This is a film still from FUTURE-WORLD-EXV (2019).

NOW BOOKING: Essay Film Festival Preludes 1-3

Ahead of their Essay Film Festival 2021, Birkbeck Institute Of The Moving Image (BIMI) hosts a trio of FREE online events to get your juices flowing (05-19 MAR).

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As the film calendar continues without the aid of functioning cinemas, we start to see an increasing number of film festivals looming on the digital horizon (we’ve listed 150+ in previous years but the pandemic is bound to reduce that count).

The Essay Film Festival has been running since 2015 and usually takes place at the end of March, but BIMI presents related content throughout the year. The festival is normally split between Birkbeck’s own cinema and the ICA, but this year looks destined to be online (the 2020 edition was cancelled for obvious reasons…).

Now, you might be asking yourself what an ‘essay film’ actually is…? BIMI describes essay films as:

“a hybrid form that brings together elements of documentary and experimental filmmaking into a highly personal and often politically engaged mode of expression.”

If that leaves you still scratching your head, but you have seen and adored the autobiographical films of Agnès Varda, then you’re in the right ball park! A RADIANT CIRCUS favourite is THE BEACHES OF AGNÈS (2008), but feel free to take your own pick…

Ahead of this year’s Essay Film Festival (the dates of which aren’t clear right now, also for obvious reasons one presumes…), BIMI is presenting three free online ‘preludes’. There are two film screenings with discussions and a wider discussion of essay films themselves led by students of the form. Scroll down for details.


Quick links to the venue/box office.

This is a film still from UNFINISHED DIARY (1986).

UNFINISHED DIARY aka Journal inachevé + Discussion

d. Marilú Mallet, 1986

Essay Film Festival 2021 Prelude 1: “Fifteen years after a battered wife (TANAKA Yuko) murders her abusive alcoholic husband, she returns home having served her time. But will the now-adult children she sought to protect with her crime welcome the reunion?”

“We will share the film for 24 hours, before inviting all those who register to join us for a conversation about the film and its political context.”

05 MAR 18:00 – FREE!

This is a film still from FUTURE-WORLD-EXV (2019).

FUTURE – WORLD – EXV + Discussion

d. Wilfred Ukpong, 2019

Essay Film Festival 2021 Prelude 2: “Organised in collaboration with Autograph ABP we share a recent film by artist Wilfred Ukpong and invite you to join us in conversation with the artist.”

“We will share FUTURE – WORLD – EXV (2019) before holding a live discussion between Wilfred Ukpong, Karen Alexander and Mark Sealy.”

12 MAR 18:00 – FREE!

This is a photograph of cans of cinema film stacked on a shelf in an archive store showing various film labels and titles.

Practice Research Open Forum

Essay Film Festival 2021 Prelude 3: “As the third prelude to the 2021 Essay Film Festival, we are holding the second iteration of the Practice Research Open Forum: a student-led forum exploring essayistic forms and their relationship to academic research, social critique and artistic practice, held in collaboration with CHASE Doctoral Training Partnership.”

19 MAR 14:30 – FREE!




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*THE SMALL PRINT: Opinions author’s own. // As accurate as we could make it. Apologies for any errors. Updates & corrections will be made to the online version only. // Event dates/times/formats are subject to change by the venue/organiser. Events may already be sold out at the time of posting, so please click quickly. // We try to list as many original format screenings as we can (8 to 70MM), but sometimes formats change due to age of the print, availability, logistics etc, so please check ahead with your venue if the format is your thing. // All images are used in the spirit of fair use for reporting & review – no ownership is implied or intended / unless otherwise credited to RADIANT CIRCUS as the original rights holder. We will remove any images immediately upon request – just get in touch. // We don’t filter our listings by age/certification: all readers & subscribers should therefore be 18+. // Finally, we always try to follow The Carny Code by “not screwing up anyone else’s game”, but everyone can make mistakes… If something does go wrong, we will always do our best to put it right. //.