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Writing (MA)

Chris Hayes

Chris Hayes is a writer based in Ireland and the UK. He has been published by Art Monthly, Art Review, Burlington Contemporary, frieze, Tribune and The White Review amongst many others.

His thesis is about two films, Chris Marker’s Cuba Si! and Agnes Varda’s Salut les Cubains. The films are about Cuba, yet they are not made by Cubans. Each plays with the visual language of politically-engaged documentary, the video essay and, at times, poetry.

They are examples of many things: the optimism felt by artists, writers and filmmakers about socialism through the 20th century; they are tremendously influential examples of avant-garde cinema; each is a turning point in the life and career of its maker. 

The form of this essay is discursive and polemical, and offers a reappraisal of a lineage of politically-engaged art and filmmaking. Crucial to my argument is an interrogation of the aesthetics of purpose, critique, didacticism and propaganda, and a consideration of what it might mean to return to such examples today. 

Bourgeois Fantasies

For this project, I offer an in-depth discussion of the production, context and reception of each film. I also connect this reading to scholarship around the legacy of experimental filmmaking and the Cold War, and contextualise this as part of contemporary discussions about the political imaginary. Occasional breaks in the text mark a shift in emphasis for the reader: denoting the biography of Varda and Marker, how they subvert visual cliches of the revolution, their differing perspectives on Fidel Castro, a discussion of their own relationship with stereotypes about Cuba and the context of international solidarity, the reception and circulation of each film, and their contemporary legacy.

Fidel Castro with rocks in the background that look like angle wings by Agnes Varda
Photographs being sorted into sequence with detailed notes by Agnes Varda.
Two young Cubans running across a wall mural by Agnes Varda.