Brian Jacobson

Professor of Visual Culture

Voted for

Man with a Movie Camera1929Dziga Vertov
Meshes of the Afternoon1943Maya Deren, Alexander Hackenschmied
The Battle of Algiers1966Gillo Pontecorvo
Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles1975Chantal Akerman
West Indies: The Fugitive Slaves of Liberty1979Med Hondo
Do the Right Thing1989Spike Lee
Beau travail1998Claire Denis
Shi jie2004Jia Zhangke
Nostalgia for the Light2010Patricio Guzmán
Purple2017John Akomfrah


Man with a Movie Camera

1929 Ukrainian SSR, USSR

"Everyone who cares for his art seeks the essence of his own technique." - Dziga Vertov

Meshes of the Afternoon

1943 USA

"It does not record an event which could be witnessed by other persons." - Maya Deren

The Battle of Algiers

1966 Italy, Algeria

Gillo Pontecorvo: "The writings of Frantz Fanon were also very important for Franco Solinas, the screenwriter, and myself. We were there for a few months before the liberation and we saw everything, the hope and the joy, and we remember young people talking on the street all night. ... To fight colonialism they had to change themselves from what colonialism had made them."

Edward Said: "Yes, the film reveals that at some point, it's no longer possible to simply endure colonialism quietly."

Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles

1975 Belgium, France

"... moi, je travaille dans les images qui sont entre les images." - Chantal Akerman

West Indies: The Fugitive Slaves of Liberty

1979 France, Mauritania

“I wanted to show that each people on earth has its own musical comedy, its own musical tragedy and its own thought shaped through its own history.” - Med Hondo

Do the Right Thing

1989 USA

"Five years ago, after the chokehold had been outlawed by the N.Y.P.D., Eric Garner died the same way that Radio Raheem did in a movie that was based on the real-life chokehold of Michael Stewart."

"Artist’s job — in my opinion — is to hold the mirror up to what are the ills of society. That’s our job."

- Spike Lee

Beau travail

1998 France

"What makes a film that film and not another one? ... sometimes you put a lot of energy and, yet, something is missing, and sometimes you put a lot of energy and something comes out of it. It is the mystery of sharing." - Claire Denis

Shi jie

2004 Japan, People's Republic of China, France

"... there’s no such thing as the so-called 'world'. People can only see their own lives, and they can only observe life from the standpoint of their own life experiences, so that our impressions of life are really only our impressions of our own life, and our impressions of the world are just our impressions of the environment we live in." - Jia Zhangke

Nostalgia for the Light

2010 France, Germany, Chile, Spain, USA

"Nostalgia is a way of thinking, it’s a way that the soul relates to the past."

"It's a film about the past, a demonstration that the most important thing in life is the past, because the whole territory of the past is fundamental for people and the future."

– Patricio Guzmán


2017 United Kingdom

"If the Anthropocene is a backdrop to our present-day existence then it must necessarily throw up certain ethical, aesthetic and formal questions about how one makes work. And that’s really all I’m trying to do – I am trying to register that difference, the before and after the realisation that the Anthropocene is real, and then see how to proceed on the basis of that." – John Akomfrah

Further remarks

Every film is an expression of its time, and so is every film list. Certain times demand certain films, and so with lists of them. Much as they may try, list makers cannot step out of their times any more than they can step out of themselves. Every film list is thus shaped, if in different measures, by history and by narcissism. Or put another way, a list is a collection, and to quote Walter Benjamin, when the collector speaks to you about his collection, "he proves to be speaking only about himself."

And indeed these are choices – my choices – but they, and their makers, can also speak for themselves. They are films of their time and for our time, sometimes in spite of themselves and despite what they – and we – might have wished.