The Watching Community

cropped-screen-shot-2014-03-22-at-17-12-07.png‘The Watching Community’ was a 6 week programme of films, talks and installation at Arcadia Missa, as part of Cinema6.

Curated by John Bloomfield and Alexandra Symons Sutcliffe as the Screen Shadows Group.

The Watching Community

27th April – June 7th 2014 – Cinema6 at Arcadia Missa, Peckham

At the dawn of the twentieth century anxiety was building. The industrial West was in the process of dramatically reconfiguring and re-imagining itself. Voices from across the political spectrum mourned a paradise on its way to being lost. Swelling cities and industrialisation were believed to have ended a form of community, typified by small town life, which had existed for centuries. Life in the modern city, we were warned, would only become more alienating, crowded and anonymous. More than a century later, and claims for a reinvention, resurrection and loss of ‘community’ have been heard periodically on both the political right and left. This programme will consider what community is today, what it has been before and whether it has ever really been at all?

Against a backdrop of alienation and the breakdown of community into self-interested individuals, a medium emerged with an unequalled power to document social change. Cast and crew. Sound and image. Zeros and ones. Chemicals and light. One way or another, the moving image is the product of working together. What seems less necessary is that it be watched with other people. The traditional rules of cinema-going demand that we efface ourselves as much as possible. Today, as home cinema technology and video-on-demand schedules catch up with cinemas, do we need to watch together at all?

Week One – Paradise Lost

Sunday 24th April – 2pm – Free


Book tickets – Sunday 27 April – 2pm – Free

Ménilmontant (1926) 38 mins. dir. Kirsanoff – With live score from Circuit Breaker

Season introduction by John Bloomfield and Alex Symons-Sutcliffe

Sweet Smell of Success (1957) 96 mins. dir. Alexander Mackendrick

A brutal murder drives two sisters from the French countryside to Ménilmontant, a working class quartier on the outskirts of Paris. Immediate, rhythmic and yet deeply haunting, Ménilmontant draws on all of the formal tricks of 20s avant-garde filmmaking to create a new poetics of displacement and dislocation.


Made thirty years after Ménimontant, Sweet Smell of Success is a classic jazz and whisky-soaked film noir. Tony Curtis plays a manipulative and ambitious press agent and Burt Lancaster an amoral and influential columnist. In Alexander Mackendrick’s vision, New York is a ‘dirty town’, where everyone knows everyone and where information is gathered from the streets and bars before being disseminated through the press and radio to the rest of the country.

The season introduction will use clips from films such as Berlin: Symphony of a Great City (1927), The Naked City (1948) and An American in Paris (1951) to discuss the emergence of ideas of a mythic ‘lost’ community at the beginning of the twentieth century. In the first half of the twentieth century alone, cinema has a complex relationship to these arguments, both reinforcing them and also trying to reconstruct its own vision of community.

Circuit Breaker are Peter and Ed Simpson.


Week Two – Nation, Empire and The United-Ness of the United States


A Sixth Part of the World (1926) 

Book tickets – Sunday 4 May – 2pm – Free

Even as the size and pace of the modern city challenged a definition of ‘community’ based on a sharing of space, filmmakers from across the political spectrum attempted ever more ambitious reconfigurations of community across state, nation and empire.

A Sixth Part of the World (1926) 73 mins. dir. Vertov – With Intro from Alex Graham

Beer at Its Best (1955) 15 mins. dir. Star Lager

Mars Attacks! (1996) (extract) . dir. Tim Burton

Native Land (1942) (extract) . dir. Paul Strand

With A Sixth Part of the World, Vertov attempts to create a kino-bond between workers across the Soviet Union, a vast multi-ethnic empire stretching from the Baltic to the Pacific ocean and spanning eleven time zones. While Vertov uses labour to form a sense of community between peasant, miner and factory worker, Beer at its Best, a short documentary by a Nigerian brewery from the colonial film archive, uses the creation of one commodity to create a shared sense of belonging between the UK and its empire.

The films will be followed by a short presentation looking at community across the United States of America, drawing on films from Paul Strand’s Native Land (1942) and Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks! (1996).


Week Three – Globalisation and Networked Communities

Sunday 11th May – 2pm – Free

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The Forgotten Space  (2010) & ASMR

Book tickets – Sunday 11 May – 2pm – £3

In recent years globalisation and the internet have been cited as forms of social relations with the ability to bind the entire human population of the globe together.

The Forgotten Space (2010) 112 mins. dir. Sekula & Burch – With Intro from Andrew Witt

ASMR Videos Curated by Jala Wahid

Sekula and Burch’s The Forgotten Space take a container ship as a starting point for a journey from the Netherlands and Belgium to Hong Kong, the USA and Spain, following the trade routes that bound together a ‘global community’. An epic, probing and pioneering essay film that interrogates the effects of globalisation on a personal, local and planetary level.

Artist Jala Wahid curates a selection of ASMR videos. ASMR stands for ‘Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response’, a sensation described as a pleasurable tingling feeling triggered by various visual and audio stimuli. For their many viewers, ASMR videos have a therapeutic function. Far from a surrogate for human contact, they imagine a new intensity of communication that relies upon both the formal qualities of the moving image and the medium of the internet. Classically viewed in private and in isolation, this experimental public screening will be a chance to enjoy and interrogate ASMR as a group.

Andrew Witt is a PHD Candidate in the UCL Art History Department

Jala Wahid is an artist and editor of SALT.

Week Four – Imagining a Revolutionary Community


Part 1:  Mosireen Films.

Part 2: Silvia Mollicchi on the Tahrir Cinema initiative.

Part 3: Maha Maamoun ‘2026.’

Part 4: Basia Cummings on and the Mosireen’s use of the archive.

Part 5: Sherief Gaber’s proposition for a Peckham Cinema, in the model of the Tahrir Cinema.

The hyper-mediatised occupation of Tahrir Square is much discussed and the visual culture of it well understood. However, three years on, the aspirations of the revolution are seemingly abandoned, and the revolutionary public that filled the square has retreated from visibility. In this context how is it possible to maintain an empathetic relationship to that recent history? And how can we see it afresh?

‘Imagining a Revolutionary Community’ is a screening and informal discussion that will focus on pulling apart the strategies of representation that have produced our understanding of the revolution and those who took part. The event will include work by Maha Maamoun, the Mosireen collective, examples of citizen journalism and presentations from writers and curators who have been involved in exhibiting the 2011 revolution.

Today, in light of the political situation in Egypt, it is not easy to talk about self-organisation and street-politics, but it is in this moment that it is important to build cultural histories around the revolution in order to legitimise past action and support future protest. ‘Imaging a Revolutionary Public’ poses two questions. Firstly, how have the frames through which the revolution was received condition our reception of the revolutionary subject, the event and it’s temporalities? Secondly what strategies of representation will allow us to see these things differently?

The Mosireen is a non-profit media collective which has captured a multitude of insights into the political atmosphere in Egypt with their avidly followed video blog. They embrace citizen journalism through providing tools and workshops  to as many people as possible in order to facilitate a wide range of alternative perspectives. This event addresses their film making but places an emphasis on their Tahrir Cinema initiative.

Maha Maamoun is a video artist and photographer. Her work revolves around the intersections of personal and broader-scale representations of Cairo. She is one of the founding members of the Contemporary Image Collective (CiC).

Special Midweek event – Communities in Exile


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No Permanent Address (2013) (27 mins) – Mark Boulos

From alternative communes of the 60s to Kibbutzim, there have been attempts throughout the century to resist the dissolution of community wrought by modernity. This week’s session will look at one such example of communities existing outside of modern society.

A portrait of the NPA (New People’s Army) a group of communist insurgents, designated a terrorist organisation by the US and EU, living in the Philippine jungle. Through interviews and footage of the group carrying out day-to-day activities from cooking to discussing political theory or carrying out manoeuvres, a portrait emerges of individuals making enormous sacrifices for their beliefs.

We are very excited to be presenting this work as a three–channel HD installation.


Week Five – Filming Community and Filming Communally


Part One – 2pm

Moi, Un Noir (1958) (73 mins) – Jean Rouch (Followed by a short break)

For this portrait of young Nigerois immigrants in Abidjan, Rouch worked with his subjects to film their lives, capturing footage together and then recording their stories in a Paris studio. They take on personas inspired by movie stars and detail their lives looking for work in their new home. Communal filming methods, a mixing of dream and reality, and a separation between sound and image give the film a vibrant and surreal quality. A masterpiece and a huge influence on the documentary filmmakers, anthropologists and the French New Wave alike.

Part Two

4pm – William Raban presents his films:-

·      Sundial (1992) (1 min)

·      A13 (1994) (13 min)

·      Island Race (1996) (26 min)

·      Time and the Wave (2013) (15 min)

Over the last forty years William Raban has been a key innovator in structural film, expanded cinema and poetic landscape documentary. As manager of the London Filmmakers’ Co-op in the 1970s and as a tutor at Central St. Martins and LCC, he has also been an enormous influence on generations of artists and filmmakers.

Since the early 90s he has built up a loose film-cycle of works depicting Tower Hamlets and its environs. Read together, they are a vital record of one of the most changed areas of our city. William will introduce his films and answer questions.

Week Six – Paradise Regained


Screenshadows close their Cinema6 season, ‘The Watching Community’, with a celebration of the Paris Commune of 1871. The night is not strictly a screening, but an event that incorporates film into a performance of utopian space and an experiment in communal viewing.


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Event supported by Film Hub London, managed by Film London and a proud partner of the BFI Film Audience Network, funded by the National Lottery.

Film Hub London is Managed by                   Film Hub London is proud to be a partner of

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