It doesn't feel like a year since I wrote my last blog, but so much has happened in between! Spurred on by the excitement of last year’s Regrouping retrospective – a celebration of 40 years since the 1976 edition of the Festival, the International Forum on Avant-Garde Film, the Psychoanalysis and Cinema Symposium, and the premiere of Lizzie Borden’s debut Regrouping – I went to London to talk to Lynda Myles, the Artistic Director of Edinburgh Film Festival during that time. We met on a sunny July afternoon and ate lunch on the terrace of The Union in Soho. It was an honour to meet her and a real pleasure to listen to her recollections of the Festival in the 1970s. We talked about many things, but what really came through was her passion and curiosity for cinema of all kinds. ‘It was always the most natural thing that we would show the panoply of films from Joe Dante and Roger Corman to the London Film-Makers’ Co-op’, she told me.
Our discussion will be published this summer in Laura Mulvey and Sue Clayton’s edited collection Other Cinemas: Politics, Culture and Experimental Film in the 1970s.
At the London Film Festival in October I was introduced to Simon Field, one of the organisers of the International Forum on Avant-Garde Film. Simon was really interested to hear about my research into the Festival in the 1970s, but we actually spent more time talking about contemporary experimental film and the current state of analogue filmmaking, something I’ve been passionate about for a while now.
At the Rotterdam Film Festival in January I interviewed two friends who both work for experimental film distribution companies – Emmanuel Lefrant of Light Cone in Paris, and Gerald Weber from Sixpack Film in Vienna. They shared their thoughts on the state of film distribution in the digital era, which can be found on the website of ‘Reset the Apparatus! Reconfiguring The Cinematic and the Photographic’.
In May I was in Vienna for the final workshop of the AHRC-funded research network ‘Film and the Other Arts: Intermediality, Medium Specificity, Creativity’. One of the two artists to present their work that day was Anna Vasof, an incredibly talented filmmaker/inventor whose film When Time Moves Faster will have its UK premiere in the Black Box programme Dissecting Movement on 27 June and 1 July. Anna’s fascinating approach to stop-motion animation inspired the title and focus of this programme, which explores different ways of representing and breaking down movement. Listening to Anna’s talk I realised that When Time Moves Faster is part of a much broader examination of how everyday situations, objects, spaces and actions can be used as cinematographic mechanisms. Influenced by pre-cinematic devices Vasof constructs her own movement machines, asking the viewer to take part in the delight of invention as she performs the successive stages of the illusion. You can watch the talk here.
Whilst in Vienna I bumped into Rosa John, another filmmaker to feature in this year’s selection. Jicaro, a short yet affective study of form and texture, is one of the ten films to screen in the Female Perspectives programme.
It’s probably partly because of last year’s engagement with feminism that this focus on female experience emerged so naturally. And it will be complemented by a special screening of Lizzie Borden’s radical feminist classic from 1983 – Born in Flames, part of the ‘The Future is History’ retrospective. Lizzie will be making another trip to Edinburgh from Los Angeles to present the film in person and I’ll be in conversation with her on Saturday 1 July (In Person – Lizzie Borden). Thanks to Niall Greig Fulton for putting together such a brilliant programme (The Terminator will be the first film I see in this year’s festival!) and for creating the opportunity to bring Lizzie back to Edinburgh.
There’ll be a Black Box shorts screening every evening from Monday 26 – Thursday 29 June at 8.40pm, but don’t worry if you miss any – they’re all repeated on Saturday 1 and Sunday 2 July! There are also two groundbreaking features in the Black Box programme: George Clark’s A Distant Echo is a visually arresting exploration of landscape and identity shot on 35mm, and Steve Sanguedolce’s Land of Not Knowing is one of the most sensitive portrayals of depression ever to have been made.
So it’s been a busy year and it’s about to get busier! As always, I’m looking forward to seeing all these films together, and to meeting the talented people behind them. It’ll be a week of inspiring discussion and creative exchange that will in many ways shape the year to come …