One Way Street: Fragments for Walter Benjamin - screener

you need a subscription to view this film: subscribe - education only

One Way Street: Fragments for Walter Benjamin

Film by John Hughes

Year: 1992, 58 mins
Code: JH-One
ISBN: 978-1-921895-11-1

  • Description
  • About the Artists
  • Reviews
  • Embed / Share

Walter Benjamin is one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century, yet his work is relatively unknown to many. Benjamin, who died escaping the Gestapo in 1940, has been increasingly recognized by artists and thinkers the world over. Born into a wealthy Jewish family, Benjamin was a well-known writer and broadcaster in pre-Hitler Germany before he was forced into exile in 1933 when he fled to Paris.

One Way Street is both an exposition of Benjamin’s ideas and a search for Benjamin the man in locations as diverse as the academics of Moscow, the bookstores of New York, Parisienne arcades and the cemetery in a Spanish costal village that has become a place of pilgrimage for Benjamin devotees. Scholars discuss the impact of Benjamin’s work, and the combination of interviews, stylized reconstruction and archival film results in a dynamic portrait of one of the 20th century’s most influential thinkers.

Director: John Hughes
Writers: John Hughes, Paul Davies

Cast:  Margaret Cameron, Nico Lathouris, Wally Maloney, Mark Rogers, Louise Smith. Interviewees: Susan Buck-Morss, Michael W. Jennings, Danny Karavan, Elizabeth Young-Bruehl, Gary Smith, and others.

John Hughes is one of Australia’s most respected documentary (and drama) film directors, his work having won many awards. The films are usually Australian in orientation, examining art, cultural politics and history.  The work is often intensely research driven; the films are serious investigations into their material. Also they have cinematic creative flair.  His credits are numerous, starting in the early ‘70s with short films such as Nowhere Game, through to acclaimed documentaries in the ‘80s such as Film-Work, to the narrative feature What I Have Written in the ‘90s, and onto the recent award-winning documentaries The Archive Project (2006) and Indonesia Calling: Joris Ivens In Australia (2009).

Hughes was honored with Film Australia’s coveted Stanley Hawes Award, for Achievement In Documentary in 2006, and the inaugural Joan Long Award from the Australian and New Zealand Film History Association (2006).

Paul Davies graduated from UQ in 1972 with a BA (Hons) and MA in English Literature, and two years later trained as a script editor at Crawford Productions, where he arrived in time to witness the killing of Homicide and the birth of many Sullivans. He has since written for a dozen different drama series, including Stingers, Blue Heelers, and Something in the Air. Two plays, Storming St. Kilda by Tram (Currency Press) and On Shifting Sandshoes, received Awgies (Australian Writers Guild Awards), as did Return of the Prodigal, an episode of the ABC series, Something in the Air. Storming Mont Albert by Tram was first produced by Theatre Works, and was performed on many trams for more than a decade in both Melbourne and Adelaide, helping to pave the way for other site-specific plays, including: Breaking up in Balwyn (1983) on a riverboat, Living Rooms (1986) in a family mansion, and Full House/ No Vacancies (1989) in a former boarding house. Paul was a foundation member of Theatre Works, and co-director of the celebrated low budget short drama Exits, 50 minutes, 1981. He has worked on a number of John Hughes’ projects.


Awards: 1993 ATOM ‘Innovation’ Award; 1993 AFI Awards (Finalist)

Festivals: Invited BANFF Film Festival; 'Artists Activists and Ordinary People' New York (Lincoln Centre) January 1992; Jewish Film Festival, London 1993; Leipzig 1992; Film Festival Dallas 1993;  Washington Jewish Film Festival 1993; 'Beyond the End of the World Film Festival', Sarajevo 1993.

Hughes has reactivated this mystic, this poet, this allegorist, this philosopher, this serious and mad romantic figure… he has brought ‘thought fragments in to the world of the living and offered them as something ‘rich and strange’." - Anna Dzenis Cinema Papers: 95 (October 1993)

An innovative and exciting attempt to capture the life, thought and death of Walter Benjamin.” - Miriam Hansen, Director of Film Studies Centre, University of Chicago, 1994.

“One Way Street is a complex, visually startling documentary which uses many of the technical, formal and rhetorical devices with which we are familiar from television and advertising. It constructs for us a kaleidoscope of images, which convey the tragedy, and dislocation of the life of this European intellectual. But in its use of the techniques of mass media, One Way Street also goes to the heart of Benjamin's own work and methodology.” – Marion Benjamin, Arena magazine, Feb 1993.

John Hughes has a unique film style.He layers images and texts using a Dadaist technique to provoke a critical reading of the film.  This makes his films complex to watch because they work outside a familiar film language and do not meet our expectations.  Hughes likes to challenge the viewer on all levels.” – Catherine Gough-Brady, Dox Magazine, Winter 2009.


Share this video

Start at (H:MM:SS) and end at (H:MM:SS)


Embed this video

Start at (H:MM:SS) and end at (H:MM:SS)