Saturday, 6 February 2016

Adventures in space and time with AL and AL

The Creator
Incidents of Travel in the Multiverse is a new exhibition of film, drawing, installation and live concert hall performance by Manchester-based artist and filmmaker duo AL and AL. Icarus at The Edge of Time, The Creator and The Demiurge will feature as installations at HOME, Manchester’s new arts complex.

The Multiverse is a scientific theory based on quantum mathematical reality, points to the probability that the universe may in fact be a small part of a much grander reality. Inspired by this concept, AL and AL have devised three journeys across space and time, travelling from the atomic scale reality of DNA into the mind of thinking machines in the future who believe the mathematician Alan Turing is their ‘Creator’, through to the point of no return at the edge of a black hole.

The first journey, Icarus at the Edge of Time, is a re-imagining of the Greek myth, where Icarus travels not to the sun but to the edge of a black hole. Suitable for families. The film is based on the children’s novella by American physicist Professor Brian Greene. The film AL and AL features an original score by American composer Philip Glass. Professor Greene will narrate the North West premiere performance with the BBC Philharmonic at the Royal Northern College of Music.

Icarus at the Edge of Time was commissioned by World Science Festival (New York), with the support of the Alfred P Sloan Foundation, Southbank Centre (London) and the Royal Society. Co-commissioned by Associazione Festival della Scienza, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Glasgow's Concert Halls. Icarus at the Edge of Time is co-presented with Contact, as part of Queer Contact Festival 2016.

Icarus at the Edge of Time
Originally commissioned by Cornerhouse and AND Festival in 2012 for the centenary of Alan Turing’s birth, the second journey, The Creator, sees thinking machines from the future travel back in time in search of their creator – Alan Turing, father of the computer age, who sowed the seeds for artificial intelligence.

The third journey will feature the world premiere of The Demiurge, which is inspired by Francis Crick’s Panspermia theory on the origins of life and the work of nanobiophysicist Bart Hoogenboom who created the world’s first ‘real’ images of DNA. In the film, a traveller who crosses the universe on board a spaceship populated by a thousand genetically modified female clones on a mission to find a cure for death.

The Demiurge is commissioned by Multiverse Pictures, with the support of the Wellcome Trust and HOME.

AL and AL said: “Every variable of everything that could ever happen has happened to us. To all of us. What is there beyond the universe? Another universe just like our own. And again another. And another. Leading scientists now seriously consider the possibility that the quantum Multiverse is real. We are lucky enough to be born and making art during what could be the most radical upheaval ever of our picture of reality since we discovered the Earth was not flat. So we made a sci-fi trilogy to explore this new, ever expanding territory and report back with our films. This exhibition brings together for the first time the results of our investigation, working with some of the world’s greatest scientists over the past five years. We have travelled across time and space, from the nano-scale of our own DNA through to the edge of a black hole.”

The Demiurge
Curators Bren O’Callaghan and Sarah Perks added: “We're so excited about revealing the vistas of the Multiverse and the amazing incidents and stories that are a part of it. AL and AL are absolutely HOME artists (literally, they are based in Manchester!) and yet internationally acclaimed; working across film, installation, performance, literature and technology. Incidents of Travel in the Multiverse has been in planning and production for many years and is a solo exhibition set to impact far beyond our own HOME. Despite the blend of science fact and fiction, the heart of this journey is very definitely human: although fragile and finite as a species, our ambition, zeal and capacity for dreaming far transcends the limitations of our butterfly-brief existence.”

AL and AL’s Incidents of Travel in the Multiverse will be accompanied by a new publication featuring an insight in the artists’ own words and images, recording the three journeys they have undertaken to create their sci-fi trilogy. 

Ian McKellen is bringing Shakespeare to the world

Richard III
As the world celebrates Shakespeare 400 years after his death, the actor Sir Ian McKellen is spearheading BFI Presents Shakespeare on Film. The programme explores on an epic scale how filmmakers have adapted, been inspired by and interpreted Shakespeare’s work for the big screen.

Shakespeare on Film, presented by the BFI and the British Council, incorporates screenings and events at BFI Southbank in April and May, UK-wide cinema release, newly digitised content on BFI Player, new DVD/Blu-ray releases and film education activity.

As part of Shakespeare Lives, the British Council and the GREAT Britain campaign’s major global programme for 2016, celebrating Shakespeare’s works and his influence on culture, education and society, the BFI has also curated an international touring programme of 18 key British Shakespeare films that will go to 110 countries – from Cuba to Iraq, Russia to the USA – the most extensive film programme ever undertaken. The BFI is also part of the Shakespeare 400 consortium, led by King’s College.

Ian McKellen is spearheading the project. He will travel around the world to present and discuss Shakespeare on Film. “400 years on, Shakespeare’s plays continue to dominate stages worldwide, mostly of course in translation, challenging actors, directors, designers and audiences,” says McKellen.

“The BFI’s Shakespeare on Film is more than just timely, it is a glimpse of the matchless collection of brilliant endeavour from world-beating Shakespeare experts like Laurence Olivier, Peter Brook and Kenneth Branagh whose films have popularised Shakespeare over the years. Their theatre-roots are evident. They have respect for the text and cut lines with regret.

“Other directors have successfully translated the stage plays for the screen, aiming, perhaps to make great cinema than great Shakespeare. Here, I relish Baz Luhrman’s Romeo and Juliet; Julie Taymor’s Titus Andronicus; Orson Welles' Chimes at Midnight, Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood and Ran. And there are more.  I will not be the only one to be grateful to the BFI for their initiative in this anniversary year.”

Ian McKellen explores the
BFI National Archive
McKellen’s career spans six decades and he has been performing Shakespeare on stage and screen for the majority of it: from breakthrough performances as Henry V and Edward II at the Edinburgh Festival (1969) to the title role in Trevor Nunn’s acclaimed production of Macbeth with Judi Dench in 1976 and the opening ceremony of the London Paraylmpics (2012) when he portrayed Prospero from The Tempest.

McKellen starred in and co-adapted Richard III (1995), directed and co-adapted by Richard Loncraine and co-starring Annette Bening, Maggie Smith, Jim Broadbent, Kristen Scott Thomas, Robert Downey Jr and Dominic West. The film will be simulcast, in partnership with Park Circus, across UK cinemas on 28 April with a special post-film on-stage discussion between Ian McKellen and Richard Loncraine live from BFI Southbank.

With the film set in the 1930s and shot largely on location in London, Ian McKellen will also be hosting public bus tours of the iconic locations in the film, from St Pancras station and Tate Modern to Battersea Power Station and Hackney’s haunting gas holders. Richard III is also being screened at BFI Southbank, will be part of the international touring programme and re-released by the BFI in a DVD/Blu-ray Dual Format Edition on 23 May, with brand new additional material, including new audio commentary.

McKellen will attend the Shanghai International Film Festival’s Opening Night on 11 June and take part in a special on stage event at the festival on 12 June. Plans for Ian to travel to other countries as part of the tour will be announced soon.

BFI head curator, Robin Baker, adds: No writer has had greater impact on cinema – or inspired more films. At the latest count, IMDb lists Shakespeare as the ‘writer’ of 1120 titles. For me the best adaptations of Shakespeare are those that have taken his themes, situations, characters or language and presented them in ways that are purely cinematic: from the immediacy of the epic, bloody battles of Branagh’s Henry V or Kurosawa’s Ran (King Lear) to the intimacy of the close-ups used in the love scenes of Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet. Film and TV makes Shakespeare’s work more accessible than any other medium and the BFI National Archive looks after the world’s largest collection of film adaptations of his work so I’m delighted that so many of them are going to be shared with audiences across the world in cinemas, online and on DVD.

A BFI Film Audience Network (FAN) UK-wide film programme, led by Film Hub London, will be announced in March.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

It's game on for London

London mayor Boris Johnson in Minecraft
London’s games and interactive entertainment industry is to receive a £1.2m boost with the launch of Games London, a new programme whose ambition is to help the city tap into a market that globally is worth around $81bn.

Funded by the London Enterprise Panel (LEP), Games London is being delivered by Film London, the capital’s strategic agency for film and media, and games trade body Ukie. It will build on recent growth in the games sector, which generated £2.8bn in revenue in 2015.

The three-year programme aims to capitalise on the Video Games Tax Relief (VGTR), which was introduced in 2014. It will attract investment to the UK and help London games companies businesses generate £35m in new revenue, adding nearly £10m to the capital’s economy, as well as creating hundreds of jobs and boosting skills and training.

The plan was announced via an in-game press conference featuring Mayor of London Boris Johnson in one of the biggest video games in the world, Minecraft.

Boris Johnson said: “London is already a star player when it comes to games and interactive entertainment, but international competition is fierce and we need to ensure our city can compete with our global gaming rivals. Through Games London we are supercharging an increasingly important sector for our economy, one that exemplifies the capital's reputation for creativity and innovation. From design to banking and civil engineering to film, games technology is being used in a host of different sectors.”

Dr Jo Twist, CEO of Ukie, said: “The UK is home to some of the best and most experienced games talent in the world and is already responsible for the most successful, innovative and creative global titles. This welcome backing from the Mayor of London for Games London will celebrate and highlight London as a key business hub for creativity and innovation in the UK, providing a crucial spotlight nationally and internationally to the games and interactive entertainment sector to those who may not realise what opportunities for investment there are in games. Games London will also celebrate and shift perceptions of games as a vital cultural medium, an important art form, and a key cultural industry.”

The Games London programme will deliver: A new annual London Games Festival - with the first taking place in April 2016 - to showcase and celebrate the industry’s huge cultural and economic impact; an international business-to-business networking event to attract top investment to the UK; inbound and outbound trade missions to promote the tax relief and the sector overseas; and a range of training and skills initiatives

The London Games Festival
The 2016 London Games Festival takes place 1-10 April. It will include 15 official events across 10 different venues in the capital. The festival will include already influential global events: British Academy Games Awards (7 April) and EGX Rezzed (7-9 April). New events include:
  • Now Play This (1-3 April): a weekend festival of games and play at Somerset House, as part of Utopia 2016: A Year of Imagination and Possibility
  • The Games Finance Market (5-7 April): An event that recreates the successful formula delivered by Film London in matching film finance to film projects during the BFI London Film Festival. The Games Finance Market will connect interactive content talent with global investors and partners from across sectors
  • LGF@BFI talks (4 April): The talks will be programmed and presented by London Games Festival in partnership with BFI Southbank
  • There will also be a cultural programme that seeks change perceptions of video games and champions the medium as a cutting-edge art form.
  • A London Games Fringe of alternative and exciting smaller events.

Games London is being led by Michael French who was appointed in September 2015. French has been working in the games sector for 13 years as a journalist and publisher, building brands and events that support and grow the games industry. Partners include BAFTA, London & Partners, Gamer Events, Somerset House and the BFI.

Andy Payne, chair of Games London and The London Games Festival, said: “London is the global capital of finance and can now be the global capital of digital creativity and interactive entertainment. The Creative Industries in the UK are world class, and the UK games industry is a key component of this winning sector. The London Games Festival with the financial backing of the LEP will shine the light on the UK’s talent pool and help the financial community understand the massive commercial and communal opportunities on show. For businesses of all sizes, access to finance is key, and The London Games Festival will deliver these opportunities.”

Adrian Wootton, chief executive of Film London and the British Film Commission, added: “London’s games industry is a hotbed of creative talent with a huge amount of potential to expand and grow, and it’s this potential we’re looking to harness with Games London. For more than a decade Film London has been working with the city’s screen industries, helping companies and creatives secure finance, forge new business links and take their rightful place on the world stage. By partnering with Ukie and expanding our remit we hope to encourage investment, boost the city’s economy and help open up new pathways and business opportunities.”