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Hyde Park Picture House Picks

Hyde Park Picture House Picks
Written by Hyde Park Picture House  26/06/2020

Whilst cinemas are closed and screenings on hold, sadly its not possible for us to share films in the usual way. Thankfully though, a growing number of top independent films are available to stream from home – often for free – allowing you to continue discovering brilliant films from around the world.

With this in mind we’ve launched Hyde Park Picks to share some of some of the best films available online, with picks coming from Picture House staff, volunteers and partner organisations. We'll also be including occasional non-film recommendations too, from podcasts and books, to other fun bits that we think you'd like.

Throughout June we will be using our platform to better amplify the voices of Black artists, with all our regular #HydeParkPicks consisting of films directed by Black filmmakers. Over the course of the next month we will be reaching out to black curators and collectives - as well as you our audience - as we try to use the platform we have the privilege of holding to help share the stories of black lives globally.

Solomon Sir Jones Films, 1924-1928
DETAILS: US, 1924-1928, Various lengths
WHERE YOU CAN FIND IT: free to watch online here
ABOUT THE FILM: 
The films of Solomon Sir Jones (1869-1936) are held by Yale’s Beinecke Library having been preserved, restored and digitized with support from the National Museum of African American History and Culture. This rich collection of 29 films spanning over eight hours was filmed between 1924 and 1928. Solomon Sir Jones was a Baptist Minister, a businessman, a newspaper editor, a community leader and an amateur filmmaker. Born in Tennessee to former slaves, Jones grew up in the South before moving to Oklahoma in 1889. His incredible films document a full span of day to day activities in African-American communities in Oklahoma in the mid to late 20s as well as Jones trips abroad including visits to London and Liverpool. One of the films, Film 26 (shot between 1926 and 1928) captures communities celebrating Juneteenth which is celebrated in the US on June 19th to mark the end of slavery in the United States. This short essay on the work of Solomon Sir Jones, written by Martin L. Johnson for the Center for Home Movies, captures not only the fascinating detail of Jones amazing life and work but also the significant historical importance of his films as a record of daily life in African American communities in America in the 1920s. Read the essay here: https://bit.ly/3hCB9zg  


Mwansa the Great (2011)
DETAILS: UK/ZM, 2011, 23mins
WHERE YOU CAN FIND IT: Watch it for a voluntary donation on www.africa-in-motion.org.uk until the 3rd July
ABOUT THE FILM: 
Taken from the Best of Africa In Motion Shorts: Programme Two, which has just been made available from now through to the 3rd July. Mwansa the Great (2011) was the third short film by director Rungano Nyoni whose BAFTA Awards winning feature, I Am Not A Witch, we highlighted in our Picks last week. When the unbound energy of an eight-year-old boy causes the destruction of a beloved possession, he finds himself on a quest to live up to the name his late father gave him, ‘Mwansa the Great’. Funny and moving, Nyoni’s film beautifully captures the wonder of a child’s limitless imagination which also hinting at the difficulties of loss. At only 24 minutes long this Zambian shot film is also a great opportunity to introduce young audiences to African cinema. 


Within Our Gates (1920) 
DETAILS: US, 1920, 79mins 
WHERE YOU CAN FIND IT: MUBI.com
ABOUT THE FILM: 
The fragile nature of early film stock alongside a lack of appreciation for film as an artform as opposed to merely entertainment mean that large swatches of early cinema have been lost. A 2013 study by the American Library of Congress estimated that in America approximately 75% of all silent cinema is gone forever. Amongst these lost films is The Homesteader (1919) directed by Oscar Micheaux and generally believed to be the first American feature-length film made by a Black director with a Black cast and crew. Thankfully Micheaux's second feature, Within Our Gates (1920) has survived. Within our Gates follows Sylvia, a teacher at a school for impoverished black children in the Deep South. When she takes a fundraising trip to Boston to try save the school she meets Dr. Vivian, who travels back south with Sylvia after falling in love with her. If you'd like to learn more about Within Our Gates there are a couple of great podcasts we'd like to recommend. The first is BFI Black Star 1900-40: The pioneer spirit of Oscar Micheaux which was recorded in 2017 to support the BFI Black Star season and features it's curator Ashley Clark discussing Micheaux's work. Find it here https://soundcloud.com/bfi-1/black-star-podcast-oscar-micheaux The second is from 2016 when Within Our Gates played at the Film Forum in New York as part of the Pioneers of African-American Cinema. On their website you can still find a fascinating and insightful introduction specifically on Within Our Gates by filmmaker, critic and programmer, Brandon Harris. Find that intro here: https://bit.ly/2YXVhmW


Windrush: Movement of the People (2018)
DETAILS: UK, 2018, 52mins 
WHERE YOU CAN FIND IT: BBCiPlayer
ABOUT THE FILM: 
Monday June 22nd marked the anniversary of the arrival, in 1948, of the SS Empire Windrush and its passengers from the Caribbean who had answered the British Government's call to help rebuild post war Britain. Windrush: Movement of the People, a performance by Phoenix Dance choreographed by Sharon Watson explores the narrative of that arrival. Since it premiered in 2018 at Leeds Playhouse the piece has toured widely and thanks to a recording you can view it now for free for the next month on BBCiPlayer. For a full overview of local events, exhibitions and resources in response to #WindrushDay2020 head to the Leeds Inspired page of events and resources. One of the highlights is the Generations Dreaming event hosted by the Geraldine Conor Foundation on the 22nd and which can be viewed over on their Facebook page. Featuring interviews, poetry readings and musical performances by a wide range of contributors including Khadijah Ibrahiim and Emily Zobel Marshall the event was a beautiful celebration of the incredible contribution that the Windrush generation and their descendants have made to the UK and a timeline reminder of how much harder the UK needs to work to deserve them.  


The Last Tree (2019) 
DETAILS: UK, 2019, 98mins, 15 
WHERE YOU CAN FIND IT: Rent it on BFI Player and Amazon Prime 
ABOUT THE FILM: 
Growing up with his foster mother amongst the rolling fields of rural Lincolnshire, Femi’s young life seems as idyllic as the landscape. But, when he returns to London to live with his birth mother, he begins to struggle with the culture and values of his new environment.
The Last Tree was one of our favourite pieces of New British Cinema from 2019. Shola Amoo’s skilled direction adeptly uses all the tools available to him to explore the complexe journey of discovery his young lead, Femi, is undertaking. In particular the beautiful score by Segun Akinola is frequently used to subvert audience expectations and assumptions. 
If you enjoyed The Last Tree you can find Amoo’s first feature, A Moving Image (2017) available to watch as part of the BFI Player subscription.


Selma (2014) 
DETAILS: US, 2014, 128mins, 12A
WHERE YOU CAN FIND IT: BBCiPlayer
ABOUT THE FILM: 
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."  Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Directed by Ava DuVernay, Selma chronicles the three-month period in 1965 when Dr Martin Luther King Jr led a campaign to secure equal voting rights in the face of violent opposition. The campaign led to President Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the key victories in the civil rights battle of that era. Sadly if you look at the recent past in America you can see a litany of work done to undo this victory and suppress the vote, particularly the Black vote. Projects like @fairfightaction and @morethanavote alongside the @ACLU are working to try combat this. Much closer to home if you dive into the collection of the North East Film Archive you can find a remarkable recording of the ceremony at which Dr Martin Luther King Jr receiving an Honorary Doctorate in Civil Law from King's Hall at Newcastle University on the 13th November 1967, two years after the events depicted in Selma. Find it here. 53 years on King's acceptance speech talks of the need to change minds, to change attitudes, ultimately to change hearts and how the law should and in his eyes at that time could support this change. Locally Black Lives Matter Leeds are growing, organising, working to help make this change happen. Give them a follow and support as you can including checking out their merch line at blmleeds.limitedrun.com

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