Thursday 2 April, 21:00-23:00, ICA 

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Cauleen Smith: short film programme and conversation

Films: Sojourner, Cauleen Smith, USA, 2018, DCP, 22 minutes

Three Songs About Liberation, Cauleen Smith, USA, 2017, DCP, 10 minutes

Pilgrim, Cauleen Smith, USA, 2016, DCP, 11 minutes

Crow Requiem, Cauleen Smith, USA, 2015, DCP, 11 minutes

H-E-L-L-O, Cauleen Smith, USA, 2014, DCP, 11 minutes

Solar Flare Arkestral Marching Band, Cauleen Smith, USA, 2011, DCP, 10 minutes

Following the screening, Cauleen Smith will be in conversation with Matthew Barrington, Essay Film Festival.

With the support of Arts Council England.

In this session, we present a programme of recent shorts by the artist and filmmaker Cauleen Smith. An interdisciplinary artist, Smith’s work has a strong connection to afro-futurist traditions in jazz music, Third Cinema and structuralist film, and since her debut feature film, Drylongso (recently restored by the Academy Film Archive), Smith has worked primarily within the spaces of the gallery and experimental film. This programme highlights Smith’s interpretations and re-imaginings of the music of Alice Coltrane and Sun Ra, her interests in science fiction interwoven with African-American history, and the ways in which the historical and contemporary can be brought into dialogue through artistic practice. Pilgrim, H-E-L-L-O and Solar Flare Arkestral Marching Band all bring together musical performance with significant local sites. Three Songs About Liberation and Crow Requiem both continue Smith’s interest in local history through metaphor and staged performances. The programme concludes with Smith’s most recent film, Sojourner, which sees Smith repurpose the Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum in Joshua Tree, California as a radical feminist utopia, incorporating a homage to the feminist abolitionist and human rights activist Sojourner Truth.


Thursday 2 April, 14:00-16:00, Birkbeck Cinema

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An illustrated lecture by Cauleen Smith

With the support of Arts Council England.

In this talk, Cauleen Smith will explore and reflect upon her career and her filmmaking process. Operating in multiple materials and arenas, Smith roots her work firmly within the discourse of mid-twentieth-century experimental film. Drawing from diverse artistic traditions, she makes things that deploy the tactics of these disciplines while offering a phenomenological experience for spectators and participants.


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

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Films: America, Garrett Bradley, USA, 2019, DCP, 29 minutes, UK premiere

Following the screening, Garrett Bradley will be in conversation with curator Karen Alexander and sound designer Trevor Mathison.

With the support of Arts Council England.

America is a poetic reflection on marginalised figures and African-American cinematic history. In 2014 the Museum of Modern Art, New York screened Lime Kiln Club Field Day thought to be the oldest surviving film featuring African-American actors. Made in 1913, the film is a romantic comedy starring famed Bahamian-American singer Bert Williams and the existing version of the film whilst unfinished provides fleeting glimpses of middle-class African-American communities. Inspired by this historic rediscovery, Bradley’s film is both an elegiac response both to Lime Kiln Club Field Day and a meditation on the thousands of silent films made between 1912 and 1929 and thought forever lost. 

America is made up of several short sequences from Lime Kiln Club Field Day which are interspersed with twelve vignettes. Just as Lime Kiln Club Field Day was thought lost and its depictions of African-American culture unseen, each vignette focuses on a person or a moment in time the memory of which has also been lost to history. Bradley’s filmed sections are shot on 35mm and each story centralises on inserting an African-American presence into moments commonly thought of as unequivocally white.

Originally conceived as a silent film, America’s soundtrack is designed by Trevor Mathison, member of the seminal Black Audio Film Collective. The subtle, meditative composition evokes the silenced voices of the communities represented on screen, and his score is punctuated by reflections from New Orleans residents sharing their thoughts on what it means to be American. 


Wednesday 1 April, 14:00-16:00, Birkbeck Cinema

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Workshop with Garrett Bradley

With the support of Arts Council England.

In this session, Garrett Bradley will explore her approach to filmmaking, reflecting on her recent work and her conceptualisation of her practice. As an artist Bradley’s work addresses questions of race, class, Southern culture and film history, and formally stretches through a multitude of filmmaking traditions, in this way conforming to our festival’s fluid definition of the film essay. This artist-led workshop provides attendees an opportunity to hear about the processes involved in Bradley’s filmmaking and will address questions of sound-composition, artistic practice as research, and the interaction between experimental formal techniques and the archive.


Tuesday 31 March, 20:55-23:00, ICA 

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

Films: Dear Rosa, Sarah Wood, UK, 2019, video, 3 minutes

The Bravest Boat, Sarah Wood & Ali Smith, UK, 2019, video, 10 minutes

Memory of the Future, Sarah Wood, UK, 2018, two-screen video, 28 minutes

The End of the War, Sarah Wood, UK, 2020, video, 20 minutes

Following the screening, Sarah Wood will be in conversation with Catherine Grant, Essay Film Festival.

With the support of CHASE Doctoral Training Partnership.

‘At the end of the nineteenth century when the Lumière brothers perfected their cinématographe, they dispatched envoys across the world to demonstrate the new technology. Their invention was about movement – the moving image was a form that travelled. Fast forward to the twenty-first century and here we are in the age of border control, security walls, global surveillance – a time that suggests the very opposite of movement. What function does the moving image play in this new landscape? Does it simply become a servant to the new closed-in world – an image of information, of evidence, of surveillance? Or can it sustain its promise to enable the migration of ideas around the world?’‘Over the past five years I’ve been concerned with questions of human migration and with the way counter-cinema can survive as an open space for thought and imagination in a world of isolationism. This programme focuses on the latter, on recent work that has not only taken figures of the left – Rudi Dutschke, Rosa Luxemburg – and imagined them for a new century, but also responds to the archives of twentieth-century filmmakers – Margaret Tait, Stanley Kubrick, Thorold Dickinson, Pier Paulo Pasolini. In the spirit of the early Lumière cinématographe demonstrations, this programme attempts to bring the world into the world, to re-imagine the travelling film show, to model the possibility of a renewed and renewing cinema of ideas in the twenty-first century.’