Potamkin (2017) by Stephen Broomer
November 28, 2017 (Tue) - 7:00pm, Menschel Hall (Harvard Art Museums)

Balagan Films and Harvard Art Museums are pleased to present Stephen Broomer's new feature film, Potamkin on 16mm.  Using the poetry of Harry Alan Potamkin (1900-1933) as a springboard, Broomer crafts an experimental biography of the renowned film critic, intellectual, and Marxist ideologue, who died tragically at the height of his career. The film eschews the expositional approach of more traditional narrative or documentary cinema, instead reworking and manipulating footage from the various films that Potamkin reviewed during his short career (including, notably, Battleship Potemkin, which figures heavily into this work) to create an impressionistic portrait of the late critic's psyche as interpreted by the modern filmmaker. Potamkin viewed cinema as both a reflection of society and an agent for social change. Here, Potamkin's writings are deconstructed and reinterpreted through the physical destruction of the medium that, to him, held so much utopian promise and yet, like the disintegrating imagery of the film, failed to ever coalesce.




Potamkin (67 minutes, 16mm, 2017)

"What happened to Potamkin?"

In 1933, at age 33, Harry Alan Potamkin died of complications related to starvation, at a time when he was one of the world's most respected film critics. In his writings, he advocated for a cinema that would simultaneously embrace the fractures and polyphony of modern life and the equitable social vision of left radical politics. This film-biography is assembled out of distorted fragments of films on which he had written, an impression of erupting consciousness.

At the Odessa steps, trampling gives breath to the child. The bullet miraculously reforms the face. The Cossacks march backwards, retreating unseen into their nothing, the unfired rounds of their rifles restored to their menacing potential. Feet tread backward up the steps as the steps themselves collapse in splintering emulsion. The carriage is set upright.

“One’s sight is inverse to one’s eyes;
The begger with empty sockets sees
The microscope lies;
But these
Who are truly blind are wise.”


Sound by Stuart Broomer. Processing by Stephen Broomer, Martha Cabral, Eva Kolcze, Emmalyne Laurin, Cameron Moneo. Titles by Cameron Moneo. Digital intermediate by Pablo Perez. Thanks to R. Bruce Elder, Christine Lucy Latimer, Mark Loeser, Suzanne Naughton.