Bristol Radical Film Festival 2012
Jan18

Bristol Radical Film Festival 2012

Organised by students and lecturers at the University of the West of England, Bristol, the first Bristol Radical Film Festival showed that explicitly political cinema – and audience demand for it – is alive and kicking. Held in a variety of venues over the course of a week, the festival showcased some of the most politically and socially engaged documentary films from around the world, with a particular focus on work in the UK. From classics of radical film history to some of the finest contemporary oppositional documentary, the festival culminated in a packed weekend of screenings, talks and debates at the volunteer-run and not-for-profit cinema, The Cube. Though the festival proper ran for seven days, the organisers held three promotional events from January until the start of the festival at the end of February. Entitled ‘Not Gay as in Happy but Queer as in F**k You’, the first of these set the festival trend of combining shorts with feature presentations which, in the tradition of political cinema screenings around the world, lead into lively audience debate. Combining Kenneth Angers’ classic Fireworks (1947) with Melvyn Briggs’ remarkable queer documentary, Tongues Untied (1989), this opening event set another trend that was to continue throughout the festival – large, lively and diverse audiences. The festival itself began with an evening celebrating the anti-roads protests of the 1990s. Held at Bristol’s radical bookshop, Hydra Books, the event began with a presentation by photographer Adrian Arbib, who spent time covering the demonstration at Solsbury Hill in 1994. Jogging more than a few memories of those members of the audience old enough to have first hand experiences of this period of protest, the lively discussion was followed by a screening of Neil Goodwin and Mayassa al-Malawi’s documentary Life in the Fast Lane (1995). One of the few feature documentaries to cover the roads protests, the film details the fifteen month campaign against the M11 Link road in East London. Made by activists who lived on the proposed site of the road, the film is not only an important document one of the most vibrant forms of direct action in the twentieth century, but also a key instance of the new forms of radical filmmaking that also emerged at that time. Coinciding with the destructive environmental policies of Major’s Conservative government were developments in camcorder technology, wildly increasing activists’ access to the means of representation. Indeed, it was on the M11 protest that Undercurrents was born, the radical newsreel that would go on to become one of the most successful radical newsreels ever seen in the UK (see below). The second night of the festival was in such high demand that many were...

Read More
Project COBRA: Call for Films
Jan13

Project COBRA: Call for Films

COBRA : A Critical Response is a five year project to internationally counter-map and creatively respond to the British Governments emergency committee COBRA. See http://cobra-res.info/ for more details. COBRA 1.3 Chapter Two –  Invitation for film and video responses.   We would like to invite you to contribute to our project COBRA 1.3 that will respond to the recent emergency meetings in Westminster by producing a DVD and book of artists’ moving image works and texts.   The British Governments emergency response committee COBRA met on the 6th December due to the ensuing storms and tidal surges.   In response to this meeting at Westminster our organization, COBRA: A Critical Response invited a first round of artists to respond in writing or with a piece of moving image, to either the subject of the meeting iethe winter storms or the existence of the COBRA committee itself.   So far responses include works by Nina Power, Chris Collier, Margaret Dickinson, Allison Ballard, Steven Connelly and John Jordan among others. These will be compiled in a DVD of artists moving image, with an accompanying book that will be launched with film screening, in London in mid-late February, 2014. The DVD and book is being produced by COBRA: A Critical Response and will be published by Pamphleteer Films.   As the storms and tidal surges continued over the last month, creating a much greater and extended impact, the COBRA committee reconvened most recently in Westminster on Saturday 11th Jan 2014.   For this reason we would like to include you in a second round of artistic responses to this event to recognise the extended nature of the emergency and subsequent COBRA meetings.   We would therefore like to invite you to contribute to this project by contributing a video work between 1 minutes and 9 minutes long by the 7th February, 2014. This may be an existing work you feel is well suited or a new work produced as a specific response. Any form will be accepted such as fiction, archival, documentary, performance documentation, animation, phone video, etc. This may be submitted via a digital format to cobra.res@gmail.com or as a hard copy (please contact for postal address).   COBRA: A Critical Response is a five-year project investigating the relationship, and use, of aesthetics and performative means for political power within emergency politics.       Contributors who have so far submitted and those invited.   COBRA 1.3   BOOK   Nina Power (lead essay/foreword) Chris Collier Nicholas Hausdorf John Jordan Samuel Stevens Theo Price   DVD   Chapter One    Margaret Dickinson Allison Ballard Stephen Connolly John Jordan Zoe Young Samuel Stevens Theo Price Kamal Prashar   Chapter Two    ***NEW SUBMISSION***    Invited filmmakers...

Read More
‘Bomb the river’: Space, Class & Masculinity
Jan13

‘Bomb the river’: Space, Class & Masculinity

‘Bomb the river’: Space, Class & Masculinity in Shane Meadows’ Twenty Four Seven (1997) and A Room for Romeo Brass (1999) Introducing his book Cinematic Countrysides (2007), Robert Fish emphasises the ‘rich and diverse spatial imagery’ evoked when considering cinematic representations of rural space (1). Exploring representations of the countryside on film also, however, invites assessment of urban environments, too, given that the categories of ‘city’ and ‘countryside’ rest on upon mutual relations of difference (Fish, 3). In this close-analysis of Shane Meadows’ first two full-length feature films, I want to undertake just such an exploration, considering the similarities and differences in the representation of rural, urban, and coastal space in TwentyFourSeven (1997) and A Room for Romeo Brass (1999).[1] I want to look at this portrayal of environment with a specific context in mind. Meadows is a social-realist filmmaker, and many elements of his work can be traced back through the long and complex tradition of social-realist filmmaking in Britain.[2] All his films to date, for example, are concerned thematically with the working class and with stories of the everyday, and are characteristically feature location-shooting, improvisation, and an observational aesthetic that foregrounds, as I will show, the effects of environment upon human development. Yet Meadows’ particular brand of social-realism is also very much a contemporary one in that, in addition to drawing on a more eclectic range of styles than the realisms before it,[3] it also engages with the ‘pervasive contemporary theme’ of a ‘crisis in masculinity wrought by changes in the industrial infrastructure of post-industrial, post-colonial global economies’ (Hallam (b), 184). Set in towns and cities once characterised by thriving industrial and manufacturing economies, these films depict communities in which the working-class of the British documentary movement, Free Cinema, and subsequent New Wave, have become the long-term unemployed. In such post-Thatcherite contexts, traditionally productive masculine occupations are unavailable. Thus, critics argue,[4] instead of constituting their identities around what they produce, the men of these ‘post-working-classes’ define themselves more in terms of their power to consume (Monk, 2000, 274). Therefore, I want to frame my consideration of Meadows’ representation of space from the perspective of these debates about the relationship between consumption and masculinity. What follows, then, should be read as an attempt to begin thinking about Meadows’ work in light of this theory, and to hopefully contribute towards a possible understanding of his work in the context of this changing landscape of contemporary British social-realism. TwentyFourSeven was Meadows’ first feature after his initial attempt with the hour-long Smalltime, a comedy-take on the gangster genre which Claire Monk noted for its exploration of ‘crime as a gendered phenomenon’...

Read More
Soul Power (Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, 2008, USA)
Jan13

Soul Power (Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, 2008, USA)

In 1974, as a warm-up to the legendary ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ heavy-weight title fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Kinshasa, Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo), a music festival took place that brought together some of the finest African and African-American artists of the 1970s. Soul Power is a record of this event, and the sheer scale of musical talent showcased within it – from B. B. King, Miriam Makeba and Bill Withers to Tabu Ley Rochereaux and James Brown  – is enough to demand one’s immediate attention. For fans of black music, this film is essential viewing. For those unfortunate, aurally impoverished people not already familiar with these musicians, Soul Power is about the best audio-visual introduction available (along with Wattstax (1973), Mel Stuart’s film of the ‘black Woodstock’ festival the year before). And yet this film was very nearly not available at all. Every second of footage in Soul Power was shot thirty-six years ago by Leon Gast’s crew for what was to become When We Were Kings (1996), the academy-award winning documentary of the Ali-Foreman bout. Tragically, the images of the festival were dropped in order to maintain the King’s focus on the fight and its socio-cultural and political significance. In rescuing the images that constitute Soul Power, then, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte and co. do a service to the history of black music on film.  This was no light undertaking. ‘Zaire ‘74’, as the festival was named, took place over three days. Recordings of the performances themselves totalled over 12 hours, not to mention the extensive behind-the-scenes footage of the organisation of the event, all of which had to be cleaned, transferred and digitised from the raw 16mm negative. The reconstitution of this source material into a fascinating 93 minute narrative thus constitutes a worthy editing feat.  Eschewing the expositional mode of Kings, in which contemporary talking-heads guide the viewer authoritatively through the archive footage, Soul Power exploits the textured grain of the 16mm film and kinetic quality of the shoulder mounted cameras to create an archetypal verité style. Such a formal strategy brings the film’s content to the fore, an adroit choice given the compelling nature of the personalities on display. Indeed, the representations of the off-stage personas are some of Soul Power’s most precious. Celia Cruz leads an impromptu jam session on the stars’ flight to Kinshasa, for example, drumming her shoe heels against the luggage compartment, accompanied by B. B. King’s guitar and somebody else playing a soft-drink can with a paracetamol packet. Other memorable scenes include B. B. King casually putting together his set-list back-stage, Muhammad Ali’s amiable reaction when...

Read More
BRFF 2014: Call for Films
Dec01

BRFF 2014: Call for Films

Bristol Radical Film Festival 2014: Call for Films From the 3rd to the 9th of March 2014 the Bristol Radical Film Festival returns with another packed programme of oppositional documentary and fiction film from around the world. Opening at The Cube Microplex, Bristol’s volunteer-run not-for-profit cinema, the festival tours a variety of progressive, community-based spaces before culminating in a weekend of screenings, talks, workshops and debates at The Arc, a four-storey community centre in the heart of the city dedicated to activism and social change. Once again the festival will feature a dedicated competition strand of short filmmaking, and is seeking contributions from individuals and collectives in the UK and further afield:  Submission is free and open to all.  Running-times must not exceed 15 minutes.  The deadline for submissions is December 31st 2013. Please bear in mind that while this is an overtly political film festival, our definition of ‘radical’ is an open one: we are interested in films radical in topic, content, form (or all of the above). Contributors should upload their films to a video-sharing or file-transfer site and send the link to bristolradicalfilmfestival@gmail.com. If you’re unsure of how to submit your film, send us an email and we can guide you through the process. We will let you know if your film has been chosen in early...

Read More