ESSAY FILM FESTIVAL 2018

21 – 29 March 2018

2018 Programme

Now in its fourth year, the Essay Film Festival, to be held at Birkbeck, the ICA, and the French Institute, seeks to explore and share with audiences the full range of possibilities of this most inventive, inquisitive and challenging of contemporary film practices.


Why is the essay film such an important and influential form of cinema today, a reference point for so many filmmakers, critics and curators?

It is because it combines the best qualities of the documentary and experimental modes of filmmaking.

From documentary it takes a desire to explore diverse experiences of reality, the everyday, and processes of social and political change, both past and present.

From experimental film it takes­ a critical engagement with form, asking tough questions about images and sounds, where they come from and how they are used, both artistically and ethically.

The programme of the Essay Film Festival 2018 showcases the creativity and commitment of essayistic practice with examples taken from India, UK, Belgium, Ireland, Portugal, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Austria, USA, and France, and combining the best of recent essay films, including several UK premieres, with tributes to three longstanding practitioners of the form: Mani Kaul, Vivienne Dick, and Jef Cornelis.

Our full programme can be viewed here.

Programme 2018

 
Session One: Laura Rascaroli Lecture With Screening Of La Bocca Del Lupo

Wednesday 21 March 2018, 18:00 

Birkbeck Cinema: FREE event [book here]

Essay film specialist Laura Rascaroli will give a talk on lyricism and poetry in the essay film, and introduce Pietro Marcello’s La bocca del lupo [The Mouth of the Wolf] (2009).

La bocca del lupo [The Mouth of the Wolf], Pietro Marcello, Italy, 2009, DVD, 68 minutes, Italian with English subtitles


Session Two: Paris 1900/Nicole Vedrès

Thursday 22 March 2018, 20:40 

Ciné Lumière, French Institute [book here]

A classic example of the historical montage film, Paris 1900 is both a visual chronicle of a great city and a meditative essay about the passing of time.

Paris 1900, Nicole Vedrès, France, 1948, DCP, 79 minutes, French with English subtitles

Introduced by film historian Bernard Eisenschitz, and followed by a conversation between Eisenschitz and Michael Witt, University of Roehampton.

In collaboration with the French Institute, London.


Session Three: Contextualising The Films Of Mani Kaul

Friday 23 March 2018, 13:00

Birkbeck Cinema: FREE event [book here]

‘Contextualising the Films of Mani Kaul’ – A Symposium with Screenings

This symposium explores the work of Mani Kaul (1944-2011), by combining papers, discussion and a screening of Siddheshwari (Mani Kaul, 1989). Marking the beginning of our programme of Mani Kaul films at the ICA, this event seeks to contextualise the filmmaker’s work, and to mark the connections between the experimental aesthetics used by Kaul and similar practices taking place within Indian cinema at the time. As an essay filmmaker, Mani Kaul engages with a broad range of subjects including the art, classical music, literature and theatre of India, and we will use this symposium as a space to reflect on the diversity and interdisciplinary nature of his films.

In collaboration with the Courtisane Film Festival and the Otolith Group, and with the support of Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities.


 
Session Four: Uski Roti/Mani Kaul

Friday 23 March 2018, 20:15 

Cinema One, ICA: [book here]

Mani Kaul’s first feature, Uski Roti [A Day’s Bread], was a seminal film in defining the formal vocabulary of the New Indian cinema.

Uski Roti [A Day’s Bread], Mani Kaul, India, 1970, DCP, 110 minutes, Hindi with English subtitles

In collaboration with the Courtisane Film Festival and the Otolith Group, and with the support of Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities and the National Film Development Corporation of India


 
Session Five: Mati Manas/Mani Kaul

Saturday 24 March 2018, 14:30 

Cinema One, ICA: [book here]

Mani Kaul’s poetic exploration of the ancient tradition of terracotta pottery and sculpture, its techniques, its legends, and the spirituality of its forms.

Mati Manas [Minds of Clay], Mani Kaul, India, 1984, 35mm, 92 minutes, Hindi with English subtitles

In collaboration with the Courtisane Film Festival and the Otolith Group, and with the support of Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities.


Session Six: Dhrupad/Mani Kaul

Saturday 24 March 2018, 17:00 

Cinema One, ICA: [book here]

An experimental documentary by Mani Kaul inspired by the forms and structures of Dhrupad, an ancient form of classical music originating in Northern India.

Dhrupad, Mani Kaul, India, 1982, 35mm, 74 minutes, Hindi with English subtitles

In collaboration with the Courtisane Film Festival and the Otolith Group, and with the support of Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities.


Session Seven: The Third Part Of The Third Measure/The Otolith Group

Sunday 25 March 2018, 14:30 

Cinema One, ICA: [book here]

UK cinema premiere of the Otolith Group’s latest film, an essay about the work of Julius Eastman, the queer African-American avant-garde composer, pianist, vocalist and conductor.

The Third Part of the Third Measure, The Otolith Group, UK, 2017, HD video, 43 minutes


Session Eight: Luz Obscura/Susana De Sousa Dias

Sunday 25 March 2018, 20:15

Cinema One, ICA: [book here]

A highly sensitive and beautifully crafted essay film about the lives of political prisoners during Portugal’s Salazar dictatorship, and the devastating effects this repression had on their children.

Luz obscura [Obscure Light], Susana de Sousa Dias, Portugal, 2017, DCP, 76 minutes, Portuguese with English subtitles

Followed by a conversation between the director, Susana de Sousa Dias, and Patricia Brás, Birkbeck

In collaboration with Open City Documentary Festival and Centre for Iberian and Latin American Visual Studies, Birkbeck.


Session Nine: Jef Cornelis – You Know The Way And The Language

Monday 26 March 2018, 12:00 

Birkbeck Cinema: FREE event [book here]

A Symposium with Screenings: ‘You Know the Way and the Language: Public Spaces, Public Buildings, Public Engagement – The Essayistic in the TV work of Jef Cornelis at BRT’

With the support of Flanders House and Birkbeck School of Arts.


Session Ten: Montgomery Clift documentary (work-in-progress session)

Tuesday 27 March 2018, 13:00

Birkbeck Cinema: FREE event [book here]

In this work-in-progress session, filmmakers Robert A. Clift and Hillary Demmon will present and show extracts from their forthcoming documentary project, which scrutinizes the popular image of Clift’s uncle, classic Hollywood film star Montgomery Clift.

With support from the University of Pittsburgh and the Derek Jarman Lab.


Session eLEVEn: Va, Toto!/Pierre Creton

Tuesday 27 March 2018, 16:30

Birkbeck Cinema: FREE event [book here]

An experiment in essayistic storytelling in which a baby boar, Toto, is rescued and brought up by Madeleine, an elegant old lady living in rural Normandy… And it’s all true!

Va, Toto!, Pierre Creton, France, 2017, Digital/Blu-Ray, 94 minutes, French with English subtitles

Followed by a conversation between director, Pierre Creton, actor Vincent Barré, and Michael Temple, Birkbeck

With support from the French Institute, London


Session TWELVE: Vivienne Dick Programme

Tuesday 27 March 2018, 20:30 

Cinema One, ICA: [book here]

This programme brings three recent films by Vivienne Dick into a dialogue with a key earlier work in her oeuvre. Fusing elements of performance, documentary and home movies, Dick is a filmmaker whose work continues to evade categorisation.


Session THIRTEEN: Horace Tapscott/Barbara Mccullough

Wednesday 28 March 2018, 12:00 

Birkbeck Cinema: FREE event [book here]

Barbara McCullough’s portrait of the late musical genius and community activist Horace Tapscott reflects on the connections made through black music to local activism in Los Angeles and to questions of pan-Africanism.

Horace Tapscott: Musical Griot, Barbara McCullough, USA, 2017, HD Video, 72 minutes

The screening will be followed by a conversation with Stuart Baker, Soul Jazz Records.


Session FOURTEEN: The Sun Island/Thomas Elsaesser

Wednesday 28 March 2018, 15:00 

Birkbeck Cinema: FREE event [book here]

Film theorist and historian Thomas Elsaesser’s debut film is an essayistic portrait of his grandparents, Martin and Liesel Elsaesser, drawing on home movies, personal correspondence, and contemporary interviews.

The Sun Island, Thomas Elsaesser, Germany, 2017, Digital/Blu-Ray, 72 minutes, English and German

The screening will be followed by a conversation between Thomas Elsaesser and Erica Carter, King’s College London

With the support of the Goethe Institute, London, and the German Screen Studies Network.


 
Session FIFteen: No Intenso Agora/ João Moreira Salles

Wednesday 28 March 2018, 20:35 

Cinema One, ICA: [book here]

A personal and historical essay film about the protest movements and quasi-revolutionary events that nearly turned the world upside down in the summer of 1968.

No intenso agora [In the Intense Now], João Moreira Salles, Brazil, 2017, DCP, 127 minutes, Portuguese, with English subtitles

Followed by a conversation between the director, João Moreira Salles, and Lucia Nagib, University of Reading.


Session SIXteEN: ★/Johann Lurf

Thursday 29 March 2018, 20:30 

Cinema One, ICA: [book here]

A scintillating, brilliantly edited collage of shots of the night sky, lifted from 550 films from the beginning of cinema history right up to the present day.

★, Johann Lurf, Austria, 2017, 4K DCP, 99 minutes

The screening will be followed by a conversation between filmmaker Johann Lurf and critic and curator Olaf Möller.

With support from the Austrian Cultural Forum London and Open City Docs.