Volume 2 | Issue 5 | Summer 2003


Volume 2 - Issue 5 - Editorial

The absent image. The gestures that are not caught... This issue of Vertigo concerns itself with the ceaseless varieties of human experience – whether personal, social, political and even transcendent – and how individuals and groups have sought to deploy the moving image to bring such experiences close, closer to the viewer. How these experiences/histories and the insights that can be drawn from them have been bought into the light. From the un-scene to the seen. From the (un)real to the real.
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The Independent Film Parliament

By Holly Aylett

On July 12th 2003, Vertigo and the Cambridge Film Festival summoned both commoners and barons to the first Independent Film Parliament in Cambridge, to debate the state of British Cinema – both what we see and what we produce, whether in fiction, documentary or artists' film.

(Un)real Versions of Experience

By Metin Alsanjak

Nothing could better convey what was happening to Iraq during the invasion than seeing a correspondent standing with a microphone in their hand as bombs destroyed buildings behind them. This was one of the few events that had channels across the world showing the same image.

A Backward Glance at a Retrospective

By John Krish

The film historian and filmmaker Kevin Brownlow was entirely to blame. I was against it, sure no-one would be interested in a bunch of my old documentaries. Nevertheless, the National Film Theatre immediately agreed, later deciding to have five evenings of my films in NFT2.

A Snail’s Trail in the Moonlight

By Mark Webber

Brakhage, James Stanley (Stan). Died Sunday afternoon, March 9, 2003, about 2:10 PM Pacific Time at Victoria Hospice in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, after a brave and difficult struggle with cancer. His wife, Marilyn, was with him.

Adequate Imagery

By Paul Cronin

Born in Austria in 1922, Vogel has lived in New York since 1938 and is one of America’s most innovative film curators and historians. In 1947 he created Cinema 16, a pioneering film club aimed at audiences thirsty for work ‘that cannot be seen elsewhere’...

Against Forgetting Filming the Genocide

By Jason Wood

I am very proud of a film which I feel is able to take this event, that happened over 85 years ago, and situate it in the present day, and that to me was the challenge. I needed somehow to make it urgent and it had to deal with what I think is the defining aspect of the Armenian genocide – which is denial...

Another Country

By Khaled Ziada

Culture, as any review of the mechanics of imperialism throughout history will confirm, is of grave concern to colonial powers. To be successful, colonialism not only needs control of the land and resources of the people whom it wishes to dispossess or subjugate.

Bowling for Europe

By Holly Aylett

Fear spoke through the broadcasters at the Sheffield International Documentary Festival two years ago. Digital revolutions, competition from audience-friendly interactive projects, the anticipation of multiple channels streaming in material from the web – it all called for strategies of survival.

British Cinema – The View from Europe

By Ian Christie

I remember once taking the Russian director Elem Klimov to the Tower of London, where all the armour and weapons prompted him to ask what films we had about the English Civil War. Very few, I replied: perhaps only Cromwell, Winstanley and Witchfinder General.

Cinema & National Memory in Bangladesh

By Catherine Masud

1971: The Independence War of Bangladesh, whereby the then East Pakistan won its liberation from the dominant Western wing, now known simply as Pakistan. At the time, it came as a momentous event, resulting in some three million dead and ten million refugees...


By James Clarke

Like smaller streams meeting at a critical point, strengthening, deepening and widening, so too Borderlines, the UK’s first rural film festival, drew together disparate voices and films in Herefordshire and Shropshire during March.


By Gareth Evans

Watching Peter Todd’s new film, a three minute reflection on the varied cycles of daily life, in what have been described as ‘interesting times’, it is hard to ignore the heightened, exterior significance granted the images, an outcome the filmmaker, known for the long gestation of his deeply personal work...

Ed Lewis Remembered (1947-2003)

By Caroline Allan

In January the world of cinema lost a shining light with the sudden death of Ed Lewis, cinema programmer for London’s Riverside Studios and Bristol’s Arnolfini. Born in Bournemouth in 1947, Ed married Marion in 1964 and they had their only child, John, in 1965.

It Happened Here

By Richard Armstrong

The Anglo-Welsh border country is one of the most sparsely populated and under-facilitated regions in Britain. Whilst cinemas are rare amid the small towns and scattered farms of this largely agricultural land, nevertheless there has developed a lively film culture.

Lights, Camera, Military Action…

By Guy Westwell

In the last few years, Hollywood has produced a distinct and commercially successful cycle of war movies... These films work hard to renew America’s self-belief, to reclaim faith in war as a valid mechanism of change and to reassert American moral rectitude.

Local Heroes

By Mike Sperlinger

The teenager trying to be sick into the modest municipal fountain made me think of the words of the mayor: “for a few days the International Short Film Festival in Oberhausen is once more going to dominate the cultural life in our city.”

Mass Distraction

By Chris Darke

The Berlin-based filmmaker Harun Farocki is perhaps cinema’s foremost diagnostician of the image. Since the mid-60s he has produced over 60 works of different lengths and in numerous formats but it was the 1988 film essay Images of the World and the Inscription of War that established him internationally.

Mongrel Nation

By David Rudkin

Westward of the Worcestershire market town of Evesham one has a choice of two roads to the cathedral city of Worcester herself. By the direct, and busier ‘high’ road, along the steeper left bank of the Avon, one will soon thread through the handsome Georgian main street of Pershore...

Occupation Rough Cut

By Maysoon Pachachi

I’m an Iraqi film-maker, living in London. For nine years, I’ve travelled to Palestine to give short film courses and in June, I taught for a month at Birzeit University outside Ramallah. I arrived in a fragile mental state, more traumatized by the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath than I would have expected.

Reality Video: Whose Reality?

By Catherine Elwes

In the last few years, we have witnessed a convergence of documentary formats across television and the gallery. One claims to reflect the demotic impulses of mass media, opening up the monolith of television to the lives of ‘ordinary’ people, the other gathers interviews that collectively aspire to the status of art.

Recommendations from the Development Committee

By Susan Benn

The UK Film Council’s Development Fund declares its aims as designed to broaden the quality, range and ambition of British film projects and the talent being developed. More specifically, the aim of the £5m fund is to raise the quality of screenplays produced in or from the UK through targeted development initiatives.

Recommendations from the Production Committee

By James Mackay

Given the centrality of the principle of freedom of expression in a civilised society, we recognise the special value of cinema as a means of cultural expression. However, we note the relatively high cost of film as a medium of expression and the corresponding and ongoing requirement for public support.

Recommendations from the Education and Training Committee

By Clive Myer

The independent film sector has a special relationship with education. Many filmmakers are also educators who seek to develop film as a vibrant part of local and world culture.

Romantic, Beyond, Impossible and Heartbreaking

By Ian White

An open response to Tilda Swinton’s 2002 Vertigo address ‘In the Spirit of Derek Jarman’.

Ed Lewis: Programmer Notes

By Jane Giles

Ed Lewis’ programming was the stuff of dreams. Long after the ways of seeing and being typified in the 1970s-80s by London’s now defunct or revamped late Victorian-built single screen repertory cinemas such as the sleazy Scala in Kings Cross, the Electric in Portobello and Hampstead’s (c)oldest repertory cinema...

Terrence Malick’s Heideggerian Cinema

By Marc Furstenau | Leslie MacAvoy

In 1998, almost 20 years after the appearance of his last film Days of Heaven, Terrence Malick’s new work The Thin Red Line was released. It continued his ongoing philosophical project; indeed, it is a film that aspires to the status of a philosophical treatise...

The Film I Will Never Forget

By Catherine Fowler

Though her filming style may be described as ‘unobtrusive’, the aim of Kim Longinotto’s documentaries is heavily to interfere with assumptions we may have about women in a variety of contexts. In Japan with Jano Williams, she has examined the world of both Takarazuka performers and female wrestlers.

The Floor

By Reuben Lane

The carpet has been soaked in piss, melted ice cream, trodden-in with popcorn – sugared and salted. It has that tackiness that grabs at the soles of your shoes – a history of grime and stickiness – spilled Coca Cola and 7-Up.

The Hills Are Alive

By Kieron Corless

Visionary Landscape was a themed weekend event featuring film and video, music, performance, art installations and talks curated by William Fowler and Lux staff, which played over three days in May this year.

The LUX Is Open

By Helen de Witt

For one weekend in April artists, filmmakers, curators, programmers, lecturers, a couple of enlightened journalists and culturally adventurous members of the public beat a path to the RCA for the second DNet event, this time called the LUX Open.

The Persistence of Vision

By Peter Sainsbury

Addressing the idea of “the Persistence of Vision” seems a risky undertaking. On one hand, the phrase describes the optical illusion that makes cinema possible. On the other, it is used to suggest some kind of ideal, referring to a director’s vision, like a special and particular way of seeing...

Will the Real Reality Please Stand Up?

By Sukhdev Sandhu

British TV executives cannot bear too much reality these days. Book-buyers are turning in greater numbers than ever to non-fiction – from histories of cod and orchidaceous flowers to the bracing, muck-raking polemics of Eric Schlosser, Barbara Ehrenreich and Gregory Palast.

Recommendations from the Exhibition and Distribution Committee

By Helen de Witt

This is a time of significant change for the exhibition and distribution of independent and specialised films. Commercial exhibition of specialised titles has increased which has changed release patterns for some distributors and affected product availability for some independent exhibitors.


This is a time of significant change for the exhibition and distribution of independent and specialised* films. Commercial exhibition of specialised titles has increased which has changed release patterns for some distributors and affected product availability for some independent exhibitors.


The UK Film Council is on the verge of initiating its financial support for specialised titles. In addition it will soon be unveiling its plans for exhibition, putting some 15 million pounds into improving the exhibition potential of specialised films. However, the British Film Institute has closed down its Programme Unit, effectively leaving twenty independent exhibitors without collective representation to distributors. With all these policy changes and with digital delivery on the horizon, it was an important moment to ask what kind of independent film sector we want in the country and how best exhibitors and distributors can work together to achieve this.


The following is a summary of the Committee’s key observations and recommendations.


1 UK Film Council’s Digital Exhibition initiative

The Committee broadly welcomed the Uk Film Council’s digital exhibition initiative. The new state-of-the-art digital delivery system would allow a greater range of films to be shown. The cheaper digital format would enable distributors to take a greater range of titles as P&A costs would be greatly reduced. The financial and screen allocation terms of the proposed agreement were accepted.


The new technology would make access for hearing- and sight-impaired audiences much easier and would ensure cinemas complied with the Disability Discrimination Act, 2004.


It was stated that the system needed to be compliant with formats being handled by the major sales agents, and that this was not currently the case.


Release patterns needed seriously to be considered as saturation release could push smaller titles out of the market. Sometimes exclusivity was the best way initially to release a film, allowing word-of-mouth to build.


Despite enthusiasm for the digital initiative, the Committee regretted the UK Film Council’s decision not to allocate any Arts Council Lottery capital funding towards either the building of new screens or refurbishing of venues. Additional screens for single screen venues are in many cases vital for their survival and many parts of the country (for example, Cirencester) are without any cinema provision at all and planned building may not now be able to go ahead. The committee called on the Film Council to make capital funds available for this work.


2 UK Film Council’s Distribution Fund for P&A support

The UK Film Council’s Distribution Fund for P&A support was enthusiastically welcomed by the Committee. However, clear guidelines were called for as to which titles could qualify. The committee called for the eligibility of print releases of under ten to qualify, in addition to those of 40 or 50 currently being considered.


3 Opening Weekend

The Committee expressed concern over the cultural and financial implications for specialist exhibition trends if they follow the American mainstream practice focused on a film having to be successful on its opening weekend. Specialist titles often depend on word-of-mouth-to build and this opportunity could be denied them if exhibitors chose to take them off too early.


Commercial cinemas

The distributors were happy to report that unlike the historical situation described in Michal Chanan’s paper The Chronic Crisis of British Cinema (Wallflower Press 2003, see Editorial page), they were not being blocked out of commercial cinema chains in preference to American, mainstream films. On the contrary, all commercial exhibitors, and in particular UGC, were supportive of their work, often taking up new initiatives and breaking traditional release patterns in order to allow the films to perform well.


Although certain independent exhibitors had felt pressure at the box office due to the opening of local commercial cinema, the Glasgow Film Theatre expressed that being down the road from the UK’s most successful cinema, the UGC Glasgow (2m annual admissions), had actually increased audiences for them in the long term and enabled them to broaden the range of films they offered.


Nevertheless, it still fell to the independent cinemas to build audiences for the future through outreach and education programmes, that the commercial cinemas then benefited from. The Committee called on the Film Council to encourage commercial cinemas to engage in audience development programmes.


5 Festivals

The Committee called on the Film Council for greater support for film festivals and touring programmes. Often these are the only way for films that do not achieve commercial distribution to reach audiences. They need adequate support in order to be successful as box office income is not sufficient to cover the large costs involved in hiring and transporting prints internationally. The Committee called on the Film Council to re-establish the national film festival fund.


There was a call for more initiatives to support children’s films and particularly children’s film festivals. Currently there is no children’s film festival in the south of England and few opportunities to see any children’s films other than those from Disney and DreamWorks.


The Committee called for greater co-operation between UK film festivals and European festivals through the European co-ordination of film festivals, in order to explore international partnerships/initiatives.


6 Lobbying and Advocacy

The Committee realised that, as well as continued lobbying of the Film Council and the DCMS, exhibitors and distributors need to apply pressure to local and regional bodies, including local authorities and Regional Development Agencies, in order for them to take seriously their responsibility for the development of new cinemas in their areas.


* The term ‘specialised film’ is used to mean art house or cultural film and is in line with the Film Council definition of specialised film, which includes world cinema; archive films; shorts; documentaries; culturally diverse films and so on.






To the Independent Film Parliament

By Alex Cox

It is interesting to observe that the Film Council, which last year failed to spend £73 million of Lottery money, has just spent a bit of dosh re-branding itself. Out goes the old, un-kool and decidedly retro Film Council. In comes the new, exciting, twenty-first century ‘UK Film Council’...

Try to Praise the Mutliated World

By Adam Zagajewski

Try to praise the mutlate world.
Remember June's long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of wine, the dew.

Volume 2 - Issue 5 - Summer 2003

This issue is dedicated to the memory of Stan Brakhage and Ed Lewis

Managing Editor: Holly Aylett
Editor: Gareth Evans
Editorial Assistant: Metin Alsanjak
Events Producer:  Di Robson
Production Assistant: Tatiana Vargas

Editorial Board: John Akomfrah, Michael Chanan, Gareth Evans, James Leahy, Thessa Mooij, Hannah Patterson, Julian Petley

Advisory Network: John Akomfrah, Asu Aksoy, Yossi Bal, Gill Branston, Robert Chilcott, Don Coutts, Margaret Dickinson, Kate Elwes, Alan Fountain, Catherine Fowler, Keith Griffiths, Sylvia Harvey, Judith Higginbotham, Asif Kapadia, Ruth Lingford, Sara McCarthy, Martin McLoone, Robin Macpherson, Kevin Rockett, Keith Shiri, Richard Taylor, Lana Turner, Sarah Turner, Nick Walker

Original Print Design: Steve Chard, 4i Group (T. 020 7439 4399)

Printed by: Yale Press (T. 020 8656 9655)

With Special Thanks to: Martin Ayres at Screen East; Roy Battersby; Sarah Bemand; Susan Benn; Jacques Bidou; Marilyn Brakhage; Leah Byrne (ACE); Fred Camper; Manuela Cara; Peter Chappell; Ian Christie; Stephen Clearly; Pete Cook & CUMIS; Alex Cox; Roger Crittenden; Stanley Donwood; Tod Davies; Helen de Witt; Helen Dugdale (SIDF); Simon Field; 4iGroup; Patrick Fraser; Lars Henrik Gass; Jane Giles; Tony Grisoni; Sandra Hebron; Maren Hobein; Maggi Hunt; ICA Press Office; Becky Innes & Rebekah Poulding and all at Camridge Film Festival; Mark Jones; Tony Jones (City Screen); Justin Krish; Anne Marie Luccioni; Lux; Angeli Macfarlane; James Mackay; Jo Maurice & Tina McFarling (Film Council); Shira Macleod; Betrand Moullier; Clive Myler; Sabine Niewalda; The OTHER Cinema; Nik Powell; Emma Sangster; Hannah Smith; Peter Everard Smith; Sylvia Stephens & Faction Films; Serpentine Gallery Press Office; Gary Thomas (ACE); Carole Tongue; Janice Turner; Sheila Whittaker; Clare Wilford; Jason Wood (City Screen); Florian Wuest.

Original Print Edition published with financial assistance from: Arts Council England, Film Council