Fall 2001

THE JOURNEY by Peter Watkins

November 12 - December 10, 2001

"THE JOURNEY is an attempt at a fully international cinema. Producer-director Peter Watkins (THE WAR GAME, EDVARD MUNCH) worked with support groups in nations around the world, raising money and assembling casts and crews. During 1984-1985 the film was shot in the US, Canada, Norway, Scotland, France, West Germany, Mozambique, Japan, Australia, Tahiti, and Mexico. Watkins talks with families and citizen groups in these nations about the network of social and political issues we are all part of - especially about the world arms race and its relationship to world hunger, gender politics, and the functioning of the mass media. Survivors of the bombings of Hiroshima and Hamburg reminisce about their experiences, and groups of people psychodramatize scenarios the threat of a Third World War might necessitate. Most important, however, as THE JOURNEY develops, the people Watkins works with begin to explore possibilities for moving through the barriers that separate peoples, toward a more peaceful, synergic world.

"THE JOURNEY is a 14 1/2-hour film which can be experienced over a weekend or over an extended period of time (the film is divided into 19 sections). It can be rented as a whole or in sections. And there are recommended shorter versions: check with Canyon Cinema for details. What follows is Watkins’ precis of the first part of each of the 19 reels. A more complete outline of each reel of THE JOURNEY is available on request from Canyon Cinema. Our hope is that whenever THE JOURNEY is shown in shorter-than-original form, outlines of those reels of the film not shown will be made available to viewers."

— Scott MacDonald

About Peter Watkins:
"There is a strong case to be made that Peter Watkins is the most neglected major fimmaker at work today. Over the course of forty years, the British-born director has managed, against trying and often adversarial circumstances, to produce a highly original and powerful body of work that engages the worlds of politics, art, history, and literature. That these films remain obscure is a function of such factors as suppression by producers or weak-kned film distributors, surprisingly unsympathetic—at times hostile—critics, and the filmmaker’s own legendary iconoclasm. Watkins has spent the bulk of his professional career in self-imposed exile from his homeland, a result of the BBC’s banning his 1966 film The War Game adn the critics’drubbing of Privilege the next year. By 1980, with so many of his projects aborted, Watkins publicly announced his retirement from directing and began to devote himself to studying and speaking on the effects of the overly centralized role of the mass media. While he eventually returned to active filmmaking, he has continued to publish and lecture extensively on the pervasive use in both film and television news of what he calls the "Monoform": a visual language comprised of rapid, "seamless" edits and an incessant bombardment of movement and sound. This research has culminated most recently in the launching of his own web site. [www.peterwatkins.lt]

Despite marginalization, Watkins survives. Having forged a unique cinematic approach—sometimes described as "documentary reconstruction"--he has attempted in recent years to decentralize the power structure of his own films by incorporating the real-life opinions of his performers and inviting, in works such as The Freethinker and La Commune, critical analyses of the directorial approach to take place within the films themselves."

— Harvard Film Archive calendar notes

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