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Mothfight

A hand-scratched film on light, dark, insects and cinema

1985

Overview

In conventional visual symbolic language, light represents good, order, truth and life. Dark represents evil, chaos and destruction. The moth in this film, fighting to escape the light, is a metaphor for the filmmaker’s personal feelings, which contradict this set of accepted symbolic ‘meanings’. The light bulb and the candle flame are deadly for the moth, whilst darkness is safety and life. Vanda Carter was working in the distribution office at the Co-op when she made this film. At the time, Stan Brakhage’s Mothlight (which this film’s title references) was the Co-op’s most frequently hired title, which meant Carter had to closely inspect, view, clean and repair prints of Mothlight all the time. Whilst Brakhage’s film uses actual wings of dead moths, no live or dead moths were used for Mothfight. It was made by scratching directly onto the filmstrip and using the Co-op’s contact printer to make positive prints. The soundtrack is an improvisation on cello, performed and recorded by Stuart Jones at the LFMC.

Founded in 1966, the London Film-Makers’ Co-operative started life at Better Books, a counter-culture bookshop on Charing Cross Road, where a group led by poet Bob Cobbing and filmmakers Stephen Dwoskin and Jeff Keen met to screen films. Initially inspired by the activities of the New American Cinema Group in New York, the London Co-op grew into a pioneering organisation that incorporated a film workshop, cinema space and distribution office. During its four-decade history, the Co-op played a crucial role in establishing film as an art form in the UK and participated in a vibrant international film scene. This BFI Player collection brings together new scans of films distributed by and/or produced at the London Co-op.