Tuesday, October 25, 2022 at 7:30pm
Two Films by Jill Craigie

361 Stagg Street, Suite 407, Brooklyn

Out of Chaos, Jill Craigie, 1944, digital projection, 27 mins
The Way We Live, Jill Craigie, 1946, digital projection, 64 mins

A pioneering figure in British cinema, director and screenwriter Jill Craigie was touted frequently (albeit somewhat erroneously) as “Britain’s first woman filmmaker” during the 1940s and 50s, when she completed a series of independently-produced documentaries and a narrative feature film grounded in an unabashedly socialist and feminist politics. Her work fell into obscurity in later decades, as she became better-known in the public eye as the wife of prominent Labour MP Michael Foot, though in recent years scholars in the UK have been working diligently to restore her place in film history. Light Industry is proud to host a rare US screening of Craigie’s first two films as director, Out of Chaos and The Way We Live.

Created as part of the wartime effort, Out of Chaos reflects on the surprising popularity of art, particularly painting, with Britons during the conflict, and offers a number of arguments for the relevance of modern art in the lives of everyday citizens. The film plays something like a 1940s precursor to John Berger’s Ways of Seeing teleseries: in a visit to the partially-shuttered National Gallery, Out of Chaos presents interviews with art critics Eric Newton and Kenneth Clark, who attempt to educate viewers on how to “read” pictures, and visits with artists like Henry Moore, Stanley Spencer, Graham Sutherland, and Paul Nash, showing how they participated as “war artists,” employed by the government to document the disruptions and destruction of the Second World War. It is, in one sense, a propaganda film for modernism, but it makes another case as well, that of art as a fundamental right, something to be made, enjoyed, and discussed by all.

An ambitious featurette that involved over three thousand residents of Plymouth in its production, The Way We Live chronicles the efforts by numerous government and community bodies to rebuild the city after the war’s end through the “Plan for Plymouth,” one of the most ambitious civil initiatives the UK has ever undertaken. Its opening sequences reveal the aftermath of the Blitz, with the city center all but obliterated, blasted into ruins that serve as eerie playgrounds for the children of Plymouth. The film focuses on a working-class family, the Copperwheats—all played by non-professional locals—six people from multiple generations forced to dwell in cramped conditions while waiting for The Plan to return a sense of normalcy. Like her earlier film, it is remarkably wry and self-aware for a movie with such an explicit political program (as when a man is seen dozing off at a public forum detailing the grand redesign).

In Out of Chaos, Clark observes how artists sought to convey “not simply a record of facts, but a record of what the war felt like,” and this description could apply to Craigie’s approach as well. Like her contemporary Humphrey Jennings, Craigie envisions propaganda not merely as a weapon in the information arena, but also as a means to reflect the emotional impact of the era, articulating the material struggles and inner lives of ordinary people.

Tickets - Pay what you can ($10 suggested donation), available at door.

Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7pm.