Tag Archives: british film institute

Legacy Media Filmmaking Course 8 – 20th June: Apply!

TimReid_LegacyMediaInstitut

Multi-award winning and acclaimed Actor, Director and Producer Tim Reid will once again present a 2-week intensive filmmakers workshop in partnership with the British Film Institute. Reid, best known for his roles in the television series Frank’s Place, Sister Sister, and more recently Tremé, will host the workshop from June 8th to the 20th, 2015, through his initiative, the Legacy Media Institute (LMI).

This LMI-BFI workshop, unparalleled amongst the black British filmmaking community, creates a unique exchange where participants collaborate with top Hollywood and UK industry professionals to refine their filmmaking skills. Led by Tim Reid, multi-award-winning actor, director and producer, who will host the workshop from June 8th to the 20th, 2015, this two-week intensive programme will result in the production of a short film that will be premièred as part of the BFI’s African Odysseys event on 20 June.

Course Fee: £150.00 (includes African Odysseys event on 20 June).

To apply applicants must submit a CV and online links of examples of their work to LMI at legacymediainstitute@me.com stating their suitability for the scheme.

Please see legacymediainstitute.org for information on how to apply.

BFI brings in Deborah Williams to bring diversity to UK Film/TV

Written by Christine Eccelston-Craig
06.05.15

Deborah-Williams
The British Film Institute has finally filled its newly created Diversity Manager position; Deborah Williams will be managing the BFI’s diversity agenda as well as supporting the BFI “Three-Ticks” initiative. Williams has quite a bit of experience promoting equality and diversity in film and other denominations of the media industry where she previously worked as a Senior Officer at the Arts Council England. There; she was responsible for the policy and research of black entertainers and other ethnic minority groups breaking into the industry and how they were portrayed on screen.

The “Three- Ticks” rule speaks on three majorly discussed topics at the BFI, one of which being the efforts to highlight the gender bias roles in cinema, also the push to eliminate the racial inequalities in film including persistent stereotypes and characters based on alluded prejudice.

In addition to all of this, black British comedian and actor Lenny Henry has stepped up and voiced his opinions and has had a much supported ongoing media campaign, which aims to give more opportunities to young minorities with an emphasis on young black people aspiring to be in the UK film and TV industries. All of this will hopefully be achieved through the new diversity agenda at the BFI with strong leadership from Deborah Williams. I think the BFI’s initiative could eventually rub off on other film industry sectors and hopefully not just only within the UK. However the hiring of Deborah Williams in the first place was a good first step as I personally feel that we do need more black leaders in inspirational positions of power. Hopefully this could be the start of change!

Williams’ new role will see her supporting the new guidelines the BFI are implementing and will again hopefully bring about a change in the way many diverse groups are represented in the media. This will initially be through BFI-backed productions but will eventually need to expand to the wider industry. To break down one of the main criteria’s of the BFI initiative, they are striving for Diversity quotas in front of and behind the camera and more accessible opportunities of mobility behind the camera for blacks. It’s pretty obvious that being a young black British citizen trying to break into film or TV is very difficult and jobs are far and few between. Especially without being stereotyped and having to play a racially degrading character. I’d even say it’s equally as difficult for black women. Often represented as the damsel in distress, shockingly butch or as a sexual object. Women characters in the film/TV industry here in the UK are too often  based on male prejudices.

I feel the efforts the BFI are making to rule out this pattern and make it more of a diverse playing field is something that should have been implemented a long time ago, nevertheless it is a positive change. They are finally taking action and aiming to enable a wider range of diverse people to be at the forefront of cinema and terrestrial TV.

Deborah Williams has her work cut out and a lot of work to do to change the way the industry currently is but with her newly assigned role I’m sure she will do us proud (hopefully?).

So let’s sum this segment up, the BFI Film Fund has set up a criteria list, which any UK film productions applying for BFI Funding needs to meet, this includes ethnicity, disability, gender etc all in an effort to improve equality and diversity in film and TV industries. It is a wonderful concept and I commend the BFI for their initiative, however it should have been happening a very long time ago and we have seen initiatives like this before which have not amounted to anything and that’s why we are still in this position now.

12 Years A Slave on the March towards the Oscars

By Marlon Palmer
21 February 2014

The_Bafta_Film_AwardsFacesTo say that 12 years a slave was one of the success stories of the recent BAFTA awards would be an understatement. Nominated for ten of the major awards, the film won arguably the two most competitive; best picture and best actor, awarded to a jubilant Chiwetel Ejiofor.

The BAFTAs was once again a star-studded event with world-famous actors and actresses lining the red carpet. Names like; Angelina Jollie, Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Leonardo DiCaprio and arguably the most famous of them all, the President of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, Prince William turned out for another memorable evening.

With the nominations released back in early January people had been speculating for a little over a month about what films they thought would win the major awards. With 11 nominations, Gravity, staring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, who missed the awards as she was looking after her ill three-year-old son, was expected to clean up, and with six BAFTAs to its name by the end of the night that was the case.

American Hustle with arguably the most household names in the same film received ten Barkhad Abdinominations and three awards in what many would consider a good night, taking into account the competition. Unfortunately, for the cast and crew, critically acclaimed Captain Philips starring Tom Hanks, which had received nine nominations, picked up just the one award; best supporting actor, which was awarded to Somalian new-comer Barkhad Abdi.

 


A night that belonged to 12 Years a Slave

bafta awardsWhile 12 Years a Slave picked up one less award than American Hustle, many film critics believe that it had a more successful night. The film, which has also been nominated for nine Academy Awards, had been named film of the year by a number of the biggest critics in the British media.

However, quite possibly the most prestigious award Best Picture still came as a shock to the majority of people involved with 12 Years a Slave as Gravity, which broke box-office records, was almost expected to win.

As well as best picture, 12 Years A Slave star 36-year-old Chiwetel Ejiofor from Forest Gate won best actor over stiff competition in the form of Leonardo DiCaprio for The Wolf of Wall Street, Tom Hanks for Captain Phillips and Christian Bale for American Hustle.

12 Years a Slave was also nominated for the following acting and directing awards, best:

  •      Supporting actor (Michael Fassbender)
  •      Director (Steve McQueen)
  •      Supporting actress (Lupita Nyong’o)

12 Years a Slave was undoubtedly one of the biggest success stories of the BAFTAs. With the black historical theme of the film; black director Steve McQueen directing, and a number of very talented black actors in the main leading roles its surprising this film hasn’t been categorised as a black or urban film, as so often happens with other films with that make up of cast and crew conveying the black life experience. 12 YAS could now potentially go on and win a few Oscars.

At Kush Promotions, we are proud of the role that we played in the marketing campaign of a hugely successful film, a film which once again bought back vivid memories of the horrors and inhumane treatment of one branch of the human family, which should never been forgotten and should be once again use to highlight the continued present day trafficking of human life.

12 Years A Slave is still in selected cinemas – go see it if you haven’t!

Hey; spread the word: Kush hopes to confirm soon that we will be working on a new major black film based on an award winning Nigerian book that will be released in the UK entitled “Half of A Yellow HOAYS_Intl_QuadC_Awards_v5BSun” starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton and John Boyega (young star of UK urban film “Attack The Block”), this film will be coming to cinemas soon in March 2014.

Oh don’t forget to go see new comedy “Ride Along” starring my favourite comedian Kevin Hart and fellow star Ice Cube in cinemas on general release starting next weekend Friday 28th February.

 

Barkhad Abdi wins Best Supporting Actor at the BAFTAs

Director Steve McQueen & 12 Years a Slave wins Best Film BAFTA

BAFTA Highlights

The land still lies: Handsworth Songs and the English riots

Mark Fisher writing for ‘Sight & Sound Magazine’ reflects on a screening of Handsworth Songs, the Black Audio Film Collective’s 1986 essay on black Britain, in the wake of the new wave of civil unrest.

Mark Fisher
Updated:

Web exclusive

“I’m sure that a group of people who brought the British state to its knees can organise themselves.” So argued John Akomfrah, the director of the Black Audio Film Collective’s Handsworth Songs at a screening of the film at Tate Modern last month. Made for the Channel 4 series ‘Britain: The Lie of the Land’, the film was released in 1986, a year after riots in Handsworth, Birmingham and Tottenham. Not surprisingly, given that the Tate had convened the event as a consequence of the recent uprisings in England, the question of the continuities and discontinuities between the 80s and now hung over the whole evening, dominating the discussion that followed the screening.

Watched – and listened to – now, Handsworth Songs seems eerily (un)timely. The continuities between the 80s and now impose themselves on the contemporary viewer with a breathtaking force: just as with the recent insurrections, the events in 1985 were triggered by police violence; and the 1985 denunciations of the riots as senseless acts of criminality could have been made by Tory politicians yesterday.

This is why it is important to resist the casual story that things have ‘progressed’ in any simple linear fashion since Handsworth Songs was made. Yes, the BAFC can now appear at Tate Modern in the wake of new riots in England, something unthinkable in 1985; but, as Film Quarterly editor Rob White pointed out in the discussion at the Tate event, there is little chance now of Handsworth Songs or its like appearing on Channel 4 now, still less being commissioned. The assumption that brutal policing and racism were relics of a bygone era was part of the reactionary narrativisation of the recent riots: yes, there were politics and racism back then, but not now, not any more…

The lesson to be remembered – especially now that we are being asked to defend abortion and oppose the death penalty again – is that struggles are never definitively won. As the academic George Shire pointed out in the Tate discussion, many struggles have not been lost so much as diverted into what he called “the privatisation of politics”, as former activists become hired as ‘consultants’.

Shire’s remarks strikingly echoed recent comments made by Paul Gilroy. “When you look at the layer of political leaders from our communities,” Gilroy observed, “the generation who came of age during that time 30 years ago, many of those people have accepted the logic of privatisation. They’ve privatised that movement, and they’ve sold their services as consultants and managers and diversity trainers.”

This points to one major discontinuity between now and 25 years ago. In 1985, political collectivities were in the process of being violently decomposed – this was also the year in which the Miners’ Strike ended in bitter defeat – as the neoliberal political programme began to impose the ‘privatisation of the mind’ which is now everywhere taken for granted. Akomfrah’s optimistic take on the current riots – that those who rioted will come to constitute themselves as a collective agent – suggests that we might be seeing the reversal of this psychic privatisation.

One of many striking things about Handsworth Songs is the serene confidence of its experimental essayism. Instead of easy didacticism, the film offers a complex palimpsest comprising archive material, an empathic sound design and footage shot by the Collective during and after the riots. The Collective’s practice coolly assumed not only that ‘black’, ‘avant garde’ and ‘politics’ could co-exist, but that they must entail one another.

Such assumptions, such confidence, were all the more remarkable for the fact that they were so hard won: the Collective’s Lina Gopaul remembered that the idea of a black avant-garde was greeted with incomprehension when the BAFC began their work. Even the sight of young black people carrying cameras provoked bemusement: are they real? Gopaul recalled police officers asking as the Collective filmed events in Handsworth and Broadwater Farm 25 years ago.

At a time when reactionaries once again feel able to make racist generalisations about ‘black culture’ in mainstream media, the Collective’s undoing of received ideas of what ‘black’ supposedly means remains an urgent project.

In The Ghosts of Songs: The Film Art of the Black Audio Film Collective, the outstanding survey of the BAFC’s work that he co-edited with fellow Otolith Group member Anjalika Sagar, Kodwo Eshun argued that, for the Collective, ‘black’ “might be profitably understood… as a dimension of potentiality.”

At the Tate discussion, which he chaired, Eshun pointed to the use in Handsworth Songs of Mark Stewart and the Maffia’s dub-refracted cut-up version of ‘Jerusalem’: the track makes a bid for an account of Englishness from which ‘blackness’, far from being something that can be excluded, becomes instead the only possible fulfilment of the millenarian promise of Blake’s revolutionary poem.

The use of Stewart’s music also brings home the extent to which Handsworth Songs belonged to a post-punk moment which was defined by its unsettling of concepts of ‘white’ and ‘black’ culture. Trevor Mathison’s astonishing sound design certainly draws upon dub, but its voice loops and seething electronics are equally reminiscent of the work of Test Department and Cabaret Voltaire.

So much film and television now deploys sound as a crude bludgeon which closes down the polyvalency of images. Whooshing sound effects subordinate audiences to the audio equivalent of a spectacle, while the redundant use of pop music enforces a terroristic sentimentalism. By strong and refreshing contrast, Mathison’s sound – which is simultaneously seductive and estranging – liberates lyricism from personalised emotion, and frees up the potentials of the audio from the strictures of ‘music’. Subtract the images entirely, and Handsworth Songs can function as a gripping audio-essay.

Mathison’s sound recording equipment captured one of the most extraordinary moments in the film, an exchange between the floor manager and the producer of the long-defunct documentary series TV Eye in the run-up to a special edition of the programme which was about to be filmed in front of a Tottenham audience. The exchange reveals that it is not possible to securely delimit ‘merely technical’ issues from political questions. The producer’s anxieties about lighting quickly shade into concerns about the proportion of non-whites in the audience. The matter-of-fact tone of the discussions make this sudden peek into the reality studio all the more disturbing – and illuminating.

The screening and the discussion at the Tate were a reminder that ‘mainstream media’ is not a monolith but a terrain. It wasn’t because of the largesse of broadcasters that the BBC and Channel 4 became host to popular experimentalism between the 60s and the 90s. No: this was only possible on the basis of a struggle by forces – which were political at the same time as they were cultural – that were content neither to remain in the margins nor to replicate the existing form of mainstream. Handsworth Songs is a glorious artefact of that struggle – and a call for us to resume it.

Courtesy of Sight & Sound magazine 2014 ©

Sight & Sound Magazine: Film of the week: An Oversimplification of Her Beauty

A dazzling, deliquescent, take-this-heart love movie.

Ashley Clark


from our March 2014 issue

Frankly, it’s difficult to know where to begin when attempting to unravel the mysteries of Terence Nance’s unclassifiable debut feature, An Oversimplification of Her Beauty. Hyperbolic adjectives such as dizzying, effervescent, kaleidoscopic and exhilarating spring to mind but don’t adequately convey the craft and persistence that have gone into this confessional slice of (semi) non-fiction.

Broadly speaking, it’s about the vagaries of a romantic relationship seen from the point of view of its director/star, who plays a likely heightened version of himself (don’t we all when we’re looking to woo a partner?) and who winningly combines the silver-tongued charm of 17th-century metaphysical poet Andrew Marvell with the neuroses of Annie Hall-era Woody Allen and the raw-nerve open-heartedness of a Big Brother contestant in the diary room.Six years in the making – and finally emerging in the UK two years after its debut at the Sundance festival – it’s a colourful, diaristic collage of documentary, direct address, fictionalised memory, animation and diverse musical choices. Clearly influenced by the structurally elastic, meta-yet-heartfelt films of Charlie Kaufman and Michel Gondry (2004’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in particular), An Oversimplification is nevertheless a sui generis work so intricate that it possesses a built-in replay value. The one thing it isn’t is oversimplified.Yet it begins in straightforward enough fashion. A series of rhythmically edited handheld shots track the journey of a fashionable, impressively afro’d young man (Nance) from the New York subway system to his front door. The scene seems set for a low-key, observational drama about a striving urbanite, but the rug is pulled when the crisp digital image flickers with a conspicuously analogue fray, before pausing altogether.

This is the first of many playful formal tricks Nance will employ as he poetically reflects the complex essence of unrequited affection. A voiceover (delivered in honeyed deliquest by former The Wire star Reg E. Cathey) politely apologises for the interruption and explains that we’re not currently watching An Oversimplification of Her Beauty at all, but rather a short film entitled ‘How Would You Feel?’, made by Nance back in 2006. This film, we are told, will “examine how humans come to experience a singular emotion”. The emotion in question, we will soon discover, is love, and the object of Nance’s affection is his friend, collaborator and muse Namik Minter, with whom he shares an easy charisma but a vexingly complex relationship.

The ‘How Would You Feel?’ segment is a wonder of narrative elasticity, constantly folding in on itself to arrive at the same juncture: the posing of the eponymous question on the voiceover. Nance uses a second-person narration to offset the potential voyeurism of watching someone agonise over being stood up, and this helps to include viewers rather than alienate them.

The sequences from An Oversimplification of Her Beauty – so titled because Nance worries that he will reduce the complexity of his romantic interest in order to help himself forget her – offer Minter more of a platform (including a snippet of her own film). But Nance is under no illusion that this is a skewed portrait, referring to it as “one-sided non-fiction”. When Nance isn’t puzzling over Minter, he’s casting his mind back to loves lost, High Fidelity-style, but with the blokey, meat-and-potatoes lists of Nick Hornby’s universe superseded by sketches, doodles and photographs that morph into illustrated titles and trippy animations.

If such heightened self-referentiality sounds off-putting, it should be noted that Nance displays an uncanny ability to tiptoe to the precipice of maudlin solipsism and pull back thrillingly at the last moment with a rapier-like act of self-effacement, if not outright self-deprecation. It also helps that Nance is charismatic, photogenic and calm; one of the film’s consistent – if not necessarily intentional – sources of amusement is that the incessant flurry of creativity and self-doubt buzzing inside Nance’s head is offset by his languidly upbeat demeanour.

Consequently, the film is neither knuckle-suckingly excruciating to watch in the manner of Chris Witt’s tangentially similar A Complete History of My Sexual Failures (2008), nor overtly stressful like the claustrophobic self-excoriation of Jonathan Caouette’s influential Tarnation (2003). An Oversimplification is a joy because its creator’s romantic frailties are inextricably bound up with his restlessly creative art. Even when Nance’s words are morose, the pile-up of poetic, often hallucinatory images tell a contradictory tale: an animated tree blossoming into the shape of a beautiful woman’s face, a shot of the Brooklyn Bridge at dusk imperceptibly slowed down so that the passing sun-strafed clouds move to the rhythm of Nance’s voice. The images, and their rapidly changing forms, have a teasingly tactile quality, begging us to unpack and interpret them.

Nance’s film also offers a smart, playful peek into how the challenges of romantic communication have metastasised along with the rapid growth of technology. There’s a lovely blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment when Minter, in one of the film’s more obviously fictionalised passages, pauses to send a text message to Nance – one that will ultimately cause him no end of emotional confusion. The camera peeks over her shoulder as she signs off the message “I think I love you” – first with a comma as though she has more to say, then changing her mind and adding a full-stop. Finally, however, she goes with a question mark.

What’s the difference? Is there one? Why did it her take so long to decide? (Incidentally, there’s a very similar moment in Andrew Haigh’s Weekend, an equally tactile and perceptive film about fleeting love.)

Elsewhere, An Oversimplification of Her Beauty doesn’t make an explicit theme of ‘blackness’, so to speak, but is nevertheless refreshing for its cultural specificity. In one of the funniest moments, Nance laments his poor punctuality, and claims that he runs on “Afrocentric time”; this wry observation is matched with a hilarious hospital-set animation of Nance point-blank refusing to emerge from his mother’s womb.

The wacky, fluid and cosmic animation, which seems inspired by everyone from Jean-Michel Basquiat to Sun Ra and Barkley L. Hendricks, helps push the film into Afrofuturist territory (the term, coined by Mark Dery, encompasses the work of multimedia artists interested in projecting black futures). Meanwhile the flexible score – running the gamut from evocative, ancient blues to the subtle sci-fi soundscapes of experimental hip-hop producer Flying Lotus – pays aurally satisfying homage to black musical tradition.

An Oversimplification of Her Beauty is also plugged into a lineage of black-authored art cinema, from William Greaves’s playfully countercultural meta-vérités Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One (1968) and Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take 2½ (2005) to Wendell B. Harris’s tonally darker Chameleon Street (1989), with which it shares a relentlessly verbose – though never alienating – voiceover and an omnipresent sense of its author’s intelligence.

Yet perhaps most of all it recalls Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It (1986), which made an impression not just because it was funny and formally adventurous but because it focused on a topic hitherto woefully under-represented in cinematic terms: romantic relationships between young creative black Americans (for contrast, consider the geyser of low-budget indies in the past decade to focus on the emotional tangles of wan, pasty dreamers).

Lee was never so playful as in his debut, and save for a few little-seen exceptions along the way (including Barry Jenkins’s 2008 sober drama Medicine for Melancholy, as yet unreleased in the UK) the subject has remained more or less untouched. As such, Nance’s film feels like a long-overdue and utterly thrilling grasping of the nettle. It will be fascinating to see where this evidently talented, multifaceted artist goes next.

USA 2012
Certificate: 12A
Time: 84m, 19s
Colour [1.78:1]

Crew
Director: Terence Nance
Produced by: Chanelle Aponte Pearson, Andrew D. Corkin, James Bartlett, Terence Nance
Written by: Terence Nance
Inspired by: Namik Minter
Cinematography: Matthew E. Bray, Shawn Peters
Edited by: Terence Nance
Art Direction: Terence Nance
Original Music: Terence Nance, Flying Lotus
Sound Design: Vincent Wheeler
Animation Direction: Terence Nance

Cast
amalgam: Chanelle Aponte Pearson
Terence: Terence Nance
Mother: Vickie Washington
Aunt JC: JC Cain
narrators: Reg E. Cathey, Terence Nance, Onyinyechi Amanze, Namik Minter

Distributor: Of Her Beauty LLC
UK release date: 7 February 2014
oversimplification.mvmt.com

Courtesy of Sound and Sight Magazine 2014 ©

Find out more about Jean-Michel Basquiat on the artsy.net website (a site making art more accessible to all): www.artsy.net/artist/jean-michel-basquiat