Chris Kennedy

“Potamkin.” by Stephen Broomer, October 24, 2017

dir. Stephen Broomer | Canada 2017 | 66 min. 16mm

A prolific film critic of the silent and early sound era who died young in 1933, Harry Alan Potamkin left behind a corpus of incisive writings that speak from the radical, activist left wing of criticism, demanding that film and art do more to champion the social movements of the day. In Potamkin, Toronto filmmaker Stephen Broomer compiles images and scenes from almost 100 films that Potamkin wrote about to create a speculative biography of the critic’s life, a rich collage that both illuminates the individual and imagines him subsumed into the collective he so passionately championed. Applying chemical treatments to the rephotographed footage, Broomer amplifies the impending sense of catastrophe so keenly felt in the first three decades of the 20th century; the already stark and powerful imagery that the filmmaker has harvested from the dawn of cinema is augmented as the emulsion of the black-and-white film crackles and ripples with tension and decay.