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UTOPIAN CINEMA: Weekly Film Screening & Discussion Series

Oct 5, 2014 @ 7:00 am - 10:00 pm

|Recurring Event (See all)
Every week until Oct 26, 2014
| Free

For at least 40 years, cinematic depictions of dystopia have been more or less ubiquitous in our culture. The converse, however – films about utopia – are extraordinarily rare throughout film history.

This dearth of specimens is probably the reason why films depicting utopia have rarely been considered alongside one another or theorized as a genre. In this screening and discussion series we will attempt to do just that.

Each Sunday evening in October (plus one Friday evening “field trip”) we will watch a different “utopian” film and then discuss it as a group.

The focus will be on narrative and experimental films. We will try to pay special attention to the way that specific narrative and cinematic techniques shape the way utopian scenarios and ideas are presented to the viewer.

Some examples of questions to be explored:

What ways of acting and interacting mark the society depicted as utopian? What alternatives does it present to more familiar modes of life, and how does the film establish this contrast?
What “signifiers” of utopian living crop up across the different films? What cliches emerge? What moments of originality strike us? Does the film embody a spirit of experimentation or spontanaeity? Or does it rely on archetype or intellectualized illustration?
How is the film’s depiction of utopia conditioned by the historical period in which it was made, and by the system which produced it?
How does the film’s use of cinematic form or style relate to (or conflict with) its political and social ideas? Through what formal means is a collective (rather than individual) struggle or project conveyed?
In some sense, the idea of utopia runs directly counter to a conventional understanding of film narrative, since it implies the absence of conflict, typically considered the driving motor of dramatic storytelling. How does the film create and sustain interest across its running time in spite of this problem? Is there an external threat? Internal strife? Is the utopia struggling to be born or struggling to survive? Or are non-conflict based means of sustaining interest found?


Sunday, October 5, 7pm
L’An 01 (The Year 01) (1973)
A series of comedic vignettes depicting the first year of a post-revolutionary society: financiers throw themselves off of skyscrapers, prison guards spontaneously release all prisoners, roads are turned into gardens, people throw away their house keys, a boy adopts the hobby of collecting now valueless paper money, etc. A collaboration between directors Alain Resnais, Jean Rouch, and Jacques Doillon based on the popular counter-cultural comic strip.

Friday, October 10, 7pm
Lost Horizon (1937)
A field trip to a screening at Film Forum. Lost Horizon is the classic utopian film: the story of the hidden Himalayan paradise city of Shangri-La; a lavish Old Hollywood spectacle from “American Dream personified” director Frank Capra (It’s a Wonderful Life, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington). Please buy your tickets in advance. We will meet at a nearby location (TBD) to discuss the film afterward.

Sunday, October 12, 7pm
La Cecilia (1975)
Jean-Luis Comolli was a film theorist and film critic for Cahiers du cinema during its Mao-ist/Althusserian period in the 1970s. This is his first film as a director and tells the true story of some late 19th century Italian anarchists who were granted a plot of land by the emperor of Brazil on which found a commune.

Sunday, October 19, 7pm
Mister Lonely (2007)
A bizarre comedy-drama from Harmony Korine (director of Gummo and Spring Breakers) about a French island commune of celebrity impersonators. Intertwined with this plot thread is another about a group of nuns in Panama who discover they can jump parachute-less out of planes and miraculously land unharmed. An often beautiful, always ridiculous film that circles around themes of faith, immortality, fantasy, performance, love and cruelty.

Sunday, October 26, 7pm
TBD (check back soon)

All screenings except for Lost Horizon on October 10 are free and will be held at Flux Factory in Queens, NY. See here for more information on how to get there.

To keep up to date on everything Utopian Cinema, follow our tumblr. I’ll be posting information about upcoming screenings, including relevant readings, trailers, stills, etc. Anyone is welcome to contribute posts to the tumblr page by clicking the “Submit a post” button! It would be great to use this as a way of continuing discussion outside of class.


Oct 5, 2014
7:00 am - 10:00 pm


Flux Factory


Utopia School