Monday, 30 May 2016

Rural Life on film: The past was another countryside

Haymaking in Trowbridge (1949)
The changing face of life in rural Britain has been captured by filmmakers for over a century. These stories can now been seen in Rural Life, a collection of over 750 films being made available to the public as part of the BFI’s Britain on Film project.

Rural Life reveals hidden histories and forgotten stories of people and places from every corner of Great Britain from the UK’s key film and TV archives. The films are available for free on BFI Player via an interactive map and will also be visiting over 125 locations around the country for special screenings and events.

Rural Life presents a record of Britain's changing countryside and its people, highlighting staple traditions like village pageants, farm shows and harvest festivals, Morris Dancers and Queens of the May. Rural Life also sheds light on local peculiarities such as Somerset's Punky Night lantern procession, Bacup's coconut dance or Ardboe's Wishing Tree. There are fairs, fêtes and festivals as well as countless other seasonal celebrations, while that great British institution, the village pub, features throughout.

Rural pursuits are captured in films about sporting events. Hunting (and hunt saboteurs) and horseracing feature alongside newer additions like motocross. Idyllic country holidays are captured in evocative amateur films, while travelogues offer enticing sights to lure more hikers and ramblers. There are also films exploring the varied history of farming and agricultural techniques, from sowing to harvesting. These are films that give a rich historical insight into the way we lived outside of big towns and cities, with landscapes and people who could have walked off the pages of Thomas Hardy, Walter Scott, John Betjeman or Catherine Cookson.

Viewers can enjoy a whistle-stop tour of Scotland’s lochs and mountains in 1924, learn about ‘Hot Coppers’, a 150-year-old-custom now extinct but once practiced in the ancient town of Beaumaris (1929), catch a rare glimpse from 1946 of the now globally threatened mistle thrush, explore Northern Irish with youthful Gloria Hunniford back in 1986.

Robin Baker, head curator of the BFI National Archive said: “These films offer an unrivalled record of our rural heritage in all its richness across the 20th century. It’s an immersive experience to watch them, and often deeply moving. People who live and work in the countryside will be fascinated to see how their forbears used to live. Like many other city dwellers, I was born and bred in the countryside, and this collection of films offers all of us an extraordinary and very real social history of the British countryside. It’s a very potent portrait of an often neglected cornerstone of our national life.”

Morris dancers in Berkhamsted (1950)
Anyone can explore Britain’s rural past through the Britain on Film map, which reveals films shot in almost every county. Since Britain on Film’s launch, over 6 million people have accessed their country’s film heritage through BFI Player and social media channels. With this new collection, there are now over 5,000 films to see online – 97% of which are free. By 2017, thanks to National Lottery funding and the support of the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, 10,000 film and TV titles from 1895 to the present day will be newly digitised and available to view.

Rural feature re-releases
The BFI will also release, on BFI Player as well as DVD and Blu-ray, Peter Hall’s unjustly neglected Akenfield (1974). The film features a cast of non-professional actors drawn from the communities of several Suffolk villages and traces three generations of one Suffolk family and their lives in the farming industry. Loosely based on Ronald Blythe’s acclaimed book Akenfield: Portrait of an English Village, the film offers an authentic depiction of country life over the changing seasons. 

The film will be released on DVD and Blu-ray in a Dual Format Edition on 18 July 2016, followed by a screening at BFI Southbank on Wednesday 20 July with an on-stage panel discussion afterwards. Three special screenings will be held at Jimmy’s Farm near Ipswich on 8, 9 and 10 July 2016 in the woodland ‘theatre’ with accompanying BBQ and bar.

Also being re-released are:
  • Pat O’Connor’s A Month in the Country (1987) adapted from JL Carr’s novel set during a 1920s summer in rural Yorkshire. Tom Birkin (Colin Firth, in his first lead role), a destitute World War I veteran, employed by a village church to restore a medieval mural. He forms a close friendship with fellow veteran James Moon (Kenneth Branagh). A Month in the Country will be released on DVD and Blu-ray in a Dual Format Edition on 20 June 2016.
  • Andrew Grieve’s On the Black Hill (1987), an adaptation of Bruce Chatwin’s novel depicting life in a rural farming family set in the Welsh Border country. It will be released on DVD on 22 August 2016

The BFI Film Audience Network (FAN) will be staging over 160 screening events in 129 locations.

Beyond the City (Northern Ireland) - Archive film of rural crafts and Northern Ireland will be shown with music at a number of venues over the summer including the Unesco Heritage site Marble Arch Caves and on an island on Lough Neagh.

Sensing Place (Scotland)- The Sensing Place project will work with archive film to explore stories behind the films and strengthen access and understanding for rural communities.

Made in Our Land (Scotland) - The project will access some of Scotland’s remote rural screening venues in the Highlands and the islands in order to screen local archive films with post screening discussion.

Cinemaes Eisteddfod (Wales) - Screening of Welsh language film from the archives and workshops at the cultural festival of Eisteddfod at Abergavenny from 29 July to 5 August.

Archive on Wheels (Wales and Western England) - A programme of rural archive screenings across Wales and the West Country will tour Agricultural Shows and Festivals. Archive on Wheels will visit agricultural shows throughout the area. Confirmed dates include:
  • 17 to 19 June – across three county shows in Malvern
  • 18 and 21 July – Royal Welsh Show, Builth Wells
  • 6 August – Oswestry Show
  • 20 August – Minsterley Show
  • 10 September – Kington Show
  • 17 September – Ellesmere Festival 

Sounds of Silents (Eastern England) – Norfolk and Suffolk: Archive film of rural Norfolk and Suffolk will be brought to life by a young, live band at the Folk East Festival in at Glemham Hall, Suffolk on 21 August and the Octagon Chapel, Norwich in October. 

Akenfield (Suffolk) - Sir Peter Hall’s film of rural Suffolk life makes its digital premiere at Jimmy’s Farm this July as part of a special weekend of archive film. Both Akenfield and Babe will screen from 8 to 10 July with accompanying bar and BBQ. Follow link for ticket information at 

Our Rural Heritage (Norfolk and Suffolk) - A programme of archive film showcasing newly digitised rural archive films will be screened across the Creative Arts East Village Screen Network and at rural focused heritage venues such at Gressenhall, Norfolk and Stowmarket in Suffolk. 

The North on Film: Rural (Yorkshire, Cumbria and North East) - A touring programme with film shows, screenings and events in venues from festivals to local village halls, taking place across Cumbria, Yorkshire and the North East of England to be announced in the coming months.

Central Shorts (The Midlands) - Short compilations of Britain on Film: Rural Life footage will screen before feature films in venues across Central England in the counties of Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Lincolnshire.

Moving History (Rural South East) - Compilations of films showing the changing rural landscape will be shown over a number of days at each of three County Shows and at the History of Hop Farming exhibition at the Museum of English Rural Life.

Equinox, City Farm (Bristol): In September focus on rural myths and legends supported by SWFTA archive at City Farm – a key rural venue in Bristol with archive being screened in a pig pen as part of an immersive walking trail of archive driving the audience to the Britain on Film map ahead of a ‘Wickerman’ and archive film screening.

Making Hay (The South West) - The South West Film & TV Archive will present some archive compilations supported by talks and music offering an insight into how we lived our lives across the rural counties. ‘Making Hay’ will tour a number of County and Country Shows across Devon, Dorset and Somerset between June and October. Confirmed dates include:
  • 1- 4 June – The Royal Bath & West Show
  • 23 July – Mid Devon Show, Tiverton
  • 10 August – Camelford Agriculture Show, North Devon 

Made in Cornwall – A distinctive Cornish contribution with edits of rural themed archive footage including sports and pursuits, aimed at young audiences, at a mix of Shows and Festivals across Cornwall including the Tropical Pressure Festival 15 to 17 July with a focus on films about West African and Caribbean immigrants.

Full details and how to book these events can be found at

BFI's new home receives £87m donation

The foyer of the new centre
An anonymous benefactor’s pledge of £87m has helped the BFI today take a major step closer realising its ambition to build a new International Centre for Film, TV and the Moving Image, which will cost some the £130m to realise.

The new centre will be the final piece in the development of London’s South Bank Cultural Quarter. The BFI hopes that it will fuel the imagination of both the public and industry by giving visitors new experiences in film whilst also providing a hub for filmmakers, artists and industry professionals to meet, exchange ideas, showcase their work and develop skills.

The centre will feature:
  • Three cinemas (800, 180 and 120 seats) capable of screening every format of film and digital 
  • Programmes of film, TV and moving image complemented on-stage interviews and masterclasses, world premieres, new releases, classics, restorations, film and live music events and presentations using new and emerging technologies;
  • Experiments in moving images, including a giant zoetrope, new camera obscura to the latest holographic and virtual reality storytelling;
  • An education and research centre that will be open to school groups, students and families with free access to the world’s biggest film collection, events and exhibition schedules and expert education teams;
  • A gallery space to present exhibitions, ranging from behind-the-scenes looks at how films are made to film ephemera such as scripts, private letters and photographs
  • Specially commissioned moving image installations from filmmakers and visual artists throughout the building’s public spaces;
  • Creative presentations from the BFI National Archive
  • A new home for the BFI London Film Festival, giving it a venue of international stature.
Josh Berger, BFI chair, said: “The UK’s thriving film, TV and screen industries are world-class, fuelled by the vision and imagination of extraordinary British talent who are evolving our art-form at speed.  As the new chair one of my priorities will be to drive forward the BFI’s new centre to provide the opportunity to showcase British talent, creativity and vision to the world. It will inspire the next generation of award-wining British talent, filmmakers and visual effects geniuses, and give audiences one of the best places in the world to experience film in all its forms.”

Amanda Nevill, BFI CEO, added: “British film and British filmmakers deserve a home now more than ever, a building that will express our optimism, our confidence and our excitement about Britain’s leading role in the future of film, television and the moving image at home and internationally. It will be a place where filmmakers and audiences will come together to be inspired by our creative legacy and to be part of this most fast moving, dynamic and popular art-form.”

The new centre will sit adjacent to Jubilee Gardens
The new cultural venue on London’s South Bank will be built on the existing Hungerford Car Park site and open to the public in 2022.

The BFI is working with other key landowners (Southbank Centre, Braeburn Estates, Jubilee Gardens Trust and Lambeth Council) and the local community to ensure that the development will be sensitively designed. As part of the development Braeburn Estates will also create around 6,500 sqm of new green parkland on Jubilee Gardens, extending the current space between The London Eye and Hungerford Bridge.

The centre has been welcomed by London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Leader of Lambeth Council Lib Peck. Mayor Sadiq Khan, said: “London is home to some of the world’s finest arts and cultural organisations, one of which is undoubtedly the BFI, an internationally renowned centre for independent cinema. These plans for a new state-of-the-art building offer a fantastic opportunity for the capital’s moving image artists. As well as strengthening London’s position as a global leader for the creative industries, the centre will create a new generation of TV and film lovers and give Londoners of all ages the chance to experience film and its amazing heritage in the UK.”

Lambeth’s Lib Peck said: “We are already very lucky to have the BFI in our borough, it offers our residents great opportunities for learning, entertainment and inspiration. This new centre will be a significant resource for our young people and I look forward to seeing it further inspire their creativity.”

The new centre will have a camera obscura
One of the ambitions for the centre is for it to work with the BFI’s existing partners to share content digitally across the UK through a network of nationwide venues that can also host touring exhibitions and programmes and develop pioneering in-venue film education programmes. This builds on the success of the BFI’s UK-wide strategy, including its VOD platform BFI Player, the BFI Film Audience Network (FAN) and a national film education programme through Into Film.

The centre has also been welcomed by industry figures such as Lord Puttnam, Idris Elba, Helen Mirren, Tom Hooper, John Hurt, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Tom Hiddleston.
  • Lord David Puttnam: “British film and TV is the envy of the world. We combine being at the forefront of the latest innovations in technology with a legacy of over 100 years of filmmaking driven by an extraordinary and seemingly endless pool of talent and creativity. Why then do we still not have a ‘home’ that reflects this? Tate Modern, The Royal Opera House, The National Theatre, The British Museum – every other major art-form have buildings to be proud of and which support their role in delivering culture to the world. This is what British film and TV have long needed and deserved – it’s also the initiative I've waited my whole life to celebrate!” 
  • Actor Tom Hiddleston: “I believe this is the most exciting cultural development to happen in the UK for some time. All the major art forms in Britain quite correctly have national homes except one: film.  British film - the tradition that has created and produced so much extraordinary talent both in front of and behind the camera - needs a national home, and the BFI is the organisation to build it.  The new BFI Centre would blow the doors wide open for everyone. Filmmaking is an art, a craft, and it's also a real job. British directors, British actors, British crews, and British films are famous all over the world. The new development will help to democratise and diversify the pool of talent coming into the industry.”
  • Filmmaker Tom Hooper, a BFI board member: “I began making films as a child and I know first-hand the powerful impact this medium has on young people who want to tell their stories. I couldn’t be more excited about a place that captures the magic of the movies and fuels the imaginations and enthusiasm of Britain’s next generation of filmmakers – the BFI’s new Centre promises to do exactly that.”
  • Filmmaker Stephen Frears: “When I was young, film was at the centre of the Universe. I learned my life from films. Anything that gives film the importance it deserves gets my support. Films are after all part of the export business. This new venture sounds great.”
  • Alexandra Shipman, BFI Future Film Young Programmer and BFI Film Academy Graduate: “Being involved with the BFI Future Film Festival and BFI Film Academy has helped me enormously as an aspiring filmmaker. I’ve learnt how to make films, had my films screened at BFI, and helped to plan events for other young filmmakers. The prospect of a new BFI International Film Centre with first class education and filmmaking facilities in London is really exciting

Edinburgh plans a widescreen 70th birthday party

EIDD artistic director unveils the 2016 programme
The Edinburgh International Film Festival will be celebrating its 70th edition with a remake of the Ealing classic Whisky Galore!, late night horrors, widescreen epics and a first look at the sequel to Finding Nemo.

The 70th EIFF will show films will showcase a total of 161 features from 46 countries, including: 22 World premieres, five international premieres, 17 European premieres and 85 UK premieres.

Unveiling the programme, EIFF artistic director Mark Adams said: “It is a real thrill to unveil this year's programme and I am looking forward to showcasing so many great films and welcoming so many talented filmmakers to our 70th edition. As always we like to offer an incredibly broad range of work to ensure there is always something for everyone – from mesmeric retrospectives through to absorbing new short films, to 130 new features from 46 countries, rest assured this year's EIFF will challenge, provoke and entertain audiences in equal measure.”

The festival opens on 15 June with Jason Connery’s Tommy’s Honour and closes on 26 June with Gillies Mackinnon’s remake of the classic Ealing comedy Whisky Galore! The EIFF will also host the UK premiere of the Disney-Pixar animation Finding Dory.

In a tribute to this year’s milestone edition, EIFF plays host to 70/70 Vision: a series of screenings of iconic films in their original widescreen 70mm format. The programme includes Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey; David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia; Jacques Tati’s Playtime; and Akira Kurosawa’s Oscar-winner Dersu Uzala.

Other classics on the programme include the Royal Scottish National Orchestra live performance of the score of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial live at Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre and the world premiere of a 4K restoration of Highlander, celebrating its 30th anniversary that will be attended by actor Clancy Brown.

The Best Of British strand will include 12 titles that will compete for the Michael Powell Award. They include opening film Tommy’s Honour, David Blair’s Blackpool-set drama Away; Charles Henri Belleville’s backpacker thriller Jet Trash; and The Library Suicides, the debut feature of director Euros Lyn, whose TV work includes Sherlock and Doctor Who.

The Michael Powell Powell Award for Best British Feature Film
  • Tommy’s Honour - Jason Connery
  • Away - David Blair
  • Brakes - Mercedes Grower
  • The Library Suicides (Y Llyfrgell) - Euros Lyn
  • Macbeth Unhinged - Angus Macfadyen
  • Moon Dogs - Philip John
  • Pale Star - Graeme Maley
  • A Patch of Fog - Michael Lennox
  • Pikadero - Ben Sharrock
  • Seat in Shadow - Henry Coombes
  • Starfish - Bill Clark
  • The White King - Alex Helfrecht, Jorg Tittel
There will be personal appearances by: US indie filmmaker Kevin Smith, director of Clerks and Chasing Amy, who will be showing his new film Yoga Hosers; Kim Catrall, star of Sex & The City actress Kim Cattrall; French actor Dominque Pinon, star of Amelie; and Jeremy Thomas, producer of films such as The Last Emperor.

The American Dreams strand will include: Rebecca Miller’s Maggie’s Plan, a rom-com starring Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke and Julianna Moore; Meg Ryan’s drectorial debut Ithica, about a teenager delivering telegrams during World War II; and Rod Burnett’s comedy The Fundamentals of Caring, starring Paul Rudd and British actor Craig Roberts, star of Submarine.

The European Perspectives strand features films by: Bilall Fallah and Adil El Arbi (Black); Florian Gallenberge (The Colony); Jihane Chouaib (Go Home); Björn Hlynur Haraldsson (The Homecoming); Kadri Köusaar (Mother); and Balazs Juszt (The Man who was Thursday).

The World Perspectives strand includes the European premieres of: Laos-set thriller River from Canadian Jamie M Dagg; Indian indie director Q's coming-of-age comedy Brahman Naman; Indian female buddy-comedy Angry Indian Goddesses from Pan Nalin; Jon Cassar’s western Forsaken, starring father and son Donald and Kiefer Sutherland; Diego Luna’s hog farmer comedy Mr. Pig, starring Danny Glover and Maya Rudolph; and Oliver Schmitz’s courtroom conflict Shepherds and Butchers, starring featuring Andrea Riseborough and Steve Coogan.

International Feature Film Competition
  • The Actor - Satoko Yokohama (Japan)
  • Brahman Naman - Q (Qaushiq Mukherjee) (India)
  • A Conspiracy Of Faith - Hans Petter Moland (Denmark-Germany-Norway)
  • The Fundamentals Of Caring - Rob Burnett (USA)
  • Go Home - Jihane Chouaib (France-Switzerland-Belgium)
  • Halal Love (And Sex) - Assad Fouladkar (Germany-Lebanon)
  • Hunt For The Wilderpeople - Taika Waititi (New Zealand)
  • The Lure - Agnieszka Smoczynska (Poland)
  • Saint Amour - Benoit Delepine, Gustave Kerven (France-Belgium)
  • Sand Storm - Elite Zexer (Israel)
  • Sparrows - Runar Runarsson (Iceland-Denmark-Croatia)
  • Suntan - Argyris Papadimitropoulos (Greece)

The Director’s Showcase will feature the work of various auteurs, including: Isabel Coixet (Endless Night); Hans Petter Moland (A Conspiracy of Faith); Arturo Ripstein (Bleak Street); Ira Sachs (Little Men); Guiseppe Tornatore (The Correspondence); and Thomas Vinterberg (The Commune).

The competitive international competition highlights filmmaking from around the world that EIFF programmers term “imaginative, innovative and deserving of wider recognition”. Returning for a second year will be ‘Doc of the Day’, a selection of documentaries supported by an event.

Best Documentary Feature Film
  • Becoming Zlatan (De unge Zlatan) - Frefrik Gertten, Magnus Gertten
  • Brothers (Brodre) - Aslaug Holm
  • Bugs - Andreas Johnsen
  • The First Monday In May - Andrew Rossi
  • Gary Numan: Android In La La Land - Steve Read, Rob Alexander
  • Homo Sapiens - Nikolaus Geyrgalter
  • The Islands And The Whales - Mike Day
  • The Lovers And The Despot - Ross Adam, Robert Cannan
  • The Pretty Ones - Melisa Liebenthal
  • Shadow World - John Grimonprez
  • Sick (Bolesno) - Hrvoje Mabic
  • Under The Sun (V luchakh solnca) - Vitaly Mansky
As the sun sets, attention turns to Night Moves, EIFF’s annual look at the chilling, bloody side of cinema. Screenings include: the World premiere of Nirpal Bhogal’s homegrown horror First Born; European premiere of horror anthology Holidays, featuring an offering In Person participant Kevin Smith; and UK-first showings of swords and skis epic The Last King from Nils Gaup; and Anna Biller’s sexploitation tribute The Love Witch. There will also be a screening of the 1973 Japanese cult anime Belladonna of Sadness from Eiichi Yamamoto, co-presented by EIFF and Scotland Loves Anime.

Cinéma du Look will see EIFF focus on the work of stylish French directors who dazzled cinemagoers throughout the 1980s and into the ’90s. The strand will show: Luc Besson’s The Big Blue, La Femme Nikia and Subway; Leo Carax’s Les Amants du Pont-Neuf and Mauvais Sang; and Jean-Jacques Beineix’s Betty Blue and Diva.

Audience Award
  • Adult Life Skills - Rachel Tunnard
  • The Carer - Janos Edelenyi
  • A Conspiracy Of Faith - Hans Petter Moland
  • The First Monday In May - Andrew Rossi
  • Forsaken - Jon Cassar
  • The Fundamentals Of Caring - Rob Burnett
  • Hunt For The Wilderpeople - Taika Waititi
  • Irreplaceable - Thomas Lilti
  • Ithaca - Meg Ryan
  • Little Men - Ira Sachs
  • Maggie’s Plan - Rebecca Miller
  • A Man Called Ove - Hannes Holm
  • Moon Dogs - Philip John
  • Mr. Pig - Diego Luna

Audiences will also be invited to trace the cinematic roots of the current wave of superhero blockbusters, POW!!! Live Action Comic Strip Adaptations: The First Generation traces the evolution of the live comic strip adaptation in cinema. It assembles cult titles including: Roger Vadim’s Barbarella; Leslie H Martinson’s Batman: The Movie; Mario Bava’s Danger: Diabolik; Robert Altman’s Popeye; and two rarely screened Japanese classics based on Manga comic strips, Kenji Misumi’s Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance and Junya Sato’s Golgo 13.

Other highlights include the launch of Filmhouse presents Adapting Miss Highsmith, a journey into the work of one of the most adapted-for-cinema authors of all-time, a project that will roll out across the UK post-Festival. The programme will feature an illustrated talk by Patricia Highsmith’s biographer Joan Schenkar.

There will also be free Film Fest in the City screenings in St Andrew Square Garden screenings for Film Fest in the City. No ticket is required to see the likes of: The Muppets; The Breakfast Club; Minions; Mad Max: Fury Road; Finding Nemo; Pitch Perfect; Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens; and a dance-along screening of Grease.

Whisky Galore!
Natalie Usher, director of Screen at Creative Scotland, said: “EIFF provides an excellent platform to connect Scotland’s filmmakers with new markets, raising their international profile. The industry programme offers a vital opportunity for professional exchange and dialogue, a chance to maintain existing relationships, initiate new ones and spark off new projects and ideas.”