English actor, model, and artist Tilda Swinton pays homage to the famous English art critic, novelist, painter and poet, John Berger through a documentary on the final day of the seventh edition of Dhaka Lit Fest on Saturday.
The documentary is titled “The Seasons in Quincy: Four Portraits of John Berger,” which is the result of a five-year project by Swinton, Colin MacCabe and Christopher Roth, in an attempt to produce a portrait of the intellect and storyteller John Berger.
The film was produced by the Derek Jarman Lab, based in Birkbeck, University of London, and in collaboration with composer Simon Fisher Turner.
The screening of the documentary, which was set for 12:30pm at the Bangla Academy Auditorium, was delayed by half an hour as all the seats were occupied an hour before the session even had started. Swinton’s fans of all age and nationality eagerly waited for her last session at DLF.
The session was commenced by writer, columnist and publisher K. Anis Ahmed. He introduced art critic Berger to the audience, by talking about his works and Marxist principles and philosophy, his 1972 Booker winning novel “G” and how his influential BBC documentary series titled “Ways of Seeing,” changed the formulae of art criticism for current times.
Following Anis’s introduction, Swinton, who was welcomed by her audience with a huge round of applause, started off by saying how this “documentary film project” was a chance for the audience to “meet him.”
For her, the film was “inspired by my desire to ‘miss him less’ when he was not with me anymore.”
She also urged the audience, who had not read his writings, to “seek him out,” mentioning how necessary his work and humanism is at this point in history. She talked about her fascination and friendship with the writer and how this project was made possible.
Tilda read out an excerpt from Berger’s writing, and his Booker Prize acceptance speech from 1972; where he explained how the European Booker sponsors gained their money from 130 years of trading in the Caribbean, including slavery and "the modern poverty of the Caribbean is the direct result of this and similar exploitation."
Following her readings, Tilda announced the screening of the documentary, requesting the audience again to dive into his works and his “clarity.”
The film features how in 1973 Berger abandoned the metropolis to live in the tiny Alpine village of Quincy. He soon then realised that subsistence peasant farming, which had sustained humanity for millennia, was coming to a historical close. He was determined to spend the rest of his life bearing witness to such vanishing existence, at least by participating in it.
Berger’s four part film delves into the labours’ peasant life of this Alpine village and its surrounding countryside. The four part film portrays Berger in the rhythm with the four seasons in Quincy.
“The Seasons in Quincy: Four Portraits of John Berger” also premiered at 2016’s Berlinale Film Festival in Berlin.