Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Resistance Reappraised (in more than three ways)

I've just finished a snazzily titled book, The Mercian Maquis, recommended by Anita, the Flicks in the Sticks promoter at Cawley Hall Eye,  who first told me that the area had had its own resistance organisation in the event of a German invasion during the early 1940s. For a time, the HQ of the Herefordshire and Worcestershire Auxiliary Units was Eye Manor, under the command of Christopher Sandford, owner of the Golden Cockerel Press and father of the writer Jeremy Sandford (Cathy Come Home, Edna, the Inebriate Woman).

Anita remembers Jeremy talking about his father warning them never to say anything to anyone if they discovered anything unusual; explosives were kept on the premises and there was a radio mast on the roof of the building to enable communication with HQ.

The book is fascinating on the recruitment and self-contained nature of the patrols (often christened with biblical names such as Jehu and Abdnego, the training methods used, including 'thuggery' techniques of self-defence, the weaponry used including plastic explosives, time pencils, guns, knives, knuckle-dusters and the sheer brutality of what was expected in terms of retaliation. As in Owen Sheers' book and the film of Resistance, life expectancy in the event of German invasion from South Wales was was not predicted to be above 2 weeks.

Coincidentally, some of the training took place at Lyde Court, near Hereford, one of our new May Festival venues, while Shobdon Airfield where we're screening on the weekend of 19/20 May, was pinpointed as a target for sabotage because it was likely site for the invading German forces to take over.

Resistance itself screens on Friday 4 May at the Simpson Hall, Burghill but the Resistance Reappraised programme on Tuesday 8 May at 7.30pm provides the opportunity to view another of the 'what if the Germans had invaded' films only the scenario depicted in The Silent Village is real enough. Directed by Humphrey Jennings in 1943, the events depicted actually took place in Lidice, a mining village in Czechoslovakia, only months before filming started and are simply transposed to ta very similar community, Cwmgiedd in South Wales. The film was commissioned by the Ministry of Information to reinforce solidarity across nationalities which it does movingly and with understatement.

If you're a subscriber to the Borderlines enewsletter, coming up in the next few weeks, (courtesy of sponsors MovieMail) there's a chance to win the DVD of another film that posits what life might have been like in Britain under Nazi occupation, Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo's first feature, It Happened Here (1965), made incredibly (for such a mature and thoughtful film) while they were still teenagers though it took years (and stock-ends from Kubrick's Dr Strangelove) to complete. Like Resistance the film has local connections; parts of it were shot in New Radnor and the main character, Pauline, was married to the local doctor.

Finally, another thread leading this time from the 1942 propaganda thriller directed by surrealist-tending Alberto Calvacanti, Went the Day Well? - in which a rural village is infiltrated by Nazi agents posing as British soldiers - to Ludlow Assembly Rooms where it plays on Monday 2 July, following a talk on the secrets of the British Film Industry by BBC Radio broadcaster Dr Matthew Sweet as part of Ludlow Festival.

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