Category Archives: News

The Lady with the Dog – at BFI Southbank 13th May 2019

The Lady with the Dog will screen on Monday 13 May at 2.00pm in NFT I at the BFI Southbank.

Mamoun will introduce the film and there will be a Q&A at the end.

You won’t find many adaptations of books or plays in anybody’s list of Ten Best Films. Francis Coppola’s two-parter of Mario Puzzo’s The Godfather might figure and also Satyajit Ray’s trilogy of Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay’s Pather Panchali, where it is difficult to know where the book ends and the film begins.  But where are the other great writers: Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Dickens, Balzac, Ibsen, Melville, George Eliot…? So often we get illustrations of bits from here and there and dialogue, lots of it. Adaptation can be an inspiration but also a burden – a burden of responsibility to the original. Films need to break free, as in Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood  (Macbeth) and Howard Hawks’s liberties with Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not.

Books and films are more than plot, character and dialogue. To my mind, one of the most successful  adaptations, where the book and the film are one, where the film is the book and the book is the film, is the 1960 realization by Soviet director-screenwriter Josif Kheifitz of Anton Chekhov’s great short story The Lady with the Dog. The original is only 17 pages long – no longer than a film treatment.

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BABYLON is released in the US this March

Unused poster concept for the film Babylon.
An unused poster concept for Babylon given to Mamoun Hassan

Kino Lorber Repertory and new distributor Seventy Seven are releasing BABYLON in the US next month. The film opens at the BAM Theatre in Brooklyn on 8 March, in Los Angeles on 15 March, and more widely after that.

Forty years ago I backed my first film as managing director of the National Film Finance Corporation [NFFC]: that film was BABYLON. The Board members were invited to take a leap in the dark. The BBC had developed the script but had passed on it; the British Film Institute Production Board under Peter Sainsbury had rejected it. BABYLON was a first film for the director; it had no stars, a wholly unfamiliar cast, dialogue and accents that required subtitles in parts, as if it were a foreign film – which of course it was to most people; it was violent, and it had no distribution guarantee or co-investor. I recommended we invest 83% of the budget: anything less would not get the film made. It was unheard of. Historically, the NFFC offered 30% at most. Further, a couple of years earlier the NFFC had invested in Anthony Simmons’s BLACK JOY, described by a critic as a ‘lightly ironic clash of cultures comedy’. The auguries were not good.

The script of BABYLON was co-written by Martin Stellman and Franco Rosso. There was no producer attached, but Franco and Martin had Stephen Frears in mind as director. I knew Stephen and admired his work, but the script was uniquely authentic, born out of Martin’s and Franco’s direct experience of the lives of black youth in south London. I thought Stephen would make a fine film, but it would perforce be a foreign correspondent’s view. Although neither of the two scriptwriters had directed a feature before, I suggested that one of them should direct it. Franco became the director and Martin the associate producer. Chris Menges agreed to shoot the film and Gavrik Losey joined as producer. The Board finally agreed my proposal.

The first five minutes of the film will tell you why I backed BABYLON.

BABYLON lives.

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Movie Masterclass has a new home

Welcome to the new home for Movie Masterclass – all news and updates on projects will be posted here. We’ve brought our archive over from the old site, so you should be able to find archive content here.

If you find something not working, please let our admin know.

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Some of the Palestinians – Restored

We have digitally restored the original ‘Some of the Palestinians’ – a 55-minute documentary directed and edited by Mamoun Hassan when he was stationed with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in Lebanon in 1974.

The film opens with a day in the life of Dr Murad, a Palestinian doctor appointed by the UNRWA to look after the health of the Palestinian people in a Syrian refugee camp. It progresses to a recently bombed camp in Lebanon to the West Bank, via Jordan.

The crew members and in Lebanon, the cinematographer, were Palestinians working in UNRWA’s Audio Visual Division, the rest of the film was shot by Ernie Vincze, the distinguished British documentary and feature cinematographer.

The final section presents a somewhat more acceptable picture of Palestinian life supported by UNRWA-sponsored humanitarian projects in women’s education and art in Ramallah.  This last section was not directed by Mamoun, he explains why…

I landed in Beirut with my wife and young family on 19 April 1974 to take up my appointment as Head of Films Branch, UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees). A leftist leader had been assassinated in South Lebanon the previous day and that event is regarded  as the start  of the civil war. A few days later I drove down to Nabatieh Palestinian refugee camp in South Lebanon to film the consequence of Israeli bombing. The camp had been obliterated. A few days later I filmed the effect of bombing in Rashidieh, a camp further down the coast near Tyre.

The brief was to document the services – Housing, Education, Health, Rations – that UNRWA offered the Palestinian refugees.  My immediate boss and chief of the AV division was the legendary Myrtle Winter-Chaumeny (writer, photographer, sailor, dancer); the director of Information was John Defrates, the bravest man I have ever met, who was a Navy pilot in the icy waters near Vladivostock during WWll. I was given a fairly free hand but editorial control rested with UNRWA. What I saw in South Lebanon and elsewhere gave me the form of the film: the experience of life in the camps in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan  – but not the West Bank because Israel refused me entry. Myrtle filmed that sequence.

So the story is about war in Lebanon; life in one the oldest camps near Aleppo established in 1948; work in Baqa’a in Jordan which accommodated thousands of fleeing refugees after the 1967 war;  and education in Ramallah.

Mamoun is keen for people to view this film. It is a timely reminder that UNRWA’s humanitarian work is not done, despite the decision of the US administration to cut $300 m from its planned annual contribution to the UNRWA budget in 2018.

He says,

“Since I made this film,  everything has changed for the worse for the Palestinian people. The locations for the film are now war zones or something very similar.  The tragedy continues.”

The restoration was made from an answer print of the edited film.  This version did not have English subtitles for spoken Arabic.  By referring to the only other known copy – a print held at the National Film Archive – we were able to transfer the subtitles exactly as they appeared on the film, which was invited to the London Film Festival in 1976.

LFF Certificate

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LEY MACHUCA – THE MACHUCA LAW

Image from ‘Machuca’ dir. Andres Wood 2004

In Chile a piece of legislation is progressing through parliament, the Ley Machuca, the Machuca Law, which will make it mandatory for every school, public and/or private, to make a percentage of places available to girls and boys from the shanty towns and slums.

Why Machuca? At the centre of Andres Wood’s vastly successful Machuca is a friendship between a middle-class boy, Gonzalo, and Pedro Machuca, from a shanty town, who meet in Gonzalo’s Catholic private school following Allende’s policy of sending kids from the slums to private schools. Of course, after Pinochet’s coup, Machuca and kids like him were thrown out.

Andres Wood

Andres Wood.

Machuca is one of Chile’s most successful films. In just over a decade since its release it has become a classic and is on the syllabus of most schools, colleges and universities in Chile. It is even included in the UK’s A-level Spanish syllabus. But the Machuca Law is something different. At a time when Politics and Media have become the same thing, Machuca has escaped beyond the media. It promises to influence the lives of thousands of children and their prospects thereafter.

Related blog posts:

Don’t miss Spanish language ‘Machuca’ at National Film Theatre, Southbank, London, September 1

Congratulations to Andrés Wood: Machuca listed as top 20 Latin American film

 

 

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Mamoun invited to join CineGouna panel at Arab cinema festival in Egypt 22 September

We are pleased to announce that Mamoun has been invited to appear at the first El Gouna Film Festival (CineGouna Springboard) in Egypt, as one of the ‘Mentors’.

The challenge of helping Arab filmmakers develop their projects is a daunting, and exciting, challenge over the duration of the festival which takes place from 22nd – 29th September at the exclusive Red Sea resort region of El Gouna.

CineGouna Springboard is a celebration of the rise of Arab Cinema, with the hope that “the interactions of our platform will not only provide financial reward, business and cooperation, bit also creative feedback and insight, with the goal of advancing the visions and aspirations of the film projects themselves.”

For more information, visit the festival website: http://elgounafilmfestival.com/cinegouna-info

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by | September 22, 2017 · 11:19 am

A few views of ‘A Closer Look – The Apu Trilogy’

Although it has been a while since the release of the magnificent Criterion box set of ‘The World of Apu Trilogy’, it is worth reflecting on some of the the responses to the ‘extra’ Mamoun contributed to the set.

The Criterion forum  Chris Galloway wrote: ‘We next get a piece on the trilogy, featuring the former head of the BFI, Mamoun Hassan. Entitled The Apu Trilogy: A Closer Look, it features Hassan offering a rather thorough examination of the trilogy as a whole, giving detailed analysis of Ray’s framing, how he introduces characters, the flow of editing, and how the visual language of the films can be broken down into “sentences and paragraphs.” He goes through each film, talking about particular scenes and sequences. It’s lengthy at 43-minutes but found it a very strong scholarly supplement that does make up somewhat for the lack of commentaries, an item that I’m surprised is missing from the set.’

Brian Tallerico on RogerEbert.com : “”This is Ray’s first film, and it is amazing.” So says Mamoun Hassan in a fantastic, detailed examination of “The Apu Trilogy” included in the amazing array of special features on the Criterion release. Hassan, the former head of the British Film Institute, breaks down the movies beat by beat, with such attention to detail that you further appreciate the filmmaking in new ways.”

Peggy Earle of HamptonRoads.com cited Mamoun’s extra as the ‘best extra’ in the collection. “Mamoun Hassan, former head of the British Film Institute, gives a fine overview of the trilogy, Ray’s directorial style, and the significance of the three films. He points to Ray’s ability to show emotions with no dialogue, and urges viewers to “give themselves up” to the films. “Ray had ambiguity. And that’s why we participate in his films. He’s given us room to interpret.””

Jake Cole for Slant magazine“For a deeper dive into the films themselves, a 43-minute analysis from filmmaker Mamoun Hassan is so minutely observed that even actors’ body language and orientation to the camera is fodder for discussion.”

It is always nice to be appreciated, and we must acknowledge the work of Abbey Lustgarten of Criterion, who worked with Mamoun on the extra with amazing focus, crafting it into the final product.

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Discussion with Andres Wood at the BFI Southbank

Mamoun Hassan was on hand to introduce the contemporary classic, Machuca, one of his Spanish language collaborations at the National Film Theatre on Thursday 1 September.
David Somerset, of the BFI, spoke to director Andres Wood live from Santiago de Chile via Skype, with Mamoun on hand, about the development of the script and the filming of this highly acclaimed and influential film. Despite a few technical hitches, the discussion was lively, and gave an insight into the production process and the inspiration behind it.

Special thanks must go to David Somerset, who organised the event, for his cool head when Skype occasionally lost connection with Chile, and for his enthusiastic support over the past years.

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Don’t miss Spanish language Machuca at National Film Theatre, Southbank, London, September 1

machua-01

Image from ‘Machuca’ dir. Andres Wood 2004

Mamoun Hassan will be on hand to introduce Machuca, one of his Spanish language co-productions at the National Film Theatre next week,  Thursday 1 September. It is hoped that a Skype connection will enable him to join David Somerset, who organised the screening, and speak (in English) to director Andres Wood live from Santiago de Chile.

The 2004 film will be shown as part of the education programme of the BFI and coincides with its inclusion as a prescribed film in the Edexcel Spanish A level syllabus from September 2016.

Machuca tells the story of a young Chilean boy and his friends and family during the coup of the 1970s. It is full of period details and features outstanding performances by all the young actors involved. Mamoun co-wrote the script with  Andres and is his most successful film to date, winning 10 international Awards including the Political Film Society of the USA’s award for Democracy, 2006.

Mamoun says,  “The inclusion of Machuca as a prescribed text alongside works by contemporary Latin American and Spanish 21st century cinema giants such as Walter Salles, Guillermo del Toro and Pedro Almodovar is a feather in the cap of Andres Wood, one of the best directors of his generation”

Andres Wood filming Machuca

Making Machuca. The child actors were not professionals

Andres Wood

Andres Wood.

Book tickets at the BFI website https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/Online/default.asp?doWork::WScontent::loadArticle=Load&BOparam::WScontent::loadArticle::article_id=C417E2D7-F7C1-46FD-A5E1-4C4C4C09DEF2&BOparam::WScontent::loadArticle::context_id=8D65B755-C1E5-4731-AF8E-DE96062A5FDA

 

(Free for over 60s)

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Panel discussion on Lindsay Anderson at the BFI Southbank, curated by David Somerset

Mamoun Hassan appeared recently at the British Film Institute’s Seniors talk on the work of  film, television and stage director, critic and actor Lindsay Anderson (1923 – 1994) at the National Film Theatre, Southbank, London March 14 2016. The panel event was curated by David Somerset, Adult Community Education Programmer. Filmed by Sherief Hassan and edited by David Somerset. The video opens with a clip from Free Cinema 1956 – ?’An Essay on film by Lindsay Anderson (1985).

Mamoun writes

Nowadays Lindsay Anderson, if he is remembered at all, is equally loved and disliked by film makers, film critics and writers. Not so in the late 50s, 60s and 70s. He was almost wholly admired not only for his films and theatre work but also for his writings on cinema, which were incendiary. Of course, he had his detractors, who often belonged to the establishment: the successful, the comfortable, the conformist, the smug and the paralysed conservatives. He argued and carried the flame for an authentic British cinema. He influenced a whole generation of film makers and critics. He was cerebral, emotional, provocative, censorious, intimidating, generous, inspiring. Never before had a British film director spoken with such clarity about what we should make films about and how we might make them – about style. Critics tend to belabour the genre, as if audiences can’t tell the difference between a hand and a hacksaw, between a musical and a thriller. They avoid the responsibility that Lindsay stressed: that good cinema grows out of good criticism – not of Hollywood ‘product’ but of our own films. Passion and insight start at home.

Legendary film critic David Robinson, chairman of the Lindsay Anderson Memorial Foundation, chairs a panel consisting of Kevin Brownlow, director, writer, editor and Oscar-winning film historian, Charles Drazin, author and film critic, Andrew Eaton, film producer, and me. We speak of the man we knew and sometimes worked with and of his films.

Mamoun Hassan

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