One of our roles at the ICO is to celebrate older work that younger audiences might not be familiar with and present it on the big screen as a collective, communal viewing experience. There are many reasons for this unfamiliarity – from the lack of available cinematic formats, to the fact that some histories are often privileged over others, particularly in terms of the historical and cultural record.
With the Second Sight tour, we wanted to celebrate the legacy of the workshop films and start a conversation between the present and the past, both in terms of artistic practice and thematic, cultural context and concerns. I watched these films when I was a student in the 1980s, which made a deep impression on me. I think that the parallels between the cultural and political contexts then and now are similar – a conservative government, austerity and poverty, anti-immigrant rhetoric and an explosion of moving image creativity and collectivism on the margins, in spaces outside of institutions.
There is so much radical and exciting work happening today – both curatorially and in production, so many voices speaking and needing to be heard, that we wanted to celebrate this and make some of those titles available to cinema audiences. We feel that these films have something to say to audiences now and we particularly want to celebrate the work of female directors from that time.
It has been a privilege to work with the artists who have made this collection of fantastic new films and we are grateful for the care and thoughtfulness with which they have been produced. Commissioning new work has brought another dimension to our practice and seeing the enthusiasm of audiences for the juxtaposition of these new films with older titles has encouraged us to think that this is a very useful conversation to have.
The ICO would like to thank the BFI Audience Fund and Arts Council England for supporting this project and to all the curators, historians, contributors and filmmakers who have taken the time to have conversations with us. We are especially grateful to LUX who partnered with us on Second Sight.
Catharine Des Forges is the Director of the Independent Cinema Office.