Thursday, January 29, 2015

Susan Picken explains ... Conversations about Cinema: Impact on Conflict season at Queens Film Theatre

Queens Film Theatre is curating a season of films under the banner of Conversations about Cinema: Impact on Conflict.

Earlier today, Head of QFT Susan Picken told me about the collaboration with other independent cinemas like Bristol Watershed and Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff.
The original inspiration was that the Great War was meant to be the war that ended all wars and very clearly it hasn’t. So we started thinking about how conflict had been represented in the interim in the history of film.

Really we’re exploring different manifestations of conflict through film. How different filmmakers have approached it. How the theme has been discussed in different ways, and not just in a Northern Ireland context but around the world.

Expect to see films looking at the aftermath of conflicts in Syria, Palestine, Rwanda and Bosnia over coming months.

I was taken aback by the story of Vera Brittain in Testament of Youth, the film which opened the Impact of Conflict season a couple of weeks ago. A story of a woman who experienced war first from the perspective of young friends joining up, before serving as a nurse, suffering the loss of her friends and brother before the end of the war and becoming pacifist.
Rather than telling stories about wars, we’re also interested in exploring how conflict has impacted on displaced people, refugees, women, those who are left behind and the soldiers as well … We’re trying to broaden it out from a purely historical perspective into something that is a little bit more about the actual people and feelings and how it has impacted on people’s real lives.

Four films are programmed in February looking at different creative approaches used by filmmakers to explore conflict, locally and internationally.

Bernadette – Monday 2 February at 6.30pm – a documentary by Turner Prize winner Duncan Campbell on Bernadette Devlin described as “a very creative interpretation on the documentary form”. Followed by a panel discussion.

The Act of Killing – Tuesday 3 February at 8.50pm – first screening of Joshua Oppenheimer’s director’s cut in Northern Ireland which explores the impact of guerrilla warfare and mass extermination and how the perpetrators come to terms with their actions.

Restrepo – Wednesday 4 February at 6.15pm – Tim Hetherington offers a glimpse into the war in Afghanistan from his perspective embedded with the Second Platoon, Battle Company, 173rd Airbourne Brigade for fifteen months. A Skype Q&A with Iraq war veteran Raymond Ranger follows the screening.

Waltz With Bashir – Thursday 5 February at 6.30pm – An animated documentary exploring the trauma of war and human right violations as Israeli director Ari Folman reconstructs his own memories of the 1982 invasion of Lebanon through interviews with fellow veterans and the massacres at the Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut.

It’s not all about archive; new films will be screened and tie in with the conflict strand too.

Selma – Friday 6 to Thursday 19 February – Ava DuVernay’s poignant and passionate chronicle of a tumultuous three months in 1965 including Dr martin Luther King Jr’s campaign to secure equal voting rights and the epic march from Selma to Montgomery which culminated in President Johnston signing the Voting Rights Act, a significant victory for the civil rights movement.

Huge budget cuts faced independent film organisations before Christmas. The new Stormont Budget has been agreed and while the final figures have not trickled down from departments to arms length bodies and organisations like the film festivals and Queens Film Theatre, the signs are that while there will still be a cut to funding but “it’s looking a lot more positive” and won’t be quite so severe.
But anything is an improvement on 50% of your budget being taken away. What was phenomenal and was really encouraging was the amount of response that we got and how people cam out to the consultation and supported everybody in the sector. I think it really shows that people do care.

Why support independent film and the wider range of cinema that independent cinemas like Queens Film Theatre and film festivals screen?
There’s a lot that people can experience and enjoy and learn from and be inspired by. There’s a whole world of film out there that you just don’t get access to … One of the joys of cinema is that it’s a communal experience and being with other people and it’s a shame that people can’t have that experience more often – which is what the Film Hub for Northern Ireland is trying to do – to broaden that experience out.

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