In 1950, filmmaker René Vautier returned from Algiers. He’d made his first film, Afrique 50, which documented crimes commited by the Fench colonial army. The film was confiscated and banned for 40 years, and would eventually earn him a year in prison. But in april 1950 Vautier arrived in the city of Brest, and moved about to avoid the authorities. Reconstruction work was still going on in 1950, with thousands of workers rebuilding the city after the allied bombings during WWII. In april, the workers were on strike. And on April 17, Édouard Mazé, one of the strikers, was shot and killed by police. René Vautier was documenting the strike, and put together a short film, called Un Homme Est Mort (a man is dead). The unionists and strike organizers helped arrange outdoor screenings of the film: a projector was mounted in the back of an open car, and a screen was mounted on the back of a truck. The truck went around the city, visiting camps of strikers, and the film was screened several times per night in various locations.
“C’est d’images faites pour la nuit et le feu.”
Eventually the filmstrip was worn out, and the film was destroyed. It lived on as a story. René Vautier went on to make and produce many films, such as Humain, Trop Humain (about conditions at a Citroen factory) and Peuple En Marche. He died in January this year.
An audience member at one of our own screenings in Malmö this summer, Gilles Huchette, told us the story of this lost film from 1950 and these old outdoor screenings during the strike. He helped us find a comic book made by brothers Kris and Étienne Davodeau which retells the events from April 1950. The title of the comic book, and of the original film, was borrowed from a poem by Paul Éluard.
We’ve also managed to find a small scrap of the film shot by Vautier! It seems all the material wasn’t completely destroyed after all. There’s a short sequence included in the film Vivent Les Dockers! by Robert Ménégoz. It can be seen online, here >
The same material is apparently re-used in another film as well, Le Chant Des Fleuves by Joris Ivens.
Comic book included in the library at our cinema:
Un Homme Est Mort by Kris and Étienne Davodeau