Call for proposals: The Essay Film Festival: Research, Critique, Practice

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 conference will combine research presentations and film screenings, including examples of practice-led researchers talking through, questioning and “essaying” their own work. This event will follow the sixth edition of the Essay Film Festival, which will take place at Birkbeck Cinema, ICA, Goethe-Institut and Institut Français, from 26 March to 4 April 2020.

The symposium will be held at Birkbeck Cinema Saturday 30th May 2020, more than a month after the end of the festival. The idea of the conference is therefore to provide a space for critical reflection and debate, with a certain detachment from the EFF programme itself, as well as to propose and discuss new directions for the festival in the future.

Key themes of this year’s Essay Film Festival include:

●      Found footage – an essential essayistic practice for exploring the relationship between archives, history, memory and narration.

●      Film adaptation – specifically essayistic or experimental approaches to the practice of “translating” between media forms, between historical contexts, between cultures.

●      Filmmaking collectives – foregrounding group-based film and video-making practices, especially those that operate outside, or in opposition to, the cultural mainstream.

●      Sound – exploring interaction between the auditory and the visual within the medium of film and video.

●      Documentary in India and Southern Asia – with a focus on marginal, experimental, and politically engaged practices.

●      The politics of film restoration – especially of “forgotten” works, oppositional or counter-cinema, and films coming from a position of alterity or marginality.

In addition to conference papers, the symposium will be open to presentations that take the form of video essays, sound compositions, visual studies, and other creative interventions in the debate around the history and contemporary relevance of essayistic practices.

Proposals are now welcome from those wishing to engage with any aspect of this programme of events, or indeed with aspects which are not covered by the programme.

Deadline: Friday 13th March 2020

Submission: Expressions of interest and conference proposals (no more than 250 words) should be sent to the following address, marked “EFF symposium”: bimi@bbk.ac.uk

Further information about the Essay Film Festival is available from the EFF website (www.essayfilmfestival.com) and BIMI website (http://blogs.bbk.ac.uk/bimi/home/)

Nicolas Freeman, on behalf of the Essay Film Festival group: Matthew Barrington (Manager), Kieron Corless, Katie Grant, Ricardo Matos Cabo, Janet McCabe, Raquel Morais, Laura Mulvey, and Michael Temple (Director).

ESSAY FILM FESTIVAL PROGRAMME 2020

ESSAY FILM FESTIVAL INTRODUCTION

More information here

SESSION ONE: YUGANTAR FILM COLLECTIVE

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

Is This Just a Story? Celebrating the Yugantar Film Collective

More information here

SESSION TWO: FOUND FOOTAGE RESEARCH EVENT

Friday 27 March, 11:00-18:00, Birkbeck Cinema 

Archive/Fictions: Found Footage and the Essay Film

More information here

SESSION THREE: OTOLITH GROUP/O HORIZON

Friday 27 March, 20:30-22:30, ICA 

Essay film exploring the educational philosophy of Rabindranath Tagore

More information here

SESSION FOUR: TORRES/LISTORTI

Saturday 28 March, 18:00-19:30, ICA 

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

More information here

SESSION FIVE: RUCHIR JOSHI/ELEVEN MILES

Saturday 28 March, 20:00-23:00, ICA 

UK premiere of restored classic Indian essay film

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SESSION SIX: RICHTER/BEAUVAIS

Sunday 29 March, 18:00-20:00, ICA 

Double bill of experimental works by Hans Richter and Frank Beauvais exploring the personal and the everyday

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SESSION SEVEN: RUCHIR JOSHI/SHORT FILMS & CONVERSATION

Sunday 29 March, 20:30-22:30, ICA 

Ruchir Joshi: short film programme and conversation

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SESSION EIGHT: RUCHIR JOSHI/SYMPOSIUM

Monday 30 March, 10:00-19:00, Birkbeck Cinema 

Ruchir Joshi Symposium: Essays in Text and Image

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SESSION NINE: TAMAR RACHKOVSKY/HOME IN E MAJOR

Tuesday 31 March, 14:00-17:00, Birkbeck Cinema 

A first-person essay film about unlikely friendships and what it means to find a home

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SESSION TEN: SARAH WOOD/SHORT FILMS PROGRAMME

Tuesday 31 March, 20:55-23:00, ICA 

To bring the world into the world: a programme by Sarah Wood

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SESSION ELEVEN: WORKSHOP WITH GARRETT BRADLEY

Wednesday 1 April, 14:00-17:00, Birkbeck Cinema

Workshop with Garrett Bradley

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SESSION TWELVE: GARRETT BRADLEY/AMERICA AND OTHER WORKS

Wednesday 1 April, 21:00-23:00, ICA

Screening of America and conversation with Trevor Mathison

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SESSION THIRTEEN: WORKSHOP WITH CAULEEN SMITH

Thursday 2 April, 14:00-17:00, Birkbeck Cinema

An illustrated lecture by Cauleen Smith

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SESSION FOURTEEN: CAULEEN SMITH/SHORTS PROGRAMME

Thursday 2 April, 21:00-23:00, ICA 

Cauleen Smith: short film programme and conversation

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SESSION FIFTEEN: SAAB-ROUXEL

Friday 3 April, 14:00-17:00, Birkbeck Cinema

A tribute to the work of Jocelyne Saab presented by Mathilde Rouxel

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SESSION SIXTEEN: DERKAOUI-MORIN

Friday 3 April, [exact timings tbc], French Institute

UK premiere of restored Moroccan essay film banned forty years ago

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SESSION SEVENTEEN: TRANSIT/ESCAPE ROUTE TO MARSEILLE

Saturday 4 April, 14:30-19:30, Goethe-Institut

UK premiere of restoration of Escape Route to Marseille adapted from the novel Transit

More information here

ESSAY FILM FESTIVAL INTRODUCTION

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 filmmaking.

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 Baal 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.

From 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.

US 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.

Developing 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.

Finally, 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.

SESSION SEVENTEEN: TRANSIT/ESCAPE ROUTE TO MARSEILLE

Saturday 4 April, 14:30-19:30, Goethe-Institut London

Booking link

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.

SESSION SIXTEEN: ABOUT SOME MEANINGLESS EVENTS

Friday 3 April, 8.15, French Institute

Booking link

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)