John Alfred Barker (4 June 1906 - 17 October 1982) was a Brunanter screenwriter, director and producer. Barker's groundbreaking films had an incalculable effect on later directors and thus he is called "the father of Brunanter cinema". His achievements have been often compared to the effect Orson Welles had on American cinema.
Barker made only seven feature films and he is best known for A Life in the Shadows (1936) and Private Ellery (1951). His other movies are Happy Life (1929), A Sailor from Boguestown (1954), Men and Beasts (1958), The Honest Gardener (1962) and Jesus Swept (1974). He directed, wrote or produced most of them, receiving remarkable critical and commercial success.
Barker was also the founder and first president of Rosetown Film Festival, the country's most prestigious movie festival. In 1976, he became the first figure from the film industry to be awarded the Medal for Arts and Letters.
Barker was born in Rosetown, to the wealthy banker Leonard Barker and his wife Alice Robertson. The oldest of four children, he had one brother, Christian (1907-1971), and two sisters, Patrica (1909-1995) and Ursula (1910-1989).
In his youth, Barker was deeply religious, taking Communion every day, until, at age 17, he grew disgusted with what he perceived as the illogicality of the Church, along with its power and wealth. His father, a devout Roman Catholic himself, didn't seem to care a lot about his son's lack of faith, but he insisted that Barker study economics. In 1924, Barker entered Royal University of Koningstad, but he soon switched to philosophy. He graduated in 1929 and moved back to his hometown.
Barker's interest in films was intensified by a viewing of Fritz Lang's Metropolis, in 1927. Many years later, he stated: "I came out of the Habermas Theater completely transformed. The very moment I went through the door, I decided to devote myself to the cinema". Other films that inspired young Barker, included Joseph van Marwijk's The Big City (1926), Abel Gance's Napoléon (1927) and Jean Epstein's The Fall of the House of Usher (1928).
Barker worked for three years as a docker, before releasing his first film, Happy Life, in 1929. It is a drama film about a family facing difficulties during the World War I and was well received. However, it failed to recoup its costs at the box office, hence Barker couldn't find a sponsor for future projects.
Barker's next film was A Life in the Shadows, a science-fiction drama released in 1936. The film was met with a mixed response upon its initial release, but today it is considered a classic and has heavily influenced directors such as Herbert S. Hosen and Antoni Wisnowski.
With the German invasion of Brunant in 1941, Barker and his family fled to Madrid and then to London, in order to protect his Jew wife. While in the United Kingdom, he worked on several anti-Nazi films, mostly as a director. Barker considered this period of his life "truly inspiring", as he met many important cinema figures, including Sir Alexander Korda and Brian Desmond Hurst.
After the war, Barker was not involved in any way to the film industry, working as a civil servant, until 1949. His next film, Private Ellery, was completed in 1951. It received rave critics and ended up earning back nearly double its original budget. For the first time, Barker directed, wrote and produced one of his movies. Private Ellery remains one of the most significant Brunanter films and perhaps Barker's best.
A Sailor from Boguestown (1954) received mixed reception and is generally believed to be inferior to other Barker films. Four years later, Barker adapted the stage play Men and Beasts (written by Carlyle O'Keefe) into a film; it met with very good critics and proved his biggest commercial success until then. Moreover, this film is considered Anatole Bircamp's first major film.
Barker's next film, titled The Honest Gardener, met with some serious production problems and was released in 1962, after several postpones. It well received by the critics, who applauded the screenplay and the acting.
Barker went on to establish the Rosetown Film Festival in 1964. He served as the Festival's president until 1970, when he resigned in order to focus on his last project. Jesus Swept, a second adaption from an O'Keefe play, opened in 1972 to extremely positive reviews, becoming Barker's highest-grossing film. Barker didn't accept the Best Film Award nomination at the RFF, because he thought it was a "cheating". As director J.J. Morris put it: "Barker's swan song couldn't have been covered in more greatness".
In 1975, Barker announced that he wouldn't make any other film in the future. He instead focused on things he liked, such as reading. He led a low-profile life with his wife in Rosetown and they travelled across Europe, visiting Rome, Paris and Budapest.
Barker died from a heart attack on 17 October 1982, in his home. He was survived by his wife and his two children.
In 1931, Barker married Uriel Van der Hoeden, the daughter of a liberal Jew tailor and his wife. They had two children: Leonard (1932-present) and Anne (1933-2011). Leonard Barker became a minor actor, chiefly active in the '60s and the '70s.
Barker was a good friend to Carlyle O'Keefe and they frequently attended movies or stage plays together.