Category Archives: Experimental

Good Luck

Ben Russell 
France, Germany / 2017/143 min

Ben Russell’s third feature is an apparent simplicity that is only matched by its power of evocation. Divided into two distinct parts (and an epilogue), this conceptual ethnographic film takes us to the heart of two sites of intense manual work poles apart from each other. The first is a Serbian underground copper mine. The second is an open-pit gold mine in Suriname. Sublimely shot in super 16mm, in black and white and color, Good Luck is openly a study of contrasts that encourages us to reflect on the differences – and the similarities – between the anxious atmosphere of the state mine and the sinking sun of the semi-legal career. Constantly emphasizing the individuality and mutual aid of the workers, Good Luck is also, and above all, a great gesture of humanist solidarity. (BD)

Ben Russell’s third feature is as powerful as it is apparently simple. Presented in two distinct parts plus an epilogue, this conceptual ethnographic film transports us to two intense and very different manual labor sites. The first is an underground copper mine in Serbia, the second year open-pit gold mine in Suriname. Beautifully shot in 16mm, in both color and black and white, Good Luck is a study in contrasts that encourages us to think about the differences and similarities between the tense atmosphere of the state-run mine and the brutal sun beating down on the semi- legal quarry. Always highlighting the workers’ individuality and solidarity, Good Luck is also a work of deep humanist solidarity.

Review (NYT): In ‘Good Luck,’ Miners in Serbia and Suriname Share a Cinematic Link


The Song of the Shirt (1979)


16mm, 135 min, black & white
Directors Sue Clayton
Jonathan Curling
Production Company Film & History Project
BFI Production Board
Script Sue Clayton
Jonathan Curling
Music Lindsay Cooper

Cast: Martha Gibson, Geraldine Pilgrim, Anna McNiff, Liz Myers, Jill Greenhalgh, Sally Cranfield, Alfred Molina

Show full cast and credits

An investigation into the position of working women in the 1840s, the effects of protectionist ‘philanthropy’ and the resistance to it. Explores the plight of a group of women working in the new ‘sweated’ clothes trade in London.

Show full synopsis

Originally intended as a history of the welfare state, as well as a contribution to debates on feminist history, issues of free trade against philanthropy and capitalist expansion against protectionism, The Song of the Shirt became a subject of debate in itself, not least thanks to its four-year gestation.Many different groups, including Women’s Aid and the Feminist History Project, were involved during this long production period, and as a result the final film had a broader agenda (and therefore audience) than was originally planned. While it still addresses ideas of feminist history and Marxist theory, it can also be read as a rather more ambitious project that fuses the history of fashion, literacy and sexuality.

It is constructed as a documentary, although the use of multiple-screen effects, monitors displaying text and projected backdrops constantly disrupts the flow of information. Few dates are revealed in the film, forcing us to address the arguments rather than the chronology. It moves back and forth between locations and eras, juxtaposed in such a way as to highlight the contradictions in the labour market. Close-ups of women and characters in the dramatised scenes are avoided, and in the tribunal sequence the figure-of-eight camera movements suggest aimlessness.

The women’s readings, both singly and in groups, are based on a story that appeared in the magazine Notes to the People. ‘A Page for the Ladies’ argues that all classes of women are oppressed. Women of different classes read the text in different ways, with other voices of workers and political writers given equal footing with the text.

The Song of the Shirt‘s combination of relentless political content and a dislocated and disruptive presentation makes it stand out from its contemporaries in its ambition to present a genuinely feminist independent film. Co-director Sue Clayton, a graduate of the Royal College of Art, has continued to explore these themes through her work with the Independent Filmmakers’ Association and Screen magazine.

Emma Hedditch




The Shutdown (2009)

10m; U.K.

Director: Adam Stafford

Synopsis: A mesmerizing portrait of the influence of an oil refinery in a Scottish town. Stirring narration coupled with stunning images mark this moving short.

Contact: Screened at 2009 SilverDoc

Leave a comment

Posted by on June 13, 2012 in Documentary, Experimental



The Temptation of St Tony (2009)

110m; Estonia/Finland/Sweden

Director: Veiko Õunpuu

Synopsis: Veiko Õunpuu’s follow-up to the award-winning AUTUMN BALL (2008 AFI European Union Film Showcase) confirms him as one of Europe’s brightest young talents. Filmed in striking widescreen black and white, Õunpuu’s tale follows the passive, put-upon Tony (hangdog Taavi Eelmaa) through increasingly surreal tableaux: his father’s funeral procession, interrupted by a car crash; a bourgeois dinner party disrupted by vagrants; the shuttering of a factory and firing of its workers; and a rural police station manned by comically grotesque cops from which Tony, on a whim, helps a mysterious young beauty to escape. Following her to a sinister cabaret, Tony may have discovered the heart of darkness of today’s Eastern Europe. Winner, Horizons Award, 2009 Venice Film Festival; East of the West Award, 2010, Karlovy Vary Film Festival; Official Selection, 2010 Sundance and Rotterdam Film Festivals.


The Hawks and the Sparrows (Uccellacci e uccellini) [1966]

89m; Italy

Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini

Contact: Totò, Ninetto Davoli and Femi Benussi

Synopsis: Humorous jaunt of working class young man and father to the big city accompanied by a crow who talks revolution and whom they eventually kill and eat.


What Would The Drop Know About That? (2007)

13m; Germany

Director: Jan Zabeil


Leave a comment

Posted by on June 13, 2012 in Experimental, Service Workers


See You at Mao (AKA British Sounds) [1970]

52m; France/U.K.

Director: Jean-Luc Godard & Jean-Henri Roger

Synopsis: After taking film to “zero” with -Le Gai Savoir-, Godard and the Dziga Vertov Group put out several Maoist/Marxist films, including this one. The main idea of British Sounds is exactly the soundtrack; the images are primarily still, with minimal camera movement: mostly tracks and pans. British Sounds is didactic and academic, but not without artistic merit, particularly the use of red and the jump-cutting fists that punch through the British flag repeatedly. The film has six parts, including the famous ten-minute track through an auto assembly line and a four-minute shot of a woman’s nude torso; it is also filled with speech, whether it’s a text from Engels read aloud or a newscaster talking about the necessities of burning women and children. A real agit-prop film, but, as Godard said about the later -Vladimir and Rosa-, also “a time piece.”


Solitary Life Of Cranes (2008)

27m; U.K. 

Directro: Eva Weber

Synopsis: In this companion piece to CITY OF CRANES (SILVERDOCS ’08), anonymous crane operators muse about their unique occupation while the camera voyeuristically captures London scenes. This is a wonderful short that contemplates the modern metropolis and its unceasing development.


Pigpen (1969)

99m; France

Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini

Cast: Pierre Clémenti, Jean-Pierre Léaud and Alberto Lionello

Synopsis (IMDB): Two dramatic stories. In an undetermined past, a young cannibal (who killed his own father) is condemned to be torn to pieces by some wild beasts. In the second story, Julian, the young son of a post-war German industrialist, is on the way to lie down with his farm’s pigs, because he doesn’t like human relationships.

Leave a comment

Posted by on April 20, 2012 in Experimental


Performing the Border (1999)


Director: Ursula Biemann

Synopsis (Women Make Movies): A video essay set in the Mexican-U.S. border town of Ciudad Juarez, where U.S. multinational corporations assemble electronic and digital equipment just across from El Paso, Texas. This imaginative, experimental work investigates the growing feminization of the global economy and its impact on Mexican women living and working in the area. Looking at the border as both a discursive and material space, the video explores the sexualization of the border region through labor division, prostitution, the expression of female desires in the entertainment industry, and sexual violence in the public sphere. Candid interviews with Mexican women factory and sex workers, as well as activists and journalists, are combined with scripted voiceover analysis, screen text, scenes and sounds recorded on site, and found footage to give new insights into the gendered conditions inscribed by the high-tech industry at its low-wage end.