Banks of the Nile
United Kingdom, 1911, 6 min, DCP, colour, silent
La canta delle marane
Italy, 1961, 11 min, DCP, colour, Italian
Rentrée des classes
France, 1956, 24 min, DCP, B&W, French
Like so many pioneers of this art, Charles Urban sold all sorts of things before he sold films. For his scientific and travel films, he conceived the formidable motto “We put the world before you”. Before you, before your 1911 eyes that have barely left home and know no other skies, no other lands, no other waters. The Charles Urban Trading Company brought the waters of the Nile to you in Kinemacolor and they were not blue, they were redish-green, and the Egyptian children were not white, they were black, and the camera did not erase an ounce of their mystique. Nor was any added to the British settlers, completely discordant with the landscape.
Cecilia Mangini’s bathing boys, however, blend into it, their bare skins, the blades of grass and splashes of water, meld well together. (The girls are left out of the pleasure and fun, for example out of fighting to touch each other, because their bodies don’t belong to them). We hear some false childhood memories of Pier Paolo Pasolini in a voice-over, memories that could still be filmed at the time since that place and those circumstances still existed. They no longer exist. The voice sometimes affords the 63 images destiny, saying: hunger, robbery, and prison. But it also incites them saying these children are your enemies; they don’t give a damn about society.
A stream on the outskirts of Rome is “like the Mississippi” in Pasolini’s score; with a specific mise-en-scène and a certain ebb and flow of the music; a river in Provence makes you think of the Amazon. What child has not wished to travel by river and have the river take them away, transporting them all the way to the sea? Jacques Rozier’s river journey is short and ends in the washhouse, and yet... what child has not strayed, alone, and lived adventures that he will never tell anyone close to home, what child has not broadened his horizons with far fewer resources than Charles Urban?