The Free Cinema Movement is a periodical movement that emerged in the 1950s with the effort of a group of filmmakers. Özgür Filmmaking began at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, where a number of filmmakers such as Peter Gidal, Tony Richardson and Lindsay Anderson had a shared interest in the film medium. The studies carried out at this institute are also considered to be the first works of the British Free Cinema Movement. In the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s, filmmakers became increasingly interested in avant-garde (what can be called innovative or experimental) cinema.
The Free Cinema movement was a documentary film movement that emerged in Britain in the mid-1950s. Launched in partnership with Lindsay Anderson, Karel Reisz, Tony Richardson and Lorenza Mazzetti, the movement was announced at the London National Film Theater on February 12, 1956.
The promotional event included the premiere of Momma Don’t Allow (1955), a short documentary about jazz musicians shot by one of the movement’s pioneers, Tony Richardson, at the Hackney Empire theater in East London. This event also introduced the work of other filmmakers associated with Free Cinema, such as Edgar Anstey and Horace Ove.
In total, the Free Cinema movement released 6 programs for a little over a year. Each program featured new work from several filmmakers. Its last program was held in 1957.
What is the Free Cinema movement and what is not?
This new experimental strain; It included a variety of techniques that were not used in their current frequency in cinema, such as lapses or fast cuts, frozen stills and scenes, long and expressive shots, and zooming. In this sense, the movement has been an eye-opening experience for the next generation of filmmakers and filmmakers.
In Özgür Cinematography, the main focus was on the content of the films rather than the technological aspects of the film. This main emphasis has not changed as the producers use professional cameras, projectors and other film equipment to complete their films. Thanks to this movement, filmmakers like Tony Richardson wanted to promote cinema as an art form rather than entertainment as it seemed at the time, and provided early examples of arthouse filmmaking.
What was the Free Cinema Manifesto?
The Free Cinema manifesto was the manifesto of the Free Cinema movement, an experimental and innovative movement in British cinema. It was written in 1956 by Lindsay Anderson, the British film critic and filmmaker who spearheaded the movement, with the assistance of co-signers Karel Reisz, Tony Richardson and Lorenza Mazzetti.
The manifesto had three main points:
- Özgür Cinema films should be outside the mainstream film industry.
- Free Cinematography should be experimental in a formal sense.
- Özgür Filmmakers need to deal directly with real life by taking natural shots with handheld cameras and using natural sounds.
The term “Free Cinema” was chosen by Anderson to describe the type of cinema he wanted to produce, as well as to refer to the absence of propaganda intent or box office and other industry concerns (although Free Cinematographers later emphasized that the name was a mistake).
The name of the first Free Cinema publication was “Free Cinema Magazine” with the same name as the movement. This publication came out in the spring of 1956, before all films made in line with the Free Cinema Manifesto, and included the writings of Anderson, Reisz, Richardson, and Mazzetti, the movement’s founders and supporters. The stated aims of the manifesto were:
- Enabling filmmakers to express themselves without being controlled by funding agencies (including the government) or political parties
- Encouraging filmmakers to find new forms of expression
- Providing viewers with access to a wide range of movies and making movies accessible to all viewers
- Films as a whole are more sensitive to space, time and people; to make them more “real-life”
Leading names of Özgür Cinematography
Associated with British New Wave films, Free Cinema also bore the same name as a compilation of films released by the British Film Institute in 1956 and screened at the National Film Theater on May 23, 1956.
This program was introduced by Richard Lester and led by Lindsay Anderson, one of the movement’s foremost figures.
The two main founders of this film movement were Lindsay Anderson and Bryanston Moore. Anderson was a filmmaker who had just graduated from Oxford University with a BA in philosophy and was struggling to break into the film industry. Moore was a wealthy advertising executive working in London’s Soho Square.
The term “Free Cinema” began to become popular, again, when Anderson used it as the title of a film anthology pamphlet published by Anderson and Karel Reisz in 1955.
The pamphlet expressed Anderson’s views on leaving mainstream narrative cinema taking shape in Hollywood at the time and returning to a more “documentary” style. According to Anderson, this would give filmmakers more freedom. When real filmmakers get rid of the necessary details such as stylized plots and professional acting; their personal visions will develop and their talents in communicating the art of cinema to audiences will reach their peak.
Özgür Filmmaker theory and sources inspired by Özgür Cinematography
For the Free Cinema movement, the cinema of the time became a means of conveying realism and life itself to the audience, trying to bring a documentary style to filmmaking. Free Filmmakers, who wanted to distinguish themselves from studio-bound artificial cinema, were mostly British or American. His films were mostly produced in a political atmosphere where post-war austerity had a negative impact on society as a whole and artistic and intellectual sympathy for working-class culture.
The importance of the Free Cinema movement is the idea that cinema should be free and open to anyone who wants to watch it. In addition, they began to experiment with filmmaking outside of traditional production methods; It is also important that they want to take control of the films they produce without seeking permission or assistance from an existing studio.
What unites the two main founders of the movement, Anderson and Moore, is their shared admiration for the work of Sergei Eisenstein. So much so that Anderson considered Battleship Potemkin one of the greatest achievements in film history, and he believed he could create something equally impressive. To fulfill this dream, he decided to take advantage of a little-known rule that allows students to use the university’s equipment outside of office hours, and that’s how he got his start in filmmaking.
Now we can take a look at a few of Özgür Cinema’s films.
1. Food for a Blush (1959) – IMDB: 5.2
2. Wakefield Express (1952) – IMDB: 6.4
Lindsay Anderson is the director of this documentary, which covers the production of a small town’s weekly newspaper from the news to its publication.
3. Enginemen (1959) – IMDB: 6.4
Enginemen is a Michael Grigsby film that records the life and work of machine workers in a locomotive shed just outside Manchester. The film examines the feelings of loss and frustration experienced by workers as British Railways transitions from steam to diesel.
4. The Vanishing Street (1962) – IMDB: 6.4
This classic documentary by Robert Vas chronicles the lifestyle of a Jewish community in Hessel Street, east London. This film was produced with the support of the BFI Experimental Film Fund and the Jewish community that is the subject of the film.
5. The Singing Street (1952) – IMDB: 6.5
There are songs/games played and sung by Edinburgh children in the background of this production, which hosts Norton Park School students and tells about both good and bad streets. It’s a Nigel McIsaac movie.
6. That Dreamland (1953) – IMDB: 6.5
Another film by Lindsay Anderson, one of the founders of the Free Cinema movement, O Dreamland is a short documentary set in a famous amusement park and ironically deals with the events in the amusement park produced.
7. Momma Don’t Allow (1956) – IMDB: 6.6
This production, which reveals a night at Wood Green Jazz Club, where young people play jazz, is a joint production of Karel Reisz and Tony Richardson.
8. Nice Time (1957) – IMDB: 6.6
Nice Time, directed by Piccadilly Circus and which stands out with its visuals, is an innovative short film that presents the iconic structure of London as a surprising collage of images and sounds.
9. We Are the Lambeth Boys (1959) – IMDB: 6.8
Karel Reisz’s honest and sympathetic portrayal of South London youth aimed to challenge the media perception of ‘Teddy Boys’ and would be one of the last films to be screened under the ‘Free Cinema’ banner.
10. Everyday Except Christmas (1957) IMDB: 6.8
After O Dreamland, her first work for the Free Cinema movement, Lindsay Anderson created this motion picture full of love and tribute to working class life, depicting the hustle and bustle of the Covent Garden market.
11. Together (1956) – IMDB: 6.9
Italian director Lorenza Mazzetti also borrowed techniques from the Neo-Realist school to enliven this striking work on East Coast life, one of the themes of the films included in the Free Cinema movement. Filled with two deaf-mute dock workers, rebellious children and the harsh realities of post-war life, this film provides a poetic portrayal of London.
12. March to Aldermaston (1959) – IMDB: 7.1
This is a documentary produced by Lindsay Anderson and Karel Reisz, looking at the march against war and nuclear bombs that began on a Friday in 1958. The film, which proceeds with interviews with people participating in the demonstration and footage from the entire march, reflects the spirit created by those who try to force a change in the name of peace and justice.
13. One Potato Two Potato (1957) – IMDB: 7.2
The footage in this movie, directed by Larry Peerce, was shot in London in 1957 and is named after “One Potato,” a nursery rhyme sung by a group of children to learn to count. Examining the games played by schoolchildren in London in the streets and playgrounds, this film includes many types of games from traditional to contemporary.
14. Refuge England (1959) – IMDB: 7.3
Director Robert Vas, who is also a renowned BBC documentary filmmaker, had arrived in London only three years ago when he received a grant from the BFI to make the film, and was himself a refugee from Hungary. Despite the somewhat mismatched voiceover, the movie is; The contradictory image was embraced by the Free Cinema movement for its stylistic contrast of sound and its focus on the dispossessed.
Refuge England is a fascinating example of Free Cinema, with its interrogations on this theme, which is equally resonant in today’s society, and an “outsider”‘s view of the not-so-hospitable London of the 1950s.
Note: Most of the movies we reviewed from here you can access.
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