UnionDocs is thrilled to present FROZEN REVOLUTIONS, a series co-organized with critic and programmer Steve Macfarlane, that looks to the archive to reexamine images and stories produced in the heat of the 1968 worldwide political and social upheaval beyond the broad strokes of “official history”. These documents of dissent ask us to assess the impact of their collective movements, foregrounding the challenge of looking directly into the extinguished promises (and lingering romanticisms) in their wake. Frozen Revolutions opens with an examination of the French labor movement with author Mitchell Abidor’s May Made Me: An Oral History of the 1968 Uprising in France.
FRANCE, 1968: Amid nationwide strikes and the student uprising in the Latin Quarter, a collective of filmmakers – including Jean-Luc Godard, Jackie Raynal, Alain Resnais, Philippe Garrel and painter Gérard Fromanger – teamed up to make a series of silent tracts, each length determined by the availability of affordable length of film. On average, each tract used 100 feet of film, evening out to two minutes and forty-seven seconds.
The majority of these were edited in-camera and printed in Brussels – where film processing plants were not on strike – then brought back to France, intended to be screened mid-occupation in both the academy and the factory. While the tracts have been shown few times outside their moment of inception, they represent a groundswell of formal creativity, a fervid moment of impossible juxtapositions: between still and moving images, words and actions, between the Communist Party and the New Left or indeed between Godard’s own cult of personality and his newfound militancy. Tract no. 21 includes an anti-slogan speaking to the moment’s propulsive uncertainty: “I have nothing to say, but I must say it.”
Alongside clips from the protests and a new digitization of Cinétracts, UnionDocs will show The Return to Work at the Wonder Factory, a ten-minute piece of film from the aborted International Communist Organization film Who Can Save Trotsky?, showing an enraged worker refusing to return to work in June 1968 under newly compromised union stipulations.
Writer Mitchell Abidor will be “annotating” the tracts in real time, discussing the repurposed news photos, the clashes between activists and police, the graffiti-ed détournements and the Eclair-armed filmmakers of that tumultuous month, drawing on the wealth of research conducted for his new book, “May Made Me: An Oral History of the 1968 Uprising in France”, out now from A.K. Press.
This program is made possible with support from Amélie Garin-Davet of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy A big thank you to them for helping make it happen!