By Edward Owen
The other evening at the Academy Cinema several people seemed surprised at the applause which greeted the conclusion of the "red" propaganda filifl—THE NIGHTS OF Sr. PEIERSBURG. I wondered what they would have thought had they attended one of the numerous displays of communist films now being given in the East End of London.
The films shown at these meetings are sub-standard; and only on one occasion,
I remember, did there seem to be any doubt al-ssut the censorship. But this gives no idea of the occasion they provide for the exciting of class hatred and the expression of anti-Christian feeling.
In Eissenstein's masterpiece, Tim BATI LESIIIP POTEMKIN, for example, the sailors are asked to eat meat which is alive with maggots. During the disturbance which follows one of the men picks up a plate on which is inscribed the words: "Give us this day our daily bread." The roar of blasphemous laughter front the audience which greets this sequence has to be heard to be believed.
Sometimes one.is puzzled to understand why this open anti-social and anti-Christian propaganda must be tolerated. It is said confidently by those who know that the Government is aware of and closely follows every subversive activity. How far this is true I cannot tell; but if any reader of these notes will buy the Saturday edition of the Daily Worker and go to one of the film shows there advertizcd on the back page he will be able to draw his own conclusions.
In the meantime what are we doing? Can we honestly Name people for not seeing that the Church in England is a brotherhood, is deeply concerned for the poor and to alleviate pain and suffering, is urgent for social justice, if we remain dumb?
How many of these well-meaning, albeit dangerous, communists realize the heroism of the Sisters of Charity or the selfsacrifice and devotion to the poor of the Little Sisters of the Assumption, to name only two of a multitude of Catholic activities? Many people have an astounding ignorance of these things and we are in large measure to blame.
I do not mean that we should engage in strenuous counter-propaganda and make anti-Communist films; hut the least we can do is to recount in film form the many of the activities of the Church in this country and throughout the world. There is urgent need for straightforward religious documentary films.
But who is to make them? We are often told that such films would not pay. I wonder. A film of Don Bosco is being shown to full houses all over France. But that is really beside the point. Documentary films are not to be judged by their entertainment value. They should be as serious as a textbook and as useful. The real documentary film demands application and attention.
May I suggest to the Catholic Truth Society that it consider the formation of a documentary film library? Perhaps members of the production unit of the Catholic Amateur Film Society would help in the work.
Price of Film Stock
One of the chief objections to substandard film work is the price of film stock. Thirty-two shillings and sixpence seems exorbitant for 100 feet of film, 16mm. It is even more expensive than standard film per foot. This complaint has often been made in the cinema press and still the manufacturers turn a deaf ear.
Yet there are ways and means. A little patient experiment with filters will teach the amateur to value more and more the old and cheaper orthochromatic film. This is 12s 6d. per foot or just 20s. less than supersensitive panchromatic. The latter price includes, of course, processing rights: but as a large number of people are beginning to process their own films the comparative prices are not far wide of the mark.
To construct a processing drum is quite a simple matter and the cost of the chemicals trivial. There is the additional advantage of working in red light.
There are other ways of saving expense. Perhaps the chief is to adopt the rule of always working from a scenario. Some amateurs are in the habit of shooting at beautiful things, in the hope that afterwards these shots will be useful. This is just waste of money. Make up your mind wilat you arc going to do. Settle your scenario and a detailed shooting script, and then begin.
second shot, "to make sure." In most Again. make it a rule never to take a professional studios this is considered most undignified. The cameraman should know his job. Aided by a light metre he should be sure of his exposure. If he has a photo-electric exposure metre, to take a second shot "in case" is just inexcusable extravagance.
Sometimes it is answered by way of excuse that great directors like Pudovkin and O'Flaherty shoot about ten times more film than they use. I have heard, for instance, that the latter shot over 100.000 feet to get the six or seven thousand feet used in the MAN OF ARRAN. The answer to this question is to ask another: If O'Flaherty had been told by his producers: "Now here is 15.000 feet of film stock: go over to the Arran Islands and make a documentary film,would the MAN OF ARRAN have been a better or Worse production? In my opinion the answer is this: O'Flaherty would have produced a better film and spent a great deal more time in making it.
There you have the situation in a nutshell. The professional has little time and plenty of money, but the amateur has no money and as much time as he cares to give; for it is of little moment to him whether he takes a week or a year.