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Free Cinema 1

The 1956 cinema programme that launched a movement

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Towards the end of 1955, Tony Richardson and Karel Reisz were completing Momma Don't Allow (1956), while Lindsay Anderson was helping Lorenza Mazzetti to edit Together (1956)in the basement of the British Film Institute. Anderson himself was not making a film, but two years previously he had directed a short documentary, O Dreamland (1953), which had never been shown in public.

It was clear the three films shared much in attitude and style. As Anderson remembered the episode, "Talking with Karel, Tony and Lorenza about the miserable difficulty of getting our work shown, I came up with the idea (at least I think it was me) that we should form ourselves into a Movement, should formulate some kind of manifesto, and thereby grab the attention of the press and try to get a few days showing at the NFT [National Film Theatre]".

According to Mazzetti, Anderson wrote the manifesto on a table of 'The Soup Kitchen', the café where she was working as a waitress. It was signed by the four directors involved in the screening, and sent to the press.

The strategy paid off. Critics welcomed this 'breath of fresh air' in British cinema, and Mazzetti appeared twice on the BBC's Panorama in a fortnight. The three days of screenings between 5-8 February 1956 were completely sold out, and more than 400 film enthusiasts were turned away on the first night.

Christophe Dupin

Related Films and TV programmes

Thumbnail image of Momma Don't Allow (1956)Momma Don't Allow (1956)

Free Cinema short following teenagers at a jazz club.

Thumbnail image of O Dreamland (1956)O Dreamland (1956)

Groundbreaking Lindsay Anderson short about the Margate funfair

Thumbnail image of Together (1956)Together (1956)

Moving film following two deaf mutes through London's East End

Related Collections

Thumbnail image of Free CinemaFree Cinema

Groundbreaking documentary movement of the late 1950s

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