Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Digital film fund is bringing the past back to life

Coronation Celebrations in Burgess Hill, 1953
(Screen Archive South East)
Rare and long unseen archive film could be given a new lease of life through the latest round of the BFI’s Unlocking Film Heritage Digitisation Fund. Holders of British film and television items can now apply for funding under its final round of the three-year £5m National Lottery fund, which aims to digitise 10,000 titles.

At this stage £1.5m is available, with the maximum grant per application set at £100,000. The deadline for submission is 5pm on 21 August.

The BFI’s Unlocking Film Heritage (UHF) project was launched in 2013 as a key part of the BFI’s strategic plan to ensure that the people of the UK, filmmakers, educationalists, researchers and other users can access and enjoy the full range of screen heritage, regardless of where they live or where that heritage is held.

Heather Stewart, creative director, BFI said: “The UFH project is an astonishing opportunity to make some of the unseen and unheralded glories of British cinema available to the widest possible range of audiences. We are working with rights holders and partners to bring these films into the 21st century and stimulate a renewal of interest in our shared history as captured on film.”

The work has been divided into separate strands: 5,000 from the BFI National Archive and 5,000 from the significant public collections and rights holders’ collections in the UK.

The Way We Live, 1946
(BFI National Archive)
One of the main aims of the project is to make as much film as possible accessible to the widest number of people possible via the BFI’s VoD platform, BFI Player and through a range of educational resources.

A priority is to find films which meet criteria of public and cultural value, which have a strong audience appeal and make a contribution to a series of curatorial themes: in particular films which can be used to explore ‘Britain on Film’, or feature significant anniversaries, seasonal and regional festivals, customs and events.

Britain on Film is one of the largest parts of the project and will include films that have strong sense of place, revealing the fascinating wealth of British landscapes and architecture, in both rural and urban settings. Diversity in subject matter and material that will appeal to diverse audiences are key priorities. To ensure value for money in digitisation and consistency of technical standards, a network of partnerships with commercial providers has been set up.

The project has also seen the establishment of a National Catalogue of British Film, with every film listed being given a entry in the Entertainment Identifier Registry using a new international standard for film cataloguing.

The full guidelines for applicants are published on the BFI website at:

Race is on to bring Donald Crowhurst's doomed voyage to the screen

Simon Rumley's Crowhurst
Donald Crowhurst was a competitor in the first single-handed round-the-world yacht race, staged by the Sunday Times in 1968. When Crowhurst’s yacht was discovered his log and tape recordings revealed that he realised his state-of-art boat, the Teignmouth Electron, could not complete the circumnavigation so the 35-year-old decided to fake his charts, but gradually succumbed to insanity and apparent suicide.

Crowhurst’s story has been told on screen several times. The 1982 French movie Le Quarantiemes rugissants and the 1986 Russian movie Race of the Century were inspired by his ill-fated voyage. The 2006 Deep Water documentary about Crowhurst by Jerry Rothwell and Louise Osmond, which uses Crowhurst’s own tape recordings, was critically acclaimed.

There now seems to be a race on to deliver a dramatic version to cinemas. One version has just finished filming in England and Argentina, and another more starry version is underway.

British director Simon Rumley has just completed shooting Crowhurst, which stars Justin Salinger as the doomed mariner. The film is executive produced by British filmmaker Nic Roeg, who wanted to make a film of the story in the 1970s.

Rumley’s credits include Red, White & Blue, The Living and the Dead and The ABCs of Death, which won Best Film Awards at FantasticFest, Sitges and Fantasia.

Donald Crowhurst in 1968
“Crowhurst’s story is a tale of British derring-do which goes severely wrong and in this respect it represents the flip-side of the British Empire - a tale about adventure and exploration that was never proudly taught in history lessons,” says Rumley. “This, the bathos and tragedy of his situation, the self-imposed isolation and loneliness and the emotional peaks and troughs of the story all fit in very well with themes that I've explored in my previous films.

“To have been able to collaborate with Nic Roeg on Crowhurst is exciting beyond words for me. Not only to have discussed his insights into our script but also to have him help shape and influence the film, to encourage us to think laterally, boldly and uniquely is beyond a dream come true; I hope I do his inspiration justice”.

Crowhurst producer Michael Riley said: “It’s been a rather miraculous shoot. Simon’s vision is truly exciting - there’s a real mix of darkness, humour, intensity and intimacy in the telling of this most tragic yet strangely life-affirming story. Featuring an epic performance by Justin Salinger and filming in Donald Crowhurst’s actual home has given the film an incredible authenticity and power. I understand a number of efforts have been made to tell Donald’s story over the years, including one from our EP Nic Roeg, so I’m proud we’ve been the first to manage it, despite such a physically and emotionally challenging shoot”.

Crowhurst is a Great Point Media presentation of a Splash Page Media production in association with Sterling Pictures, executive produced by Jim Reeve, Robert Halmi Jnr and Nicolas Roeg, produced by Michael Riley and written by Andy Briggs.

The rival production is director James Marsh’s follow-up to The Theory of Everything. This production stars Colin Firth as Crowhurst and co-stars Rachel Weisz, David Thewliss and Ken Stott. written by Scott Z Burns, who has penned The Bourne Ultimatum as well as three Steven Soderbergh films – The Informant!, Contagion and Side Effects.

One Crazy Love to open East End Film Festival

One Crazy Love
British and international features, documentaries, shorts and a ball in a Masonic Temple all feature in the programme of the 14th East End Film Festival (EEFF).  The annual London event will present 18 World Premieres, 8 European Premieres, 20 UK Premieres and 16 London Premieres between 1-12 July.

The festival opens with the gala European Premiere of the romantic comedy One Crazy Thing, directed by Amit Gupta. The film stars and is produced by one of BAFTA’s 2014 Breakthrough Brits and EEFF alumnus Ray Panthaki, whose directorial debut Life Sentence won Best UK Short EEFF 2013.

“We’re delighted at the news of One Crazy Thing opening such a progressive festival that reflects the true indie spirit in which the film was made,” says Ray Panthaki. “I’ve personally had a wonderful affiliation with EEFF over the years. Having won Best UK Short there two years ago as a writer/director, it feels incredibly fitting to be returning as an actor/producer with One Crazy Thing.”

In the film Panthaki plays Jay, a former soap actor in famous for a career-ruining sex tape scandal. Now managing his parent’s Indian restaurant in a state of self-imposed exile, his appetite for life is rekindled when he meets Hannah (Daisy Bevan), an American musician with a refreshingly innocent view of the world.

31/2 Minutes, 10 Bullets
Another EEFF alumnus, British documentary filmmaker Marc Silver, will close the event with his follow-up to Who is Dayani Cristal? (EEFF 2014). 31/2 minutes, 10 Bullets dissects the aftermath of a tragic incident at a gas station in Jacksonville, Florida, in which an unarmed 17-year old African- American was slain over the trivial issue of loud music. EEFF’s Closing Night Gala is one of a fistful of festival documentaries probing the issue of race in America.

The EEFF’s commitment to home-grown talent sees its largest ever line-up of British cinema, with 33 titles including a London focus supported by Principal Partner London Calling.

Set on an economically crumbling stretch of British coastline, the World Premiere of Pleasure Island (dir. Mike Doxford) is a tightly sketched drama. The World Premiere of North vs South (dir. Steven Nesbit) features star-crossed lovers from rival families, northern and southern hard men, and a cast including Bernard Hill, Greta Scacchi, Keith Allen, Steve Evets, Steven Berkoff and Freema Agyeman.

The World Premiere of This is Not Happening, directed by Ewan Thomas, tells of a man’s struggle to reintegrate into normal life. The London Premiere of Norfolk (dir. Martin Radich) is a tale of revenge, family and elemental violence.

This is Not Happening
The festival’s Centerpiece Gala screening of revenge thriller Still (dir: Simon Blake) includes a Q&A with lead actor Aidan Gillen.

Features with local resonance include Panic (dir. Sean Spencer), an East End set story starring David Gyasi as an agoraphobic music journalist forced to face his fears. MLE (dir. Sarah Warren, UK) is a Hackney-set feature debut about a young actress in peril.

Austrian feature Where I Belong (dir. Fritz Urschitz) was shot in the East End, at locations including Mile End’s The Palm, telling the story of a woman who moves to England to escape Nazi oppression.

The festival’s award system is a vital part of its mission to discover, debate and develop new voices in cinema. The top award is reserved for the most outstanding film from a first-time or second-time director.

Last year Noaz Deshe won for his outstanding debut feature White Shadow, and as in previous years he returns in 2015 as director-in-residence. He heads up this year’s feature jury and, in a radical departure from the usual country focus, has co-curated a special festival selection under the title ‘Deprogrammed’. This is a series of screenings, discussions and audience manipulation to challenge the power of national myths, brutal cults and government mind control.

The jury also features Scottish novelist and playwright Irvine Welsh, British screenwriter and director Amma Asante, film director, musician and sculptor Viv Alertine, and British director and writer Ross Clarke whose feature debut Dermaphoria starring Joseph Morgan and Ron Perlman opened EEFF in 2014.

Everybody Dance
Other awards include the Accession Award, focusing on a different cinematic skill set each year. This year is the turn of Soundtrack/Sound Design, with the winner to be chosen by English singer and songwriter Frank Turner. New in 2015, the Rising Star Award will go to the best short film at EEFF’s partner youth festival Cutting East in association with MMBF.

The EEEF’s industry event Mind the Gap runs 29 June to 1 July. This year Mind the Gap focuses on filmmakers in transition between first to second feature. Supported by 3 Mills Studios these expert-led workshops run 29 June – 1 July. Running throughout the festival, the Genesis Speakeasy will the home of a daily filmmakers centre, a programme of nightly events and networking drinks, and a salon of UK premieres in conjunction with CINEQUEST festival.

EEEF’s shorts programme presents 57 films from around the world. The Reflections programme features a new piece by Gillian Wearing, Spellbond includes shorts starring Ben Whitshaw and Alice Lowe, while Everybody Dance is presented in conjunction with the BalletBoyz. The gender ratio is 60% female directors, 37% male directors, 3% female/male co-directors.

EEFF again fuses cinema and sound in multi-media events. The World Premiere of The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears (dir. Hélène Cattet, Bruno Forzani) features an original score curated by Ben Power (Fuck Buttons/Blanck Mass) featuring Blanck Mass, Helm, Moon Gangs, Konx-Om-Pax, Roll The Dice and C Spencer Yeh. This marks the festival’s first foray into record releasing, with this soundtrack available as a limited edition vinyl release.

The Masonic Temple at the Andaz Liverpool Street Hotel
A secret Masonic temple within the Andaz Liverpool Street Hotel will be the venue for screening of macabre movies presented in conjunction with Electric Sheep and Cigarette Burns. The films will be followed by ‘The Macabre Masonic Masquerade’, a night of immersive cinema and murder mystery masquerade including live performance and DJ sets.

This year’s EEEF is the first run by new festival director Alison Poltock and associate director Eddie Berg, formerly the BFI’s director of partnerships and director of BFI Southbank. Berg has been brokered EEFF’s first major sponsorship and partnership deal with new principal partner UEL (University of East London).

“The EEFF is now a major UK platform for audiences to discover the best new and emerging filmmakers from around the world,” says Berg. “Its location in London’s creative heartland gives the festival a distinct character and flavour, and over the next few years we plan to make the festival even more ambitious and inspiring by creating a deeper focus in key areas and by extending its activities in new and exciting ways. It’s great to be able to help something so strong and rooted become an even more essential part of the cultural life of London.”