The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time.
Sir Edward Grey – August 1914
One hundred years ago this summer, Europe, and indeed the world, was deceptively quiet. On June 28, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were shot and killed in Sarajevo. At first, to the average man and woman on the street this event may have seemed tragic, but remote. However, a month and a week later, all of Europe had plunged into a war that would become – almost literally – a fight to the death, raging across the globe, and drawing in the United States. By the time it ended, more than 15 million soldiers and civilians had been killed, the world map had been transformed, and the stage was set for a Second World War.
On the anniversary of World War I’s beginning, Cinema Detroit presents three new acclaimed documentaries from the BBC which shed on light on why and how it started and its implications for later history and the present day. In addition, professors Aaron Retish and Eric Ash from Wayne State University’s History department will join us to introduce the films.
Sunday, August 3
4:30 p.m. – Royal Cousins At War
Documentary – NR – 122 min – Suggested donation $5
At the time the war broke out, the King of England, the Czar of Russia, and the Kaiser of Germany were first cousins. This two-part series looks at the role played by Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and King George V of England, and their relationships with each other, in the outbreak of war. Mismanaging their countries and mishandling foreign policy, they failed to adapt to the forces of nationalism and democracy, and so brought tumbling down their own ideal of a Europe governed by the descendants of Queen Victoria. While it was war that delivered the final blow, this fascinating series shows how the problems had set in much earlier. Professor Aaron Retish of Wayne State University will introduce Royal Cousins. Retish specializes in modern Russian history and has written extensively on Russia’s transition from imperial rule to the Soviet Union.
7:30 p.m. – Churchill’s First World War
Docu-drama – NR – 94 min – Suggested donation $5
A re-examination of Winston Churchill’s darkest hours, combining a fascinating re-evaluation of his epic and traumatic experiences in the World War I and his contributions as Britain’s greatest warlord. Disgraced by disasters in the Gallipoli wars, and with his political reputation in tatters, Churchill was all but finished. He was also tormented, for he knew that he was one of the very few political leaders opposed to the strategy of endless attrition in Flanders. His promotion of tank and air power stemmed from his determination to find another strategy. Illustrated with the extraordinary correspondence Churchill sent from the trenches to his wife Clementine, revealing intimate insights into life on the front, and with testimony from leading historians and military experts, this is the story of his fall – and his road to redemption. Professor Eric Ash of Wayne State University will introduce Churchill’s First World War. Ash specializes in English and European history, particularly the uses and effects of technology.
Monday, August 4
7:00 p.m. – 37 Days
Docu-drama – NR – 162 min – Suggested donation $5
This three-part political thriller follows the catastrophic chain of events which began with the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914, and led to the declaration of war between Britain and Germany on August 4th. 37 Days explores with breathless tension the tragedy of how Europe’s old conventions of secret diplomacy fell apart – or were destroyed. This fascinating and provocative drama, featuring stunning performances from actors such as Ian McDiarmid (Star Wars) and Tim Piggott-Smith (MI-5, Quantum of Solace), unlocks the mystery of the war’s origins. By overturning common assumptions about its inevitability, the film demonstrates that World War I did not happen by chance, and nor was it a foregone conclusion – it took considerable effort and staggering bad luck. 37 Days will be introduced by Professor Retish.
These documentaries have never been screened or broadcast in the US before, and admission to all three is free. We greatly appreciate donations to help us with our costs and keep great content on our screens. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis and we are not able to take reservations.