The essay film has become one of the key focal points of Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image’s activities since the first Essay Film Festival in 2015. Although the main festival takes place over a week at the end of March each year, BIMI in fact organises essay-related screenings and events as part of its general programme.

In the run-up to the annual festival, we also schedule a series of “prelude” essay film events, which form a very significant part of our broad research interests concerning the historical as well as contemporary manifestations of the essay form.

Our programming reflects an open and inclusive idea of the essay film, which we think of as a hybrid form that brings together elements of documentary and experimental filmmaking into a highly personal and often politically engaged mode of expression. Some classic exponents of the essay film are Humphrey Jennings, Harun Farocki, Patrick Keiller, and Agnès Varda. But more recently the essay has flourished in the new era of digital filmmaking, and one of the aims of the festival is to provide a focus for the current global expansion of the form.

On this website you will find information and resources about past and present editions of the Essay Film Festival, including video and audio recordings of events, photographs, articles and other documents, which we would like to build into a veritable research archive for anyone who is interested in this most lively and engaging mode of filmmaking.

The inaugural edition of Birkbeck’s Essay Film Festival took place in 2015, featuring a varied programme of screenings, discussions and special guests, and showcasing works by Thom Andersen, Esfir Shub, The Otolith Group, Peter von Bagh, and Constanze Ruhm, among others.

The 2016 Festival featured a retrospective of the wide-ranging career of Kidlat Tahimik, the Filipino filmmaker and artist, including the UK premiere of Balikbayan #1 Memories of Overdevelopment Redux III, along with films by Miranda Pennell, Manoel de Oliveira, Bani Khoshnoudi, and Mark Rappaport.

For our 2017 edition, we welcomed filmmakers Babette Mangolte, Andrés di Tella, Jocelyne Saab, Sarah Wood, Zoe Beloff, George Clark, Deborah Stratman, Kevin B. Lee, Ehsan Khoshbakht, and Huang Ya-Li, and we curated a special series of events around German TV essays made in the 1970s.

Our 2018 edition featured focuses on Mani Kaul and Jef Cornelis as well as welcoming Vivienne Dick, Johnn Lurf, The Otolith Group, Vivienne Dick and Susana De Sousa Dias.

Here is the programme for this year’s 2019 Festival.

Come and join us!

On behalf of the Essay Film Festival: Michael Temple, Matthew Barrington, Kieron Corless, Catherine Grant, Ricardo Matos Cabo, Janet McCabe, Raquel Morais, Laura Mulvey, Treasa O’Brien