a trailer about cinema action

in the beginning

Cinema action was among several left-wing film collectives formed in the late sixties. Based in London, the group started in 1968 by exhibiting in factories a French film about the recent events in Paris when riot police clashed violently with student demonstrators. These screenings attracted people interested in making film a part of political activism and within months activities extended to producing short films on aspects of political conflict in Britain. The combination of producing, distributing and exhibiting political film was the basis for a practice which developed and continued over about 20 years.

Consistent core members were Ann Guedes, Gustav (Schlacke) Lamche and Eduardo Guedes although many other people were important for shorter periods. Membership was fluid and a great many political filmmakers had links with the group at some stage because they helped with a production or borrowed equipment, took part in discussions or attended screenings.

working class films

Cinema Action also used the title, Working Class Films and its politics were clearly Marxist and revolutionary although not aligned with those of any party or formal organisation. Films were designed to provide an analysis of struggles and to encourage future action.

The aim was to make films on political activism and/or working class life and to do so by working so closely with participants that they would share control over the content. A direct, unmediated quality makes their work stand out from much contemporary political cinema. Not a Penny on the Rent (1969), attacking proposed council rent increases, is an early example. A later, more developed film is UCS1 (1971), a record of the work-in at the Upper Clyde Shipyard and a unique document as all other press and television were excluded. It uses especially effectively the approach of letting those directly involved express themselves without commentary.

fiction

The experiments in fiction were in part a response to political setbacks. The original Cinema Action project depended on widespread activism and especially on the Shop Stewards’ Movement of radical trade unionists. By the late ‘70s much of the momentum was lost and after the defeat of the miners’ strike in 1985 the Left declined to near impotence. Cinema Action made creative efforts to adapt but ones which proved unsustainable and it ceased to exist in 1993. Its valuable legacy includes not only an archive of films but the experiences of members and associates many of whom continued to contribute towards a socialist film practice.