Cinecity, The Brighton Film Festival

By Jason Wood


An Interview with Co-Director Tim Brown

Jason Wood: CINECITY is now in its fifth year. What were your original aims in establishing the festival?

Tim Brown: It’s now hard to imagine that Brighton & Hove did not have a film festival to call its own. We recognised that as a new regional festival it was in our own interest to try and offer something distinctive. Key for us has always been placing artists’ moving image/experimental cinema at the heart of the programme rather than leaving it on the margins. Of course there has been a real growth in artists’ moving image recently, largely concentrated in galleries, but generally UK festivals have been slow to respond. Whether its work made for the gallery or the cinema screen we welcome the cross-fertilization rather than the separate boxes of art and cinema.

Of course we present the mix of previews and premieres of new international features that an audience would expect but running through the rest of the programme we wanted a theme that was not restrictive, one that year on year would allow us to explore a wide range of moving image work. CINECITY at its core explores celluloid cities – both real and imagined – around the world. Last year we presented a programme featuring Shanghai on film and previously Nick Cave (Hove resident and CINECITY patron) curated a programme exploring Berlin’s unique screen presence.

hell-is-a-city-val-guest.jpgHell is a City, 1960

We also explore Brighton & Hove’s own distinctive screen heritage, from early pioneers George Albert Smith and James Williamson through to the great range of films shot here on location. Today the city is home to a thriving media community and the festival also showcases this work.

JW: What are your plans for the 2007 festival?

TB: At the time of writing we are still 10 weeks away so a majority of the programme is still to be confirmed. We present a focus on avant-garde cinema from Vienna with seminal figures Peter Tscherkassky and Gustav Deutsch presenting masterclasses around screenings of their work. Since 1996 Gustav Deutsch has been scouring film archives around the globe for his ongoing project Film Ist. Peter Tscherkassky’s works such as Instructions for a Light and Sound Machine draw their power through effects that can only be achieved by film and a radical manipulation of Hollywood material is central to much of his work. William Kentridge’s animated films Homage to Georges Méliès will also feature.

JW: How would you define the role of the film festival in today’s cultural climate?

TB: Film festivals can be an excellent way to showcase new work and to develop audiences for a diverse range of moving images, to help stimulate regional production and generally develop film culture; so it follows that every region should have at least one that does all of the above. With regional cinema audiences for foreign language films considered to be in decline, regional film festivals play a crucial role in developing audiences for such work across the year. Sometimes, given the pressures of an increasing number of releases and limited screen space, film festivals represent the only chance to see a particular title, and that is before you consider the films that are unlikely to get into distribution at all. Festivals have a duty to maintain a sense of discovery.

film-is-gustav-deutsch.jpgFilm Is, 2000

JW: What does the future hold for film festivals in the UK?

TB: With forthcoming changes in the UK film festival calendar - Edinburgh moving to June is sure to have a knock – on effect – and an increasing number of festivals across the UK, this is potentially a time of great change. Film festivals are by their nature complicated and expensive to present, they have to balance the needs of audience, filmmakers, distributors and sales agents, funders and sponsors – and have to create a balance between culture and commerce, between the films and all the red carpet hullabaloo.

While the regional screen agencies support festivals in their respective areas, those that have a broader international perspective and value often need more support than the agencies can give. With the news that the UKFC is to invest £1.5m in a UK Film Festivals fund, festivals across the UK will be eagerly awaiting the publication of guidelines and trusting that some of the money is earmarked for a range of festivals to develop strategically, and that it is not used mainly to enhance the already well established events in Edinburgh and London.

JW: There are those that claim the UK suffers from having too many film festivals.

TB: With a festival opening somewhere every day and all the festivals competing for titles there would seem to be foundations to this comment. There are arguably so many that any ‘wow’ factor is diminished. Of course, competition is healthy if it forces film festivals to innovate and really deliver for their audiences, their filmmakers and their other partners. There are an increasing number of specialised fests – with genre festivals and the like becoming a means by which they mark themselves out from the crowd.

CINECITY The Brighton Film Festival runs from 15 November – 2 December, 2007; visit Vertigo is the Festival’s media partner.