In the Returning Tide, the Undertow of History

This edition of M+ Screenings explores ideas of curtailment and interruption in the production, circulation, or viewing of films. Featuring essay films, documentaries, and works that have only recently been made available for audiences, it looks at history through the lens of cinema and the new stories that come about in its reading.

Whether shelved, unfinished, or unseen, the selected works, or their subjects, are inextricably linked to the conditions and localities from which they were conceived. This is especially the case for films from the late 1970s and early 1980s. As contemporary artists, filmmakers, and researchers begin to shed light on the individuals whose lives, practices, and works remain marked or motivated by these histories, they offer valuable insights that go beyond historicisation and documentation.

Featuring stories centred in Afghanistan, Argentina, Cambodia, China, Iran, Morocco, and Sudan, Cinema, Disrupted seeks to illustrate the complex and interwoven circumstances that affect cultural production. The films in this programme examine the entanglement between independent and collective practice—between personal commitment, industry conditions, and in many ways, nation-building. They recognise the 1970s and the surrounding years not only as a time of remarkable challenges for image-making, but also one that saw some of the most interesting collaborations and crucial junctures in the careers of these artists and filmmakers.

Part One: Disrupted Views examines the challenges of filmmaking and cinema-going in the 1970s and the 1980s, including excerpts from the rarely seen footage of Chi Xiaoning’s Film of Stars Group Activities of 1979, now part of the M+ Collections. In reconstituting these histories, Disrupted Views intimates a view of image-making and image-watching as having immense ideological and collective power. Part Two: Interrupted Legacies considers the creative potential and personal impact of moving image works from this era and further illustrates an idea of cinema-making that is inseparable from the contested, refashioned, or even speculative telling of history. Together, the two parts offer a closer look at the conditions which shaped the distinct textures of cinema cultures at a specific time.

This programme supports the idea of cinema as an ever-evolving form—an essential part of modern visual culture—whose varied disruptions not only reflect the precarious nature of filmmaking, but also probe the underlying forces that continue to influence the creative process. During these times when our own modes of viewing and notions of cinema seem momentarily upturned, the films and talks offer an expanded forum for debate and reflection.

Chanel Kong
Associate Curator, Moving Image, M+