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The Essay Film Festival: 25 March to 3 April

The festival is set to include a programme of live virtual events open to audiences globally, with artists’ and curators’ talks, conversations with filmmakers, and discussions with critics and researchers. Book your place onto the events now.

Cauleen Smith’s film Solar Flare Arkestral Marching Band (2011)
Cauleen Smith’s film Solar Flare Arkestral Marching Band (2011)

Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image (BIMI)’s annual Essay Film Festival is an internationally recognised, research-led festival, devoted to exploring and exhibiting both contemporary and archival essayistic works in film and related media from around the globe. 

This year’s event will be held entirely online, taking place from 25 March to 3 April, and all of the films will be free and open to anyone in the UK to watch. Alongside an impressive selection of more than 30 films being screened, an exciting programme of live virtual events will be open to global audiences and will include artists’ and curators’ talks, conversations with filmmakers and discussions with critics and researchers - book your place at the events

Dr Michael Temple, Director of BIMI and Reader in Film and Media Studies, said: “For us, the essay film brings together elements of documentary and experimental filmmaking, investigating reality and asking tough questions about society with an open, inventive and even playful approach to film language and forms of representation. This year’s programme reflects that dynamic ambition for the essay film, with a wide range of contemporary and archival works from different parts of the world.”

Highlights will include Madeleine Hunt-Ehrlich sharing details of her forthcoming project on Suzanne Césaire, alongside a selection of her short films exploring alternative voices and narratives from African-American history; Monographs, a series of video essays responding to the uncertainties of the pandemic from ten contemporary Asian artists, some of whom will be speaking at the festival with critic and essayist Kevin B. Lee; and John Gianvito discussing his latest filmHer Socialist Smile, a historical essay about Helen Keller that foregrounds her radical politics and commitment to social justice.

Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image (BIMI) is based in Birkbeck’s School of Arts and is housed in the Birkbeck Cinema. The research institute curates public screenings and discussion events throughout the year, bringing together artists, academics, and activists from a diverse range of disciplines and practices. BIMI’s Essay Film Festival has become a key reference in the film festival circuit and is supported by the CHASE Doctoral Training Partnership

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