What Is A Radical Film?

13000082_10154699513218998_1123862145530451482_nToday is the last day of The Radical Film Network Festival and Unconference in Glasgow. To attend their closing events register here.

Here’s Monday’s schedule – this film (a mash-up version of Hitchcock’s and Gus Van Sant’s separate versions of Psycho) is on at the Old Hairdressers at 3pm! Opening sequence below:

The question in the header – “What Is Radical Film?” – is answered in an excellent and thoughtful interview with the event’s organiser, David Archibald, Senior Lecturer in Film and Television Studies at Glasgow University (some of his work here). An excerpt:

The main discussion on film policy in Scotland – at least at the level of the mainstream press – focuses on production, specifically the development of a studio. There have been discussions about developing a studio in Scotland for decades and it’s something of a scandal that there are no such facilities now. But there’s an important discussion to be had about grassroots production and exhibition.

On the ground there are more low-budget features and documentaries being made than ever before. This is not without its problems, as the people involved are often doing so on zero wages, but nevertheless there’s a dynamism in terms of no- and low-budget production. That has to be married to some form of alternative exhibition space – and that won’t be Cineworld – so other options need to be explored.

It’s interesting to read this in the context of digital film-maker May Miles Thomas’s submission to Creative Scotland’s Open Sessions a few years ago.

If you’re attending, we’d love to hear your thoughts and overviews about the Radical Film weekend – please submit in the comments below.

Comments (11)

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  1. Craig Miller says:

    Watching the Battle of Algiers as a sixteen year old in a serious Art House atmosphere and cheering wildly when the feddiyenn start to fight back ….anti colonialism explained for a teenager in less than two hours ….priceless

    1. For me, Godard’s Weekend – the carcrash sequence, the cannibalism at the end… Still blows my mind, so far ahead of its time.

  2. Craig Miller says:

    Not Arty enough ?

    1. Douglas Robertson says:

      Steve McQueen’s Hunger – especially the close up the the unblinking eye, then it blinked.

  3. Craig Miller says:

    Chien dAndalou…. the razor blade…..see ! ahm no draggin thae coos ahent yon piano fur anither minute ……Ken Russel and Cosimo Wagner forging swastikas out of Star of Davids .(I’m not in the Labour Party )…just for balance though …..Ben Hur was a blast …..and then i became a cynic and refused to believe any film was radical and looked for reasons not to believe

  4. Redgauntlet says:

    What is a radical film? Well, you would want a qualifier before the word “radical”. Politically radical, or artistically radical? Or in some cases, both.

    One of the most artistically radical films of its time would have to be “Birth of a Nation” by D.W Griffith, a white race supremacist. So would “Battleship Potemkin” by Eisenstein, who fought for the Red Army during the Russian Civil War.

    The word “radical” by the way, comes from Latin, radicalus, meaning “of the root”.

    The Left as often as not assume the word is theirs, but Thatcher was a radical of the right…

    1. Craig Miller says:

      i assumed we were using the word in its playful post ironic sense whilst still being aware of its intrinsic power to alter and shape future perceptions of reality that would not otherwise have been apparent without the radicalism of the concept driving the work , be it film , image or the written word , radicalism is judged almost solely by its ability to jog the mundane in a meaningful way …to shock for instance …may be memorably visceral …but has little or no didactic value…….radicalism in cinema ….discuss ….preferably without mentioning Danny fuckin Boyle

  5. Alf Baird says:

    The main problem, as May’s paper suggests, is perhaps the clueless and useless bunch of civil servants and bureaucrats running everything and a’thing in Scotland. Our specialist public institutions should be run by people who have some real experience and insight into the relevant discipline. A relative highlight of this election for me was the Garry tank commander interviews – a very funny, very Scots, yet serious in a subtle ‘Scots’ way, pleasantly insulting, we’re a’ Jock Tamson’s, we can take it kinda humour. Some in the upper levels o’ anglicised ‘Scottish’ society nae doot thocht it twee, parochial, maybe even pointless. Scottish TV and film has enormous potential, if ‘bodies’ wid only open their een an doors an cash drawers tae wer ain cultur an leid. Gregory’s Girl, wis radical in the sense it wis aboot the only decent authentic Scots film iver made in Scotland? The secret ingredient is perhaps that ‘authenticity’, and that’s what provides for differentiation (in a global market).

  6. barakabe says:

    As others have pointed out in terms of how we define ‘radical’: is it aesthetic or semantic radicalism to which we refer? When we think of political radicalism in film we might think of pre-Stalinist Soviet filmmakers like Vertov or the overtly political Eisenstein, Kalatozov’s “I am Cuba” & maybe even Dovzchenko; Godard, Chris Marker in France, the duration art film movement in America, particularly Warhol, or in Britain the New Wave films of the 50s/60s, Alan Clarke, Ken Loach or Peter Watkins, specifically in terms of something like ‘Punishment Park’. Many of these filmmakers may fall into the aesthetic radical camp as well, among the likes of Dreyer, Ozu, Paradjanov or Tarkovsky, a status definitely reserved for Eisenstein. This binary distinction may be misleading in many ways: aesthetics can and most often is political. Another example might be contemporary slow cinema practiced by filmmakers such as Lav Diaz of the Philippines, Bela Tarr, Thailand’s Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Lisandro Alonso or Portugal’s Pedro Costa all make films as powerful political statement and critique’s of Neo-Liberalism. If we assume that mainstream cinema, such as the dominant ‘institutional mode’ of filmmaking in Hollywood is representative of Capitalist ideology, values and a specifically action-based conception of time then we can see time in film as a political concept. These slow cinema directors use time radically in long-takes and employ certain aesthetics to communicate an alternative humanistic world-view in opposition to capitalist funded Hollywood filmmaking.
    I would argue that Bill Douglas is one of Scotland’s post-war greatest artists ( probably its only real ‘master’ craftsman) who is internationally recognized as one of cinema’s great maverick innovators ( & a pioneer of slow cinema)- yet he is virtually unknown in Scotland- this tells us a lot about not only our own colonized mind-set but also the status of film as an ‘art-form’. Intellectually, Scotland as a nation, is operating in the 19th century. Other small nations, such as Portugal have Pedro Costa or Miguel Gomes, or ‘peripheral’ nations such as the Philippines have Lav Diaz or Turkey with Nuri Bilge Ceylan, we have little comparable in terms of quality visionaries- is it lack of talent, opportunity or support? Ceylan in his early films, Uzak, Climates, Three Monkeys, used micro crews with very small budgets, that were internationally respected- he would go onto win the Palme d’Or with Winter Sleep- why can’t we give young visionary filmmakers in this country small budgets to do the same? To offer our artists the opportunity to find an authentic voice for our nation? This sort of authentic voice would sell in the international markets. Other nations do it, and their artists are supported via the festival circuits, to expand their message internationally.

    1. Alf Baird says:

      “is it lack of talent, opportunity or support?”

      Hits nail on heid, Barakabe. Plenty Scottish talent, loads and loads o’ authentic talent – but its aw suppressed. Oor ‘anglicised’ overlords and unionist London-centric elites haud us back. Nae maiter whether its making films or running maist ither industries.

      As my expat Scots-Aussie ship designer/builder mate says: “aw the best, got up an left” because there wis nae opportunity and nae support and nae ‘national’ interest in Scotland. In his case, the infrastructure needed for shipbuilding was provided by states in Australasia, and still is – but not here in Scotland. Same wi films an a’thing else.

      We need a ‘can dae it’, no a ‘cannae dae it’ attitude. There’s nae real (economic) vision in thon Holyrood manifestos. But aside from that we really need to clean out ‘establishment Scotland’ and the unionist ‘cannae dae it’ mindset still holding us back to make any real progress and get this moribund economy motoring. That should have been done by now but the SNP has simply left all the same unionist overlords in public sector posts, and indeed have allowed the continued hiring of the same sort of folk to run ‘establishment Scotland’.

      When a nation seeks independence, the last thing it should do is allow the colonialist elites to continue to run its major institutions. Nae wonder we lost the referendum!

    2. Anton says:

      Glad to hear mention of Bill Douglas, one of the greatest Scots of the last hundred years.

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