6 episodes

Adam Zmith has found some lost sound recordings from 1930. As he listens to this archive of intriguing noises, he imagines a film that could have changed the world.

The Film We Can’t See BBC Radio

    • History
    • 5.0 • 7 Ratings

Adam Zmith has found some lost sound recordings from 1930. As he listens to this archive of intriguing noises, he imagines a film that could have changed the world.

    5. For Sale: Intimacy and Infamy

    5. For Sale: Intimacy and Infamy

    The creative but awkward dynamic between writer Adam Zmith and actor Anton Blake Horowitz blows up. They are trying to collaborate, but the boundary between creativity and personal experiences breaks. Wounded, Adam hears more about the history of censorship from film archivist So Mayer, who also reveals their own personal motivations for researching film and queer history.



    Just as there is an exciting revelation about the classified fifth disc in the sound archive, the entire project looks threatened. The Rio Cinema, which wants to keep the sounds in community ownership, may have to give them up. The sounds may fall back into obscurity once again, so Adam begins to mobilise support for the Rio.

    Credits

    Written, produced and edited by Adam Zmith

    With story by So Mayer and Adam Zmith

    Starring Anton Blake Horowitz

    Music by Courtney Pine

    Assistant Producers – Tash Walker and Shivani Dave

    Researcher — So Mayer

    Audio consultant – David Pye

    Artwork by Danny Crossley

    Production Mentors – Caroline Steel and Andy King

    Executive Producers – Khaliq Meer and Leanne Alie

    Commissioned for BBC Sounds Audio Lab by Khaliq Meer



    Thanks to

    Aleks Kolkowski

    Andrew Woodyatt and everyone at the Rio Cinema

    Peninsula Press

    The BFI and the BFI National Archive

    Axel Kacoutié

    Nikki Meadows

    Ben Lalague

    Jose Castejoon

    Natasha Walker

    India Latham

    • 42 min
    4. Gossip, Revolution and a Censored Kiss

    4. Gossip, Revolution and a Censored Kiss

    Adam’s investigation into the lost sound archive prompts him to watch Mädchen in Uniform, a lesbian high school dramedy from 1931. He learns all about how the film was nearly lost forever, and its significance today is explained to him by Camilla Baier and Rachel Pronger from Invisible Women, a feminist film collective.

    Adam also listens to the fourth sound disc - a weird multi-voice dadaist poem - and tries to imagine where that might fit into the story of the film that was never made. Perhaps it’s one of the many unrealised projects of Paul Robeson, the actor and singer who fought racism and fascism while performing for audiences around the world. Paul’s own stories of censorship and racism inspire So Mayer, the writer and researcher, to take Adam on a visit to a historical location, the Savoy Hotel. Here they meet actors Ashleigh Wilder and Emeric Bernard-Jones. Over cocktails they pick up Paul’s story, linking past and present in a story of how our genders and sexualities influence how people perceive us all.

    This episode contains audio from:
    Clip from Monitor interview with Paul Robeson courtesy of BBC
    Clip from newsreel about Paul Robeson concert courtesy of BBC
    Sound effects from Freesound and BBC

    And quotes from:
    ‘What Shall You Do In the War?’ by Bryher, in Close Up magazine, June 1933
    Letter from Paul Robeson to James Marley, reprinted on The Guardian website, 2019
    Paul Robeson, quoted by Martin Bauml Duberman in Paul Robeson, Ballantine Books, 1989

    Credits:
    Written, produced and edited by Adam Zmith
    With story by So Mayer and Adam Zmith
    Starring Anton Blake Horowitz
    Ashleigh Wilder as Paul Robeson and themself, thanks to Queer House
    Emeric Bernard-Jones as Paul Robeson and himself, thanks to Trans+ on Screen, an organisation representing trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming professionals in film and TV on a business model which challenges industry norms
    Music by Courtney Pine
    Assistant Producers - Tash Walker and Shivani Dave
    Researcher - So Mayer
    Audio consultant - David Pye
    Artwork by Danny Crossley
    Production Mentors - Caroline Steel and Andy King
    Executive Producers - Khaliq Meer and Leanne Alie
    Commissioned for BBC Sounds Audio Lab by Khaliq Meer

    Thanks to:
    Aleks Kolkowski
    Camilla Baier and Rachel Pronger from Invisible Women
    Andrew Woodyatt and everyone at the Rio Cinema
    Peninsula Press
    The BFI and the BFI National Archive
    Axel Kacoutié
    Nikki Meadows
    Char Boden at Queer House
    Alice Blanc at Trans+ on Screen
    Polly Pritchard and Virginia Webb at the Savoy Hotel
    A. De La Fe, Lori lo Bianco, Holly Murtha, Shivani Dave

    • 49 min
    3. Sexual Hate And Other Mysteries

    3. Sexual Hate And Other Mysteries

    Adam travels back in time to Weimar era Berlin, when the American actor Louise Brooks danced through the experimental cinema scene with her sexual chaos in films like Pandora’s Box. Film writer Pamela Hutchinson explains why Brooks was so unique, and why her power endures even though her films were censored and lost. As Louise blew through Berlin, Magnus Hirschfeld was giving controversial lectures about sex and sexuality.

    With the help of historian Jana Funke and sound expert Aleks Kolkowski, Adam learns more about what this setting might mean for the film conjured up by the rediscovered sound recordings. How are our decisions driven by the sex we want? Could a film in 1930 have been ready to explore that?

    Credits
    Written, produced and edited by Adam Zmith
    With story by So Mayer and Adam Zmith
    Starring Anton Blake Horowitz
    Featuring voice work by Michael Golab
    Music by Courtney Pine
    Assistant Producers - Tash Walker and Shivani Dave
    Researcher - So Mayer
    Audio consultant - David Pye
    Artwork by Danny Crossley
    Production Mentors - Caroline Steel and Andy King
    Executive Producers - Khaliq Meer and Leanne Alie
    Commissioned for BBC Sounds Audio Lab by Khaliq Meer

    This episode contains audio from:
    Clip from Pandora’s Box courtesy of Praesens Film
    Sound effects from BBC

    And quotes from
    Lulu in Hollywood by Louise Brooks, University of Minnesota Press, 1982

    Thanks to
    Aleks Kolkowski
    Pamela Hutchinson
    Andrew Woodyatt and everyone at the Rio Cinema
    Peninsula Press
    The BFI and the BFI National Archive
    Axel Kacoutié
    Nikki Meadows
    Freya Anderton

    • 51 min
    2. Three Bent Bodies in a Bar One Night

    2. Three Bent Bodies in a Bar One Night

    Adam goes deeper into the Rio Cinema archives with researcher So Mayer. They find more work by the pioneering filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein, the sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld and the extraordinary actor Louise Brooks. Perhaps they were trying to make a radical film together, in 1930?

    With help from the historian Jana Funke, Adam learns more about Hirschfeld’s exciting ideas on sex, sexuality and gender. Visiting Aleks Kolkowski in his music room again, he begins to try to date the sound discs. And actor Anton Blake Horowitz helps to reanimate Eisenstein and even his own performing spirit.

    As Adam immerses himself more and more into the world of cinema in 1930, he begins to fear that the imagined film never got made due to the rise in fascism. Many films showing queer bodies and expansive ways of living were made in the 1920s and 30s but so many of them were burnt and lost...

    Credits
    Written, produced and edited by Adam Zmith
    With story by So Mayer and Adam Zmith
    Starring Anton Blake Horowitz
    Music by Courtney Pine
    Solo fiddle by Eduardo Lees
    Assistant Producers - Tash Walker and Shivani Dave
    Researcher - So Mayer
    Audio consultant - David Pye
    Artwork by Danny Crossley
    Production Mentors - Caroline Steel and Andy King
    Executive Producers - Khaliq Meer and Leanne Alie
    Commissioned for BBC Sounds Audio Lab by Khaliq Meer

    Thanks to
    Aleks Kolkowski
    Jana Funke at the University of Exeter
    Andrew Woodyatt and everyone at the Rio Cinema
    Peninsula Press
    The BFI and the BFI National Archive
    Axel Kacoutié
    Nikki Meadows

    This episode contains the following audio:
    Clip of Nazis burning books in 1933 courtesy of British Pathé

    And quotes from:
    A Statement by S. M. Eisenstein, V. I. Pudomn, and G. V. Alexandrov, Close Up magazine, 1928
    Sergei Eisenstein’s letter to Magnus Hirschfeld, reprinted in The Flying Carpet: Studies on Eisenstein and Russian Cinema in Honor of Naum Kleiman, edited by Joan Neuberger and Antonio Somaini, Éditions Mimésis, 2017

    • 49 min
    1. Sixteen Names and a Box of Sounds

    1. Sixteen Names and a Box of Sounds

    When a meandering phone call from a forgotten actor called Anton Blake Horowitz leads Adam Zmith into an old cinema, he rediscovers a box of old sound recordings. They’re labelled Eisenstein Project, possibly after Sergei Eisenstein, pioneer of cinema in the Soviet Union in the 1920s. It’s perfect for Adam, a writer and podcast producer who is looking for a story to work on and pitching to the BBC for a new series.

    Adam meets sound expert Aleks Kolkowski who helps to retrieve the sounds from the old records. He teams up with So Mayer, a writer and researcher who explains more about Eisenstein. He even meets the veteran film director Sally Potter, who visited Eisenstein’s apartment and has been inspired by hi
    s work in making her films such as Orlando from 1992.

    Perhaps these lost records are the sound tests for a film that Eisenstein was preparing to make in 1930? Adam returns to Anton, the actor who set him off on this journey and Anton hears something in the old sounds that Adam didn’t...

    Credits
    Written, produced and edited by Adam Zmith
    With story by So Mayer and Adam Zmith
    Starring Anton Blake Horowitz
    Music by Courtney Pine
    Assistant Producers - Tash Walker and Shivani Dave
    Researcher - So Mayer
    Audio consultant - David Pye
    Artwork by Danny Crossley
    Production Mentors - Caroline Steel and Andy King
    Executive Producers - Khaliq Meer and Leanne Alie
    Commissioned for BBC Sounds Audio Lab by Khaliq Meer

    Thanks to
    Aleks Kolkowski
    Sally Potter
    Andrew Woodyatt and everyone at the Rio Cinema
    Peninsula Press
    The BFI and the BFI National Archive
    Axel Kacoutié
    Nikki Meadows
    Rebecka Öberg
    Joseph Herscher

    Permissions
    Clip from Memories of Berlin courtesy of Gary Conklin
    Clips from Great Directors: Eisenstein: Part 2 courtesy of BBC
    Quote from Sergei Eisenstein, held at Eisenstein Archives at TsGALI (State Archives of Literature and Arts), Moscow, quoted in Sergei Eisenstein: A Life In Conflict by Ronald Bergan, Arcade Publishing, 1997

    • 49 min
    Introducing The Film We Can’t See: a lost film that could have changed the world

    Introducing The Film We Can’t See: a lost film that could have changed the world

    This immersive six-part series takes Adam back to early cinema pioneers Sergei Eisenstein, Louise Brooks and Paul Robeson, in an investigation through time and sound, into our bodies and into our futures. The Film We Can’t See is a fresh perspective on cinema, LGBTQ+ history and the power of sound. Where documentary meets imagination, there may be a film that could change the world.

    • 1 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
7 Ratings

7 Ratings

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