So onto May and June which are always extraordinarily lively months in Edinburgh’s cultural whirl. There’s the welcome appearance of Hidden Door – one of the city’s newest festivals, now becoming an established part of the scene in its new home in Leith. Hidden Door has provided a fantastic resource for FEC student curatorial projects, ranging from Colombian cinema to Electric City, and for student researches – Steven and Carys produced an excellent analysis of its emerging role in the Edinburgh festival ecosystem a couple of years ago. It continues to stage all manner of art events, many with links to FECers past and present, and to host screenings programmed by great festivals like SQIFF and Edinburgh Short Film Festival. Matt Ross continues to manage to combine his part-time FEC studies with his role as theatre co-ordinator there; it’s that capacity to engage with different art forms and different artists that makes the festival such a productive part of the scene.
Opening up the Archive: Activism and Erasures
Outside the festivals pop up events and talks provide a diet of provocation and diversion. Wonderful then to head to the Art College for the latest in a series of events organised by Nina Halton for Scope Critical Group, a great initiative for discussion and debate within Edinburgh’s film culture. The well-attended event on Film, the Archive and Invisible Women featured Camilla Baier and Rachel Pronger presentation the development of their curatorial endeavours to rediscover and recentre women film makers from the archives. This extension of their fabulous FEC final project was previewing in Edinburgh en route to their featured talk at the EYEfilm Institute Annual Conference in Amsterdam.
It was inspiring to see Camilla and Rachel describe their identities as ‘archive activists’; to hear of their growing sense of the need for this work in uncovering and exhibiting neglected work; and to witness their joint personification of the combination of critical and research skills, advocacy, perseverance and blood-mindedness required to make things change.
Their new website outlining future iterations here
Increasingly the work that our FEC postgrads have been undertaking in their independent project research and their professional careers has been positioned around uncovering and bringing to light forgotten histories and marginalised voices in cinema – whether that be of small nations, minority languages, experimental and non-traditional film forms, stigmatised stories or identities. It’s a great thing to see this work bear fruit and enable these voices to be heard more widely. It’s also salutary when so much talk is of the absence of women from film to be brought face to face with women pioneers who were present and productive but whose stories have not simply been lost but erased. What might film history look and sound like when we take the time to put these works back in the frame?
A wee treat on the way to the Invisible Women event to bump into Mark Cousins, newly back from the success of his latest film The Eyes of Orson Welles at Cannes, and FEC’s own Lauren Clarke. As one might expect from festival directors past and future (read the great interview with Lauren and Femspectives festival co-founder Kathi Kamleiner in qumunicate magazine here
the talk over dinner was of festival politics, of inclusions and exclusions and of the ways festivals might use history to respond to our most pressing current issues.
And the sourdough pizzas were also great.
While Mark is a generous supporter of all the film teaching across Scotland, here at FEC we like to think of him as our programme’s unofficial patron. And our official inspiration – not least for the ways his own curatorial curiosity and inclusivity has opened up new ways of approaching film history. Mark’s encouragement to FEC cohorts over the years to creatively use and challenge their ignorance, to attend to their own blindspots, to go out and find out about the unfamiliar and undertrodden paths has been a key that has unlocked many doors into new territory over the years. Thank you Mark.
On the Way: the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2018
And yes, here it comes – the world’s longest continually running film festival about to hit Edinburgh with a bang for its 72nd iteration. We’re looking forward to its encounters with its own past in pioneering festival director Lynda Myles’ session on Women in EIFF and in its screening of Long Shot on the festival in the 1970s. The growing interest in the potential of these revolutionary times, when cinema and social change were passionately engaged and practice and theory hand in hand, was evident in Femspectives’ recent sell out event at Glasgow Women’s Library, screening of two of the lost films from EIFF’s 1972 festival – the UK’s first women’s film festival.
Also featuring in the Unlocking the Archive strand are a certain gang of current FEC students, invited by the festival to reflect on their experiences with the Lucey archive.
‘What happens when film students are let loose in the archive? A love affair ensues. Join students from the MSc course in Film, Exhibition and Curation as they discuss the creative process of transforming the archive of pioneering film maker and scientist, Eric Lucey into a cultural public event. The project is a collaboration between the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Research Collections and the MSc Film, Exhibition and Curation.’
Looking for Lucey is happening on Friday 29th June at 4.15 in the Filmhouse; to whet your appetite here’s an account of the progress of this love affair in the archives through the three public events which made up the Timescapes project.
Where’s Your Skirt? 24th June
Also worth a look at the festival, so the word on the street has it, is this curated programme of short films by an up and coming bunch of young curators.
This year’s programme, glorying in the anxiety provoking question ‘Where’s Your Skirt?’, continues a now well-established collaboration between EIFF, the UK’s film academies and MSc FEC. It offers a terrific opportunity for FEC students to experience the work of emerging film-makers from the UK’s film schools and to bring their films to audiences at a leading film festival. We are hugely grateful to EIFF for continuing to support this collaboration through their creation of space for new film-makers and curators, building the film culture of the future, and through their generosity in sharing their own expertise through recent masterclasses.
Fatemeh Motamed Arya
A wonderful opener before the festival was provided this week by a talk from EIFF jury member and legendary Iranian actress, Fatemeh Motamed Arya. Known to her multitude of fans as Simin, her filmography spans four decades of Iranian cinema. In an event warmly chaired by our colleague Nacim Pak Shiraz she shared her passion for the cinema of her own country; with its attentiveness to ‘humanity, relationships and family’.
In an event whose intimacy was only enhanced by the power failure that plunged us into the gloaming, it felt magical to sit in a room with young Iranian women describing how they had grown up with Simin’s films and how her ability to navigate a complex and challenging working creative life has served as an inspiration.
In between all their participations at the EIFF – as curators, volunteers, industry delegates, viewers – our students are also (or so they tell us) working on this year’s final projects.
Cara is enjoying her new position working with Indy Cinema as an embedded researcher; and both Anni and Amanda have been travelling Europe from Finland and France to Ireland, gathering material on exhibition practice. Other ongoing projects on sci-fi in Trump’s America; curation and indigenous cinema; exhibition, disability and inclusion; queer female desire on screen;
make it look as if it’s going to be another really interesting summer.
It’s always a treat to hear what’s happening with our far flung graduates. Please keep in touch, and we massively welcome anything you might want to write for the blog.
Richard Tanner is back from Canada and has just taken up a new post with National Theatres Live in distribution. Welcome back Richard and congratulations.It’s been great to see Richard’s research into rural cinema exhibition in Ontario find some new and receptive readers in the Scottish exhibition scene.
Out in Canada, this time in the wild west is Sonja Baksa, who moved there recently with MSc Film Studies graduate Leonard. Sonja is engaged in a range of creative projects, working with the Cinematheque in Vancouver, applying to TIFF, and dusting off her acting talents on a short film. Great to hear from you Sonja.