Helen DeWitt

Film curator and lecturer

Voted for

Man with a Movie Camera1929Dziga Vertov
Meshes of the Afternoon1943Maya Deren, Alexander Hackenschmied
Roma città aperta1945Roberto Rossellini
Do the Right Thing1989Spike Lee
Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles1975Chantal Akerman
The Battle of Algiers1966Gillo Pontecorvo
Fear Eats the Soul1974Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Pink Flamingos1972John Waters
Pierrot le fou1965Jean-Luc Godard
Orlando1992Sally Potter


Man with a Movie Camera

1929 Ukrainian SSR, USSR

“Down with bourgeois fairytale plots and scenarios – long live life as it is!” For Vertov, documentary was the only true revolutionary form, as it freed film from false scenarios and performing actors. This film about life in a Soviet city from dawn to dusk was certainly revolutionary in its manifold methods of image creation, continually undermining and extending itself to dazzling and witty effect. Along with Vertov, the Kino Eye Council of Three comprised his editor wife Elizaveta Svilova and his camera-operator brother Mikhail Kaufman. All three deserve authorial credit for the film.

Meshes of the Afternoon

1943 USA

“A truly creative work of art creates a new reality,” Maya Deren once said. The sleeper is caught in a web of dream events that spill over into reality to create new forms of cinematic time and experience. Meshes blurs the boundaries of the mind – the interior and exterior, the visible and invisible, the conscious and unconscious – to delirious and disturbing effect.

Roma città aperta

1945 Italy

Made as the Nazis were being defeated and Italy was emerging from fascism, the film’s documentary immediacy and real-life drama created a profound moral inquiry in cinema and inspired post-war new waves around the world. Anna Magnani’s ferocious performance foregrounded a new screen power for women.

Do the Right Thing

1989 USA

Spike Lee developed a street-smart cinematic language to create this vibrant portrait of a Brooklyn community. It digs deep into the structure and operation of racism and reveals the complexities and conflicts of African-American life. An ingenious film, whose subject is regrettably still so clearly relevant today.

Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles

1975 Belgium, France

Jeanne's monotonous routine of housework becomes mesmerising and filled with a sense of doom. A devasting recreation of a female experience of time and space that conveys domestic, economic, marital, maternal and sexual confinement. It can only end with violence.

The Battle of Algiers

1966 Italy, Algeria

A psychologically shocking account of the anticolonial struggle of the Algerian people and a brutally candid exposé of the French colonial project. The film is based on Algerian resistance FLN commander Saadi Yacef’s memoir. He played a similar role in the film, well as being a producer and representative of Algeria's new FLN government.

Fear Eats the Soul

1974 Federal Republic of Germany

The romantic entanglement of two mundane lives forcefully exposes the racial tensions underlying German society. Fassbinder brings his immense understanding of cinema and of human beings to this heartbreaking love story which releases the emotional power of classic Hollywood melodrama.

Pink Flamingos

1972 USA

Cinematic transgression at its most transcendental. A delirious camp extravaganza with subversive characters and side-splitting satire in a tale of taboo-busting rivalry. Starring the unrivalled and incomparable Divine at his most excessive.

Pierrot le fou

1965 France, Italy

Possibly an end and a beginning for Godard. A frolicking, escapist romantic road-trip adventure, but also a blistering critique of bourgeois culture, a political satire and a collage of anti-consumerist capitalism. Anna Karina’s star shines for herself.


1992 United Kingdom, Russian Federation, Italy, France, Netherlands

A dance through the history and geography of love with a character whose life spans 400 years and two genders. With immense charm, huge wit, and a breath-taking visual style, Orlando is a liberation from the ties that bind us.