We were very sad to hear of the recent death of Mamoun Hassan. Mamoun played a very significant role in the development of independent cinema in the UK and without his support Bill Douglas, and many other filmmakers, would not have had the opportunity to get their vision to an audience.
Born in Saudi Arabia, Mamoun came to London as a boy and later worked as an editor and a documentary maker in the 1960s. On taking over as Head of the BFI Production Board he came across Bill Douglas's script for My Childhood. After many years of having his work rejected, Bill, who had just graduated in his mid 30s from the London Film School, was delighted to receive a letter from Mamoun at the BFI in 1971 saying that funding had been agreed and with the encouraging message 'Come and talk about it. You'll make an important film. I know it'. Mamoun oversaw the often fraught and challenging productions of My Childhood and My Ain Folk, always retaining his support for Bill's unique vision, before leaving the BFI. He certainly played an important role in getting the films completed and shown in the international festivals where their brilliance was celebrated.
In 1979 Mamoun became the Head of the National Film Finance Corporation, at that time the only state funder of films beyond the very low-budgets available at the BFI. Early in this role he enabled the production of another classic British independent film, Babylon, an intense and exhilariating drama showing the conflicts between black youth and the police in South London. The museum also holds the full production archive for this film in the collection of papers we hold from its producer, Gavrik Losey.
In his time at the NFFC Mamoun also helped to fund Bill Forsyth's Gregory's Girl, and also Bill Douglas's follow up to the Trilogy, Comrades, his epic about the Tolpuddle Martyrs. The NFFC money allowed development on the film and provided funds for production, along with Channel 4 and Curzon.
After the NFFC was abolished by the Thatcher government in the mid 1980s, Mamoun worked with Bill Douglas again. He hired Bill to write a script adapted from James Hogg's 18th century Scottish classic, Confessions of a Justified Sinner, which he hope to produce with Bill directing. Sadly Bill died before filming could take place. In later years Mamoun held Movie Masterclasses, looking at films in very fine detail to better understand their art. One of his favourite subjects was My Childhood. He made a great impact on cinema in Britain in the difficult days of the 1970s and 1980s and without him some of the talents and stories that flourished in spite of everything in this period would not have reached our screens.
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