How did the partnership between yourself and Martin Smith come about?
Well, my partnership with Martin has been ongoing since my entering film until today really because we are in regular touch and although we dont work as a team weve worked together on many projects over the years. Martin is a very talented young man, hes 60 now and he started out as a film projectionist in a cinema, then ran an editing establishment for many years in Wardour St called David Maden Associates which is still going strong. Id describe him as an honest socialist, a rare fish these days although we dont see eye to eye on many issues, hes not a Marxist and Id describe myself as someone trying to be a Marxist. Nevertheless weve never had a bitter word, we get on very well and I think Im the only British Communist he knows personally. When the Soviet Union collapsed 10 years ago he got seized with the idea about making a documentary about how I felt about it as a Communist, it has been a traumatic 10 years without a doubt but not quite as traumatic as the discovery of the Kruschev secret speech of 1956 that contained the truths about the Gulags and the crimes committed under Stalin became known. Its traumatic to the people who, like me had rather blindly trusted the Soviet Union for many, many years.
Anyway, Martin was very interested in this so he brought the DNA film crew with him to this office and they were here for about two days, this was about 5 years ago, to discuss how I felt about the break up of the Union. The piece was called, Life Can Be Wonderful and it was shown on Channel 4. It really entailed 2 and half days of me pouring my heart out, I didnt know what questions he was going to ask, but you can get through a lot of film in that time. He had to cut the film to 2 hours and then to 30 minutes, it sounds awful and it was awful because most of my favourite moments were left on the cutting room floor, he captured something of the essence of me but the people that know me well werent bewitched by the film because they dont think it really reflected my character. I dont mean that the film was insulting in any way but somehow, a part of what really makes me tick eluded him, he asked what I think are the predictable questions that anyone on the BBC would ask, it became a conventional sort of interview. Im not blaming Martin but its part of the price you pay for making a 35 minute documentary about someone who has lived for 75 years. Im touched that anyone would want to make a documentary about me but Im saddened that he didnt capture the essential Stanley Forman.
Whats your connection with Roland Bischoff?
Thats a much shorter affair. I was making a film called 50 Fighting Years about the story of a Marxist journal called Labour Monthly based on the original concept of my mentor, the honourable Ivor Montague, it had been going since 1921 and I was working on it in 1971 so it was 50 years old. We got the cooperation of East Germany to provide archive footage, they gave me the assistance of a very good female editor called Waltraub Hartmann and because I couldnt work there I liaised with Roland in Berlin from here. He was also brilliant with arranging the work for the specialists for the animated sequences in the film, he did everything that I was unable to do. It was a purely friendly, creative and political collaboration, there was no money involved, we did it for out love of the journal. Unlike Martin, we havent stayed in regular contact in the 30 odd years since we worked on that, I think he is still filmmaking and Ive only seen him a few times since. Hes a good bloke and very talented.
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