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The Way of the Termite: The Essay in Cinema

Tuesday, February 3, 2009
7:30 p.m. A Diary for Timothy
Humphrey Jennings (U.K., 1945)

“Lindsay Anderson once described Humphrey Jennings as ‘the only true poet of the English cinema,’ and though Jennings has never enjoyed a high profile (he died in 1950) the documentaries he made for the Crown Film Unit during World War II rank among the most affecting and imaginative factual films ever made in Britain—a feat all the more remarkable when one considers that their purpose was, essentially, that of propaganda. . . . A Diary for Timothy is Jennings’s most accomplished and arguably his greatest film. It’s a poignant yet resolutely unsentimental portrait of the battle-weary home front in 1944 and 1945 that, like so much of the director’s work, casts a sensitive eye over the lives of ordinary people, while celebrating their dignity and determination.”

—Jon Fortgang, Channel 4 Film

• Written by E. M. Forster. Photographed by Fred Gamage. Narrated by Michael Redgrave. (40 mins, B&W, 35mm, From BFI Distribution)

Followed by:
The Passerby
Donald McWilliams (Canada, 1995)

A man finds a suitcase abandoned by the side of the road, filled with the mementos of a life. Thus begins a haunting meditation on what we leave behind, interweaving poems, home movies, photographs, personal remembrances, and footage shot around the world.

• (58 mins, Color, 16mm, From National Film Board of Canada)

• (Total running time: 98 mins)