Cinema

David E. James – Two Films Separated by Forty Years

Saturday, January 18 at 8 PM

Doors 7:30 pm; $5 admission

The Program

Nine Scenes 1979, 13 mins
Halcyon days in Venice, CA

Story by Phyllis Fisher. Cinematography by Michael Miner. Featuring Gil Bettman, Joann Edmond, Chris Kratch, Joe Kratch.

A Man’s Destination  2019, 65 mins
An autobiographical landscape film

The Nottinghamshire village of Laxton is unique in that only there has survived the common, or open-field, system of farming, with its substantial elements of community participation and control. Developed by Anglo-Saxon tribes who brought it to England after the departure of the Romans in the fifth century, communal farming was prevalent over large areas of the Midlands, Eastern, and Southern England. It was based, not on enclosed, individually farmed fields, but on the division of the village land into several, usually three, very large fields subdivided into many strips. Tenant families inhabiting the nucleated village at the center of these fields were each assigned a number of the strips scattered across them so as to ensure an equable division of good and bad, close and distant, land. Originally, each strip was of a size that a team of oxen drawing a mouldboard plough could till in one day, a task that typically involved the cooperation of several people. The fields were subject to a strict rotation, one being winter-sown wheat, another being spring-sown crops and the third left fallow. Outside these strips lay meadowland too damp for grain farming (still known as “sykes”) and undeveloped heaths, both held in common for grazing oxen, sheep, and cows. The overall system, the farming year, and especially each tenant’s maintenance of the edges of his strips, were administered by a Court Leet, empowered to punish infractions and impose fines.

Everywhere except Laxton, these open fields and the untilled commons have been divided and enclosed into separate fields. More or less continuous since it began in the thirteenth century, the process of enclosure accelerated in Tudor times and again during the Industrial Revolution, especially between 1761 and 1845, the year of the first of the nineteenth-century General Inclosure Acts. Over the centuries, enclosure of common land by landlords, other putative agricultural improvements, and diverse forms of dispossession and sequestration have supplanted communal ownership, activity, and control. Successfully resisted only at Laxton, enclosure anticipated the privatization, monetarization, and theft of the public commonweal in the advanced form of capitalism we know as neoliberalism.

Bio

David E. James is a writer, film historian, and photographer. Born in England, he has lived and worked in Los Angeles since 1971.  Among his recent books are Rock ‘N’ Film: Cinema’s Dance With Popular Music (2016) and The Most Typical Avant-Garde: History and Geography of Minor Cinemas in Los Angeles (2005).

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