Now approaching its fifth edition, The Essay Film Festival is an essential element in London’s indie film calendar, offering fresh, surprising and often beguiling takes on documentary and experimental filmmaking. Here’s our guide to what’s on (& what’s still booking!).
By RADIANT CIRCUS
This year’s programme features a range of bold and innovative works that travel the world from Argentina to Hong Kong, Iran to Mexico, USA to Lebanon, Nigeria to UK. The programme embraces themes as varied as cancer, childbirth, the Faust legend, urban decay, workers’ strikes, psychoanalysis, colonialism, natural history, and Finnegans Wake.
The organisers suggest these events will “challenge your perception of the world, your understanding of reality and your place within it; they will move you, surprise you, and inspire you.” Which really can’t be bad for the price of a cinema ticket (or not even that, given the number of FREE events!).
The directors in this year’s programme – Mania Akbari & Douglas White, Andrea Bussmann, Dora García, Christopher Harris, Mary Jirmanus Saba, Bo Wang & Pan Lu, Onyeka Igwe and Jessica Sarah Rinland – all utilise the essay film in different ways to explore searching questions. Which gives this brilliant festival its eclectic appeal.
It’s not entirely clear from the online programme, but there’s an exhibition of Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen’s moving image works, audio recordings, drawings, diagrams, photographs and archival materials that opens the festival and runs alongside the film events (22 MAR to 24 MAY). The accompanying screenings for this exhibition all currently look SOLD OUT.
The full programme for The Essay Film Festival 2019 can be found here.
We’ve listed the film events you can still book for below.
All of the screenings at Birkbeck Cinema and Goethe-Institut are FREE. Needless to say, things are selling out, so please click quickly!
The thing we love almost as much as a free ticket, is a multi-buy… ICA is offering a discount to tempt you to take the deeper dive. Grab yourself a saving by calling the ICA Box Office on 020 7930 3647 (this offer is not available online).
- For 3-4 screenings: £10 full, £9 concs.
- For 5-6 screenings: £9 full, £8 concs.
If you could see just one, we would pick:
For the very first time in the UK in full, Peter Straschek’s astonishing five-part film-historical series about film personnel working in the German cinema industry who were forced into exile during the Nazi period.
THE ESSAY FILM FESTIVAL
Art at the Frontier of Film Theory: Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen (22 MAR to 24 MAY, Peltz Gallery – FREE!):
This exhibition uses the gallery space to refract the work of Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen through the prism of art. Primarily known as film theorists and filmmakers, engagement with art and artists has always been a central dimension of Mulvey and Wollen’s activities.
A MOON FOR MY FATHER d. Mania Akbari & Douglas White, 2018 + DISCUSSION with the filmmakers (26 MAR 20:30, ICA):
Iranian filmmaker Mania Akbari investigates the relationship between her physical traumas and the collective political memories of her birthplace.
FAUST d. Andrea Bussmann, 2018 + BEFORE MY EYES d. Lina Rodriguez, 2018 (27 MAR 20:45, ICA):
Andrea Bussmann’s ethnographic study of the local stories and myths of Oaxaca, Mexico is accompanied by Lina Rodriguez’s Super 8 evocation of Lake Guatavita, Colombia.
STILL/HERE d. Christopher Harris, 2000 + SUN SONG d. Joel Wanek, 2013 + DISCUSSION with Christopher Harris (28 MAR 20:25, ICA):
Christopher Harris’ moving portrait of urban decay in St. Louis, Missouri is accompanied by Joel Wanek’s love letter to musician Sun Ra.
A FEELING GREATER THAN LOVE d. Mary Jirmanus Saba, 2017 + DISCUSSION with the filmmaker (29 MAR 20:30, ICA):
An enquiry into the political activism of factory workers in Lebanon before the outbreak of the civil war in 1975.
Films by Bo Wang & Pan Lu (30 MAR 16:00, ICA):
A double bill of films by Bo Wang and Pan Lu exploring the colonial history and contemporary culture of Hong Kong.
Günter Peter Straschek – Early Films (30 MAR 12:00, Birkbeck Cinema – FREE!):
Part of a two-day focus dedicated to the Austrian film director and historian Günter Peter Straschek (1942–2009). This session will be the first UK presentation of his radical short films made between 1966 and 1970 alongside two short works by Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet.
SECOND TIME AROUND d. Dora García, 2018 + Q&A with the director (30 MAR 18:00, ICA):
A hybrid essay film focusing on Argentinian author, critic, artist and psychoanalyst Oscar Masotta.
THE JOYCEAN SOCIETY d. Dora García, 2013 + READING GROUP (31 MAR 16:30, ICA):
A film about the social role of art, based on the activities of a decades-old Swiss book club dedicated to rereading Finnegans Wake.
You’ll Never Work Alone: Celebrating the Feminist Film Collective (02 APR 09:30 – 17:00, Birkbeck Cinema – FREE!):
This one-day interdisciplinary public screening and symposium celebrates Cinenova, a volunteer-run, non-profit collective preserving and distributing the work of feminist film and video makers.
No Dance, No Palaver – Onyeka Igwe + LECTURE by the filmmaker (03 APR 18:30, Birkbeck Cinema – FREE!):
Artist and filmmaker Onyeka Igwe presents a trio of works called No Dance, No Palaver. The trilogy emerges from research into the Aba Women’s War of 1929.
BLACK POND d. Jessica Sarah Rinland, 2018 + LECTURE/PERFORMANCE by the filmmaker (04 APR 18:30, Birkbeck Cinema – FREE!).
Jessica Sarah Rinland’s Black Pond is an odyssey across a common land in the South of England told through the hands of the members of the Natural History Society who currently occupy it.
THE ESSAY FILM FESTIVAL
And that’s the meat of it…
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*THE SMALL PRINT: As accurate as we could make it. Apologies for any errors. Updates & corrections will be made to the online version. Event dates/times are subject to change by the venue/organiser. We try to only list events you can book for at the time of posting: however, some events may still be sold out. Please click quickly! We don’t filter by age/certification: all readers & subscribers should be 18+.