Red Renewal: Seattle's Socialist Spring

Red Renewal: Seattle's Socialist Spring

MARCH 18—MAY 1, 2014

Presented in partnership with Town Hall, ARCADE, PubliCola at Seattle Met, Tasveer, DEFA Film Library, Capitol Hill EcoDistrict, the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies at the University of Washington and Charles Mudede 

“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.”  —Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

With Red Renewal: Seattle’s Socialist Spring, Northwest Film Forum opened its cinemas for collective contemplation of the 2014 spring fever: sparked by solidarity but marked by uncertainty, as Seattleites debated what the future should hold.  

How will this new season shape the city’s political, economic, and civic landscape? What will happen to workers’ rights and wages, and where will they live in a city gripped by ever sky-rocketing rents? “Is there something in the water in Seattle” that drives the city's labor movement to the forefront of national conversations? Revitalized by newly sown seeds, but a long way off from harvest, this Spring signals a moment ripe for cinematic exploration. 

Winter 2013 in Seattle began with changes of pace, both in the weather and for workers. Hardly a raindrop fell in typically dour November, and clear skies greeted Kshama Sawant on the 15th, when she won an historic victory to become the first socialist elected to Seattle City Council in living memory. Ten days later, Washington voters passed a $15 minimum wage for SeaTac workers.

The year wound down while workers got fed up. One hundred fast food employees and supporters marched 13 miles from SeaTac to Seattle City Hall to advocate for the $15 minimum wage. Machinists battled what (now former) union president Tom Wroblewski called a “piece of crap” benefits-slashing proposal from Boeing. Moved by the machinists’ struggle, Timothy Egan forlornly postulated: "So this is how the middle class dies. Not with a bang, but with a forced [pension] squeeze."  

As 2014 dawned, Sawant decried “the reality of international capitalism” and called for “organized mass movements of workers and young people” to a thousand citizens who packed City Hall for her inauguration. The same week saw the launch of 15 Now, a coalition of community groups and unions, mobilized to make $15 wages a reality first in Seattle, then across the nation. 

On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, “the sign of a rising tide” marched through the city, with many marchers bearing $15 signs to form “a sea of red” that shone in the sun. Infusing Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy with the rejuvenated fight for fair wages, former head of Seattle’s Black Panther Party chapter Aaron Dixon declared: “We got the power, we are the 99 percent.” 

During Red Renewal, community groups and citizens from across the city hosted weekly screenings and discussions around films from many countries, eras and perspectives. From canonical propaganda to satirical critique, Red Renewal recasted cinema’s historical encounters with socialist themes in parallel to ongoing conversations about Seattle's economy and politics. 

The shouts and songs of workers, Soviet crocodiles and Slovenian psychoanalysts, Gandhi’s teachings melded with Marx’s writings, a renegade East German and the return of Wilhem Reich, radical labors of love and public spheres—both real and virtual—primed for debate. It all began with a screening and discussion with Kshama Sawant and Charles Mudede at Town Hall on March 18.

"Northwest Film Forum, the city's Mecca of indie movie programming, is bringing a batch of ultra left-wing films to the screen to celebrate (and speculate) about Seattle's recent shift to the left." —PubliCola at Seattle Met 


The Land Beyond the Rainbow

New 35mm print!
Introduction by author Reinhild Steingröver! 
Co-presented with DEFA, the East German Film Library at the University of Massachusetts Amherst
Post-screening reception!

Mar 21, 2014

(Herwig Kipping, East Germany, 1991, 35mm)

In this new director’s cut, renegade East German filmmaker Herwig Kipping set out to explore the roots of the socialist society that he grew up in. Kipping calls his approach “magical idealism,” emphasizing the need to elevate visuals, metaphorical elements and poetic language over conventional film narrative structures and language. Representing a radical departure from the East German cinema of the time, Kipping’s influences included Buñuel, Nietzsche, Dostoyevsky, Hölderlin, Tarkovsky and Rilke.



Jari Mari: Of Cloth and Other Stories

Co-presented with Tasveer

Mar 26, 2014

(Surabhi Sharma, India, 2001, 75 min)

Jari Mari is a sprawling slum colony near Mumbai’s main international airport. Its narrow lanes house hundreds of small sweatshops, where women and men work without the right to organize. Their existence is on the edge: their illegal dwellings could be demolished at any time by the airport authorities, and jobs have to be found anew every day, from workshop to workshop. This documentary explores the lives of the people of Jari Mari, and records the changes to the nature and organization of Mumbai’s workforce, over the past two decades.


Portrait of director Andreas M. Dalsgaard.

Bogota Cambio

Co-presented with Capitol Hill EcoDistrict Project

Post-screening panel conversation!

Apr 02, 2014

(Andreas Møl Dalsgaard, Denmark, 2009, DVD, 58 min)

Out of crisis comes radical experimentation. Few cities have hit rock bottom as Bogota, Columbia did in 1994, ravaged by the violence and corruption of the war on drugs. Bogota Cambió tells the story of how two “crazy, extraordinary politicians,” Antanas Mockus and Enrique Peñalosa, road waves of public discontent that enabled them to transform the city, break the old political system and upend approaches to public safety, transportation and the use of public space.



The Raspberry Reich

Late night! 
21+ screening!

Apr 04 - Apr 05, 2014

(Bruce LaBruce, Germany/Canada, 2004, Digibeta, 90 min)

Sexual revolution crass meets tongue-in-cheekery, as a terrorist group, led by the militantly sexually liberated Frau Gudrun, sets out to kidnap a bourgeois pig. Bruce LaBruce, one of queer cinema’s bawdiest bad boys, has created a film where plot is secondary to the stylistic critique of both terrorist chic and neoliberal identity politics.



Urban Subversions

Co-presented with PubliCola at Seattle Met

Hosted by Josh Feit

Apr 09, 2014

A tour through movies where urbanism—particularly the electric youth culture fed by city life—is as radical and subversive as Marxism and Anarchism. Agit-prop teens translate music into politics and tech smarts into transgression, upending the government and corporate status quo, in this collection of urban-themed films. Multiculturalism, mass transit and the kismet of streets (all fixed features of cities) also factor in to the revolution at hand.



W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism

Post-screening discussion with Rich Jensen and Allena Gabosch (executive director of the Foundation for Sex Positive Culture)

Apr 16, 2014

(Dušan Makavejev, Yugoslavia, 1971, 84 min)

In what might be the zaniest cinematic rendering of Soviet-Yugoslav-American relations, Serbian maverick Dušan Makavejev employs his characteristic style of associative montage to create a comedic manifesto for sexual revolution. Makavejev collages documentary footage and fiction to create a mashup of American counter-culture, Soviet ideology and Nazi propaganda.



A Report on the Party and the Guests

(Jan Nemec, Czechoslovakia, 1966, 35mm, 70min)

In Czechoslovak maverick’s Jan Němec’s most politically charged film, a group of middle-aged bourgeois friends picnic in the woods; soon they are assaulted by thugs who interrogate them, until the party’s host intervenes. This examination of the mechanics of power and the ways people participate was banned in Czechoslovakia by the Communist regime, who rebuffed Němec’s assurances that it was not intended as an allegory of their government.



Salt of the Earth

Co-presented with the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies at the University of Washington and the Labor Archives of Washington, UW Libraries Special Collections

Apr 23, 2014

(Herbert J. Biberman, USA, 1954, 94 min)

Blacklisted film professionals, with political beliefs deemed too radical in McCarthy-era Hollywood, collaborated with the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers to make this neorealist classic, which follows the struggle of miners and their families (many of them non-actors from the miners union)  as they strike against the Empire Zinc Company in New Mexico. 



High Rise

Co-presented with ARCADE
Charles Mudede will introduce the screening, connecting the film's themes and ARCADE's spring issue feature, “After Growth: Rethinking the Narrative of Modernization”

Apr 30, 2014

(Gabriel Mascaro, Brazil, 2009, 66 min)

In High-Rise (Um Lugar ao Sol), nine penthouse residents in three of Brazil's largest cities (Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Recife) divulge what it's like to live at the top. Through revealing interviews with the residents, in the comfort of their high-rise lofts, director Gabriel Mascaro exposes a world of wealth gone wild. 




May Day at the Film Forum

Featuring the Seattle Labor Chorus!

May 01, 2014

Happy hour at 6pm!

For International Workers' Day, we wrap up Red Renewal and kick off May Works, a month-long celebration of workers in Seattle, with a performance by the Seattle Labor Chorus, accompanied by worker films, a final community discussion and a proper May Day party.