Anthony Killick, one of the organisers of the Bristol Radical Film Festival (25 February - 3 March), writes about how the festival aims to promote politically engaged cinema
In 2012 the Bristol Radical Film Festival (BRFF) had a hugely successful debut year. Screening some of the most politically and socially engaged documentaries from around the world, the festival resulted from the collective efforts and resources of university lecturers, students, activist groups and charities within Bristol.
This year the festival returns, warming up with a series of promotional nights throughout February. Its headline weekend runs from 25 February to 3 March. Five week night screenings in a variety of communal spaces around the city culminate in a weekend of screenings, workshops, talks and discussions at Bristol's independent, non-profit cinema, The Cube.
Despite cinema's history as a tool for education, agitation and social change, the majority of cinema today is subject to Western corporate dominance. Most cinema managers are more concerned with fast food takings than diversity in programming. The result is that our screens have become barriers rather than instigators of thought, gleefully perpetuating the status quo with a cycle of unimaginative rubbish.
Statistics show that "over a 7 year period (2003-10) the US market share in UK cinemas varied between 63 and 80 percent. The UK share (mainly US co-productions) was between 50 and 30 percent." Meanwhile Europe and the rest of the world combined held a market share of just 2 and 3 percent (as Ken Loach pointed out in his BFI keynote speech in 2010).
BRFF arose out of a desire to bring politically engaged films to places where they otherwise wouldn't be screened in order to foster wider social change.
Covering an array of struggles from around the globe, each film is followed by an audience discussion, strengthening audience participation. Our first headline event takes place at Bristol's Southbank Centre on Monday 25 February with a screening of "Muchedumbre 3OS", a film about the Ecuadorean coup of 2010, introduced by a representative from the Ecuadorean consulate.
The One25 Project, a women's refuge and support centre, hosts our second night on Tuesday 26 February. "The Shape of Water", a film that displays the innovative new forms of opposition used by women fighting destructive Third World development, is screening alongside the Iranian short "In My Country Men Don't Have Breasts". Our Wednesday 27 February screening, "To Shoot an Elephant", a Palestinian eye-witness account of Israel's 2008 "Operation Cast-Lead", provides a contemporary backdrop to the more recent atrocities carried out in December.
The festival unites a range of causes under the banner of class struggle, highlighting the particularity of injustices while emphasising their common roots.
This year we are screening two films made by workers' co-operatives that have struggled under different historical conditions. The Malcolm X Centre hosts our Thursday 28 February screening of "Finally Got the News", a documentary that reveals the activities of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers as they attempted to unionise auto-factory workers in 1950s Detroit. Meanwhile, "The Globalisation Tapes", filmed by Indonesian workers during their hours on rubber and palm oil plantations, exposes the role of militarism in building the "global economy", and is part of our series of headline weekend films.
For this year's festival we put out a call for short film submissions, and as a result four radical shorts by young filmmakers are to be screened on Sunday 3 March. This session will see filmmakers introduce their work, receiving comment and feedback from the audience. Combined with a workshop on the subject of making radical film, these two events are open to all those interested in film production in whatever capacity, and with any level of experience.
BRFF continues to forge a space of resistance to a film market dominated by corporate interests. It is up to us to create our own independent spheres of cultural production.
For more information visit bristolradicalfilm.org.uk