auteur, n. A film director whose personal influence and artistic control over his or her films are so great that he or she may be regarded as their author, and whose films may be regarded collectively as a body of work sharing common themes or techniques and expressing an individual style or vision.
“Running a film festival is about collaboration, bringing together the most exciting programme possible through the collective knowledge and vision of its curators. That’s how we do things at the London Short Film Festival. And, of course, filmmaking itself is an impossible art form without collaboration. However. To return to an anecdote oft-tossed about the LSFF office, when Harmony Korine’s film crew walked off the set of Gummo because “this kid doesn’t have a clue how to make a film” seems evidence to me that the visionary that helms the film is all important. Long live that dirty word. Auteur.
For 2018, the festival has delved a little deeper to dig out the auteurs lost along the way, that we reckon are due resurgence. Here’s a few personal picks of the one’s we’ve had our eyes on for a while (and that you shouldn’t take yours off).
I first saw Innocence at LFF 2004 and was struck by its Gothic mysticism, the fairy tale imagery and dark discomfort drenching its atmosphere, for me hinting to the disturbing coming-of-age tales tackling female sexuality of Picnic at Hanging Rock (Peter Weir, 1976) and Valerie and her Week of Wonders (Jaromil Jireš, 1970). I didn’t know of French director Lucile Hadžihalilović but research showed me that she’d worked on other earlier projects with Gasper Noe. It was a ten year wait for her second feature to premiere at LFF in 2015 and Evolution did not disappoint as a daring visual work, observing little fish-like boys being nursed in a strange coastal village. Hadžihalilović has a vision unlike any other contemporary director and it’s exciting to both showcase her work and welcome her amongst this year’s jurors. We’ll be screening her rarely seen short films andInnocence on the big screen from a 35mm print, both followed by a Q&A with the director.
In 1995, Welcome to the Terrordome was best known as a blistering track on the Public Enemy release, Fear of a Black Planet, but was soon to be followed as the first British feature directed by a black woman, Ngozi Onwurah. Onwurah had had some success with her short films since graduating from the National Film and Televison School in 1988 with her award-winning autobiographical short Coffee Coloured Children. Her work straddled autobiography, experimental, dance and drama, so the dystopian sci-fi Welcome II the Terrordome felt for some an odd beast for her to make as a debut feature, though its re-imagining of black history draws definite parallels to the personal undercurrent of her filmmaking. We’re excited to screen her shorts at this year’s festival with Onwurah here in Q&A, plus a rare cast & crew reunion screening of Terrordome from 35mm print.
A British organic hill-farmer, before Trevelyan bought his farm in Spaunton, North Yorkshire in 1974, he directed documentaries about the British landscape after graduating from the Royal College of Art in 1964. One of those films, The Moon and the Sledgehammer (1971), is quite simply astonishing, and a major influence on the observational work of later British filmmakers such as Andrew Kötting and Ben Rivers. The film observes the daily life of a self-sufficient family (a father and his grown children) who live off-grid in Sussex, and captures perhaps the final days of an English rural experience that goes back many hundreds of years and can never exist again in our modern world. Or can it? We invite Kötting and Black British photographer Ingrid Pollard to discuss pastoral experience and landscape in the 21st century, following the film’s screening.
It’s time the canon of cinema was re-visited - dominated by white, male, Western filmmakers for too long now, 2018’s a brand new year. In 2008, the 1973 Senegalese film by Djibril Diop Mambéty, Touki Bouki, was restored and claimed a masterpiece of world cinema. Fast forward to France in the 21st century and Mambéty’s niece Mati Diop is forging her own career as a filmmaker. Though known in France as an actress, particularly in Clare Denis’ 35 Shots of Rhum (2008) and Antonio Campos’ Simon Killer (2015), she has forged her own way as an artist filmmaker creating a series of provocative short films that we’re presenting at this year’s festival with our feminist faves, Bechdel Test Fest.”