Melbourne Cinematheque 2011: John Hughes

20 Apr

We return to Cinematheque this week with a look at Australian film-maker John Hughes (no, not The Breakfast Club one). Hughes himself will be at ACMI this week to introduce his films; three of which have been selected from varying decades in his career. A ‘creative director’, Hughes’ work often centres on Australia, its history, its politics and its people, never shying away from the good or the bad.

Film-Work (1981) is an unveiling of the work of the Waterside Workers Federation Film Unit throughout the 1950s. The Unit is a vital part of Australian film history; it allowed film-makers a chance to express themselves during the years when the Menzies government believed that they were undermining government policy. Focusing on various scenes in four films from 1953 through 1958, Hughes examines how these films and film-makers influenced the politics and society of the time and the legacy these films have had.

One Way Street: Fragments for Walter Benjamin (1992) is a homage to Walter Benjamin, a German-Jewish intellectual who committed suicide whilst trying to escape Nazi’s in France in 1940. Benjamin’s writings, philosophies and essays focused on socio-political history with Marxist leanings, national idealism and on the study of works such as Kafka and Proust. Hughes’ film in turn takes a visual look at Benjamin’s ideas, his philosophies, his legacy, and his history from numerous places around the world. Through interviews, archival footage and recordings from Benjamin’s graveside Hughes tries to find out who this man was and what he has become.

To finish the night is The Archive Project (2006), a look at the Melbourne Realist Film Unit. This indeed is an Archive Project- culminating twenty years of research into this group of activist Melbournian film-makers of the late 1940s and early 1950s. Said activists were those who supported the labour movement, and peace and housing campaigns, whilst championing American and European avant-garde cinema of the time. Complete with ASIO footage!

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