Conversations About Cinema is a new UK wide project led by Watershed in partnership with Chapter Arts (Cardiff) and QFT (Belfast) that opens up debates and discussion through film. It is a response to a growing interest from audiences in talking about issues raised through film, and how they resonate with what is happening in the wider world today.
Ben Roberts, Director of the BFI Film Fund says,
'Giving audiences around the UK the chance to see inspiring films and then enabling them to get involved in active discussion around the important universal themes being explored here with filmmakers and experts, is one of the exciting new opportunities being created by the BFI Film Audience Network and supported by the Lottery.'
Beginning as a partnership between Watershed and Bristol University, the project has now widened its reach with support from the British Film Institute (BFI). For the next six months, Watershed will collaborate with partners across three Film Hub regions, Wales, Northern Ireland and the South West & West Midlands as well as the wider BFI Film Audience Network (FAN) to explore a specific theme: how film and filmmakers address the impact of conflict.
Mark Cosgrove, Cinema Curator at Watershed, says:
‘With conflicts continuing across the globe, the political resonance of film is becoming ever more significant as a mechanism for observation and reportage, a means to document, a medium for comment and protest, a tool for learning and understanding, and for opening up discussion and debate.’
Key moments during the season include conversations around a collective menu of films screening across the three partner venues starting with forthcoming portrait of 60s civil rights Selma. Dr Edson Burton in Bristol has curated a series of conversation starters from inspiring figures and experts in Civil Rights including Dr Madge Dresser and Labour and mayoral candidate Marvin Rees, whose commitment to social justice is informed by the work and vision of Dr Martin Luther King. Author, broadcaster and Chief Executive of Bristol’s Ujima Radio Roger Griffiths will be introducing Selma in both Bristol and Belfast, addressing what conflict and protest means to these two different locations in a historical and current context.
As a first feature film from a female director, the screening of Selma leads the programme into a later exploration of the role of women in film, and the role of the female in conflict, which culminates in March with a programme of films curated and introduced by award-winning Palestinian filmmaker and writer Annemarie Jacir (When I Saw You) presented in partnership with Bristol Palestine Film Festival. As part of this programme all three lead partners will be screening the feature film debut of female screenwriter Suha Arraf (Lemon Tree), Villla Toumaabout three Palestinian Christian sisters who’ve lost their land and status due to the 1967 war with Israel and their inability to face the painful new reality that’s been imposed on them.
More than 25 organisations are already confirmed contributors to the programme, with over 60 films and close to 50 special guests and speakers taking part over the next six months. Those 25 participating organisations include, International Film Festivals, Universities, Independent Cinemas, Community Groups and Social Initiatives – the far reaching programme will explore how film can be much more than a form of entertainment, and how it can directly address issues that are of personal, national and global significance. Leading academics, award winning filmmakers and other key experts will contribute to the diverse range of voices accompanying the screenings and events and will provide unique social and political commentary and insight on and offline.
'Film Hub Wales, with Chapter as its lead organisation, is proud to participate in the Impact of Conflict season, as it allows us to be part of a UK wide conversation exploring how the culture of cinema can stimulate discussion. The diverse program has been developed in partnership with the European commission, Watch Africa, Wales One World Film Festival and Cardiff University, allowing us to examine themes such as post-war European integration, liberation of African nations after the destruction of traditional empires, Iranian cinema since the 1979 revolution, Chilean response to the Pinochet coup and Wales after the 1984 miners strike. Through the project we continue our important work with independent exhibitors, whilst also generating a deeper level of audience engagement with the films on offer.' Claire Vaughan, Chapter
'Rather than telling stories about wars, we’re also interested in exploring how conflict has impacted on displaced people, refugees, women, those who are left behind and the soldiers as well … We’re trying to broaden it out from a purely historical perspective into something that is a little bit more about the actual people and feelings and how it has impacted on people’s real lives.' Susan Picken, QFT Belfast
Conversations About Cinema has a dedicated website which shares responses to the programme through the publication of curated writings, videos, recordings, interviews and live twitter feeds. By using #convocinema audience members can immediately join in the conversation through social media, and in venues audience members can interact and join in by sharing their reactions and thoughts on the films and posting them up on dedicated noticeboards. The Impact of Conflict programme runs until July 2015.