Independent Cinema Office Blog

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Posts from February 2013

You Kids Are Alright

Posted Friday 22 February 2013 by Kate Taylor in General

In the same week that the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival announced it’s cracking programme for this year’s fest, we received reports of a worrying protest inside a cinema in Bucharest. Highlighting the struggle still faced by many in screening films which discuss LGBT issues, and the very real danger of harassment to audiences attending them, Verena Von Stackelberg reports on Wednesday's incident, presented here in solidarity with independent cinema exhibitors in Romania and beyond.

You Kids are All Right

At the LGBT History Month on 20th February 2013 in Bucharest, a group of conservative homophobic protesters boycotted a screening of The Kids Are Alright with the aid of the deputy director of the Peasant’s Museum, where the event took place.

LGBT History Month is a month-long, annual observance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history taking place in nine European cities. The film in question stars Julianne Moore, Annette Bening and Mark Ruffalo, detailing the ups and downs of a long-term lesbian couple and their teenage children. It is by all means a relatively conventional ‘Hollywood’ family-drama with the apt contemporary exception that both parents are mothers.

What might have sparked the new homophobic discourse happened not long before this, on 7th February, at a bi-lingual high school with special interest in human rights: the school organised several events to help celebrate the LGBT History Month and was ridiculed by the media, in turn causing public, negative outrage. A billboard (sponsored by The Romanian Family Alliance and Pro Vita) with the rainbow flag was put up near Olari Street (the school’s street) alerting people to 'what is going on at that school’. Later on, the district’s mayor sanctioned the advertising companies that allowed the offensive billboards to be produced.

LGBT organiser Alexandra Carastoian provided an eyewitness report of the homophobic attack at the cinema:

“It all went smoothly with the LGBT History Month in Romania until Wednesday 20th, when we gathered at the Romanian Peasant’s Museum in the Cinema section called The New Romanian Director’s Cinema (Noul cinematograf al regizorului Roman) for the screening. I got there 30 minutes earlier to make sure that there would not be any technical issues. Meanwhile, in the hallway we spotted a few people who didn’t seem to have good intentions. First we thought they had something that looked like baseball clubs, but after a closer look they were Romanian flags. It was almost clear to us what their intentions were. In a couple of moments a crowd of about 40 right-wing extremists, nationalists, neo-Nazis and church-fans got inside the cinema space and practically blocked the screening. After a few scenes of the movie, they stood in front of the projector singing the national anthem and waving their flags so it had to be stopped. Although authorities have knowledge of our Festival and were at the previous events to ensure safety, they didn’t intervene.

Later that evening a friend told me she heard the policemen talking ‘there are three categories I can’t stand: drunks, drug-addicts and homosexuals, I’m not going in there’. One of the protesters was so drunk he could barely stand on his own two feet. Filmmaker and audience member Mona Nicoara said, 'While the director of the Museum publicly stood up for the LGBT History Month, despite protests from nationalist and religious groups, the deputy director was reportedly seen appeasing the extremists today and sitting down for a beer with them.' A Romanian extremist blog contained the words ‘Let's go to the Peasant's Museum!’ next to the screening information and shots of street banners saying ‘Come to the Romanian Peasant's Musem today at 6pm! Would you want to see your son a homosexual? Could you imagine your daughter a lesbian? On the Olari St and at the Peasant's Museum they're doing stuff...’ "

I personally heard the deputy director before the screening telling the projectionist: ‘Just start the darn’ thing already, the sooner we start it, the sooner we end all of this’ and then shouted swear words based on homophobia closer to a group of people that later were inside. The projectionist had instructions from the museum’s deputy director that the movie should start at 18:30 when actually it should have started at 18:00. We spent about two hours inside the cinema playing word ping-pong with the protesters. They were holding crosses and religious icons, also three of them took photos of themselves in front of the screen while holding up a flag showing Nazi signs. At the end, the policemen noted ID information of all of the people in the cinema, not letting them go out of the building without doing that.”

What occurred and is occurring during or outside of gay and lesbian events all over the world needs to be monitored closely, sadly even now, when we can just begin writing the futuristic-sounding Year 2013. To all organizers of the LGBT History Month: A massive thank-you for your courage on behalf of those who value human rights. You Kids Are All Right.

Verena von Stackelberg

Further details (in Romanian): http://www.hotnews.ro/stiri-esential-14270775-video-scandal-mtr-incidente-proiectie-film.htm

Berlinale 2013: Wednesday

Posted Monday 18 February 2013 by Sarah Bourne in Festival Reports

I'm walking to my first film of the day, Pardé, on a new sprinkling of snow.  The venue is Haus der Berliner Festipiele, a 1960s glass fronted arts centre primarily used for theatrical runs and concerts.  It certainly has a different atmosphere to the multiplexes I've been in so far and the crowd has a whiff of the high brow about them.  Lights down, curtains open, film begins, Farsi dialogue, German subtitles and...oh dear.  It hadn’t even occurred to me that not all screenings would have English translation provided.  I decide to embrace this as part of the international festival adventure and stay ‘til the end; cinema is a visual language, after all.

My luck may be in as the first 20 minutes unfold in near silence as a man, with a dog, arrives at an empty house by the coast and proceeds to bolt every door and black out every window in the building.  He is clearly going into hiding but we don't know who or from what.  Some horrific real footage of Iranian officials killing dogs appears on the TV, perhaps indicating that all this is an effort to protect his canine companion.  The man then shaves his head.  So far, so intriguing, but then I'm lost.  I believe the film is about creativity and the cinematic process; characters enter the scene out of nowhere, leave, come back, walk into the sea seemingly to their deaths only to appear again as a background extra.  A film director figure is introduced and a previous scene is repeated, only this time presented as artifice as we now see the film crew capturing the original performance.  The Farsi and German speaking contingency seem to enjoy the film, with the dog being singled out for special appreciation and cooing whenever it appears.  Ultimately it's an unsatisfactory experience for me and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t nod off, but if it appears in the UK I’d be curious to find out the intricacies of the piece.

International
International, Berlin

With a few hours spare before my first evening screening, I embark on my second attempt to see a film at the International, Maladies (2012) a US indie starring James Franco and Catherine Keener and directed by someone known only as Carter.  I arrive at the International and I’m not disappointed, this is a really beautiful 1960s purpose built single screen cinema.  I think it looks like a Dansette.  The interior is full of vintage wonders; glitter balls and chandeliers hang in the wood panelled mezzanine bar.  The auditorium has a distinctive waved ceiling and the velvet blue curtain parts only to reveal a second curtain covered in sparkling gold sequins.  This is a cinema where people come to have a good time.

Maladies
Maladies

The wonderful setting may have amplified my goodwill for Maladies, which is set around the time of the Jonestown mass suicide, although has more of a 1960s aesthetic.  It is a chamber piece, focusing on three characters, all social misfits: James Franco plays James, a former actor turned writer with a probable mental illness; his best friend Catherine (Catharine Keener), an artist and part time cross-dresser; and his sister Patricia (Fallon Goodson), an unhinged adult/child who does little but smoke, look terminally miserable and draw over Catherine’s work in coloured crayon.  The three roommates are also frequently visited by their kind but lonely, closeted neighbour (David Straithairn) who has a soft spot for former soap star James.  The film critiques a society whose reaction to mental disability is to foster public outcry or call the police.  The only accepting character outside of the close knit group has her own disability - an elderly blind woman, who inspires James to finish his novel in Braille.  Franco’s somewhat self referential performance as James the former soap opera actor (the real James Franco has a recurring role in General Hospital, playing a character ‘Franco’) is the standout, this role enabling him to utilise his ‘leading man with an uneasy edge’ qualities.  Maladies is a smart, witty and occasionally warm film but feels a bit stagnant, stuck in a quirky American indie cliché and a little too affected.  Curiously, it is the third film I have seen at Berlinale that contains a scene of a character walking into the ocean.

After the screening I check my remaining two tickets only to discover that the screenings clash, with one film starting before the other ends.  Not the most successful case of leaving my film watching in the hands of ticket availability fate.  Unable to decide between the two films I instead flick through the programme and find one of my original wish list films, Computer Chess is playing this evening.

Coliseum
Colosseum, Berlin

Emerging from the underground at Schönhauser Allee, I’m immediately greeted by a glorious wall of neon light radiating from this evenings’ venue, the Colosseum.  It’s another characterful cinema, once a garage, converted in the 1920s.  It is now incorporated into a UCI multiplex, but you can’t tell from the outside.  I am first in the badge line so able to secure one of the comfy bright turquoise seats.  This is the first time I have encountered any friction within the queue, with someone being accused of pushing in.

Computer Chess
Computer Chess

I wanted to see Computer Chess purely because of the title, knowing nothing else about the film before the curtains part.  It turns out to be a real gem, a partially crowdfunded micro budget US comedy-with-a-satirical edge about a computer chess tournament in the early 80s – big spectacles, big moustaches, big computers.  It’s given time warp authenticity by being shot with Sony video cameras of the era on (mostly) black and white 16mm stock, resulting in a lot of the scenes moving in and out of focus, which I don’t mind at all, it is a novelty that never gets tired for me.  The first 15 minutes are the best and funniest part of the film.  In a mock documentary style reminiscent of the ‘Office’, the tournament is opened by an obnoxious grandmaster chess player and we are introduced to a cohort of computer programming geniuses/nerds and their artificial intelligence.  The film loses sharpness and a modicum of humour as the three day tournament is invaded by a couple’s counselling group and unravels into drug fuelled chaos, but it sure looks like they had a lot of fun making the film and it shows on the screen.  I hope it is very warmly embraced by audiences.  When at its strongest, it’s brilliant.  I predict it could be a festival favourite.

News Round-up... 15/02/2013

Posted Friday 15 February 2013 by Jon Spatz in News Round-up

Lindsay Lohan. Why?

Lohan on set. Scary.

Considering it was Valentine's Day yesterday, I suggest you read Sarah Bourne’s post from Berlinale 2013... Sea food sexy?

Right, let's get to it:

News

Events

  • Tottenham World Film Club is screening the brilliant and award-winning My Brother the Devil. If you haven’t seen it, this is the perfect opportunity to do so.
  • Northern Ireland’s Queens Film Theatre is hosting a Global Cinema Experience, with a diverse range of pictures for your viewing pleasure. They are also hosting an Oscars Week as well as lots of other awesome stuff. Get down there.
  • The South London Gallery is hosting Reflections Without Sun, a stunning programme from a group of international artists and filmmakers who escape formal filmic narrative through direct performances to camera. Booking is essential.
  • Camden Arts Centre continues to break the mould with Cafe Curio Performance: Anthology Live. Lucy Reynolds invited 17 other women artists and writers to contribute short film loops to her collective artwork about the interplay between word and image. A fascinating event of readings, screenings, music and performance.

Funding

  • Continuing their programme of investments following their Film Forever launch, the BFI has provided more details about their £4m distribution funding initiative.

Submissions

  • Floating Forum is inviting artists, musicians, wordsmiths, filmmakers and performers of all varieties to submit a proposal to exhibit/perform at F.A.M.E (Festival of Art & Music Evolution). Email to find out more!!
  • KINOTEKA Polish Film Festival presents Frantic Films, a new short film competition where entrants are encouraged to take inspiration from the films of Roman Polanski. The winner will receive £1000 of filming equipment or a place on a course at London Film Academy. Gotta enter really – more here.
  • Watershed’s excellent super-short filmmaking competition, DepicT is now open for submissions – 90 seconds; £1.5k prize? Uh, yes please!

Training

  • The Video College is running Ready to Work in Film, an exciting new – and FREE – film training programme for London’s 18-23 year olds from London’s black and ethnic communities. Check out their website, but also email for more details.
  • LUX Evening Course: Opening Up The Archive – Further Themes, Forms and Finds offers another opportunity to explore the richness and diversity of the LUX collection. For anyone interested in Artists Moving Image, this is a great opportunity to learn and explore. Find out more here.
  • Northern Film & Media and Digital Union present International Film Markets Workshop, an absolutely brilliant opportunity for new producers to learn about film markets and the business of connecting with financiers. Find out more here.

Jobs

  • The ICO seeks to recruit a Programming & Development Manager on a fixed-term contract in order to assist the cinemas team during the Director’s maternity leave. This is a rare opportunity for a cine-literate individual with interest in, and knowledge of, current concerns in independent cinema. Deadline for applicants: 5pm March 7th.

Good Reads

  • Indie Wire hosts a great debate around the future of film festivals (with specific recourse to how they distribute their funds), with a brilliant repartee between Sean Farnel, Tom Hall and the many comments that followed. Be sure to read!
  • Ever wondered what happens when you cast Lindsay Lohan in your movie? Wonder no more. Strangely compelling this!
  • ...And then what should come along? A response to the above article from the film in question’s co-director, Paul Schrader. Fascinating.

 

Berlinale 2013: Tuesday

Posted Thursday 14 February 2013 by Sarah Bourne in Festival Reports

I set my alarm last night with best intentions of getting up bright and early to get some tickets in my pocket, but, a few hits of the snooze button put pay to that idea.  Instead, I gather all the festival information I have at my disposal: programme listings, catalogue, map, online cinema specs, pass entitlements etc.  With all this info I plan to devise a full proof algorithm that will tell me which films I can see, when and where during my 2.5 days left.  After an hour or so of crossing things out, circling things in different colours and marking with nonsensical codes, I've got myself in a muddle.  I decide to come back to it later as I have to get ready for my Audiovisual Training Coalition brunch engagement.

After the ATC event, I head to the European Film Market (EFM) to deposit some Developing Your Film Festival postcards at the MEDIA desk.  The EFM is vast!  Housed in an imposing yet beautiful period building, it has an enormous hall at its centre which amplifies all the energy and bustle.  There must be thousands of meetings going on at any one time.  It's a real treat to be able to have a nose around the market without a market badge and see some of the films on offer, many are gems with terrible victim-of-translation titles and pants mock up posters.  The film I most want to see after my tour...Mussels in Love.

Mussels in Love
Mussels in Love

Having no tickets and no firm plans for the evening leaves me wandering around a little aimlessly for a while.  I'm very keen to see something at the International, a beautifully preserved 1960s one screen cinema in Alexanderplatz, so ambitiously I decide to try my luck on the door for Nicolas Philibert's La maison de la radio which is starting in 25 minutes.  It may have worked out perfectly had I not had a momentary lapse of concentration and gone four stops in the wrong direction on the underground.  Skulking back Potsdamer way, tail between my legs, I finally head to the ticket hall to see if I can get any last minute tickets for tonight.

After an unintentional visit to the Berlinale Talent Campus and the public ticket desk in a nearby shopping centre, I finally find the Berlinale Service Centre and realise as soon as I'm through the door that this should have been my second stop yesterday.  It has everything you need; an expanded programme with far more info on the films and printed daily listings by venue for today and tomorrow, which are so much easier to fathom than by programme strand.  With only the vaguest of ideas of what I'd like to see today and tomorrow, it turns out the decision is already made for me as there a no tickets tonight and only three films available with my pass tomorrow, "this, this and this" I'm told - I'll take whatever's going!  I'm pleased that one is a 10am screening of an Iranian film in competition Pardé (Closed Curtain).  My other two tickets are for Indian film Kai Po Che (Brothers for Life) and Tian mi mi (Together) from Taiwan.  I'm advised that if I want tickets for Thursday I should arrive at 6.45am tomorrow morning and queue until the ticket desk opens at 8.00am.

Tomorrow is now sorted, but I'm determined to see a film each day I’m here.  With my new and improved resources I can now clearly see my options and am a bit dejected that I've just missed a screening of Viktor und Viktoria (1933).  I set my sights on a late show of Powell and Pressburgers' The Small Back Room, showing as part of The Weimar Touch Retrospective strand.  I figure if I'm first in the badge queue then I might be able to get in without a ticket, so I plonk myself in front of Cinemaxx Screen 8 with 1 hour and 45 minutes to go before the screening, much to the amusement of the usher who says most people turn up 10 minutes before.  In actuality it was a doddle to get in with the cinema no more than 2/3rds full despite the ticket scarcity.

The Small Back Room
The Small Back Room

A little late to the party, I know, but I've only recently started to see the treasures of the Powell and Pressburger catalogue. The Small Back Room (1949) is not one I've heard of before but I'm very glad to have discovered it here.  I know I'm in for a treat when the title card reads "From the National Print Archive" and indeed it is a wonderful print, scratched, dusty and missing frames all over the place.  Archivists and some projectionists I know would be sad to see a print in such a sorry state, but I love the constant reminders that I'm watching at real film print.  Set during the latter end of WW2, our antihero is Sammy Rice (David Farrar), a bomb disposal expert who is debilitated by his resentment towards his physical disabilities (a leg injury never fully revealed) and his whiskey dependency (alcoholism is only inferred, never named).  Overall the film is patchy in tone with the more interesting dark themes not gelling with the interspersed comic relief and heightened romance. There are, however, two outstanding extended sequences; the bomb disposal scene, which would be curious to watch next to The Hurt Locker, and an extraordinary surrealist montage where Rice is attacked by a 15ft bottle of Highland Clan Whiskey.

After the screening I have a mint tea 'night cap' with Ana David from Queer Lisboa who has attended both Motovun courses in different capacities (participant and course ambassador).  As a Berlinale regular, she has some great festival survival tips for me.  She informs me of the true power of my industry pass, suggesting you only need to get tickets in the first few days of the festival, never having had a problem just turning up to screenings with 30 minutes to spare in the second week.  And with this valuable new knowledge, I am no longer setting my alarm for 6.00am.

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