ESSAY FILM FESTIVAL 2019

22 March – 4 April 2019

2019 Programme

The annual Essay Film Festival, now in its fifth edition, is a collaboration between Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image and the Institute of Contemporary Arts, celebrating the diversity and creativity of those artists and visionaries who work in that unique zone between documentary and experimental modes of filmmaking.


This year’s programme features a range of bold and innovative works that cross terrain from Argentina to Hong Kong, Iran to Mexico, USA to Lebanon, Nigeria to UK, embracing themes as varied as cancer, childbirth, the Faust legend, urban decay, workers’ strikes, psychoanalysis, colonialism, natural history, and Finnegans Wake!

These films will challenge your perception of the world, your understanding of reality and your place within it; they will move you, surprise you, and inspire you.

How does film connect intimate personal choices to political commitment; the archived or forgotten past to the socially active present; the beauty of cinema to terror, injustice and despair? How does film engage with the real while questioning the established forms of film language? And how can film touch us, emotionally and viscerally, and yet maintain that vital reflective edge?

Directors Mania Akbari & Douglas White, Andrea Bussmann, Dora García, Christopher Harris, Mary Jirmanus Saba, Bo Wang & Pan Lu, Onyeka Igwe and Jessica Sarah Rinland, all utilise the essay film in different ways to explore these searching questions in this year’s Essay Film Festival.

The full programme for this year’s festival can be found here.

Come and join us!

Michael Temple, Matthew Barrington, Kieron Corless, Catherine Grant, Janet McCabe, Ricardo Matos Cabo, Raquel Morais, and Laura Mulvey, on behalf of the Essay Film Festival

Programme 2019

SESSION ONE: A MOON FOR MY FATHER, MANIA AKBARI AND DOUGLAS WHITE

Date: Tuesday 26 March
Time: 20:30
Venue: ICA, Cinema One

Filmmaker Mania Akbari looks into the connection between her body and the political history of Iran, investigating the relationship between her own physical traumas and the collective political memory of her birthplace.

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SESSION TWO: FAUSTO, ANDREA BUSSMANN

Date: Wednesday 27 March
Time: 20:45 
Venue: ICA, Cinema One

This enthralling ethnographic essay film explores local stories and myths in Oaxaca, Mexico, connecting with wider themes of technology, perception and the self.

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SESSION THREE: STILL/HERE + SUN SONG

Date: Thursday 28 March 
Time: 20:25
Venue: ICA, Cinema One

Christopher Harris’s moving portrait of urban decay in St Louis, Missouri, is accompanied by Joel Wanek’s love letter to musician Sun Ra.

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SESSION FOUR: SPEAKING IN TONGUES

Date: Friday 29 March
Time: 14:00
Venue: Birkbeck Cinema

In this session artist and filmmaker Christopher Harris will demonstrate and discuss his working method and creative process through a lecture-performance related to his as yet unfinished work, Speaking in Tongues.

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SESSION FIVE: A FEELING GREATER THAN LOVE, MARY JIRMANUS SABA

Date: Friday 29 March
Time: 20:30
Venue: ICA, Cinema One

An essayistic enquiry into the political activism of factory workers, especially women, in Lebanon before the outbreak of the civil war in 1975.

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SESSION SIX: GUNTER PETER STRASCHEK – EARLY FILMS

Date: Saturday 30 March
Time: 12:00
Venue: Birkbeck Cinema

This programme of short films is part of a two-day focus dedicated to the Austrian film director and historian Günter Peter Straschek (1942–2009). This session will be the first UK presentation of his radical short films made between 1966 and 1970, presented here alongside two short works by Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet.

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SESSION SEVEN: FILMS BY BO WANG AND PAN LU

Date: Saturday 30 March
Time: 16:00
Venue: ICA, Cinema One

A double bill of essay films by Bo Wang and Pan Lu exploring the colonial history and contemporary culture of Hong Kong.

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SESSION EIGHT: SEGUNDA VEZ [SECOND TIME AROUND]

Date: Saturday 30 March
Time: 18:00
Venue: ICA, Cinema One

Dora García’s essayistic dialogue with critic and artist Oscar Masotta, known for introducing the work of Jacques Lacan to Argentina and Spain.

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SESSION NINE: THE JOYCEAN SOCIETY

Date: Sunday 31 March 
Time: 16:30
Venue: ICA, Cinema One

Dora García’s film documents a Swiss reading group which since 1985 has met every week to explore the mysteries of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake

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SESSION TEN: GÜNTER PETER STRASCHEK – FILM EMIGRATION FROM NAZI GERMANY

Date: Monday 1 April
Time and Venues: Birkbeck Cinema 11:00-17:00, Goethe-Institut 19:00-22:00

For the very first time in the UK, we will be showing in full Peter Straschek’s astonishing five-part film-historical series about film personnel working in the German cinema industry who were forced into exile during the Nazi period.

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SESSION ELEVEN: YOU’LL NEVER WORK ALONE

Date: Tuesday 2 April
Time: 09:30-17:00
Venue: Birkbeck Cinema

This event focuses on Cinenova, a volunteer-run, non-profit collective based in London, and showcases their work in archiving and keeping in circulation a feminist film historiography.

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SESSION TWELVE: DONAL FOREMAN WORKSHOP

Date: Wednesday 3 April
Time: 15:00
Venue: Birkbeck Cinema

In this special workshop, Donal Foreman will discuss the making of The Image You Missed (2017), his highly personal essay film about Northern Ireland, refracted through the films of his father, Arthur MacCaig.

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SESSION ThirtEEn: NO DANCE, NO PALAVER, ONYEKA IGWE

Date: Wednesday 3 April
Time: 18:30
Venue: Birkbeck Cinema

In this session artist and filmmaker Onyeka Igwe presents a trio of works called No Dance, No Palaver. The trilogy emerges from research into the Aba Women’s War of 1929. This anti-colonial uprising serves as a starting point from which to explore archival images documenting Britain’s colonial history. Accompanying the screening Onyeka will deliver a lecture exploring the role of the essay film as an act of anti-colonialism.

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SESSION fouRTEEN: BLACK POND, SARAH JESSICA RINLAND

Date: Thursday 4 April
Time: 18:30
Venue: Birkbeck Cinema

Black Pond is an odyssey across a common land in the south of England told through the hands of the members of the Natural History Society who currently occupy it.

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