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Posts from July 2015

Il Cinema Ritrovato: Festival Report (part 2)

Posted Friday 24 July 2015 by Becky Clarke in Festival Reports, General

Kikos
Kikos, a neglected Armenian treasure unearthed at this year's Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna

Having started my day with a fairly safe choice (expectation wise), I feel the spectre of our Head of Programming looming over me, “See something you’ve never seen before Becky, see something you might never get the chance to see again,” I hear in my head. Channelling my best Simon Ward and David Sin, I make my way with vigour to see Kikos, a silent USSR-Armenian tragicomedy from 1931. The story takes place around 1920, during the short-lived First Republic of Armenia created by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, an influential socialist party also known as Dashnaktsutyun. 

Kikos is a farmer who enjoys the pleasures of a simple life: a good harvest, dinner with his wife, a drink with his friends and a good chat with his donkey. When the Dashnaktsutyun are ‘voted’ into power in his local town he is soon conscripted into their army, and forced to lay down his hoe for a rifle. An apathetic and peaceful man, Kikos shies away from the frontline and is soon captured by the Communist opposition forces. By chance a neighbour of Kikos’ is allied with the leaders of the Communists and Kikos is given a reprieve and forced into armed service once again. Still inexperienced in the art of warfare, Kikos is captured by the Dashnaks and thrown in jail as the mastermind behind the Communist forces. As Kikos is about to be tried for his crimes, his fellow farmers revolt against the injustice of the political situation and Kikos must decide whether it is time for him to pick up a gun and fight. An interesting and relatively unseen gaze on post-revolutionary Armenian society, and the rise of class consciousness and Soviet style communism.

Jazz on a Summer's Day
Anita O'Day rips it up in a renewed version of Jazz on a Summer's Day

Up next I resist the urge to go and see Vertigo and opt for another section of the Il Cinema Ritrovato programme, Jazz Goes to the Movies.  In this section is Jazz on a Summer’s Day, Bert Stern’s documentary of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, co-directed by Aram Avakian. Along with amazing informal impassioned performances from Louis Armstrong, Dinah Washington, Anita O’Day, Chuck Berry, Big Maybelle and Mahalia Jackson, it is Stern’s focus on the audience that elevates this film from just another concert recording. With a slow melodic panning and pausing of the camera, Stern captures not only the crowd’s enjoyment and engrossment in the music but also a snapshot of the late 1950s American society. The restoration of the film is so clear that it’s only the absence of incessant camera phones and the laid back reaction to the famous performers and focus on listening to the music that makes you realise you’re not watching a contemporary piece. 

Ejima Ikushima
Ejima Ikushima, a Technicolor masterpiece (for which there are no colour pictures available...) 

With the absence of endless queues like at other film festivals, I think I’ll easily manage to see at least five films today.  So next up is Ejima Ikushima from 1955 (part of Richness and Harmony: Colour Film in Japan section), directed by Hideo Oba, one of Japan’s most commercially successful filmmakers of the post-war era. 

A period piece inspired by one of the most notorious scandals to have taken place in Edo-period Japan. Ejima, is a high-ranking lady of the Ōoku. She resides in the harem of Edo Castle with the late Shogun’s concubines, and mother, Gekkō-in, of his infant son. Bound by a high-level of moral decorum, Ejima carries out her duties within the strict rules of her position. With the death of the Shogun, Gekkō-in embarks on an affair with one of his political advisors and is discovered by Ejima. To ensure Ejima’s loyalty Gekkō-in manipulates her into visiting a kabuki theatre and forming a friendship with one of the actors, which is strictly forbidden. Hearing gossip of this scandal Gekkō-in's rival Ten'ei-in, the wife of the late Shogun, launches a raid on the Edo Castle and a large power struggle ensues between the two factions.

Buster Keaton Bologna
Renewed versions of Buster Keaton's One Week and Sherlock Jr. were shown with new scores by Timothy Brock

The richness and vitality of the Eastmancolor process in Ejima Ijushima brings the beauty of this historical period to life and the restrained performances add to the subtlety and sensibility of the portrayal of this scandal. Final slot of the day is the outdoor evening screenings of Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Jr. and One Week with live music composed and directed by Timothy Brock, performed by the orchestra of the Teatro Comunale di Bologna. Both films were restored in 2015 by Cineteca di Bologna and Cohen Film Collection at L’Immagine Ritrovata Laboratory. 

Watching the comedy and acrobatic genius of Buster Keaton is pleasure enough but watching with a live orchestra elevates the experience to a whole new level. Timothy Brock’s score is fantastic, subtle enough to not detract or compete with the action but rousing and complex enough to thrill in the parts where the pace of the narrative revs up. Beautifully summed up by Brock: “Cleverness is not enough when writing for Keaton, one also must know how to simply laugh, really hard.” And that is what I did!

Europa 51
The Bergman celebration continues with a refreshed version of her husband Roberto Rossellini's Europa 51

One notion that slowly forms in my mind from watching all of these beautifully restored films is how the clarity of the image and sound make the films much more accessible and remove barriers, which in the past, meant it was difficult to identify and relate to the characters on screen. Removing the grainy images, jumping frames and popping soundtracks puts you face to face with a person from perhaps over 100 years ago, but feels like a reflection of anyone you could bump into walking down the street today. It’s a transformative thing and I very grateful to the labs and technicians who have painstakingly brought this to fruition.

It’s my last morning at the festival and I’ve already got my schedule planned out, Louis Feuillade’s serial Les Vampires, made between 1915 and 1916 with the legendary Irma Vep (Musidora), (4k restoration by Gaumont and The Éclair lab) followed by Roberto Rossellini’s Europa ’51 (Restored in 2015 by Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory). 

So many amazing films to discover, Il Cinema Ritrovata has become the first thing to be inked into my calendar in 2016!

Il Cinema Ritrovato: Festival Report (part 1)

Posted Thursday 23 July 2015 by Becky Clarke in Festival Reports, General

Il Cinema Ritrovato Bergman
The view from Piazza Maggiore in Bologna, where Il Cinema Ritrovato celebrated the early years of Ingrid Bergman

We've been lucky enough to be invited to Il Cinema Ritrovato, a fantastic film festival in Bologna, Italy that presents film lovers with the chance to see restored classics and rarities from the archives. This year, its 29th edition, sees 427 films presented from the 1890s to the present day: films in black & white and in colour, silent films with live musical accompaniment and film produced throughout the sound era, 35mm prints (still more than half of the programme) as well as brand new digital restorations.

I drew the long straw to be ICO's roaming advocate abroad. Sadly delayed by some air traffic control strike action, I arrive in sweltering Bologna (34 degrees and rising) at about 4.30pm on Wednesday 1st July, disappointed to have missed Douglas Sirk's All That Heaven Allows. I hot foot it to Biblioteca Renzo Renzi to pick up my festival accreditation, making full use of the shade provided by the endless porticos that Bologna is famous for.

Biblioteca Renzo Renzi, where the guest office is located, is a cinephile haven, a perfect retreat and meeting place for like-minded film folk. Located in Piazzetta Pasolini, surrounded on all sides by heavenly cool cinema screens, and a buzzing lively café bar, shaded by colourful awnings and offering tasty vegan fare and cold crisp vino rosato. 

With pass and map in hand I navigate my way to Cinema Arlecchino (one of the 7 cinemas around the city used by the festival) to see a glorious new recovered and restored 35mm print of Norman Foster's Woman On The Run (1950). Restored by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and the Film Noir Foundation, for years it was believed impossible after the last known surviving print was destroyed in a studio fire. An exhaustive worldwide search was eventually rewarded with the discovery of duplicate pre-print elements in the vaults of the BFI.

Woman on the Run
1950's Woman on the Run, a major discovery from the vaults, now restored and presented at this year's festival

Whilst walking his dog in the dawning hours of the morning, Frank Johnson (Ross Elliot) witnesses a mob hit.  Interrogated by the San Francisco police squad, Frank soon realises he is being set-up as the prime witness in a case against the city’s major organised crime syndicate. Fearing he will meet the same sticky end as the victim of the shooting he witnessed, Frank dissipates into the murky underbelly of the city, leaving his long-suffering wife, Eleanor (Ann Sheridan) to fend off the police. With equal amounts of apathy and despondency, Eleanor sets out to find her errant husband, feeling it her duty to help him escape. With the help of an audacious journalist, the sharp-witted Eleanor evades her police escorts and embarks on a scavenger hunt across the city, where she discovers more lost things than just her missing husband. A gripping yet emotion driven crime drama, a fantastic vehicle for the talents of its leading lady, as the enchanting, acerbic woman on the run. A perfectly disguised feminist icon if ever I saw one. 

Isabella Rosselini
Isabella Rossellini was in person to celebrate the work of her mother Ingrid Bergman

With just enough time to scoff down some of Bologna's famous apperativi, I head out to secure a seat in the Piazza Maggiore, the majestic main square where the outdoor evening screenings are held. Tonight it is Casablanca, in honour of the festival's focus on Ingrid Bergman: The Early Years, and the screening is being introduced by her daughter, the legendary Isabella Rossellini.

The festival itself has a very relaxed friendly atmosphere, a coming together of people passionate about film and its preservation. From overhearing conversations you can see that people have been coming for years and use it as an opportunity to meet up with their counterparts from around the globe. This informality does lead to some seat etiquette squabbles and it's interesting to see the resultant cultural stereotypes coming into play: bold chair hogging by the Americans, lots of tutting and whispered asides by the Brits and a lengthy amount of debate and gesticulation from the Italians. However as the film begins, everyone is let into the square to find a seat wherever they can, chair, lap or warm stone floor, because it's clear that what is important is the chance to see these glorious restorations on the big screen.  And what an experience it is, like watching the film for the first time, the audience engaged and enthralled, the picture exquisitely clear and crisp, the sound of Sam’s piano twinkling away and all enjoyed in the balmy night air of a Bologna evening. I’m not really sure how tomorrow can get any better?!

Day Two

Day two of my Il Cinema Ritrovato experience and I’m so spoilt for choice with the programme. It dawns on me that three days is no way near enough time to do the festival justice and I need to make some tough decisions.  A little indulgently I decide to watch Pather Panchali (1955) first thing.

Pather Panchali
A major restoration of Satyajit Ray's Apu Trilogy was one of the coups of this year's festival

Programmed into the section entitled A New Way of Seeing, Satyajit Ray is credited by western critics as putting Indian cinema on the map and being the first Indian film d’auteur. Although filmmaking in India had been well established for decades, Ray portrayed India in a way that no one before him had depicted, an entirely different proposition from Bollywood’s trademark musicals and melodramas. Pather Panchali was Ray’s directorial debut, and the debut of one of world cinema’s greats.

The restoration I’m watching today was embarked upon by the Criterion Collection with the Academy Film Archive in 2013. When the restoration began the negatives hadn’t been taken out of storage for twenty years: many portions were burned to ash or had deteriorated from the heat and contaminants they had been exposed to. Yet significant portions survived, and were entrusted to L’Immagine Ritrovata in Bologna who successfully rehydrated the film and set about by hand physically repairing the elements, meticulously removing melted tape and glue, and rebuilding perforation holes on the sides of the film. Using fine grain masters and duplicate negatives preserved by Janus Films, the Academy, the Harvard Film Archive, and the BFI, the technicians found replacements for the unusable sections. In the end 40% of Pather Panchali was restored directly from the original negatives.

Many describe Pather Panchali as the story of Apu, and with the following two chapters Aparajito and Apur Sansar, the trilogy definitely is, but for me the first instalment is about the women of the Ray family: Durga, Apu’s older sister, Sarbojaya, Apu’s mother and Indir, Apu’s aunty. The Ray family live in a rambling and almost falling down house on the outskirts of their ancestral village in Bengal at the start of the 1900s. Sarbojaya goes about her daily chores with ardour, whilst her daughter, Durga plays in the neighbouring orchard, stealing fruit for her beloved elderly aunty. Harihar, Sarbojaya’s husband is a Brahmin, who spends his days searching for work as a spiritual guide to the local community.  With her husband away for weeks at a time, Sarbojaya is left to deal with the harsh realities of having no food or money, a house that won’t withstand the coming monsoons, a free-spirited daughter who whiles away her adolescence in the beautiful surrounding countryside, all whilst trying to uphold a sense of propriety in front of her neighbours.

The restoration is fabulous: every image appears crystal clear, so much so that it’s hard to believe the film is celebrating its 60th Birthday. I know some programmers in the ICO office who will be waiting with baited breath for the announcement of a new Criterion Blu-ray.

News round-up... 22/07/2015

Posted Monday 20 July 2015 by Sarah Rutterford in General, News Round-up

Decker posters
Our posters for Butter on the Latch and Thou Wast Mild and Lovely, screening nationwide in our Josephine Decker tour

ICO news

  • This week we're split between Croatia (running the Developing Your Film Festival course in sunny Motovun!) and preparing for Summer Screening Days at the Showroom in Sheffield this weekend. As usual we've got a fantastic array of films for you to watch - we've a biopic, historical dramas, a contemporary drugs thriller, an dystopian black comedy, some superb new documentaries - and much more. See the full line-up.  
  • We've also been working on upcoming ICO films. First up is our tour, Two Films by Josephine Decker, a new voice in contemporary American cinema who's been hailed "the most original independent director to surface in the last few years". Her films Butter on the Latch and Thou Wast Mild and Lovely are screening at cinemas nationwide throughout August, accompanied by special events with Decker and our online project, in which we're exploring her work and using it as a starting point to investigate ideas about audience development. Find out more.
  • Next: L'Eclisse! Our digital restoration of Antonioni's sumptuously beautiful 1962 masterpiece, released nationwide on 28 August, screened in Cannes Classics earlier this year. Book now to screen it on DCP, Blu-ray or DVD.
  • Looking ahead, in autumn we release our Astley Baker Davies retrospective, two programmes of animation - The World of Astley Baker Davies, aimed at adults, and The Big Knights, for younger audiences - by the BAFTA-winning, Oscar-nominated British animators Mark Baker and Neville Astley, the makers of TV's Peppa Pig. These beautiful, witty animations are an absolute joy to watch, and as our retrospective is funded by the BFI, we can offer speakers and educational resources to support your screenings. Find out more.
  • Don't forget that the deadline for applying to our Practical Programming course is Monday 24th August. If you have an incredible programming idea that you'd like to bring to your venue, then this is a great opportunity to get practical support that'll make sure you get a great audience. Get the details here.

Other news: resources, opportunities and calls for submissions

  • Cinemas, want to improve your film education offer? Check out Into Film's excellent new advisory pack on working with schools.
  • Short filmmakers - The Smalls Film Festival needs your super short shorts - less than 30 seconds - shot on an iPhone. Unleash some short-lived creativity!
  • Makeshift Cinema is also seeking short films of all genres.
  • Young, south-west-based film lovers: do you have an idea for a short film? Pitch it to Cornwall Film Festival's Calling the Shots and you could see your short made and screened in Channel 4's Random Acts strand.
  • Have you applied for the John Brabourne Awards? They're open until 31st July and offer up to £5K awards to people working behind the scenes in film, cinema and commercial TV who are facing difficulties in their careers (such as illness or lack of funding) and need support. Find out more.  
  • Got a short film to pitch? European Short Pitch is an initiative promoting the European co-production of shorts; if you're a writer, director or producer from a creative team based in Europe and developing a short film, find out more.
  • FLAMIN has just launched round 6 of FLAMIN Productions, offering £30,000 in funding to London-based film artists.
  • Another one for Londoners, Film London's Community Screen Scheme funding closes on 31st July. Don't miss out!
  • Documentarists, CPH:DOX 2015 is now open for submissions!

We like...

  • “The idea that programmers would become risk-averse is a terrifying prospect for film culture.” Ahead of our Josephine Decker tour, read Simran Hans' excellent BFI online piece on our strategy for these exciting films.
  • At Sight & Sound, our friends at Deptford Cinema discuss their volunteer-run, community-led venue.
  • "We wanted to our site to encourage cinephilia and encourage people to come along with us and take chances on seeing things they might not have seen (or been aware of) otherwise." We were very sad to hear of The Dissolve's demise, and read this interview with its founders, touching on the changing face of film criticism, with great interest.
  • "No animals were harmed in the making of this movie. 70 members of the cast and crew were." Looking forward to seeing Roar this autumn after reading about its incredible production in Indiewire.

Edinburgh International Film Festival: Coujoe's Report

Posted Monday 20 July 2015 by Duncan Carson in FEDS scheme, Festival Reports, General

Edinburgh Caleigh
The Ceilidh, one of the highlights of the Edinburgh International Film Festival

Our FEDS trainees - 15 ambitious young people receiving experience in distribution, exhibition and international sales - are moving ahead with their careers. Here, Coujoe Alleyne, working at 20th Century Fox during the scheme, gives his report on his festival experience at Edinburgh International Film Festival.

Personally, I have never been to a film festival before so Edinburgh International Film Festival was my first experience. On the first day, after arriving, I and some of my fellow FEDS trainees went to see our first film of the festival, Every Secret Thing. I felt that the film had a similar tone and storyline to the film Prisoners. I thoroughly enjoyed that film and although Every Secret Thing was not as compelling overall, I felt the performances, especially from the lead actress (who also personally introduced the screening) were great. Later that day, some of us attended the networking drinks and then we all went on to attend the Ceilidh. It was a fun (and exhausting) cultural experience that I would be more than happy to do again!

Every Little Thing
Every Secret Thing, screened as part of Edinburgh International Film Festival, is directed by Amy Berg and stars Elizabeth Banks

The next day, the first film that we went to see was the David Gordon Green-directed Manglehorn. It stars Al Pacino as the title character as we followed his life. I personally found the film a little slow but the film was held together by a fantastic performance from Al Pacino. This was my first industry screening and I thought it was quite a surreal experience to simply show my EIFF pass and be let into a cinema screen! The next film I saw that day was my favourite from the festival, Inside Out. The festival theatre was packed with people (a lot of them children) with ice cream and balloons being handed out liberally. This created a nice atmosphere for children and adults alike. As it was the UK premiere of the film, there was a short introduction from the co-director, Ronnie del Carmen. As for the film itself, I very much enjoyed it and thought it was a worthy entry into Pixar’s long running catalogue of iconic and interesting films. After another round of networking drinks at the Traverse Theatre, all us FEDS trainees, Hatice and Corinne and two special guests had dinner together and discussed our experiences of the festival.

On the following full day, we began it by attending the ‘setting the scene’ session of the Distribution Re-wired Conference. It was very interesting to find out more about alternative methods of distribution and how they work and the effect they have on the film industry.One representative on the panel was from Euro VOD, which is a video on demand service that is spread across multiple European countries. Their main aim is to give films a longer shelf live beyond theatrical release. They have embraced the internet and given power to the rights holders about how their content is distributed.

BFI player
BFI Player, just one of a number of new digital film services transforming film distribution

Another representative was from the BFI to talk about BFI Player. As part of their plans to diversify, the BFI have created their own video on demand player to give their audience easier access to their catalogue of films. Their aim is to give people who cannot easily get to an independent cinema a better chance to see more arthouse and alternative films. They are also aiming to provide a number of BFI archive films on BFI player to better reach their intended audience.

More 2 Screen is another distribution company that was present on the panel and they specialise in event cinema. They explained that there aim was to bring the increasingly popular medium of event cinema to a larger audience. One part of interest to me was that some event cinema content is broadcast live via satellite. I felt that this helps the audience to better engage and enjoy the content with the knowledge that they are experiencing the event at the same time as the live audience at the event.

Also on the panel there was a representative from the crowdsourcing business Indiegogo. Their key aim was to provide funding for the distribution of independent and niche films. They also talked about their partnership with video hosting site Vimeo. Indiegogo and Vimeo have a deal in place in which films that have a large amount of funders have their funding matched by Vimeo.  In addition to this, they show their film on Vimeo’s platform, in return for VOD exclusivity for a pre-determined length of time.

Chuck Norris vs Communism
Chuck Norris vs. Communism: a timely reminder of the importance film distribution can make in the life of a country

During the panel there was a short debate about the idea of the introduction of the European digital single market. At its most basic level, with a European digital single market, more films can be accessed by a greater audience across Europe. It can remove barriers to e-commerce and put a stop to geo-blocking, where certain content can only be viewed in certain countries. The argument against this however is that a lot of European films rely on the pre-sale of distribution rights in individual territories. This accounts for a major portion of their funding. Although it was interesting to hear about different businesses that operate in film distribution, I would have liked there to be more discussion about the future of distribution in the UK and across the world.

We then went to go and see the film Chuck Norris Vs. Communism. This film was about film censorship in 1980s Romania and the people who worked to get around it. This was a very well made and uplifting film that coincidentally has strong links to film distribution in the past. Overall I had a great experience at EIFF and I would love to go again next year!

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