Amos Vogel: Film as a Subversive Art

Howard Alk – The Murder of Fred Hampton (1971)

Chicago native Howard Alk helped found Second City in 1959 and made a name for himself in the ’60s and ’70s as a documentary cinematographer, editor, and director. His debut feature, American Revolution 2 (1969, codirected by Mike Gray) looked at the Black Panther Party in Chicago; this follow-up, a profile of Panther leader Fred Hampton, unexpectedly turned into a true-crime story in December 1969 when Hampton and another Panther were fatally shot during the Chicago Police Department’s notorious raid on a Panther crash pad in West Town. The documentary (1971) presents Hampton as a charismatic figure given to violent revolutionary rhetoric, but after his death the focus shifts to Cook County state’s attorney Ed Hanrahan, whose report exonerating the police department was treated as gospel truth by the Chicago Tribune but belied by a wealth of physical evidence at the scene of the crime. As a first draft of history, this is invaluable, though its topical relevance has hardly diminished. Read More »

Octavio Getino & Fernando E. Solanas – La hora de los hornos AKA The Hour of the Furnaces (1968)

Nicole Brenez for BFI wrote:
Made in Argentina in 1968, The Hour of the Furnaces (La hora de los hornos) is the film that established the paradigm of revolutionary activist cinema. “For the first time,” said one of its writers, Octavio Getino, “we demonstrated that it was possible to produce and distribute a film in a non-liberated country with the specific aim of contributing to the political process of liberation.” The film is not just an act of courage, it’s also a formal synthesis, a theoretical essay and the origin of several contemporary image practices. Read More »

Rubén Gámez – La Fórmula secreta AKA The Secret Formula (1965)

IMDB comments say:
This is one of the best Mexican short movies ever. You could probably imagine the Mexican idiosyncrasy, read some history books, but you will find a big difference and experience the feeling of the post-revolutionary age of Mexico with this film.

Labor unions, the invasion of large scale and global foreign companies, the mother’s love, the Mexican habits descriptions are part of this master piece.

Adding the emotion of Jaime Sabine’s narration voice in all the allegoric signs and metaphors. Read More »

Enrique Juárez – Ya es tiempo de violencia AKA Now is the Time for Violence (1969)

Produced illegally, this is a radical, anti- American agit-prop documentary, filled with amazing sequences of large-scale, violent, unreported street riots in several Argentinian cities. The film is a testimony to the power of censorship — and the need for clandestine filmmakers to counteract it. Read More »

Hellmuth Costard – Besonders wertvoll (1968)

Pornography in the service of politics. An outrageous provocation, this attack on reactionary German legislation discriminating against young film directors, features head-on, close-up shots of a penis ‘mouthing’ the parliamentary defence of the law by its author. This is followed by masturbation of the organ by an anonymous female hand, ending with ejaculation into the camera and a close-up of a nude behind ‘blowing’ out a candle (with appropriate sound). A landmark in political pamphleteering, the film was selected for the 1968 Oberhausen International Short Film Festival by a committee of leading German critics, and promptly banned by the (social-democratic!) city government, causing the withdrawal of almost all German directors from the festival and a national scandal. The title satirically refers to the official certificate of ‘Particularly Valuable’ given each year to the best film shorts by an Establishment selection committee.
– Amos Vogel, Film as a Subversive Art Read More »

Stan Brakhage – Anticipation of the Night (1958)

Light and shadow, sun and moon, dream and colour: a daring attempt, by one of the great experimenters of our day, to portray events, objects, the world as they might look to an infant as yet unable to organise his impressions. “Reality” is here broken into a flow of colours and shapes, rushing by in complex, mysterious orchestration. — Amos Vogel Read More »

Lindsay Anderson – O Dreamland (1956)

Unsparing candid-camera work and astute juxtaposition of natural sound provide a scathing, angry and wordless comment on modern popular culture as seen at a British amusement park. No attempt is made to poke fun at the people shown; they are portrayed as victims — Orwell’s 1984 “proles”. A visual and aural barrage of cheap pleasures and angry social comment by the later famous director of If and O Lucky Man.
– Amos Vogel Read More »