In the era of 1950, a group of documentarians emerged in England to address urgent issues such as poverty as seen through the perspectives of working-class people.
The Free Cinema was the name given to the movement (1956–1959).
Many of the Free Cinema movement’s filmmakers started out as writers for major film magazines like ABC Film Review and Picture Show.
These filmmakers were the complete antithesis of the earlier British documentary trend, which was melancholy and nostalgic and appeared to be more agenda centric than anything. The Free Cinema movement was dedicated to capturing the working-class reality of England.
Free Cinema Manfiesto
Lindsay Anderson and Lorenza Mazzetti wrote the Manifesto for the Free Cinema Movement. In the span of February 1956 to March 1959, the National Film Theatre (NFT) in London hosted a series of six screenings of (mostly) short documentaries. Those were called ‘Free Cinema’. Their manifesto said these short documentaries were not created with the intention of being shown together, but those movies had an attitude. A belief in freedom, the relevance of humanity, and the significance of the ordinary were implicit in this attitude.
As creators, they felt that no movie can be too intimate. The image is powerful. Sound responds and amplifies. Size doesn’t matter. Perfection isn’t the goal. A style is defined by one’s attitude. A style is a mentality.
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The phrase ‘free’ in” free cinema” refers to films that were produced on a low budget, outside of the studio system, and were unique in terms of form, mentality, and production values. They were mainly shot on 16mm film in grayscale with hand-held cameras. They also avoided the previous movement’s third-person narrative.
Prominent directors and their films of this movement:
Karel Reisz: Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960)