The ICO staff sees an ungodly number of films each year. And we also have the pleasure of seeing and meeting some of the best cinemas around the world. Here’s our pick of the things that mattered to us in the cinematic year that was.
David Sin, Head of Cinemas
My most enjoyable experience in the cinema in 2015 was seeing Japanese filmmaker Ito Takashi’s programme at the Oberhausen Film Festival in May, where so many short films are exhibited and talked about, but without any of the industrial hype that dominates so many other film festivals. The final programme, featuring his most recent works was introduced by Ito to a packed audience:
“These are films made when I had a lot of difficult changes going on in my life. When I look back at them now, I’m not entirely happy with them. [Pause] ENJOY!”
Lynn Nwokorie, Assistant Programmer
Top 5 of 2015
- Best of Enemies
Honourable mentions (because 5 is such a small number): Appropriate Behaviour, Sicario, Victoria, Force Majeure and The Duke of Burgundy.
Top 5 born again cinematic discoveries
- The Philadelphia Story
- Lift to the Scaffold
- The Misfits
- Far from Heaven
- Cry of the City
Corinne Orton, Training and Professional Development Manager
My top 5 film festival moments of 2015
Film festivals highlight for me why cinema is such a social medium. There is always so much around the regular film screening that brings people together, from guest appearances and discussions to interactive workshops and live scores. Here’s my top five festival moments this year.
Girlhood at Glasgow Film Festival
At the start of the year I was manager of this film festival, and as is typical of festival work, you’re often too busy putting out fires to fully enjoy your lovingly-assembled event. This was particularly tough for me at GFF 2015, as the programme included a screening at a roller disco, a murder mystery night and a live film score by British Sea Power.
So I was glad to grab a few moments to witness lead actresses Karidja Tour and Assa Sylla speak about Girlhood, a moving exploration of resilient Parisian girls navigating adolescence. The film features that incredible use of Rihanna’s ‘Diamonds’ which was my favourite cinema moment of the year.
The Diary of a Teenage Girl at Edinburgh International Film Festival
In June, after two months as ICO’s Training & Professional Development Manager I was back on home turf at Edinburgh International Film Festival with fourteen of our FEDS trainees in tow. It was a real pleasure to show them around a film festival that is close to my heart, and pass on that bug of running between screenings munching on whatever fast food is on hand, networking with fellow film lovers and taking notes at industry events.
A highlight was another story of growing up and making sense of the world: The Diary of a Teenage Girl. Charming and hilarious British actress Bel Powley introduced the film and despite being flanked by Alexander Skarsgaard managed to keep everyone in the palm of her hand.
East End Film Festival
One of the things I love about film festivals is the unpredictable, occasionally anarchic spirit that sometimes takes over.
At the East End Film Festival this year I led an eventful Q&A session, which turned into a bit of an out-of-body experience for me when one actor began serenading the crowd with show tunes while another leapt up onto the table to treat the audience to his beat poetry.
Proof that at film festivals, anything can happen…
The Brand New Testament at Motovun Film Festival
In July the ICO went to Croatia for the fifth iteration of our Developing Your Film Festival course which takes place at the top of a mountain, against the backdrop of Motovun Film Festival. Screens and chairs are brought up on tractors and teams of staff and volunteers work in 30 degree heat to bring together the Festival, with screenings running late into the night.
The end of the course coincided with the opening night of the Festival which was a heady mixture of fireworks, delicious beer and a screening of the adorable Belgian comedy The Brand New Testament.
Tangerine at BFI London Film Festival
As a newbie to London I experienced my first London Film Festival in November. While I didn’t have the time and resources to see nearly as much as I would have liked, I was very pleased to make it to the premiere of Tangerine, which was made all the more enjoyable by the presence of excellent new talent Mya Taylor, and her sassy quips about acting, LA and how the film has changed her life.
Simon Ward, Deputy Director
- Hard to be a God
- A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
- The Duke of Burgundy
- Beasts of No Nation
- Black Coal, Thin Ice
- Slow West
- White God
- It Follows
- A Most Violent Year
Mike Tang, Adminstrator
Favourite films: Inside Out, Sicario, Magic Mike XXL, Mommy (one caveat I’ve yet to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens.)
Favourite scenes: Magic Mike XXL BDR in the petrol station.
Favourite festival experience: Queuing for a spare ticket for the Surprise Film at BFI London Film Festival and getting one.
Favourite films other people said were rubbish: Pan, Fifty Shades of Grey
Best dodgy marketing move: Legend two stars from The Guardian? No problem.
Jemma Desai, Programmer
Top film writers
This year I have tried to shield my ears from the noise of divergent opinions, call-out culture and attendant Twitter shaming. I have taken refuge in long form film writing more than ever this year, searching for the nuance that the debates around representation rarely seemed to provide. I learnt a new phrase this year too, courtesy of our ever inspiring D-Word keynote speaker Gaylene Gould: creative abrasion. The abrasions in critical debate have been real this year, but they have been exciting to watch unfold. Combined with some really invigorating curatorial activity across the UK, the existence of these debates combined with some excellent writing makes me excited about 2016, and feeling part of a community of writers, programmers and cinephiles who are creating new space to further film discourse, and are eager to collaborate in order to do so.
Listed here are reviews that made me grateful for their perspectives (and some that made me weep); writing that helped articulate some complex feelings (mostly about Magic Mike XXL); and a little bit of pure poetry (only accessible by signing up to Miriam Bales News from Home newsletter).
- Simran Hanss Buzzfeed article ‘British Cinemas Need To Do Better For Black Audiences’
- Reverse Shot’s alternative auteurism series Reverse Shot Unauthorised Symposium
- Sophie Monks Kaufman’s Little White Lies article ‘The Seven Provocations’
- Tim Robey’s Telegraph review of Carol from Cannes
- Miriam Bale’s News from Home newsletter, especially her Carol colour piece
- Sophie Mayer’s The F Word article ‘A Reluctant Suffragette’
- Guy Lodge’s Variety article ‘Why Magic Mike XXL Is Summers Most Subversive Studio Pleasure’
- Catherine Bray’s Variety review of The Hard Stop
- Ashley Clarke’s review of Dope
- Richard Brody’s New Yorker piece on Chantal Akerman, who very sadly died this year
Duncan Carson, Marketing, Communications and Events Manager
My experience at ICO has made me hyper-conscious of the routes by which great (and not so great) film work arrives in front of people. Some of the films on my list have the support of bigger studios, and some of them might not see UK release. It’s a truism that a huge release doesn’t guarantee quality, but I feel really privileged to have had the opportunity to see and push for films that aren’t commercial prospects, but that audiences respond to. I’m also more aware than ever of what a cinema is for. The majority of films on my list (especially Heaven Knows What and The Look of Silence) are not ‘easy sits’. Without the attention-holding space of the cinema, I might not have taken the risk or embraced the experience so fully. I’m really grateful for the chance to see lives I wouldn’t otherwise and think and feel things I wouldn’t otherwise. And I’m really sorry I’m now one of those people who have films in their list that you can’t see for months, if ever.
Top 10 new films in 2015
- Ex Machina
- Exotica, Erotica, Etc.
- Heaven Knows What
- The Duke of Burgundy
- Slow West
- Song of the Sea
- The Look of Silence
- Timbuktu (also the best trailer of the year!)
Best film discoveries of the year
This year also made me appreciate the work of all the people who advocate for older work.
- Ivan’s Childhood
- Melanie Manchot’s Twelve at Peckham Platform (a beautifully shot, enquiring show, proving once again that there is always something new to be said about a well covered subject, in this case addiction. Fans of Gillian Wearing should seek out her work).
- Vera Chitylova season at BFI Southbank
- Bless Their Little Hearts (part of Tate Film’s LA Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema season)
- The Offence (wonderful new edition of this strange Sidney Lumet film from Masters of Cinema. British-set, starring Sean Connery in an uncharacteristically nasty role.)
- The Life of Jesus (Bruno Dumont, where have you been all my life? Plays like a late teen version of one of my favourites of all time, L’Enfance Nue).
- Moons Pool (a stunning avant-garde film programmed by my ICO colleague Adam Pugh for ICA’s Josephine Decker symposium)
- Shes Gotta Have It
- Celia (one of my highlights of the year was ICA’s Second Run season, celebrating the heroic work of the world cinema DVD label. It was also great to have my suspicions confirmed about the people behind the label being cinema lovers and humanitarians!)
- Le Bonheur
Jonny Courtney, Programmer
Top 5 films released in 2015
- The Duke of Burgundy
- A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
- Straight Outta Compton
Adam Pugh, Artists’ Moving Image Project Manager
My choices reflect both ongoing assonances in artists’ moving image practice and exhibition the archive, the essay, the diary, for instance and the tendency towards narrative that is perhaps more perceptible now than ever before. I’ve acknowledged this by reverse osmosis, preferring here to include a film, or rather, three films, by Miguel Gomes, a director who pedants might argue does not hail from the artists’ moving image community or present as part of the canon, but in embracing forms which would previously have been considered outlandish for ‘regular’ cinema – a durational approach, baroque subjects and treatment, freewheeling meta-narratives, a disregard for resolution – has shown rather more publicly what most people in the artists’ moving image camp have known for some time, that experiment is genetically part of cinema, not something it performs for an avant-garde or relegates to a sidebar; and that this radical core should and could be accessed rather more frequently by all.
It feels as if the great navigators have opened the northwest passage connecting ‘cinema’ with the rocky bluff of artists’ moving image, and those land masses (here for some reason exclusively Iberian)previously thought not to be contiguous Albert Serra, Miguel Gomes, Gabriel Abrantes – are now in view for all to see. What is most interesting is that there is no boundary, or at least one which is thoroughly porous, and this is to the benefit of all cinema.
Following this trajectory, Adam Curtis managed once again to subvert categorisation and transcend the reductive binaries of television programming by bringing his singular voice to terrestrial TV and BBC iPlayer (neither often the hotbed for radical essay-films, much less two-hour-plus historical critiques of UK foreign policy) with Bitter Lake; and Joshua Oppenheimer’s newest film, The Look of Silence, brought a risky and experimental document of the shockwaves of a little-examined history, and it’s still-brutal present, to mainstream cinemas (this last detail alone was amazing).
Two of the films are associated with the ICO’s Artists’Moving Image Network project: we screened the UK premiere of Dutch artists Lonnie van Brummelen and Siebren de Haan’s remarkable Episode of the Sea,introduced by local fisherman and harbourmaster Johnny Johnston, in Berwick in April; and will tour Miranda Pennell’s fantastic new film The Host, itself not thematically unrelated to Curtis’ film, in the New Year.
My throwback choice is for a film I’d only previously seen a clip of, but managed to catch at the BFI’s Rohmer season back in spring. With abstract cardboard sets, oddly stilted, stagey acting, a tone which strikes a deliberately awkward balance between melodrama and historical epic, and a Greek chorus of medieval flautists, it might not sound that appealing, but Perceval Le Gallois was probably the film I enjoyed most all year. And I’m not that weird.
The Host – Miranda Pennell
Sarah Rutterford, Operations Officer
Top 5 film posters of 2015
Catch Me Daddy: It seems like more and more, artists are being given the concept of a film as a jumping off point for their own imagination and design ideas, rather than having to stick to a particular aesthetic. I love this beautifully painted artwork for Daniel Wolfes drama by designer Fraser Muggeridge and illustrator Mu Pan, featuring characters from the film around a massive white tiger in an image reminiscent of Hieronymous Bosch. It looks nothing like the stills and is so stunning and unusual it instantly made me want to see the film. (The artwork on the website is also great).
Our Little Sister: A bit of a cheat because Hirokazu Koreedas new film doesn’t come out until 2016, but this is an early Japanese poster. Its beautiful: a delicate, ink-blotted watercolour creation, with a still showing the four sisters of the film treading gingerly along the shoreline.
Red Army: I enjoyed this documentary on the intense rivalries and political machinations behind the Cold War-era Russian ice hockey team, with a poster that brilliantly riffs off contemporary Soviet typography and design.
Thou Wast Mild & Lovely & Butter on the Latch: OK, so we handled the UK tour of Josephine Deckers films, but the festival posters we brought over were really lovely. As per Catch Me Daddy, they were created by artists loosely inspired by the films. The poster for Butter… is a pencilled image of girls surrounded by swathes of their entwined, ever-growing hair, a poetic interpretation of the films often claustrophobic female friendship; contrasting with the freer image for Thou Wast Mild & Lovely: a pair of open-mouthed lips, surreally positioned in front of a profusion of leaves, grasses and flowers that reflects the films focus on nature and its frank sensuality.
Listen Up Philip: Alex Ross Perry’s acerbic New York story was one of my favourite films of the year. A satirical portrait of a violently solipsistic writer (Jason Schwartzmann) and the parallel creative travails of his photographer girlfriend (Elisabeth Moss), this posters painted line-up of the characters is perfect as it makes them all look as estranged and diffident as they are in the film.