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Free Cinema (Prog 2)

These films were made in the style of Free Cinema but were not included in the original NFT programme. The influence
of the movement is clear in these fascinating observations on life in the U.K. in the 1950s and ’60s.
The Vanishing Street by Robert Vas documents the disappearance of part of London’s East End and provides a fascinating record of the Jewish community who lived there for over seventy years. Against a soundtrack of Yiddish songs and snatches of conversation, we see life in the synagogue, on the streets and at the slaughterhouse, all of which are about to be replaced by high-rise flats. (1962. Black and white. 16mm. 20 mins.)
One Potato, Two Potato by Leslie Dalken is a study of children playing games in London streets and playgrounds. Filming over a 12-month period, Dalken displays remarkable skill in the way he captures the children’s games, which range from the repetitive tongue twisters chanted by the girls to a small boy trailing a stick along iron railings. (1957. Black and white. 16mm. 22 mins.)
Tomorrow’s Saturday by Michael Grigsby is about Friday night in a northern textile mill. It observes the life of the community, working and resting, and in particular its women working at home and in the factory. Grigsby lets the images speak for themselves as we see mills closing down for the weekend, boys playing football in the street, families at the laundrette and singing in the pubs. (1962. Black and white. 16mm. 18 mins.)
Gala Day by John Irvin (who went on to make the features Hamburger Hill and Widows’ Peak) is a vibrant account of a miner’s festival in Durham, complete with brass bands, Labour MPs and rain. Although the film’s techniques come from Free Cinema, its stance is strongly realistic and anti-romantic. (1963. Black and white. 16mm. 26 mins.)

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