Our Cinema Curator Mark Cosgrove reflects on some of Watershed's archive of recorded material:
During lockdown I have been rediscovering our archive of recorded talks and events, a range which goes from Ken Russell’s Short film Paradise in 2006 to Armando Iannucci talking about The Personal History of David Copperfield earlier this year.
In between is a varied wider cultural engagement with film through partnerships with organisations such as Afrika Eye, the UWE Philosophy & Politics department and Come the Revolution, a collective of curators/creatives committed to exploring Black life through cinema.
I’ve always thought that the screening of a film is the springboard to a wider audience engagement and discussion and these 100+ recordings in our archive pay testament to that.
Amongst the many emotions evoked by the recent events flowing from the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis to the toppling of the statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol is, for me, the sense of the interconnectedness of culture and history, and the value of film as a means to explore both.
In response to these events and in support of Black Lives Matter I have collected together some talks and events from our archive which connect with this cultural and historical moment.
The Stuart Hall Project (available to rent on our BFI Player Page)
Stuart Hall was one of the founding figures of contemporary cultural studies whose influence continues to grow. This questions & answers session with writer and curator Karen Alexander followed a screening of filmaker/artist John Akomfrah's illuminating film portrait of Hall.
Footsteps of the Emperor (see an extract here)
UWE Associate Professor of Cultural Interdisciplinary Practice, filmmaker and photographer Shawn Sobers chairs a panel following a screening of his documentary screened at Watershed to raise awareness and funds to preserve the use of the house in Bath where Emperor Haile Selassie lived in exile for 5 years.
12 Years a Slave: Context to Slavery
The story of Solomon Northup was always going to resonate in the city which was the major port in the slave trade. In partnership with Ujima community radio we set up a number of formal and informal ways for audiences to discuss the film. The Chair of Ujima Roger Griffith watched the film for the first time with the audience to share this unique viewing experience. The discussion which followed was one of the most powerful and emotional I have experienced at Watershed.
12 Years a Slave: Slavery and Public History
Dr Madge Dresser, Professor in History at University of West Of England, is one of the key figures in documenting the history of the transatlantic slave trade past, Bristol’s role in it and its influence through to the present.
The Story of Michael X (see here for more info)
This event was part of a season presented by Come The Revolution and Festival of Ideas to mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X. This panel discussion explored the impact of the charismatic British black radical Michael de Freitas who modelled himself on the American activist and who combined black power with the swinging London of the late 60s.
Story of Lover’s Rock (for more info visit menelikshabazz.co.uk)
Award winning writer director Menelik Shabazz discusses his documentary on the ‘80s British Reggae sub-genre with Dr Edson Burton an era soon to be dramatised by director Steve McQueen in his forthcoming film.