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UCL Festival of Culture: Record of War: Film, History, and the Art School

Venue: Birkbeck 43 Gordon Square

No booking required

UCL Festival of Culture presents Record of War: Film, History, and the Art School


This event (re-)reconstructs a seminal London Film Society programme of 1937, in which Thorold Dickinson, the future director of Gaslight, 'dovetailed' alternate reels from Italian and Soviet films of the recent Fascist conquest of Abyssinia. 'Our fashionable Sunday audience,' Dickinson recalled, 'with their broad brims and capes and a capacity for chatter drifted out into Regent Street in dead, awed silence.'

Titled 'Record of War', the original screening was a probably unprecedented attempt to deconstruct official falsehoods through the direct material confrontation of two radically opposed perspectives on the same events one a glorification of militarism, one documenting atrocities which the other left out. The Mussolini regime, aghast at seeing its propaganda turned against itself, moved to prevent it from happening again.

Two decades later, Dickinson, having become Britain's first professor of film at the Slade School of Fine Art, assisted by his student Lisa Pontecorvo, re-staged the screening in support of a lecture series given at UCL by the historian A.J.P. Taylor. A milestone in the Slade's pioneering role in the use of archive film by historians, the 1969 reconstruction transformed what had been propaganda and counter-propaganda into evidence.

This new reconstruction will be a unique experiment, made all the more relevant in the new era of 'alternative facts'. Two projectionists will make a live montage of the two films on 35mm, to be followed by a panel discussion exploring the films' new meanings in a postcolonial perspective.

This programme is curated by Brighid Lowe and Henry K. Miller, respectively Senior Lecturer in Fine Art and Honorary Research Associate at the Slade and with the co-operation and support of the UCL Festival of Culture and the Slade Archive project.

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