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Curzon Bloomsbury
The Brunswick Centre,

31 October to 6 November 2019


“A landmark work of British political cinema and of collective and feminist film-making” – Annette Kuhn

Nightcleaners is a documentary made by members of the Berwick Street Collective (Marc Karlin , Mary Kelly, James Scott and Humphry Trevelyan), about the campaign to unionize the women who cleaned office blocks at night and who were being victimized and underpaid.

Intending at the outset to make a campaign film, the Collective was forced to turn to new forms in order to represent the forces at work between the cleaners, the Cleaner’s Action Group and the unions – and the complex nature of the campaign itself.

The result was an intensely self-reflexive film, which implicated both the filmmakers and the audience in the processes of precarious, invisible labour.

It is increasingly recognised as a key work of the 1970s and as an important precursor, in both subject matter and form, to current political art practice.

This screening will be introduced by Sally Alexander, Emeritus Professor of Modern History at Goldsmiths University of London who was also a leading figure in the Cleaners Action Group during the campaign. She will be joined for an informal discussion before the film with member of the Berwick Film Collective Humphry Trevelyan and James Scott.

’36 to ’77 WED 6 NOVEMBER, 2019

’36 TO ’77 + Q&A

Dir: Marc Karlin & James Scott & Humphry Trevelyan & Jon Sanders
United Kingdom / 1978 / 94mins

In 1977 Marc Karlin, James Scott and Humphry Trevelyan started work on a sequel to Nightcleaners that was to focus on the impact of the Cleaners Campaign on one of the women who had been part of a successful strike in 1972.

Myrtle Wardally was by then out of work at home, looking after her children and babysitting for friends. Represented in a series of time lapse portraits and audio interviews, she reflects on her childhood in Grenada, the impact of the strike, the comradeship of the cleaners in struggle, the burdens of childbirth and childcare, and her isolation in a disinterested world.

’36 to ’77 inverts conventional documentary narratives, integrating the struggle for memory with the struggle for representation itself; not only for Wardally, who sat for hours in front of the time lapse camera and the tape recorder, but for the filmmakers and the viewers as well, whose perception of film narrative itself is challenged and transformed during the slow progression of refilmed images and halting voices, as if in a dream.

This screening will be followed by filmmaker Q&A hosted by Helen Dewitt a curator and lecturer in Film Studies at Birkbeck and University of the Arts London.

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