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Revolution comes to Tyneside Cinema

Posted in Events, Film, Art on Sep 07, 2017

100 years ago the October Revolution transformed Russia as the old empire was toppled and the Soviet Union rose in its place.


To mark the centenary of this event, Tyneside Cinema and Durham University invite you to explore revolution across the 20th and 21st centuries with What’s Left? A Century in Revolution.

This special programme of screenings and discussions examines the paradoxes of revolutionary cycles over the last 100 years. It foregrounds the global reach of revolutionary events, moving from Latin America to the Middle East, from China to the former Soviet Union, from North Africa to Europe.

While rooted in history, What’s Left? focuses on the significance of revolution today and emphasises the impact of revolutions on the lives of ordinary people caught up in them. The programme highlights the inextricable link between the moving image and political action and explores how new forms of visual media and technology are
creating a novel lens for both experiencing and making history.

At the centre of the series is a new art film by the Russian artist collective Chto Delat? (What Is to Be Done?). Titled The New Deadline #17 Summer School of Orientation in Zapatism, the film performs an imaginary transposition of the Zapatista movement from Mexico to Putin’s Russia.

In their 2005 manifesto, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation introduced the idea of the ‘Zapatista Embassy’, urging followers to travel across Mexico and the rest of the world to deliver the Zapatista message. In preparing their work, the Chto Delat? collective met up with members of the Zapatista movement to discuss their revolutionary strategy. 

In their film, they imagine the ‘Zapatista Embassy’ appearing in Russia today, exactly one hundred years after the October Revolution. After its world premiere in Newcastle, this work will tour to the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and the Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC) in Mexico City.

Our programme of film screenings opens with October (1928), Sergei Eisenstein and Grigori Aleksandrov’s sweeping silent classic produced for the 10th anniversary of the October Revolution. Introduced by Dušan Radunović of Durham University’s School of Modern Languages and Cultures, the film will be accompanied by a live piano score by John Snijders, Reader in Performance at Durham University’s Music Department.

Going beyond commemoration, the programme also examines revolution over the last 100 years taking audiences from Cuba with the UK premiere of the recently remastered version of the Tomás Gutiérrez Alea’s modernist classic Memories of Underdevelopment (1968), to the legacies of the Chinese Communist Revolution with Once Upon a Time Proletarian (2009), to the contrasting Eastern Europe experience of the revolutionary overturn of Communism itself with the likes of Pussy vs. Putin (2013).

The programme also addresses revolutions of the present moment with the mass uprisings which spread across the Arab world in 2011, including Peter Snowdon’s The Uprising, composed entirely of videos made by the residents of Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Syria and Yemen, creating an imaginary pan-Arab uprising. 

Silvered Water (2014), a collaboration between exiled Syrian filmmaker Ossama Mohammed and young Kurdish activist Wiam Simav Bedirxan, distils footage from thousands of authentic videos to create a harrowing on-the-ground documentary chronicle of the ordeal undergone by ordinary Syrians in the ongoing civil war.

Joe Piscatella’s #Chicagogirl: The Social Network Takes on a Dictator (2013) foregrounds the social-media-based transnationalism of revolutionary activism on the example of the role played in the Syrian revolution by the young Syrian-American woman Ala'a Basatneh. 

Our programme ends with the screening of Chris Marker’s remarkable two-part documentary A Grin Without a Cat (1977). Marker’s film displays an array of archival historical footage ingeniously edited to retrace the issues, events and debates that had provoked the upsurge of worldwide political activity in the late 1960s and early 1970s: the rise of right-wing oppression and the crisis of the traditional left as ‘one event is swept away by another […] and it all finally descends into collective oblivion’.

What’s Left? A Century in Revolution is curated by Úna Henry on behalf of Tyneside Cinema and the team of scholars from Durham University, led by Dušan Radunović, including Andy Byford, Anoush Ehteshami, Abir Hamdar, Francisco-Hernández Adrián and Qing Cao. The programme is produced in association with the Cross-Language Dynamics, Open World Research Initiative (OWRI), programme of research. 

The screenings are accompanied by director Q&As, panel discussions with guest speakers, and commentaries by members of the curatorial team.

What's Left? A Century in Revolution takes place at Tyneside Cinema from Friday 29 September - Sunday 8 October.

Text written by Nicola Jeffs, Una Henry, Andy Byford, Dušan Radunović and Chris Claytor-Scott.