Thursday, April 10, 2008

Britspotting preview

Berlin 10 - 16 April
Cologne 24 - 27 April
Stuttgart 1 - 7 May

Now in its ninth year, the Britspotting festival aims to take the best in British and Irish film to Germany. Launching the programme with a tea party-themed event at the Berlinale in February, the Britspotting team welcomed a throng of filmmakers, programmers and a good number of freeloaders to Homebase in Berlin.

Amid the noshing of scones and clinking of china, new festival director Alex Thiele explained the need to make a splash in culture-savvy Berlin. "We need to increase our audience figures, mainly. Berlin has a festival every week and you're competing with so much stuff here," she said.

With such a plethora of British and Irish film around, programmer Selina Robertson, who used to work at London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, discussed her selection criteria: "quite populist mainstream cinema and first-time features of young filmmakers and then artists' film and video work."

So, this year features work by veteran Stephen Frears, as well as first-time director Joanna Hogg. The Fiennes family is well represented, with director Martha's film Chromophobia showing, while brothers Ralph and Joseph appear in In Bruges and The Escapist, respectively. Shane Meadows' explosive This Is England and Asif Kapadia's Far North are also showing.

Artist/filmmaker Isaac Julien gets a retrospective, as well as a showing of his documentary on mentor Derek Jarman, Derek. Other docs include Hold Me Tight, Let Me Go, directed by Kim Longinotto, and The English Surgeon, directed by Geoffrey Smith.

Robertson explained that she must decide whether a film will travel well. "In terms of comedy, British comedy travels quite well; people are quite used to seeing sort of subtle humour, black comedy... One of the things we have to be careful about is that we don't have a budget to subtitle films so we have to be quite careful about the dialogue... This year I am trying to be quite clear about [whether a] film [is] easy to understand."

Among the short film programmes is Was She There, curated by Club Des Femmes, in which Robertson is involved. "We're going to curate a programme in Berlin comprising artists and filmmakers living in Berlin and London and it's going to be themed around feminist performance practices; it's a whole range of things: pop videos, filmmakers reconstructing things in their lives, feminist re-enactments of situations."

Among the shorts showing is Jules Nurrish's Bend It, inspired by British artists Gilbert and George. Speaking at the tea party, Nurrish explained: "It's kind of based on a performance they did based around the whole idea of living sculptures but I used these two androgynous women who are doing the same kind of dance that Gilbert and George did. It's just kind of screwing around with that kind of idea."

Asked how she feels being exported as British culture to Germany, Nurrish chuckled. "I'm just up for anything. I'm just excited that foreign festivals want to show my film. I love Berlin.... it'll be good to see what the reaction is here."

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