No Pasaran! Anti Fascist Film Festival A Storming Success!

A report on last weekend’s film festival.

The audience attentively watch 'Living Utopia' on Sunday afternoon.                The audience attentively watch ‘Living Utopia’ on Sunday afternoon.

The Leeds ABC bookstall.                The Leeds ABC bookstall.

 

Despite snow and freezing temperatures, and fascist threats of violence, elevated to a false position of semi-importance by internet gossip, Leeds Antifascist Film Festival was a resounding success. No Pasaran! as it was called, took place at the Space Project close to Leeds city centre over the weekend of the 4th and 5th of February. For all their boasts of attacking the event, the best the neo-Nazi stormtroopers could manage was a few swastikas, daubed in the dead of night on a wall below the venue, and quickly painted over long before the event commenced. The first day of the festival started with a thorough and informative Polish film in which a former Auschwitz prisoner revisits the concentration camp to explain what happened there. The film was a stark reminder of what happens when fascists go unchallenged and are allowed to progress from sneaking around in the middle of the night with pots of paint.
After the film there was a hugely interesting talk about Auschwitz by Javaad Alipoor and Imran Mansoor, who have visited the camp, and other former Nazi death-camps, many times. They spoke about the subject with both knowledge and clarity, and also gave accounts of taking West Yorkshire teenagers to visit Auschwitz. There is an audio link to the talk on Indymedia at http://sheffield.indymedia.org.uk/2012/02/491918.html
Staying with the same theme, the next film was ‘Conspiracy’, a historical drama based on the only surviving transcript of the 1942 Wansee conference, at which the Nazis validated their extermination programme. Kenneth Branagh’s portrayal of the murderous ‘Great Blond Beast’ Reynard Heydrich, as a charismatic monster is impressive, as is Stanley Tucci’s performance as the coldly bureaucratic Adolf Eichmann. The film quietly draws the audience in and chills to the bone. ‘Edelweiss Pirates’, the following film, is also based on a true story, one of political and social resistance to the Nazis. In opposition to the vile ‘Hitler Youth’, Edelweiss Pirates existed all over Germany, young antifascists who fought back against the Nazi war machine, often sacrificing their lives in the process. The film focuses on a group of Edelweiss Pirates in Cologne towards the end of World War Two.
Moving on chronologically, the next film was an old antifascist favourite, ‘The 43 Group’. The group was set up by Jewish ex-servicemen and women, who returned to Britain after World War Two, only to find Oswald Moseley and his fascist rat-pack back on the streets, freely organising against the ‘Yids’. Suffice to say, the 43 Group did not take this lying down! No matter how many times you see it, the film never fails to inspire.
Next there was a reading about militant antifascism in the 1970′s in which the fascist scum continued to get a hard time and be firmly told ‘No Pasaran!’ everywhere from Leeds to Lewisham.
Bringing us up to the present day was a talk about last year’s ‘Welling case’, which saw 22 antifascists prosecuted on trumped-up conspiracy charges – and all because one German neo-Nazi got put on his backside! While most were cleared, six antifascists went to jail for this matter, with two of them still imprisoned. The film festival was, in part, a benefit for these comrades.
Taking us back again in time, but on a lighter note, the short film that followed was a Popeye cartoon from 1943. ‘Spinach Fer Britain’ was considered too anti-Nazi in ‘neutral’ America, and was not in fact released until 2003. As Popeye says, “That’s the way to swat the swastika”!
Continuing on a lighter note, Leeds very own ‘Bear Jew’ Bod Green next told us some of his favourite antifascist jokes and anecdotes, a hilarious set which included several genuine 1930′s anti-Nazi gems.
Finally, the audience settled down to the last film of the day, ‘The Army of Crime’, the hugely inspiring story of one of war-time France’s most notorious resistance groups, who were named ‘The Army Of Crime’ by the Nazis and French collaborators against whom they fought. While most of Paris cheerfully got along with their Nazi occupiers, and handed over their Jewish neighbours for extermination, the Jews and Armenian communists who made up the Manouchian resistance group bravely fought back. ‘The Army of Crime’ was a fitting end to a great day of antifascist films.
Sunday saw No Pasaran! move onto the Spanish Civil War, beginning with a short introduction to Ken Loach’s film ‘Land and Freedom’, and then to the film itself. Heavily influenced by George Orwell’s autobiographical account of his time with the POUM militia, ‘Land and Freedom’ tells the story of a (fictional) young antifascist from Liverpool who travels to Spain to fight against Franco. While the film, like Orwell’s book, gives the POUM more political and historical importance than they perhaps deserve, and barely covers the role of the massive Spanish Anarchist movement, it does not shy away from showing the treachery of the Stalinists who betrayed the Spanish revolution. An accessible and moving film.
The second film of Sunday afternoon was Juan Gamero’s 1997 documentary ‘Living Utopia’ (or ‘To Live In Utopia’), which contains interviews with 30 survivors of the Spanish Revolution along with much original footage from the period. Considered by many to be the best film of this genre, ‘Living Utopia’ both educates and inspires. The film was loaned to us by Stuart Christie, co-founder of the modern Anarchist Black Cross, who himself was imprisoned under Franco. Leeds Anarchist Black Cross are proud to continue the work begun by our comrades, and ‘To Live in Utopia’ was followed by a talk by a member of Leeds ABC, who hopefully gave a thorough and comprehensive account of our work and why we feel it is vital that those behind bars receive support. We hope the talk inspired other comrades to get involved.
After a short introduction to put it in its historical context, there then followed Guillermo Del Toro’s ‘Pan’s Labrynth’. Set in the early days of Franco’s dictatorship, when the fascists were busy grinding the faces of the poor into the dirt and attempting to crush remaining antifascist resistance. The film is an unusual synthesis of historical drama, war film, and fairy tale with great performances, particularly from Sergi Lopez as the evil fascist Captain Vidal. As the evening progressed, the next event of the festival was the infamous Dead Fascist Quiz, which this time was won with a score of 14 (out of a possible 28). The prize was a copy of the Danish film ‘Flame and Citron: The Nazi Assassins’, which contains more dead fascists than you can wave a baseball bat at. We hope to include more dead fascists in future quizzes.
The final event of the day, and of the festival, was a multi-lingual performance of antifascist anthems by the multi-talented Javaad Alipoor and friends. Songs included Javaad’s own West Yorkshire anti-BNP version of the Irish Republican anthem ‘Come Out You Black & Tans!’ as well as songs in French, Arabic, Italian, and several more languages. Rousing songs such as the classic antifascist anthem ‘A Las Barricadas!’ brought No Pasaran! to a fitting conclusion. Throughout both days of the festival, in the gaps between the talks and films, an international soundtrack of antifascist songs was played. There was an excellent range of vegan food, including sandwiches, samosas, hot-dogs, fruit, popcorn, and lots and lots of vegan cake! The audience were kept supplied with hot drinks, and the Leeds ABC bookstall had on sale a large range of T-shirts, CDs, DVDs, pamphlets, and a great deal else besides.
Despite the freezing outside temperatures and thick snow, No Pasaran! was attended by antifascists from all over the country, with a fantastic atmosphere throughout. A great deal of effort was put into the event, so it was very gratifying to receive such unanimously positive feedback from those who attended. As well as educating people about past and present antifascist struggles, and hopefully inspiring them to stand up (or continue to stand) and be counted as an antifascist, the festival was also a benefit for antifascist prisoners, and we are grateful for the generosity of the donations received. Many thanks to everyone who came along to support the event and to those who helped out over the weekend.
No Pasaran!
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