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Essay Film Festival to return with tributes to three major practitioners

The fourth Essay Film Festival will highlight three longstanding practitioners of the form: Jef Cornelis, Vivienne Dick and Mani Kaul. The Festival is presented in partnership between the ICA and Birkbeck.

A screening at last year's Essay Film Festival

The Essay Film Festival is returning for its fourth year, to be held at Birkbeck, the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) and the French Institute from 21-29 March 2018. It will highlight tributes to three longstanding practitioners of the form: Jef Cornelis and Vivienne Dick, who will both be present at the festival, and Mani Kaul, who passed away in 2011.

Cornelis’s work for Belgian public television has explored the social, political and cultural life of Belgium going back to the 1960s, with a special interest in architecture, urbanism and public spaces, alongside literature, music and the visual arts. Cornelis’s work will be celebrated with a day-long event combining screenings, discussion and invited speakers.

Dick is a legendary figure in experimental and independent filmmaking whose wide-ranging oeuvre fuses elements of performance, documentary, and home movies, in order to engage with important political issues of the day and to raise big philosophical questions about what it means to be human in a world dominated by consumption, conflict and technology. Vivienne will join the festival to show some of her most recent films and to discuss her career with fellow experimental artist Bev Zalcock.

Kaul’s beautiful films engage with key aspects of Indian society and cultural traditions, including the role of women in modern India, and the ancient traditions of terracotta pottery and classical music. Kaul’s work will be explored through three screenings and a one-day symposium.

Matthew Barrington, Manager of the Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image (BIMI) and one of the festival curators, said: “The essay film combines the best qualities of the documentary and experimental modes of filmmaking: from documentary it takes a desire to explore diverse experiences of reality, the everyday, and processes of social and political change, both past and present. From experimental film it takes­ a critical engagement with form, asking tough questions about images and sounds, where they come from and how they are used, both artistically and ethically.

“The festival seeks to share with audiences the full range of possibilities of this most inventive, inquisitive and challenging of contemporary film practices.”

The Essay Film Festival is presented in partnership between the ICA and Birkbeck. The 2018 programme showcases the creativity and commitment of essayistic practice with examples taken from India, UK, Belgium, Ireland, Portugal, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Austria, USA, and France, and combining the best of recent essay films, including several UK premieres.

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