SIMON LOUVISH – DOCUMENTARY FILMS 1970-1975

End of DialogueDuring my time at the London School of Film Technique (now the London Film School), I was asked to join a group of students who were travelling to South Africa under cover of a boycott-busting tour by the Cambridge Dryden Theatre group. The idea was to shoot a film of daily life under Apartheid, and I had experience as a newsreel type cameraman in the Israeli army during 1967-68. The result was a 45 minute documentary – END OF DIALOGUE (PHELANDABA) which was released as an anonymous production under the aegis of the Pan Africanist Congress. The team involved in the production was composed of a number of political exiles, Nana Mahomo, Vusumzi Make and Rakhetla Andrew Tsehlana, based in London; and the shooting team was Antonia Caccia and myself. Chris Curling, later a distinguished film maker and producer, was also involved in co-ordinating the project and the tour. Antonia Caccia has since produced a number of widely praised documetaries on the Palestinian people, namely On Our Land, Voices From Gaza, Stories of Honour and Shame, and Bethlehem Diary.

GreeceEND OF DIALOGUE became a kind of “Gone With the Wind” of underground political cinema, winning several awards for Nana Mahomo (the only named partner of the production) and widely seen in the U.S. in a recut version as “A Black View of South Africa,” for which he won an Emmy Award for his narration. The other members of the team remained anonymous until recently, when a remastered video version of the film has been prepared.

To Live in FreedomRemaining at the London School of Film Technique, I became involved with two Greek students in a subsequent 50 minute documentary on the Colonels’ regime in Greece, GREECE OF CHRISTIAN GREEKS, which focused on the aftermath of the military coup d’etat of April 1967, and was shot in the summer of 1971. I then continued, with the same colleagues, Costas Chronopoulos and George Nolas (who wished for some reason to be credited as Jorge Tsoucarossa) to plan with our distributors, Contemporary Films in London, a new documentary on the Israel-Palestine conflict, which was eventually shot during 1971 and 1972 and completed as TO LIVE IN FREEDOM. This film was circulated in student and independent circles, and had a limited theatrical release in London, but was subjected to a strong boycott initiated by Israeli embassy sources, and their lobbies in Europe and the U.S., with the result that I was unable to find funding for several proposed projects in the U.S. in subsequent years. The tale of the making of this film became part of the background of my first published book, A MOMENT OF SILENCE, printed in London in 1979. The book, too, faced blacklisting the United States, an experience which was used in fictional form in the subsequent THE DEATH OF MOISHE-GANEF. (See titles.)

The Big KA last documentary film project of my 1970’s was a collaboration with Antonia Caccia in her National Film School production of a movie on the British coal-miners’ strike of 1975 – THE BIG `K’.

All four films were distributed, and the films on Greece and Israel were partly funded and produced by the radical London distributor Charles Cooper, of Contemporary Films, who was the most prominent distributor and mentor of international (what used to be called “foreign”) films in Britain, enabling audiences to see a vast swathe of global productions from the classic Soviet cinema thru to the cinema of Eastern Europe, China, India, and many new independent talents. Charles died in 2001 aged 91, having transformed the way an entire generation, myself included, was able to view the movies.

A Strange Interlude: MAD DOGS, 2000 A.D.

In the summer of 2000, a feature film was produced in London based on my script, entitled MAD DOGS. Although the preparation and shooting of the film was carried out with my complete involvement (with the benefit of an enthusiastic crew and cast), and credited as “A Film By” the director and myself, the film was subsequently recut by the director against the wishes and advice both of myself and the credited editor, and then released by the director (who had raised the funds for the film and therefore owns it) in DVD format, with further alterations achieved by some optical gizmo. I cannot recommend the result, an object lesson in the hazards of independent film making. It is apparently available via Amazon.co.uk and other online sales networks. There is a U.S. version DVD which apparently has been cut and altered even further, but I have never seen it.
It’s all right, Ma, I’m only bleeding…

CURRENT PROJECT:

THE MAN WHO BROKE STALIN’S PIPE.

A feature film on Mongolia, quest and history.

The Finnish Film Foundation has made a grant to myself and film director Heikki Arekallio, an ex-student at the London Film School and long term producer-director for Swiss television at Geneva, for a script of the above title. This has now been taken on by the Helsinki company First Floor Productions to proceed towards production as soon as funds can be gathered. This is the tale of a quest by two young people from Helsinki for the roots of an old family tale, travelling to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia by the Trans-Siberian railway. It is a strange weave of west and east, based on the true event of an incident in the 1930’s, in which the then Mongolian leader, Genden, had an argument with Stalin at the kremlin in Moscow, in which he punched the Soviet leader in the face and broke his pipe. The echoes of the Soviet purges of Mongolia, and the massacre of the country’s Buddhist lamas, are still felt in this old-new nation, where modernity, memory and dreams collide…

 

Terelj