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Mass. Multicultural Film Festival explores urban England

The Massachusetts Multicultural Film Festival is once more bringing audiences a sampling of some of the most dynamic films from around the world this Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Isenberg School of Management Flavin Family Auditorium (room 137). This event is free and open to the public.

Now in its 17th year, the Massachusetts Multicultural Film Festival is focusing on the theme of ‘Cinematic Cities.’ Throughout this spring semester, the Festival will be showcasing films that explore the powerful, reciprocal connection between cities and cinema. The films to be showcased include newly restored documentaries and silent films, international co-productions and recently award-winning films from multiple countries, including Afghanistan, Jamaica, France, Brazil, Germany, Portugal, Italy, Israel, the U.K. and the U.S. The festival has 13 events, from Feb. 3 to May 5, in which audiences can investigate and experience the connection between cinematic urban storytelling and cultural debate and development.

This week, the festival screens two films that look at urban life in two of the United Kingdom’s most diverse cities. The first is “Of Time and the City,” an ode to post-World War II Liverpool directed by Terence Davies. Davies grew up in Liverpool as a Catholic, working-class, gay individual and uses this 2008 documentary skillfully to reunite his past with the present. “Of Time and the City” is both a eulogy and a love song to the city of Liverpool that explores the permeating and permanent effect a city can have on its citizens, as well as the effect time can have on a city’s changing skyline, according to the film’s website. This documentary, commissioned to celebrate the city of Liverpool as the 2008 European City of Culture, received rave reviews at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival. “Of Time and the City” won Best Non-Fiction Film from the New York Film Critics Circle Awards for its lyrical style, acerbic wit and cultural commentary.

Along with “Of Time and the City,” the Massachusetts Multicultural Film Festival is screening “Listen to Britain,” directed by Humphrey Jennings and Stuart McAllister. Produced in 1942, this classic documentary was the inspiration for Davies’ “Of Time and the City” and has an introduction to the film by Davies himself in the version being screened on Wednesday. “Listen to Britain,” an allied propaganda film funded by the U.S. and designed equally for British and American audiences, was nominated for the inaugural category of Academy Award for Documentary Feature in 1942, according to the British Film Institute. Jennings’ films, including “Listen to Britain,” portray the heart wrenching entirety of England’s ground zero experiences during World War II, including the bombings, the food shortages, and most of all the everyday perseverance of the people of England as they survived from one day to the next for years on end.

The paired screening of “Of Time and the City” and “Listen to Britain” artistically captures a country in turmoil and in growth, in one of its worst periods of hardship and in its evolutionary struggle towards modernity. More information can be found at the Massachusetts Multicultural Film Festival website, www.umass.edu/film.

Lindsay Orlov can be reached at lorlov@student.umass.edu.

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