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City Films

The 2019 Festival of the Future City included classic utopian films about cities; cities in silent cinema; and documentaries on New Towns, democracy, the housing crisis and the anthropocene. We were grateful to BFI for its support for this film programme.

Below you will find details of what took place along with links to some audio recordings and written transcriptions of introductions to film screenings. The illustration above was inspired by the series of film noirs that formed part of the programme and was created by Miles Tewson.

The Film Programme

PUSH (12A)
Tue 17 September 2019 18:00-19:45
The local working and middle classes have become unable to afford housing in major cities across the world. London, New York, Hong Kong, Toronto, Tokyo, Valparaiso, Sydney, Melbourne, Caracas, Barcelona, Paris, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Bristol … the list seems endless. People are being pushed out of their very own homes – because living in them has become unaffordable. It’s a global housing crisis. Who and what are cities for, when nobody can afford to live in them?

Menschen am Sonntag (PG)
Sun 06 October 2019 12:00-13:30
This magical blend of documentary and fiction takes us back to a glorious summer Sunday in late-1920s Berlin where five young workers take a day off. While they enjoy freedoms undreamt of by their parents, sexual rivalry soon lends an edge to their flirtations.

Listen to the audio recording of the introduction to this screening by Mark Bould.

Opium (PG)
Sun 13 October 2019 12:00-13:55
This sensational silent drama, made during the early censorship-free period, warns against the perils of drug addiction and sexual debauchery. Digitally restored by DCP Deutsches Filminstitut & Filmmuseum with live piano musical accompaniment by Meg Morley.

Anthropocene: The Human Epoch
Mon 14 October 2019 18:00-21:00 (includes panel); Tue 15 October 2019 18:00-19:40
At the intersection of art and science, Anthropocene: The Human Epoch witnesses a critical moment in geological history — bringing a provocative and unforgettable experience of our species’ breadth and impact. A panel after the showing on 14 October explored what climate change in the Anthropocene means for us and especially for cities.

They Came to a City (U)
Wed 16 October 2019 10:00am – 12:00pm
Adapted from a J B Priestley stage play, a group of disparate characters discuss their hopes for an ideal city. The film touches on themes of class, socialism and misogyny as well as utopia.

New Towns, Our Towns: Stories on Screen (U)
Thu 17 October 2019 10:00am – 11:30am
New Towns, Our Town: Stories on Screen is an innovative film project that seeks to increase the visibility of, and pride in, the story of the New Town movement, and the unique social history and heritage of these pioneering towns. The project takes place in the first four of the UK’s New Towns – Stevenage, Crawley, Hemel Hempstead and Harlow – using rare archive film footage to explore the shared experiences of their residents.

New Town Utopia (15)
Thu 17 October 2019 12:00pm – 1:13pm
New Town Utopia tells the challenging, funny and sometimes tragic story of the British new town of Basildon, comparing the utopian words of Attlee’s post-war planning minister Lewis Silkin with the reality of the town now.

The Dilapidated Dwelling (PG)
Fri 18 October 2019 10:00am – 11:30am
In Patrick Keiller’s film, a fictional researcher returns from a 20-year absence in the Arctic to find that, though the UK is one of the most advanced economies technologically, its houses are the most dilapidated in western Europe.

The Experimental City: A Documentary
Fri 18 October 2019 14:45-17:00
The Minnesota Experimental City (MXC) project was a futuristic attempt to solve urban problems by creating a full-size city from scratch in the isolated woods of northern Minnesota. Despite gaining support and funding, it failed. This film tells its story.

Listen to the audio recording of the discussion that followed this screening.

My Boy (PG) + Manhatta (PG)
Fri 18 October 2019 20:00-21:15
Cube Cinema
Victor Heerman and Albert Austin’s My Boy starring Jackie Coogan is a comedy drama set on the busy streets of New York. It is accompanied with a screening of Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand’s city-symphony short film Manhatta (1921), a swooping journey across 1920s Manhattan, guided by the lines of a Walt Whitman poem. Live piano accompaniment by Meg Morley.

Nineteen Eighty Four (15)
Sat 19 October 2019 14:00-16:30
Released 35 years ago, this adaptation of Orwell’s classic novel is pertinent today – as is the book – in a time of totalitarians, attacks on free thinking, fake news, the rise of populism, two-minute hate and fears for the future of democracy. Following the film, Simon Perry, producer, discussed Nineteen Eighty-Four with Andrew Kelly, director, Festival of Ideas. This event was part of a citywide reading project on Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Listen to the audio recording of the producer Q&A that followed this screening.

Abwege (PG)
Sun 20 October 2019 12:00-13:50
G W Pabst, the great realist of Weimar-era cinema, uses a marital crisis to paint a shimmering portrait of Berlin society. Digitally restored by DCP Filmmuseum München and with live piano musical accompaniment by John Sweeney.

Listen to the audio recording of the introduction to this screening by Pamela Hutchinson.

The Naked City
Sun 20 October 2019, 15:00-17:00
Cube Cinema, Price: £6/ £5
A police procedural partly filmed on location in the city of New York, The Naked City‘s visual style was inspired by the unflinching images of city life depicted by press photographer Weegee, who was hired as a consultant on the film. 

Read the transcript of the introduction to this screening.

What is Democracy?
Mon 21 October 2019 18:00-21:15
Featuring a diverse cast – including celebrated theorists, trauma surgeons, activists, factory workers, asylum seekers, and former prime ministers – this urgent film connects the past and the present, the emotional and the intellectual, the personal and the political, in order to provoke and inspire. If we want to live in democracy, we must first ask what the word even means. The film screening is followed by a panel debating democracy that will include film-maker Astra Taylor.

Listen to the audio recording of the discussion that followed this screening.

Der Golem (PG)
Wed 23 October 2019 19:30-21:00
Curzon Cinema
With its foreshadowing of Jewish persecution to come, Paul Wegener’s Der Golem is a poignant piece of film-making that emerged as one of the great masterpieces of silent cinema. Live musical performance by HarmonieBand.

Au Bonheur des Dames (PG)
Sat 26 October 2019 14:00-15:40
Set within the glamorous world of a Parisian department store, Julien Duvivier’s long-forgotten masterpiece was one of the last silent films to be made in France and is ripe for rediscovery thanks to this brand new restoration by Lobster Films, Paris. Live musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne.

Der Kampf ums Matterhorn (PG)
Sun 27 October 2019 12:00-14:10
An Alpine thriller combining depictions of historical events with a jealousy sub-plot about an English climber and his mountain guide wanting to be the first to climb the Matterhorn. Digitally restored by DCP Filmmuseum München and with live piano musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne.

The Asphalt Jungle
Sun 27 October 2019, 15:00-17:00
Cube Cinema
Set in an unnamed mid-western city, this gritty film – winner of the Academy Award for best director – tells the story of a meticulously-planned jewellery heist and the double-crosses, bad luck, police brutality, murder and suicide that follow. 

Read the transcript of the introduction to this screening.

The Man Who Laughs
Thu 31 October 2019, 19:30-21:30
Bristol Cathedral
Classed as one of the most important and most influential films to come out of Hollywood during the latter part of the silent era, this film centres on the extraordinary adventures of Gwynplaine, whose wide and mirthless grin inspired DC Comics’ legendary Batman villain, Joker. Live piano musical accompaniment by Meg Morley.

Read the transcript of the introduction to this screening.

Kiss Me Deadly
Sun 3 November 2019, 15:00-17:00
Cube Cinema
Adapted from a hard-boiled, pulp-fiction novel by Mickey Spillane, this explosive Los Angeles-set movie follows a ruthless private eye as he tracks down a gang dealing in stolen radioactive material. The on-street shooting captures a downtown Los Angeles that has now been lost as many of the Bunker Hill locations were demolished during redevelopment in the late 1960s. 

Read the transcript of the introduction to this screening.

Odds Against Tomorrow
Sun 10 November 2019, 15:00-17:00
Cube Cinema
Often considered the last movie of the classic film noir era, this is a taut heist movie in which racism is a key theme. Partly shot on location, Philip French described the depiction of New York City as ‘morally and physically chilling’. 

Read the transcript of the introduction to this screening.

My Name is Julia Ross
Thu 14 November, 20:00-21:30
Cube Cinema, Price: £5/ £4
This mystery-melodrama opens in a Hollywood-version of London where a young woman is sent by an employment agency to be the live-in personal secretary of a wealthy widow. Instead, she finds herself imprisoned at an isolated seaside estate. 

Read the transcript of the introduction to this screening.

Chicago (PG)
Sun 17 November 2019 13:30-15:00
Curzon Cinema
Set in front of the sexy but violent landscape of jazz age 1920s Chicago, Frank Urson’s 1927 adaptation of Maurine Watkin’s classic Broadway play would later inspire the famous musical Chicago, winner of Best Picture and five other Oscars in 2002. Live piano music accompaniment by John Sweeney.

Moulin Rouge (PG)
Fri 22 November 2019 20:00-22:30
Cube Cinema
Set in and around the famous dancehalls of Paris, Moulin Rouge was the first British film directed by Expressionist pioneer Ewald Andre Dupont. It is an entertaining, energetic film which pulls you right back into 1920s Parisian life and society, an era in which anything goes. Live piano musical accompaniment by John Sweeny.

Read the transcript of the introduction to this screening.

The Street
Wed 4 December 2019 18:00-20:00
Focusing on Hoxton Street, East London and its inhabitants over a three-year period, this documentary charts the collision of gentrification, austerity and the nation’s slide into Brexit. The screening was followed by a Q&A with the director Zed Nelson.

Partners in City Films 2019

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