Films are, arguably, one of the most powerful mediums in the history of society. They can also be, through the eyes of a great director, an eye opener into other societies and cultures, both past and present. Indeed, it is this aspect which I perhaps appeals to me most about the medium. As someone who has lived in Scotland, Ireland and now Wales, I have chosen Cardiff as my home not only because of the diversity of cultures which adds so much to its identity, but how it truly embraces this.

To celebrate this diversity and contribute a lighter tone to the ongoing EU referendum debate, I thought I would share some brief thoughts on some of my favourite films from our European neighbours.

 

The Conformist (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1973)

Conformist

The Conformist is, fundamentally, a story about a man seeking identity. Conveyed through dreamlike, almost unearthly and rich, striking visuals it can equally be described as a powerful representation of the inherent vulnerability of human nature. As the central character’s journey progresses, revolving around a spy and assassin for Mussolini’s regime, we can see how we can all be so easily persuaded to conform to ideas which, ultimately, oppose its own existence. This is made most clear at the film’s end, as our protagonist is as quick to abandon fascism after Mussolini’s death to survive society’s retribution, as he is to embrace it.

 

The Devil’s Backbone (Guillmero Del Toro, 2001)

Devil's Backbone

While Pan’s Labrinyth may be Del Toro’s most well-known and acclaimed film, this similar exploration of Fascism’s rise during the Spanish civil war is in this cinephiles eyes a superior film. It was on my 3rd viewing I suddenly realised that its opening scene can be interpreted as a visual prelude to Picasso’s Geurnica. As such, this makes it’s core message only clearer; how ghosts of the past will always haunt the future if suppressed and can never be forgotten. This is delivered with the visual craftsmanship fans of Del Toro’s films have come to expect and very strong performances by the entire cast, especially the young orphan who acts as the narrative focus. At the time of the film’s release, Spain was only beginning to confront it’s Franco past, with individual efforts to dig up mass graves at sites such as Payables del Hoyo.

 

Ashes and Diamonds (Andrzej Wajda, 1958)

ashesanddiamonds

Wanda’s film focuses on an idealistic young assassin of Poland’s resistance against occupying communist forces between 1946 and the early 1950’s. In doing so he masterfully portrays the complex character of Maciej as a parallel for this turbulent point in polish history when the Soviet Union ‘liberated’ the country. His excellent performance ensures that despite his fate (a necessary narrative move to please Poland’s real communist rulers) the audience will identify with his motivations.

 

The Cabinet of Dr.Caligari (Robert Weine, 1920)

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What many consider to be the first true horror film is also a representation of Germany’s fractured mindset and trauma after their defeat at the end of WW1, with its jagged and expressionist visuals a clear metaphor for the destruction reaped in past battlefields. Both the film’s original writer’s became pacifists after witnessing such horror first-hand as soldiers.

 

The Lives of Others (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2012)

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Here an east berlin agent begins to doubt his mission to spy on a famous playwright, suspected of disloyalty to the socialist cause. A brilliant character study and exploration of loyalty, human relationships and morality it succeeds in showing the perversion of these values under an authoritarian system and yet, how even a tiny act of resistance can have powerful consequence for others.

 

Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio De Sica, 1948)

Bicycle Thieves

Bicycle Thieves is one of many films produced under the Neo-realism movement in post WW2 Italy.  Others include Rome, Open City (1945) and Germany, Year Zero (1948). As such, it shares many key elements of other neorealist films; a raw, documentarian approach which allows character to organically drive the plot and a focus on ordinary people. As the film progresses its focus shifts from the father’s efforts to find his bicycle to the impact of the poverty he cannot escape on his relationship with his son. By the conclusion what is lost most of all is innocence. This message is equally delivered through performances of both characters who are, again like many other examples in this movement, played by untrained actors.

 

 

 

 

For someone who wants to work within communications, the value of working at an organisation such as the BBC cannot be overstated. Three weeks ago I was lucky enough to start a placement within the Week In Week Out programme, based at BBC Wales in Llandalf. This programme focuses on hard-hitting and investigative journalism. Past episodes have covered a wide range of topics such as immigration, debt, the mental health of young people and children, slavery, drugs, social care, adult literacy and numeracy, dementia and religious extremism. Other major stories have focused on the circumstances surrounding the tragic death of three SAS reservists during a training exercise in the Brecon Beacons and the events leading to Wales’s biggest health board, Betsi Cadwaladr, being put into special measures. For this particular episode, families involved spoke to the programme for the first time about how their relatives were treated on a dementia ward.

During my first week, I particularly enjoyed helping the team on their last preparations for the latest episode focusing on the Welsh view of Jeremy Corbyn and the potential impact of his leadership election victory on Wales. Here, I put my keen interest in politics to use by monitoring any news developments relating to his early leadership of the Labour Party. Though researching web pages of reports may appear to many mundane, I quickly realised that genuine and very real human stories are at the heart of such research and consequently, how vital such work really is to the Week In Week Out programme. Ultimately, these are the human stories which connect and engage with audiences and it is this relationship with viewers across the country, that is at the heart of the BBC as a whole.

Another valuable opportunity and indeed, interesting and insightful experience, was witnessing the process of editing footage for a programme to it going out live from the BBC gallery; this is basically the main control room where many BBC Wales programmes are scheduled and go live on-air. Currently I am working with colleagues to research and develop upcoming stories and am equally enjoying this. It has also been a very pleasant and welcoming surprise to find a couple of colleagues who love horror films as much as I do. Luckily, I have just enough time to draw up a list  of my own favourite films for them to watch on Halloween.

Reflecting on my time at the BBC so far, I view my experience not just as an important stepping stone to my chosen career but yet another experience where I have made new friends, as well as colleagues, in my journey to build my confidence and ultimately overcome my social anxiety.

The BBC has both fulfilled it’s own values and exceeded my expectations as a welcoming and inclusive environment to work in and one which values diversity. Above all, however, as someone who has moments of self-doubt about my own ability, I will always remember my experience here and the support and encouragement I have been given, as a source of strength I can drawn on in the future.

I therefore look forward to the rest of my time at BBC Wales and what I can achieve together with my friends and colleagues.

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