Play Me Something in Memory of John Berger




Screening introduced and followed by a discussion on the life and work of John Berger, with curator Gareth Evans and writer Tom Overton.

Directed by Timothy Neat (1989).

Starring: John Berger, Tilda Swinton, and Hamish Henderson. Dur: 72 minutes.

"Novelist, poet, playwright, artist, critic and commentator, John Berger is something of a Renaissance man. Here he adds a couple more strings to his bow, collaborating with director Timothy Neat to bring one of his own short stories to the screen, and appearing in the film as the mysterious storyteller: wandering across the sands in black suit and hat, suggesting both an enigmatic man with no name drifted in from the Highlands and Orson Welles avuncular MC in ‘F for Fake’. A story, he says, is like an open ticket, and so it is, as a handful of men and women await the plane for Glasgow on the Hebridean isle of Barra, which boasts Britain’s only tidal runway. Amongst them are visitors, a young woman (Tilda Swinton) setting off for a job on the mainland, the locals who have charge of the airport and in their midst, Berger. Jaunty, vibrant and expansive, he makes a mesmerizing storyteller, and his tale, on the face of it a simple yarn of a peasant’s weekend trip to Venice, becomes a complex exploration of people and places, factories and farms, sex, politics, musicways of being. The film quite naturally takes on myriad textures: colour and black/white, 35mm and blown-up 16mm footage, and, for the story within the story, still photographs by the exemplary Jean Mohr. Berger and Neat have discovered that there is a useful application for post modernism after all, the better to tell a tale."

Tom Charity, from Time Out


Gareth Evans is a writer, curator, presenter and the Film Curator of London’s Whitechapel Gallery. He programmes PLACE, the annual cross-platform festival at Aldeburgh Music in Suffolk and produced the essay film Patience (After Sebald) by Grant Gee as part of his nationwide arts project The Re-Enchantment (2008 - 2011) with Di Robson for Artevents. He has curated numerous film and event seasons (eg Armenia, JG Ballard, Portugal, Romany etc) in London and nationally. He conceived and curated the six week season John Berger: Here Is Where We Meet across London in 2005 and co-curated and co-ordinated All Power to the Imagination! 1968 and Its Legacies, a two month cross-media and multi-institutional season in London marking the 40th anniversary of the events of 1968. He was editor of the international moving image magazine Vertigo from 2002 - 2009.

Tom Overton edited Portraits: John Berger on Art and Landscapes: John Berger on Artists (Verso, 2015), catalogued Berger’s archive at the British Library, and is writing the biography for Allen Lane. As a Postdoctoral Research Fellow on the archives of the Barbican and Guildhall School of Music and Drama, he is also writing a book on archives and migration (Allen Lane), tweeting @tw_overton and collecting his articles at

Kinokulture, LiveTai