Introduction to the listing of my films and their availability by Peter Watkins
This introduction was first written as PW’s films - and their accessibility in 2000, for Part II of the original website published in Lithuania (www.peterwatkins.lt), which has now been closed. This new version of PART II functions, as did the original, to give a basic description of each of my films, including their background and theme, and - sometimes - details about the actual filming; to give extracts from the critical reactions; to talk about the present availability of each film.
I have resisted the temptation to rewrite the original descriptive text, and, with a few exceptions where I removed no longer relevant passages, the text for each film remains as it was written in the same year that ‘La Commune’ emerged.
What has changed are the sections regarding the availability of each film. When I wrote the original text 4 years ago, the situation regarding most of my films was quite grim, as it had been for many years. Many of the ‘availability’ sections made for pretty dismal reading, with at least half of my films being completely unavailable - some on the verge of disappearing.
However, with the help of many people, the situation has recently started to change - quite considerably. Perhaps one of the first major breakthroughs was a retrospective of my work at the Carpenter Center at Harvard University (USA) in early 2000, organized and presided over by the American filmmaker John Gianvito. There is no doubt that this retrospective helped greatly, probably for the first time, to direct attention to the ensemble of my work. It was followed by a number of other key screenings, including a retrospective in November 2002 at the Leeds International Film Festival (UK), organized by Alex King. Retrospectives this spring at the Ontario Cinematheque in Toronto (Canada), organized by Susan Oxtoby, and this summer in La Rochelle (France), organized by Prune Engler and Sylvie Pras, have also added to a growing public perception of my endeavours to work in an alternative way with the medium of film, and to challenge the hegemony of TV. I am most appreciative of this support.
Even more important has been the help from Jean-Pierre Lenestour and Hervé Hoyet in France, who financed the production of new copies of ‘Punishment Park’; Oliver Groom, of Project X Distribution in Toronto (Canada), who is financing the restoration of ‘Edvard Munch’ and DVD versions of a number of my other works; and my son Patrick Watkins, Caroline Lensing-Hebben, and other members of Rebond pour la Commune, who for years have worked to make ‘La Commune’ available in France (and elsewhere). Without all this help and support, the situation for my films today would be very bleak.
I want to especially acknowledge the support of my wife Vida, who has tirelessly assisted me through the periods of depression and upheaval which have been caused on so many levels and over many years by the professional marginalization of my work. Vida was also responsible for initially contacting the many different distributors and producers of my work in the mid-1990s, when we first began to assemble a list of where my work was available - and where it was being blocked. This required endless phone calls and letters, often in the face of considerable indifference and lack of response.
I should mention that I also have not been idle in tracking down and chasing distributors and producers of my work, in an attempt to broaden public access to my films. I would guess that I have written well over a thousand letters and e-mails during the past decade, chasing, checking, refusing to take ‘no’ (or silence) for an answer.
It is because of this collective process that the situation for my films has changed so much since I wrote the Lithuanian website in 2000. However, the situation still remains fragmented, with a particular film being available on one continent, but completely inaccessible on another - and that is a problem we are now working on. Solutions include creating a DVD library - as Doriane Films in Paris, and Oliver Groom in Toronto are now doing. In this context, the work being done by Oliver Groom is particularly valuable, as he is actually restoring ‘Edvard Munch’, and producing new copies from surviving ones (e.g., Evening Land).
Please therefore consider the “availability” section for each film as being part of a developing process; if you have any queries, please don’t hesitate to contact me by e-mail. Several films - ‘The 70s People’ and ‘The Trap’ - are still not publicly accessible, and this we are trying to change.
Vilnius, Lithuania, 2004