Return to the City
Free Time, US 1960/2020 Dir Manfred Kirchheimer
8-27 June 2021
After many months of worldwide lockdown leaving normally bustling city streets deserted, the Barbican Cinema’s programme Return to the City – screening in Cinema 1 throughout June – hails the return of these vital spaces and communities.
With a diversity of storytellers as our big-screen guide, the films in this programme re-discover some of our great international cities including Paris, Cairo, Lima, New York, Las Vegas and Kaili in South East China – some celebrate the majesty and excitement of the metropolis, while others consider the prejudices faced by marginalised communities within the city.
The season opens with an opportunity to soak in the sights, sounds and rhythms of 1950s New Yorkers going about their lives in the UK premiere of Manfred Kirchheimer’s Free Time,(USA 1960/2020); here the filmmaker has meticulously restored and constructed the 16mm black- and-white footage that he and Walter Hess shot in New York between 1958 and 1960. Free Time captures the in-between moments - kids playing stickball, window washers, Manhattanites reading newspapers on their stoops - and the architectural beauty of urban spaces, set to the stirring sounds of Ravel, Bach and Count Basie. This screening will be introduced by visual artist and writer Will Jennings.
Fast forward to present day, the sounds of punk, psychedelia and experimental electronica are the backdrop for Ximena Valdivia and Dana Bonilla’s Lima Screams (Peru, 2018), an ecstatic and visually thrilling journey through Lima, where marginalised communities make beautiful music, and political protests are backed by fierce electronic sounds.
Introduced by writer and curator Awa Konaté, Nationalité: Immigré (France 1975) by Mauritanian filmmaker Sidney Sokhona, blends fiction with documentary in a staggering and radical account of African migrants at the margins of Parisian society in the 1970s. Cairo Station (Egypt 1958), directed by and starring Youssef Chahine, blends melodrama, neorealism and thriller conventions to tell an unforgettable, disturbing story of love and madness set in Cairo’s train station; Nina Menkes’ Queen of Diamonds (US 1991) offers a glimpse of Las Vegas seen through the eyes of a casino croupier, a place of garish, windowless interiors, but also huge blue skies and desolate desertscapes dotted with burned-out mobile homes, cheaply-furnished apartments, and dried-up lakes; and in Bi Gan’s sensuous, dream-like drama Long Day’s Journey into Night (China/France 2018) set in Kaili in South East China, a labyrinthine cityscape is captured in single, hour-long, gravity-defying take – a must-see on the big screen in 3D.
Gali Gold, Head of Barbican Cinema, says:
“So many of us crave the sights and sounds of cities, of cultures as they mix and come to life in urban spaces, of company and community. The possibilty of welcoming audiences back to the Barbican, to return to the cinema auditoria and (re)discover cities familiar and new through film, is hugely exciting. This wonderful programme, Return to the City, is a much anticipated treat for cinema and city lovers alike”.
All films will be shown in Cinema 1 in June. Lima Screams, Long Day’s Journey Into Night (2D version), Nationalité: Immigré and Queen of Diamonds will also be available to watch on Cinema on Demand throughout July.
Barbican Cinema has been supported by the Culture Recovery Fund for Independent Cinemas in England which is administered by the BFI, as part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund supporting arts and cultural organisations in England affected by the impact of COVID-19. #HereForCulture.
The Barbican believes in creating space for people and ideas to connect through its international arts programme, community events and learning activity. To keep its programme accessible to everyone, and to keep investing in the artists it works with, the Barbican needs to raise more than 60% of its income through ticket sales, commercial activities and fundraising every year.
Donations can be made here: barbican.org.uk/donate
UK Premiere: Free Time (U*) + intro by writer Will Jennings
US 1960/2020 Dir Manfred Kirchheimer 61 min Digital presentation
Tue 8 Jun 6.15pm, Cinema 1
1950s footage of New York comes alive in this beautifully restored city symphony from celebrated filmmaker Manfred Kirchheimer.
In his latest work, Manfred Kirchheimer has meticulously restored and constructed 16mm black- and-white footage that he and Walter Hess shot in New York between 1958 and 1960. Free Time captures the in-between moments—kids playing stickball, window washers, Manhattanites reading newspapers on their stoops—and the architectural beauty of urban spaces, set to the stirring sounds of Ravel, Bach and Count Basie.
The footage was shot in several distinct New York neighbourhoods, including Washington Heights, the Upper West Side, and Hell’s Kitchen, and features evocative stops throughout the city, making time for an auto junkyard in Inwood and a cemetery in Queens.
This screening is introduced by Will Jennings. Will Jennings is a visual artist and writer interested in architecture, politics, history and how built form interacts with wider culture and society.
Lima Screams (12A*)
Peru 2018 Dir Dana Bonilla, Ximena Valdivia 77 min
Thu 10 Jun 6.20 pm, Cinema 1
A pulsing and immersive city symphony dedicated to Peru’s capital city, pumping with the sounds of punk, psychedelia and experimental electronica.
Directors Ximena Valdivia and Dana Bonilla take us on an exciting dive through the streets and music venues of Lima, showing the eclectic and diverse musical talents of the city’s artists against a collage of moments and sensations.
Lima Screams is an ecstatic and visually thrilling journey through the city’s spaces, as marginalised communities make beautiful music and political protests are backed by fierce electronic sounds. As the city screams, you have no choice but to be carried along with it…
Long Day’s Journey into Night 3D (12A)
China/France 2018 Dir Bi Gan 139 min Digital presentation
Sun 13 Jun 2.30 pm, Cinema 1
A search for a lost love animates this sensuous, dream-like drama set in the city of Kaili in south-east China.
After many years away, a solitary man, Luo Hongwu, returns to his hometown for his father’s funeral. There, he is assailed by memories of a former lover, Wan Quiwen, triggering an obsessive need to find her again. Luo’s present-day quest and his memories of their romance intertwine; both play out against a backdrop of marginal, semi-derelict urban spaces – with a weird, near-hallucinatory quality.
The film’s dazzling second act opens when Luo wanders into a dingy cinema and puts on a pair of 3D glasses, whereupon he re-emerges on-screen in a film-within-a-film that begins in a tunnel, then proceeds to a pool hall and an open-air karaoke bar.
His journey through this labyrinthine cityscape is captured in single, hour-long, gravity-defying take – a must-see on the big screen in 3D.
Nationalité immigré (12A*) + intro by curator Awa Konaté
France 1975 Dir Sidney Sokhona 69 min
Tue 15 Jun 6.20pm, Cinema 1
Mauritanian filmmaker Sidney Sokhona blends fiction with documentary in a staggering and radical account of African migrants at the margins of Parisian society in the 1970s.
Nationalité: Immigré dramatises the real-life housing strikes undertaken by Sokhona and his fellow migrant neighbours in a Parisian working-class slum dwelling. Centring identity, socio-economic injustices, and the bureaucratic exploitations of migrants, we are offered a depiction that positions community organising as crucial to simply exist.
With Western capitalism, anti-blackness, and migration at its fore, the film’s politics is more than ever relevant to current public debates on inequalities. Its expressions of resistance and resilience invite us to reflect and inquire, what does life and survival look like on the periphery?
This screening is curated by Awa Konaté, a Danish-Ivorian writer, curator, and founder of the interdisciplinary research platform Culture Art Society (CAS) that methodises African archives for public arts programming.
Queen of Diamonds (15*)
US 1991 Dir Nina Menkes 77 min Digital presentation
Sat 19 Jun 6.15pm, Cinema 1
An alienated blackjack dealer is at the centre of this slantwise portrait of Las Vegas.
The many cinematic depictions of Las Vegas typically glory in the glittering casino lights and the drama of the gambling table: the thrill of risk, the joy of winning, the devastation of loss.
Not so this film, which shows the flipside of the city from the point-of-view of one of its worker-residents, a casino croupier, for whom each wager, each hand, carries no excitement, but is part of one long round of drudgery.
Our heroine drifts through a series of encounters. But events are beside the point, the appeal of this film are its images – sad, gorgeous, strange. This is Las Vegas as seen from the margins, a place of garish, windowless interiors, but also huge blue skies and desolate desertscapes dotted with burned-out mobile homes, cheaply-furnished apartments, and dried-up lakes.
Cairo Station (12A)
Egypt 1958 Dir Youssef Chahine 77 min Digital presentation
Sun 27 Jun 3pm, Cinema 1
A disabled newspaper vendor falls obsessively in love with an engaged drinks seller in Youssef Chahine’s thrilling study of passion, sexuality and violence.
Director Youssef Chahine plays the lead role of Qinawi, a shy, disabled newspaper vendor working in Cairo’s train station, who becomes passionately obsessed with Hannuma, a free-spirited drinks seller. When he faces rejection, Qinawi’s infatuation becomes dangerous as he falls into a state of insanity.
Cairo’s bustling central station is an effective microcosm of Egypt’s capital, as the socioeconomic divides appear at their starkest, and wealthy businessmen rush past the city’s poor, marginalised communities. Chahine blends melodrama, neorealism and thriller conventions to tell an unforgettable, disturbing story of love and madness. It’s one of Chahine’s most accessible films, and the performances are uniformly excellent.