The Essay Film Festival: Research, Critique, Practice
A call for proposals for a student-led symposium reflecting on EFF 2020
As part of its new collaborative partnership with CHASE, the Essay Film Festival is inviting proposals from doctoral students for a student-led symposium exploring essayistic forms and their relationship to academic research, social critique and artistic practice.
The Essay Film Festival, now
in its sixth edition, presents a global range of contemporary and restored
essayistic works, each exploring the critical and creative zone of
possibilities that lies between experimental and documentary modes of
This year’s programme
features several key themes and strands:
New work by the Otolith Group and restored essay films by Ruchir Joshi and the Yugantar Collective engage with the cultural history and politics of India, providing imaginative and insightful perspectives on the educational projects of Rabindranath Tagore, the wandering Baul musicians, the changing cities of Ahmedabad and Kolkata, and the political struggles of Indian women. A symposium on the work of author and filmmaker Joshi will take place during the festival with guests from India, France and the USA, while Yugantar member Deepa Dhanraj will join researchers from Berlin Arsenal and Goldsmiths to discuss the restoration of the collective’s films.
Argentina, France, UK and the Philippines come challenging found footage
experiments by Leandro Listorti, Frank Beauvais, Sarah Wood and John Torres,
which critically examine the status and uses of images today while transforming
them into moving and fascinating new creations. A student-led research workshop
with guest filmmakers will analyse the theory and practice of found footage in
the digital age.
artists Garrett Bradley and Cauleen Smith investigate and celebrate the depth
and diversity of African-American lives, past and present, with works that,
like all good essays, both question the viewer and invite us into an ongoing
conversation. Both Bradley and Smith will give lecture-workshops about their
practice alongside the screenings of their films.
the theme of ‘the living archive’, a series of events will address the cultural
politics of film restoration, featuring works by Jocelyne Saab, Mostafa
Derkaoui, Ingemo Engström and Gerhard Theuring, in addition to the restored
films of Ruchir Joshi and the Yugantar Collective.
Israeli filmmaker Tamar Rachovsky will join the festival to present and discuss
Home in E Major, which looks at complex questions of identity and
belonging through the deceptively simple lens of the diary film.
Simple and complex,
contingent and reflective, hybrid and critical, the essay film that we
celebrate at our festival is a constantly renewed invitation to engage with the
world and to see it in new ways.
Michael Temple (Director), on behalf of the Essay Film Festival group: Matthew Barrington (Manager), Kieron Corless, Nicolas Freeman (CHASE intern), Catherine Grant, Ricardo Matos Cabo, Janet McCabe, Raquel Morais, and Laura Mulvey.
The Essay Film Festival is a collaboration between the ICA and Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image, with support from the CHASE Doctoral Training Partnership.
UK premiere of restoration of Escape Route to Marseille adapted from the novel Transit
Film: Escape Route to Marseille (Fluchtweg nach Marseille), Ingemo Engström and Gerhard Theuring (1977), Germany, 1977, DCP, German with English subtitles, 210 minutes (part one: 90 minutes, part two: 120 minutes)
With the support of CHASE Doctoral Training Partnership, Goethe-Institut London, and Arsenal Institute for Film and Video Art (Berlin).
Following last year’s presentation of Film Emigration from Nazi Germany (1975) by Günter Peter Straschek, the Essay Film Festival and the Goethe-Institut will now screen the restoration of Escape Route to Marseille (1977), directed by Ingemo Engström and Gerhard Theuring, which is based on the exile novel Transit by Anna Seghers. In 1977, Engström and Theuring embarked on a journey through France, making a ‘working journal with images’, as they described it. Their essayistic approach to film adaptation follows the escape route of German emigration from Nazi Germany (and Seghers’s own route), documenting the places, talking to witnesses, layering the past and the present. The result is a film in two parts, mixing fictional and documentary elements, and performing a thorough investigation of exile and cultural resistance against fascism during World War Two.
In preparation for this screening, the Essay Film Festival and Goethe-Institut are organising a Reading Group around Anna Seghers’s Transit, the final session of which will take place at the Goethe-Institut, Saturday 4 April, before the screening. More information available from the Essay Film Festival website.
UK premiere of restored Moroccan essay film banned forty years ago
Film: About Some Meaningless Events (De quelques événements sans signification), Mostafa Derkaoui, Morocco, 1974, DCP, Arabic with English subtitles, 76 minutes, UK premiere
The screening will be preceded by a presentation by curator and independent researcher Léa Morin, whose work explores archives, history and film heritage from North Africa, seeking to trace possible historiographies based on the absent, disappeared or forgotten.
With the support of CHASE Doctoral Training Partnership and Institut Français London.
In 1974, in Morocco, Mostafa Derkaoui filmed About Some Meaningless Events (De quelques événements sans signification), an essayistic inquiry into the social role of an independent national cinema that is being born and the political aspirations of a new generation. The film was banned under the country’s censorship laws and remained practically invisible until this restoration made it available. Today the film retains an energy, a curiosity, and a sense of urgency that will surprise and challenge contemporary audiences.As curator Rasha Salti has written: ‘Around the port’s streets and popular bars of Casablanca, a group of filmmakers conduct discussions with people about their expectations of, and aspirations for, the emerging Moroccan national cinema. When a disgruntled worker kills his superior accidentally, their inquest shifts focus, and they begin to probe the context and motives of the killing. At the heart of About Some Meaningless Events (De quelques événements sans signification) is an interrogation on the role of cinema (and art) in society, documentary and the Real, and what constitutes an urgency for a national cinema that is being born. This unique filmic experience was conceived as an independent and collective effort of militant filmmakers, actors, musicians, poets and journalists at a time of heightened repression on freedom of expression in Morocco and was funded by the sale of paintings by several contemporary painters. The film was first screened in Paris in 1975 but was immediately taxed with censorship and forbidden from exhibition and export. It was forgotten until a negative print was found in the archives of the Filmoteca de Catalunya in 2016 and restored there. Forty-five years after its completion, the film will finally be released.’ (Rasha Salti, Courtisane Festival, 2019)