May 2008 marked the fortieth anniversary of the largest general strike in the history of France, and the only widespread insurrection in a developed capitalist society in the second half of the twentieth century. ‘Reactive memory’ (political, media-driven, cultural) downplays the importance of May ’68 by reducing it to a student revolt, a generational conflict, a sudden acceleration of modernity (the explosion of hedonist individualism, liberation from tradition), etc. In the face of this current attempt to de-politicise the event, In and Against Cinema. Around May ’68 seeks to awaken a contrary and conflictive memory, that of the search for political spaces outside, on the margins of and against institutional politics. This search did not just take place in the field of organised struggle, but it influenced filmmaking in equal measure, perhaps more than any other cultural form or language.
In and Against Cinema. Around May ’68 presents a series of films, mostly from the late 60s, that look at the problems of May ’68: How can a movement that rejects ‘the indignity of speaking for others’ - not only in terms of politics, the media and the unions, but also culturally, artistically and intellectually - express itself? What makes an image become political? What makes political cinema political?
The title of the series, In and Against Cinema, taken from a text that appeared in Internationale Situationniste #1, is a fitting epigraph for the two trends that emerge from these questions and trouble the experiences: - Against, because they thoroughly question the hegemonic forms, models and narratives of film, producing an opposition movement and critique of the prevailing models; and - In, because they simultaneously affirm and expand the medium’s possibilities to document, communicate, question, accompany and strengthen social transformation, new forms of politicisation and the search for autonomy in all of their manifestations.
In and Against Cinema recovers the frames that captured the event with real-time urgency in images pierced by the questions, searches and rejection of their era. Assembling a collection of film experiences ‘around May ’68’ is not merely making a chronological reference. It demonstrates that a group of films and proposals can share the most radical questions of that point in history in all their intensity.