SESSION FIVE: RUCHIR JOSHI/ELEVEN MILES

Saturday 28 March, 20:00-23:00, ICA 

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UK premiere of restored classic Indian essay film

Film: Eleven Miles (Egaro Mile), Ruchir Joshi, India, 1991, DCP, English and Bengali with English subtitles, 160 minutes, UK premiere

The screening will be introduced by the filmmaker Ruchir Joshi.

With the support of CHASE Doctoral Training Partnership, Goethe-Institut London, and Arsenal Institute for Film and Video Art (Berlin).

Ruchir Joshi’s Eleven Miles, here presented in a newly restored version, is a classic example of the essay form as not just a way of thinking about or representing the world, but as a mode of existence in which life and art become one, in the same creative gesture. Part-journal, part-road movie, part-anthropological investigation, the film is a self-reflexive account of Joshi’s persistent attempts to make a study of a group of Bauls (Bengal’s traditional wandering musicians), whose artistic practice mixes life and performance, spirituality and the mundane, social comment and desire, eternity and the modern, in ways that make them resistant, elusive and endlessly fascinating subjects for Joshi’s camera-eye.Eleven Miles took three years to make, according to the artist, although it was originally intended to be a relatively straightforward documentary short, recording the preparation and performance of a group of Baul performers in concert. ‘There was no way to airbrush away our presence (Joshi later wrote) and how that changed the situations we went to shoot; the form of the film arrived at a first-person diary recounting all our confusions and missteps, all the absurdity and conflict that the filming both witnessed and created. The subjectivity embedded in the final film didn’t come about by intellectual/cerebral planning but neither was it an accident – it was something that grew from repeated, stumbling but conscious efforts at an honest engagement with a group of people living in a very different reality from ours; a group that was nevertheless very conscious of audio-visual technology and the world beyond Bengal in which the products of the technology found play.’

SESSION FOUR: TORRES/LISTORTI

Saturday 28 March, 18:00-19:30, ICA 

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UK premieres of found footage works by Leandro Listorti and John Torres

Films: We Still Have to Close Our Eyes, John Torres, Philippines, 2019, DCP, English, 13 minutes, UK premiere

The Endless Film (La película infinita), Leandro Listorti, Argentina, 2018, DCP, Spanish with English subtitles, 53 minutes, UK premiere

The screening will be introduced by Matthew Barrington and Catherine Grant, Essay Film Festival.

With the support of the CHASE Doctoral Training Partnership.

A found footage short, We Still Have to Close Our Eyes is the latest film by celebrated Filipino filmmaker John Torres. Constructed from B-roll and unused footage from the sets of a number of recent film productions from the Philippines, including works by celebrated directors Lav Diaz and Erik Matti. Torres interweaves this repurposed material into a sci-fi narrative exploring the controlling presence of police and government through social media and applications.

Leandro Listorti’s first feature-length work, The Endless Film (La película infinita), is an expansive multi-layered compilation film assembled in the archives of the Buenos Aires film museum where the filmmaker is employed. This cinematic experiment retrieves fragments of films that were unfinished or lost, investing new life into objects considered incomplete and invisible, were it not for their reappearance in this new artistic context. The film acts as a valuable film-historical document, showcasing the various thematic and aesthetic currents that Argentinian filmmakers have engaged with from the 1950s to celebrated directors of the so-called ‘New Argentine Cinema’. Archives, memories, traces and remains, these are of fundamental importance for understanding the past, present and future of a country whose records have been routinely buried, burnt and destroyed. In this way, The Endless Film offers a window to forgotten memories, and the work becomes an elegy for the ghosts of Argentina’s dictatorial past. At the same time, the film offers an insight into the materiality of filmmaking, subtly drawing our attention to aspects of production processes such as countdown timers and pen-marked film strips, while the soundtrack makes use of extracts of dialogue and other extraneous audible elements that emerge from behind the camera on a film set. The use of damaged film footage (tramlines, scratches, faded colours, etc.) incorporates new physical elements into the texture of Listorti’s ‘endless film’.

SESSION THREE: OTOLITH GROUP/O HORIZON

Friday 27 March, 20:30-22:30, ICA 

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Essay film exploring the educational philosophy of Rabindranath Tagore

Film: O Horizon, Otolith Group, UK, 2018, DCP, English and Bengali, Hindi, Sanskrit, Mandarin with English subtitles, 90 minutes

The screening will be introduced by writer and historian Partha Mitter.

With the support of CHASE Doctoral Training Programme and LUX Artists’ Moving Image.

Having previously shown their work at both the 2015 and 2018 editions of the Essay Film Festival, the Otolith Group return to this year’s programme with a special screening of their film, O Horizon. The film converges around Visva-Bharati which was established in 1921 as a new model of a school elaborating a radical imagina­tion for new practices, new forms of learning, new lifestyles and the desire to reshape society. Tagore’s idea was to redefine the relationship between the arts, craft and design, while rethinking how academic institutions functioned. His project worked towards the decolonisation of Indian culture, redressing the hierarchical exchange of ideas from West to East and surpassing the alienation of colonial education imposed by British imperial rule. In this spirit, the film surveys the elaboration of Tagore’s radical ecological pedagogy through a study that draws together visual arts, dance, song, music, and recital to assemble a structure of feeling of the Tagorean imagination. The film studies the experimental practices of mural, sculpture, painting, and drawing developed by India’s great modernist artists such as K.G. Subramanyan, Benode Behari Mukherjee, Nandalal Bose and Ramkinkar Baij, whose work was formative in establishing a new generation of Indian modernists operating with a socio-political and philosophical dimension to counter European modernism and the continuing impacts of colonial violence.

SESSION TWO: ARCHIVE/FICTIONS: FOUND FOOTAGE & THE ESSAY FILM

Date of event: 12:00-17:00, Friday 27 March 2020, Birkbeck Cinema

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Archive/Fictions: Found Footage and the Essay Film

The event will combine presentation of research papers and creative work-in-progress by research students, as well as contributions from a number of guests, both practitioners and theorists, who will discuss their own experience of working with found footage in academic and artistic contexts. Above all, the event will provide a critical forum for conversation and exchange, and an open platform for those who wish to introduce themselves and their work and engage in discussion about found footage and the archive.

SESSION ONE: YUGANTAR FILM COLLECTIVE

Thursday 26 March, 18:00-21:00, Birkbeck Cinema 

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Is This Just a Story? Celebrating the Yugantar Film Collective

This interdisciplinary public screening and symposium, featuring academic and non-academic speakers, archivists and filmmakers, addresses the question of feminist collective filmmaking practices as living archive. 

The event will centre on the screening of recently restored prints of films made in the 1980s by the Yugantar Film Collective, one of whose founders, Deepa Dhanraj, will be present for the discussion, along with researcher Nicole Wolf (Goldsmiths) and Markus Ruff/Stefanie Schulte Strathaus of the Berlin Arsenal. These films are screened in the context of curatorial debates around the ‘living archive’ and the question of what it means to ‘restore’ a feminist film collective in the present, and to ‘re-present’ this kind of work to a contemporary audience. As part of the conversation, the event will explore the politics of the archive, how women’s voices from a non-mainstream positionality are archived and preserved, as well as how this collective developed its thinking and filmmaking practice in dialogue with the emerging women’s movement in India and as a form of consciousness raising.

A collaboration between Essay Film Festival and Arsenal Institute for Film and Video Art in Berlin, with support from Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, Goethe-Institut London, and CHASE Doctoral Training Partnership.

Films:

Tobacco Embers (Tambaku Chaakila Oob Ali), Yugantar Film Collective, India, 1982, DCP, Marathi with English subtitles, 25 minutes

Is This Just a Story? (Idhi Katha Matramena), Yugantar Film Collective, India, 1983, DCP, Telugu with English subtitles, 25 minutes

Maid Servant (Molkarin), Yugantar Film Collective, India, 1981, DCP, Marathi with English subtitles, 25 minutes