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Archive for October 3rd, 2015

Sambizanga - 1972, Sarah Maldoror

Sambizanga – 1972, Sarah Maldoror

by Allan Fish

At the end of the interminably gestating book I hope to release on Kindle by the end of the year there’s a section I call the Final Apologies. To some, it may seem superfluous to requirements, especially given there are over 2,000 entries in the main text, but there are times when I have come to believe it the most important part of the book. It’s relatively easy to wax lyrical about why you love certain films, why they should be preserved above all others. It’s not as straightforward to say why certain other films shouldn’t.

The Final Apologies is the multi-task section of the book. On one level it’s what it says on the tin, apologies for the films left at reception when the hotel reaches capacity. On another, it’s my Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card, a way of saying that “no, I didn’t forget these, I just didn’t think them up to scratch because…” Yet on another it’s an admission of guilt, an Exhibit A for the prosecution, as it were. The fact remains that no man’s opinion is gospel, there is no arbiter of taste. But it goes beyond that, for to any discerning film buff there are films that are just not for you. It may be a taste thing, a sense of humour or outlook alien to oneself, but it may go deeper, to the point where you know that the deficit is not the film’s, but yours. A recognition that certain films are masterpieces but just not in your eyes; they don’t travel.

So what exactly do I mean? It’s a favourite line of mine, that used by Mark Cousins in The Story of Film, that film history is “racist by omission.” Often, however, it’s been ignorant by choice. Film histories are very happy with their so-called comprehensiveness, thank you very much, and don’t need masterpieces discovering left, right and centre that demand a rewriting of their pages, even whole new chapters. Film History 101 has always been blinkered, blind, focusing us on what it thinks are the accepted essentials, but in doing so people have taken these histories – and the canons they create – as inviolable. They’re not. Canons should only be stepping stones to undertake our own journeys where we go way beyond them.

Yet even with regards to zealots like me who take accepted film history as inadequate, we have to admit our shortcomings. Only recently someone asked me what I felt was my biggest cinematic blind spot, and after careful deliberation I selected African cinema. But acknowledging that is again only the first step of the journey, for one must then ask the obvious question; why? (more…)

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