other. A people was rising and saying no. At last, a people was impacting on its own history."

"For the fiftieth anniversary of May 1968, we felt that the time had come to make a film to show what it was like to have experienced these events as filmmakers, and not just produce ex-post-facto work based on hindsight commentary and archival material. Our idea was not to generate analysis, not to teach the history but to offer a film distilled from all the films shot within our collective, as well as work made by other politically committed filmmakers who were able to donate images and sound. Personally, I was keen from the start that this should come without any form of comment on voiceover; and gradually, as the editing process proceeded, this radical approach did come to make sense, as if sequences shot fifty years ago might only reject alien material grafted from another era. Indeed, we had to erase the ideological commentary of the time in order to make the material work for today’s audiences, retaining only factually objective information." Jacques Kébadian

AA: This is a year of many anniversaries. In Finland we are remembering our fatal year 1918, and also the crazy year 1968. The more one thinks about those years in perspective the more complex they turn out to be. Collateral damage was immense.

L'Île de mai by Michel Andrieu and Jacques Kébadian focuses on France and presents only original imagery from May 1968 and selected essential footage from before and after. We are reminded of Berkeley 1964, Berlin 1967, and 1968 events in Warsaw and Nanterre before May. Student revolts set the world on fire.

This material is astounding, and I sat humbled because most of this I did not know or had forgotten. The demonstrations are furious, the police violence brutal. The scale is epic. Starting from student demonstrations the events escalated to strikes at major factories. The simple method of chronological cataloguing is effective.

Charles de Gaulle disbanded the National Assembly and won the election. The counter-demonstrations were even more massive than the student demonstrations.The aims of the rebels were not achieved, yet the world changed.

This film presents a sober chronology of documentary footage and invites the viewers to think and draw their own conclusions.

The rare original footage, often handheld, has been processed with loving care, and the sound effects, probably created for this work in post-production, are striking.

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