Acciones de investigación /
Digitisation of the film Rank and File (Sylvia Harvey, 1972)
In 2021, the researchers Alberto Berzosa and Miguel Errazu distributed an open questionnaire to fellow researchers, filmmakers, associations and activists about their work in Super 8. The responses, which together compiled a diverse map of experiences with this particular format, were included in a special edition entitled El Súper 8 contra el grano (Super 8 against the grain), which was co-edited by Berzosa and Errazu and published in Secuencias. Revista de historia del cine in 2022.
In her reply, the British researcher and teacher Sylvia Harvey talked about her experience as a Master’s student at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA):
"Between 1972 and 1975, while I was still training, I took a postgraduate course at the Film School of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). To earn their Master’s degree, all students, both ‘production’ and ‘critical studies’ majors, had to complete what was known as Project One. Project One was a short film shoot in Super 8 (the format required by the school) and accompanied by a magnetic soundtrack on 16 mm film. We were not expected to synchronise the sound, so there was no lip-sync, but the school’s projection booth had a way of screening these films along with their magnetic sound track. It was a good way of learning a little about sound mixing."
Harvey kept all the elements that surrounded the making of her ‘Project One’, entitled Rank and Rile (1972), in her personal archive in London. These elements included a copy of the final cut in Super 8 mm, a magnetic sound reel in Super 16 mm, and various outtakes, all of which, five decades on, remained unpublished. In collaboration with the research project Los públicos del arte y la cultura visual contemporáneas en España (Contemporary visual art and culture audiences in Spain) (PID2019-105800GB-I00), between 2022 and 2023, inspection, digitisation and post-production work was carried out at Elías Querejeta Zine Eskola to produce a new 2K digital copy of all the materials linked to Rank and File. The resulting work was premiered at the Punto de Vista Festival in March 2023.
As the researcher Allyson Nadia Field observed, the UCLA Project One Films were a determining factor in the formation of cinematographic movements such as the LA Rebellion, with exercises characterised by ‘an incredible kind of energy, vitality and rawness that reflected the cultural environment in which they were made and their political movements, social concerns and problematic gender expectations’. In Rank and File, Harvey’s camera focuses on the conflicts that occurred within a workers’ union in Los Angeles, at a moment characterised by racial tension between Afro-American and Chicana communities, the position adopted by trade unions in relation to US foreign policy under the shadow of the Vietnam War and the political dismantling of the new generations in the run-up to Nixon’s electoral victory in 1972. In Harvey’s own words:
"The film, which I still have today, is about the quite violent corruption that occurred at the heart of a workers’ union in Los Angeles (...) I conducted the interviews with just a sound recorder; I did not record any images. The film focuses on a fairly brave group of union members, who were trying to replace their corrupt leaders. The union acted like a kind of recruitment service. You put your name down on a list and waited in line for the next job to arrive. However, the civil servants sold jobs ‘under the table’ to undocumented (incorrectly referred to by some as ‘illegal’) Mexican workers. As you can easily imagine, there was, and continues to be, a large South American community in Los Angeles, with both ‘documented’ and ‘undocumented’ workers. The grassroots workers I interviewed were therefore very brave, and most likely ran the risk of physical harm. They were trying to work against the increasing hostility and division generated by this corrupt hiring practice."
Rank and File (Sylvia Harvey, 1972) | 2K digital copy made at Elías Querejeta Zine Eskola (2023)
Technical data sheet
Laura Ibáñez (inspection, digitisation, post-production).
Alberto Berzosa (CSIC), Miguel Errazu (UAM), Pablo La Parra Pérez (EQZE) (coordination).
Los públicos del arte y la cultura visual contemporáneas en España (Contemporary visual art and culture audiences in Spain) research project (PID2019-105800GB-I00), Centro Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Autonomous University of Madrid.
June 2022-February 2023