Posts Tagged ‘human rights’

 
“War is partly madness, mostly insanity, and the rest of it is schizophrenia.”
– Don McCullin
 
McCullin
                                         Don McCullin, Grieving woman with young boy, Cyprus 1964
 

There were a variety of reasons to attend this week’s screening of McCullin at the Institute of Contemporary Arts. The ICA’s  preeminent reputation consistently draws in distinguished panels, in this case McCullin director Jacqui Smith and world-renowned photographer Rankin.

The film’s protagonist, Don McCullin, is hailed as one of the greatest war photographers of all time and the first photojournalist to ever be awarded a CBE – yet the subject’s credentials are only of secondary importance to the subject matter of this (undoubtedly soon to be award-winning) documentary.

For all the discomfort triggered by these photographs and their brutally vivid portrayal of humanity, the narrated montage delivers on the promise made by the beautiful and haunting opening credits: this is a film that will stay with you for a long time.

From his first time as war correspondent in 1964 Cyprus through to ravaged Vietnam and the Congo, via the Troubles and the fall of the Berlin Wall, McCullin has captured many moments that were to become seminal emblems of their time.

The exceptional editing skills of Andy McGraw and David Fairhead manage to tie together the abrupt rhythm of depicted events in a mellifluous fashion, and take us through history via McCullin’s own extraordinary history of being in the right place at the right time – an esoteric trick of the trade intrinsic to good photojournalism.

McCullin however never abuses this power: a video clip of his work in deprived areas of Britain (he himself was born in Finsbury Park in 1935) shows him tip-toeing around a man, making sure he’s not “bullying” him in any way before he snaps his photograph.

Throughout his career McCullin has shown the same sensitivity to the plight of the inner-city poor as to the victims of conflict and the soldiers ordered to carry it out. Representing atrocity is clearly as difficult a calling to him as it is one of tremendous importance.

His own on-camera musings, alongside an interview with Harold Evans (editor of the Sunday Times while McCullin worked for the broadsheet’s magazine), bear witness to this internal struggle and offer a first-hand account of war reporting amongst differently-minded peers and a changing landscape in journalism.

McCullin doesn’t come across as a comment on journalistic ethics, but if it were, McCullin’s own conclusion is that it is better to choose to be “on the side of humanity”.

The passion of the protagonist is reflected in the passion of the filmmakers. The incredible archive research – which took an entire year for only three days of shooting – results in a treasure trove of difficult-to-find photographs all available in the same place (for those photographs that didn’t make the final cut, they will be available on DVD upon its release in February 2013).

Such commitment may rightly be the product of McCullin’s own incredible dedication (which apparently outstripped his technical skills: he “couldn’t light his way out of a paper bag” according to Jacqui Smith) and his quest to “delegitimise war”, as described by Harold Evans.

Whatever the motivation the end result is the same: Rankin thinks McCullin is “the most anti-war film ever made” and his claim certainly holds weight. “I think we’re drawn to war as artists or communicators”, he says. “People forget that about photography: you need that element of humanity and empathy.”

It is perhaps lucky that the film was ever made at all, both on account of McCullin’s self-effaced privacy and his recent coming out of retirement to cover the conflict in Syria. All the more reason to watch it in cinemas while you can.
 

For news about ICA screenings and events visit their website. You can also follow @McCullin_Film on Twitter. 

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As this is the first post after a four month interruption, allow us to pin an event on the calendar which is four months away but worth clearing your schedule for this far in advance.

The Centre for Investigative Journalism has just announced the dates of Investigative Film Week 2013, taking place 15-19 January 2013 at both City University London and the Foreign Press Association Commonwealth Club in Trafalgar Square.

This yearly event, launched in 2010, showcases landmark documentaries and hosts Q&A sessions with prestigious directors and journalists from around the globe. Hot topics and controversy are always a matter of discussion, and as a member of the audience it is endlessly ingratiating to leave in possession of privileged insights into global headlines.

This year’s schedule is not yet available (check here on Film Watch or on the CIJ website for updates), so here’s a quick selection of the films they’ve screened in the past:

Toxic Somalia (Paul Moreira, 2010) – The best of investigative filmmaking, this documentary asks who is responsible for dumping barrels of nuclear waste off the coast of Somalia – a question which cost two Italian journalists their lives. The investigation into their death was reopened following this film’s release.

Iraq’s Secret War Files (Marc Sigsworth, 2010) – First shown on Channel 4’s Dispatches, this documentary follows the journey of the Iraq War Logs from the moment Julian Assange approached a variety of news outlets until their release to the public. Iain Overton of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism was there to explain the process of data mining a resource of nearly 400,000 military logs.

Weekly passes (£15 concessions or £25) as well as tickets to individual screenings (£4 concessions or £5) will be available to book here.

This week’s highlights:

  • 20th April – 3rd May: Palestine Film Festival 2012

See below for details of particular screenings and events.

  • 25th April @ Barbican: Promised Lands + The Beautiful Language (introduction by Ella Shohat)

A unique opportunity to view Susan Sontag’s 1974 post-Yom Kippur War documentary, alongside Mounir Fatmi’s visually groundbreaking The Beautiful Lanugage. Film scholar Ella Shohat will be presenting both films; catch her the following day discussing her book Israeli Cinema: East/West and the Politics of Representation. Tickets and information for both events which are part of the Palestine Film Festival 2012 are available here.

  • until 27th April @ ICA: Blank City

Fans of Jim Jarmusch, Nick Zedd and Gaspar Noe’s work, grab a ticket for one of the last few screenings of Celine Danhier’s 2011 documentary.  If you’re familiar with the No Wave movement, and more particularly if you’re not, this is a must-see.

  • 28th April @ Parsons Green: Film Fugitive Presents: Rear Window

If you’re not quite sure how an angel of the big screen (Grace Kelly), an unholy treatment of a terrifying subject (by Alfred Hitchcock), and painted glass and a pew (in St Dionis, Parsons Green) all fit together, why not find out for yourself? One of four pop-up cinema screenings by Film Fugitive for the Pull Up A Hitchcock Pew series.

For full programme and listings:

2012 London Palestine Film Festival

Coming up:

  • 2nd May @ ICA: BAFTA Masterclass: Cinematography with David Katznelson

 

This week’s highlights:

  • 12th – 15th April @ Prince Charles Cinema: Terracotta Far East Film Festival

The Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square is playing host to Terracotta’s third annual film festival. Lovers of extreme cinema and aesthetic perfection, check out this year’s full listing.

  • 12th – 15th April @ East London: Fringe!

Fringe! returns to various venues across East London for a second year running. The Gay Film Fest 2012 offers a more alternative selection than its BFI counterpart with innovative, outrageous and talented filmmakers showcasing films you’ll be sure to remember! Check out the full listing.

  • 12th April @ ICA: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised + Q&A

10 years after the coup which removed Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez from office, executive producer Rod Stoneman joins the ICA to discuss Kim Bartley and Donnacha O’Briain’s 2003 celebrated documentary in the present political context. Tickets available here.

  • 12th April @ Curzon Soho: This Is Not A Film + Panel Discussion

In what is surely one of the most important films of the year in the ongoing struggle of filmmakers’ right to freedom and freedom of expression in certain parts of the world, Jafar Panahi turns the camera on himself while under house arrest in Tehran in 2011. Get your tickets here. This is unmissable.

  • 14th April @ Rich Mix Shoreditch: Audre Lorde: The Berlin Years

Screened as part of Fringe! this exceptional documentary about an exceptional woman, poet, activist, addresses issues of racism and sexuality – but most importantly celebrates life and its diversity. Tickets available here.

For full programmes and details:
Fringe Film Fest 2012
Terracotta Far East Film Festival

Coming up:

  • 19th April @ Hackney Picturehouse: Empire of Dust (Bram Van Paesschen, 2011)
  • 2nd-6th May @ Rich Mix Shoreditch: Best of British

 

Continuing from last week’s interview with Olly Lambert, filmwatch.org will be delivering weekly Top Tips from a variety of people in the film industry, either speaking directly to filmwatch.org or as a summary of notes gathered from events and masterclasses.

One World Media ran the above event at London College of Communication on 3rd February as part of the International Student Film Festival.

Here are some top tips from the two speakers on that day.

Dominique Young (Al Jazeera English) – Dominique is a Senior Producer at Al Jazeera English, commissioning documentaries from Africa and the Middle East, for broadcast in the channel’s flagship documentary strand “Witness”, which showcases the work of established and emerging talent from around the world. (Bio from oneworldmedia.org)

  • Watch the channel and especially the slot in which you propose to show your doc: is the subject appropriate? Witness is about characters and individual stories, not issues; ie a doc about drought wouldn’t be appropriate, whereas a doc about a family’s life during drought would be. Also consider that a pitch announcing “my 19 minute doc” will be rejected if there is no 19 minute slot (Witness has a 30 minute slot).
  • Can the viewer recognise themselves in the persons depicted? The audience must be able to relate. It also takes years of experience to recognise a good, strong character and this is, for best or worst, a matter of trial and error.
  • Has the story been told before? If it has, you must be presenting it under a new angle.
  • When pitching by email: a commissioner doesn’t have the time to read 20 pages. When composing your pitch, think of a TV listing which draws in its audience in no more than two sentences. Include an attachment of your detailed proposal (one A4 page max).
  • When contacting a commissioner, you must know and be able to explain how you’re going to film.
  • If you’re a first time director, you’re unlikely to get a budget from a commissioner. It’s judicious to approach a production company that produce the same type of film and are more likely to take you on board; this also ensures that you’re not personally legally responsible for the budget.
  • A commissioner must trust your experience and background, and that you can deliver on time. Young herself worked as a researcher for years before commissioning.
  • When choosing whom to approach, consider that TV docs and festival docs are very different material: a festival audience wants to be there watching your doc; a TV audience might just be channel surfing. Global warming as a subject, for example, is appropriate for both, but will be treated in a different manner: for a festival doc, you might use a nice 5 minute opening shot (we don’t have to know what the subject is straight away); as a TV doc, if the intro lasts 5 minutes the audience will be likely to have switched channels.

 

Brian Woods (True Vision Productions) – Brian is a filmmaker who co-founded the highly regarded production company True Vision. He has directed and worked on a string of award winning films, covering human rights stories from around the world. His films have won numerous Baftas, RTS Awards, Emmies and One World Media Awards. (Bio from oneworldmedia.org).

  • Know where to look for stories. When Robb Leech’s brother converted to Islam, it was “a nightmare for him, a dream come true as a filmmaker” (My Brother the Islamist – BBC3, 2011). Another example is of a filmmaker who had kept in contact with a hospital’s press officer and heard that the first stalker clinic was being opened in the UK: she mentioned the idea and was commissioned straight away to develop it into a film.
  • Know who to pitch your stories to. There are several platforms for emerging talent, such as the 2008 BBC3 documentary scheme Fresh or Channel 4’s First Cut (Channel 4 Commissioning Editor Aysha Rafael has recently commissioned 12 new films under the scheme).
  • Keep up with current budgeting. Dispatches‘ 60 minute slot has been reduced by 30 minutes due to budget cuts. The average budget for Al Jazeera’s Wtness is between £23,000 and £30,000 for a 30 minute slot (this affords about 10 days of editing max). Commissioners don’t generally ask for a cost report, though some do! Bear in mind here is little money or no money when it comes to international development: rather approach NGOs.
  • Experience is key. Commissions are often based on the track-record of filmmakers. Commissioners will also more often select ideas from people they’ve worked with.
  • If you have little or no experience, there are three things you must have: a great idea, a great character, and actual access to that character (evidence of access is generally necessary, such as video footage of that person). A 3 minute taster should be all it takes to convince a commissioner: if a character requires a 45 minute taster introduction, they’re probably not such a great documentary character.
  • Persistence is key: even as a filmmaker of renown, it sometimes takes years for a good story to make the screen. Zimbabwe’s Forgotten Children (BBC4, 2010) was first pitched in 2004 and eventually commissioned in 2009. It went on to win an AIB Award and a Peabody Award.
  • Once you do have the attention of several commissioners, a good way to urge competition between them is to present a “letter of interest” from a different broadcaster. Make them fight for the rights to broadcast your film.

 

Next week: Notes from Sorious Somura’s masterclass

… or to be more accurate, Not A Review.

There are plenty of excellent reviews out there penned by people with a deeper understanding of Russian history, economics and politics than I can claim to harbour. This is to say, I know about as much about the subject as I do about analytical chemistry (though I am, somehow, familiar with the concept of mass spectronomy and the workings of Orbitrap technology).

What I can offer is a unique vantage point over a slightly disquieting (embarrassingly frightening, to be frank) experience of a Q&A session that left me wondering whether I’d stepped through a looking glass (the glass cage “protecting” Khodorkovsky during his trial, maybe?) and emerged into a thriller of my own.

Enter the protagonists: the audience. Oh, the audience! Due to my late arrival in an already-dark screening room I hadn’t taken in the assortment of spectacular fur-clad women whom I immediately decide are rich Russian exiles. Their striking profiles, an impossible combination of staid and fierce, mark them out against what must be the Lawyers and the Economists, their faces attentive and grave and their apparel very much fur-free.

Then: Cyril Tuschi, director. Upon introduction he smiles a withdrawn, maybe timid sort of greeting. His brief, unassuming way of first addressing the audience shows a preference to answer specific questions: we’ve just seen his work; he doesn’t need to promote or explain it.

The first question comes from a sharp, bald man in a black suit so remarkably lacking in features as to be incongruous. Tuschi has walked the length of the audience on the front row and handed him a microphone.

“Why do you think they haven’t killed him?”

A very good question, in point of fact, as to Khodorkovsky’s wellbein– well, being alive.

As Mr Tuschi works his way towards a hypothetical conclusion, Mr Suit works his way along the wall and towards the front of the audience, stopping a few feet short of Tuschi, his gaze locked on the director since… well, since we saw him picking up the microphone, at the very least. I’m doing some hypothesising of my own as to the nature of this gazing, when its nature becomes suddenly clear: a black object unmistakably identifiable as a gun has sleekly materialised in the Suit’s right hand; it’s pointing at Tuschi, and Tuschi is… walking towards it?

Why yes, he would, as he’s the one who handed it to him. The microphone, that is.

The fool’s shame I feel overrides any sense of relief, and if anything makes me more alert to my neighbours and my surroundings – a state of awareness probably aided by the fact that my heart rate has just enjoyed an impromptu pickup.

But of subtlety, there is very little to follow: a cordially opinionated lady hoards the microphone for a good while, as much for enquiry as personal comment, and proceeds to punctuate any further questions and answers (it’s necessary at this point to remember this is a Q&A) with exclamations that could be mirth and acquiescence as much as fury and disapproval. She’s doing remarkably well without the microphone.

Mr Tuschi, who is also doing remarkably well at being heard with the microphone, has just launched into a captivating and disturbing account of the film’s disappearance in Berlin. Speculation seems unanimous amongst the audience as to the culprits.

Completely unexpectedly yet somehow right on cue, a heavily-accented Russian voice at the very back of the audience, all the more authoritative for its low key and high volume, commands everyone in the room to “stay in your seats, you’re all under arrest!”

The joke won’t be on me, this time, and I patiently wait for something to break the palpable silence. The first uncomfortable chuckles come, I suspect, from the English amongst the crowd, who have rather mastered the art of Pretending Nothing Is Happening. It is soon overtaken by raucous and heartfelt laughter that reaches every corner of the room in different ways: for my share, this will always be the day I realised I don’t quite get Russian humour.

I don’t remember why Tuschi thinks his subject was never killed. I have the vague recollection that he might have admitted having no idea himself. Nor do I recall the exact circumstances of the film’s vanishment in Berlin. But the myriad intrigues depicted, surrounding a black-and-white animation of a character whose only appearance in the flesh fatefully happens in the last few minutes of the film, will leave me with the kind of sensations a film junkie lives to experience.

Perhaps one of the merits of Tuschi’s film is that the above divagations of my galvanised imagination made it possible to write this outlandish review at all: I never realised how drawn into this historical, political, and human work I was until I found myself incessantly pondering the fate of Khodorkovsky, or I felt a sudden and urgent need to devour every Russian history book available, or I mistook a microphone for a gun.

This week’s highlights:

  • 28th March @ Curzon Soho: Into The Abyss: A Tale of Death, A Tale of Life + Q&A with Werner Herzog

The acclaimed director offers us his observations on capital punishment in his latest documentary, as part of Curzon DocDays and the Human Rights Watch Film Festival. Tonight’s Q&A session predictably sold out weeks ago but you can find more information here. Further screenings to be announced shortly.

  •   29th, 30th, 31st March @ BFI: Jobriath A.D.

A highlight of the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, BFI’s Brian Robinson calls it “a hymn to the enigmatic, cult glam rocker Jobriath, ‘I am the true fairy of rock’.” Full trailer and tickets available here.

  • 31st March @ BFI: Future Film Programme

A collection of shorts by young filmmakers aged 15-25 as part of the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. More details to be revealed shortly and tickets available here.

  • Once Upon A Time In Anatolia @ Curzon Cinemas

Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s 5 star-rated film had me sold before I even read any of the reviews: the mere image of a group of 12 men including police, doctor and murder suspect, set against a desert landscape bodes well for the element of poetry percolating this thriller. Once Upon A Time In Anatolia is still screening at Curzons Soho and Chelsea.

For full programmes and details:
26th BFI London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival
Human Rights Watch Film Festival – London

Coming up:

  • 12th April @ Curzon Soho: This Is Not a Film (Jafar Panahi 2011)