Leeds Film Festival to celebrate its 21st with a packed programme
New films from Werner Herzog, Wes Anderson and the Coen Brothers pepper the programme for the UK's biggest film festival outside London and Edinburgh.
The Leeds International Film Festival, now in its 21st year, opens on 7th November with the acclaimed Cannes Jury Prize winning French/Iranian animation Persepolis. Based on the inspirational, best selling, autobiographical graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis is the poignant and beautifully animated story of an inquisitive and outspoken young girl coming-of-age during the Islamic Revolution. Outwitting the prying questions and suspicious looks of the new social and moral guardians Marjane delights in the discovery of punk, ABBA and Iron Maiden. Other treats include a retrospective of Japan's Michael Moore, Kazuo Hara; a new strand, Nexus, looking at the bridge of film, live music and art; and a collaboration with the Leeds Peace Festival within the Cinema Versa documentary strand.
For 2007 the Film Festival Official Selection presents its most extensive Golden Owl Competition programme yet, with 15 outstanding feature films representing the best of worldwide independent cinema this year. All UK Premieres, the competition films offer an incredible variety, from astonishing Australian drama Noise and hilarious Chinese comedy Getting Home, to the beautiful imagery of La Marea from Argentina and the surreal Viking fantasy from America, Severed Ways. The Official Selection also includes competitions for short films, with three remarkable programmes of International Shorts and the World Animation Award.
Alongside the competitions, the Film Festival previews some of the most anticipated and acclaimed films of the year. Highlights from established filmmakers include the Coen Brothers' No Country for Old Men, Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited, Werner Herzog's Rescue Dawn and Carlos Reygadas' Silent Light. Also highly recommended are UK Premieres of features from new international talent including Andrea Molaioli's acclaimed thriller and Venice hit The Girl by the Lake, the bold satirical drama AFR by Morten Hartz Kaplers, and Pablo Fendrik's powerful character portrait The Mugger and delightful black comedy The Cream.
The Film Festival has built a strong reputation amongst filmmakers and audiences as a natural and fitting platform to nurture, showcase and celebrate the vast diversity reflected in the art form of the short film. In 2007 we feature no less than ten short film packages that reflect imagination, originality and astonishing artistic flair. The International Short Film Competition is spread across 3 programmes, with no less than 15 UK premieres. Included are the award-winning sensation Milan, set in war-torn Serbia, the Polish Dragon Flies, with its mesmerising photography, and the French Like Father Like Daughter, a beautifully daring film about the complexities of human interaction. Completing the programmes is a selection of exceptional films from the UK, Scandinavia, Latin America, USA, Germany, displaying a variety of styles and genres. There are more exceptional shorts presented in the World Animation Competition, World Student Shorts, two Best of British Shorts selections, and the Yorkshire Short Film Competition sponsored by ITV Local, showcasing the talents of local filmmakers.
travelling through another dimension - a dimension not only of sight
and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries
are that of imagination. That's a signpost up ahead: your next stop:
the Twilight Zone!'
Rod Serling's classic introduction to the groundbreaking US TV show of the 60's is a perfect description for Fanomenon, the UK's only genre event that brings together and celebrates the full diversity of that weird and wonderful cinematic universe.
How else can we explain an unbelievable line up of films that includes crime-fighting toupees and penis lightsabers in Minoru Kawasaki's deadpan comic parody The Rug Cop; useless detectives and ultra violence in No Mercy for the Rude; faeces fuelling Shit City in the anarchic Aachi & Ssipak; dreaded locks on a killing rampage in Exte - Hair Extensions and a washed up super hero who can't cope with modern life in the hilarious Dai Nipponjin.
That's just for starters!
Spain, Poland, Ireland, Norway and the UK all feature in an explosive and mind blowing line up for our Silver Melies competition our third and best to date. The unique and stunning world of Anime ignite the big screen once again as we bring you Vexille and Tekkonkinkreet – two incredible, and visually enthralling fantasy films that will delight fans new and old.
We haven't even got to the two horror extravaganzas! We weren't satisfied with one night of gory terror so on top of the infamous Night of the Dead VII at the Hyde Park Picture House we bring you Day of the Dead at the City Varieties theatre climaxing with the terrifying and haunting The Orphanage.
This is just a taste of the huge range of films on offer, so come and join us on an unforgettable journey, we promise you won't want this fantastic rollercoaster ride to stop!
Cinema Versa is dedicated to documentaries and is the home of alternative voices, mavericks, activists and outsiders. Comprehensive programmes of the most exciting new music and human rights documentaries screen alongside biographies of obsessives and nonconformists, stories of unusual communities and social phenomena. Priority is always given to the genuinely independent, grass roots filmmakers working on small budgets driven by the passion to tell a particular story, champion an unsung individual or highlight a little known cause.
Sample a range of films in the programme and you can experience the rock'n'roll intensity of underground garage bands igniting grungy clubs in downtown Tokyo, witness the triumph of Peruvian mango farmers over a predatory transnational mining corporation and discover an oddball community inventing their own mythology in a crumbling Western B movie set. There are windows on a multitude of strange corners of the world providing a refreshing alternative to the narrowly defined expectations of the mainstream media.
This year Leeds International Film Festival
builds on its collaborations with partner organisations to provide
context and feedback on the screenings and broaden the experience for
interested audience members. In particular, several Cinema Versa events
are brought to you in partnership with the Together for Peace Festival.
Together for Peace (www.togetherforpeace.co.uk) is a pioneering, Leeds-wide NGO, partnering with communities, organisations and individuals to catalyse and develop creative responses to tension and conflict. Since launching in 2003, it has become a respected 'hub' and broker for diverse ongoing initiatives, including: festivals, cross-community dialogue, corporate responsibility programmes, and schools projects.
The Just Before screening on Friday 16th is in partnership with the 'Slave Britain' photo exhibition (www.slavebritain.org.uk ) at The Light, 15-25 November. It is being hosted by 'The Truth Isn't Sexy' campaign (www.thetruthisntsexy.com), which raises awareness about the harsh realities of sex trafficking.
Imaging War is a day-long conference on Saturday 17th November, developed by Leeds Met University, featuring film, workshops and exhibitions questioning the role of Hollywood imagineers in paving the way for a new generation of weapons procurement.
The Myth of Redemptive Violence is a debate about the role of violence in cinema organized by the Imprint Theatre Company on Sunday 18th November at the Royal Armouries from 1.00 - 5.00.
There will also be a screening of a selection of Leeds International Film Festival films at Armley Prison exploring themes of constructive conflict resolution.
These events are all organised in partnership with the Leeds-wide 'Together for Peace' festival (15-25 November; www.togetherforpeace.co.uk )
Nexus is a brand new section devoted to exploring the borderlines between cinema and other art forms. This year there are three categories under scrutiny: the visual arts, live music and sequential art.
Artists' experimental work in film and video represents some of the most innovative approaches to the audiovisual medium as a means of artistic expression, but it's too often overlooked in the context of mainstream cinema. Because it's sometimes perceived as difficult and inaccessible, the Dialogues Programme has been conceived to encourage artists to present their own work and a curated programme of films that have influenced and inspired them. The Dialogues programme has been supported by Arts Council England.
Live music as an accompaniment to film projection was the norm in the silent period but has only recently developed again to provide a fascinating array of unusual cinematic experiences. Maya The Bee is a magical fusion of nature documentary and fairytale from 1926, the first feature ever to star real insects! Live accompaniment is provided by top Leeds improvisational musicians Inecto School and D Sojourn. John Foxx returns with another audiovisual innovation and in an exclusive UK performance, Marshall Allen of Sun Ra's Arkestra provides a live soundtrack to the films of American maverick James Harrar.
Thought Bubble is a brand new festival devoted to sequential art, the art of comic books and graphic novels. Leeds International Film Festival has collaborated with this new event to bring a series of new films inspired or influenced by comic book arts alongside illuminating documentaries about some of the great sequential artists like Will Eisner and Moebius. Thought Bubble's films range across the sections:
Death Note: The Last Name
Jeffrey Brown: Drawing Between the Lines
The Tracey Fragments
Will Eisner: Portrait of a Sequential Artist
See www.thoughtbubblefestival.com for more details.
Retrospective: Kazuo Hara
The Film Festival presents an exclusive retrospective of the Japanese documentary master Kazuo Hara, and is delighted to welcome the filmmaker himself and his wife and producer, Sachiko Kobayashi to introduce all their films. A notorious and controversial figure in Japan, Hara is gradually attaining the international reputation he deserves as a rigorous cinematic innovator, exploring the deceptive borderlines between fiction and non-fiction.
The history of documentary film has been dominated by the quest for authenticity. Early pioneers like Dziga Vertov defined the form in opposition to the bourgeois excesses of fictional cinema. Robert Flaherty was highly influential in his depiction of indigenous cultures using genuine locations and local people, but he was criticised for manipulating his subjects to heighten the exoticism and melodrama. The modern standards have been shaped by John Grierson's definition of the form as the 'creative treatment of actuality' and the 'fly on the wall' style of cinema verit&eAcute;, both emphasising a strong sense of social responsibility and an inobtrusive style. Even this approach has been criticised because it fails to cater for the change in circumstances and behaviour caused by the very presence of the camera and the intentions of the filmmaker. Kazuo Hara makes films with this in mind:
I haven't yet filmed, as someone 'objectively' looking in from the outside…whenever there is a camera, people are conscious of it.(From: Iris: A Journal of Theory on Image and Sound, no. 16 (Spring 1993), Jeffrey and Kenneth Ruoff, Japan's Outlaw Filmmaker: An Interview with Hara Kazuo.)
Hara's approach to filmmaking acknowledges the authenticity problem but it takes the philosophy one step further. He has suggested that people's ideas of themselves are removed from any kind of objective reality, even without the presence of a camera. His intention as a filmmaker is to explore the fiction people create of their own lives:
Life is acting. There are two sides to people. The person one wants to be, and the person one is. I want the people in my movies to act the way they want to be..... I like to make dramatic movies. I feel strongly about this, more than other directors. I love Hollywood action films….. I want to make action documentary films. (From: Iris: A Journal of Theory on Image and Sound, no. 16 (Spring 1993), Jeffrey and Kenneth Ruoff, Japan's Outlaw Filmmaker: An Interview with Hara Kazuo.)
This idea is particularly well illustrated in Dedicated Life (1994), a portrait of the writer Mitsuharu Inoue, who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. He is an ebullient character and his adeptness at writing fiction mirrors what is gradually revealed as a complete fabrication of his own past.
Although Japan has a rich history of documentary filmmaking, some of which is stylistically and politically challenging, Hara's films have had a huge impact in his home country. He challenged taboos about attitudes to disabled people in Goodbye CP (1972) and sexuality, monogamy and motherhood in Extreme Private Eros (1974), but made the most impact with the extraordinary The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On (1987), aptly described as 'one of the least polite documentaries ever made'. (From: A Foreigner's View of the Japanese Documentary Scene by Scott Sinkler published in Imagining Reality: The Faber Book of Documentary Ed: Kevin Macdonald and Mark Cousins.)
The film shadows dogged war veteran Kenzo Okuzaki, recently released from a prison sentence for throwing stones at the Emperor. He ruthlessly pursues those implicated in a Second World War cover up which resulted in the deaths of several of his fellow soldiers. Hara captures every jaw-dropping confrontation, many of which lead to actual physical violence, raising awkward questions about the ethical responsibilities of documentary filmmakers. However, the film's dedication to its subject matches Okuzaki's dedication to his moral crusade and although he may be obsessive and unhinged, he is obviously sincere and determined to bring to light an appalling injustice. It makes incredible cinema and has attracted admirers like Michael Moore who called it 'the most amazing piece of filmmaking'. Hara has been an inspiration for a phenomenally successful form of confrontational documentary filmmaking that challenges mainstream cinema in every conceivable way.
Leeds Film Festival runs November 7th to 18th. More info from www.leedsfilm.com.