Tuesday, November 30, 2010

First Snowfall

Oregano covered in snow; photo by Val PhoenixHow surprised was I to awake this morning to find snow falling! Though I knew Scotland has been deluged since the weekend, I didn't think it would make it this far south. Cue frantic scrabbling for winter boots. Perhaps it is time to put the bulbs out for their ever-so-brief yearly appearance.

Some things never change: while the roads were perfectly clear, the pavements were slippy and slushy. Last winter I took to walking down the middle of the road to avoid ice. Once I was even called upon to rescue an elderly woman. No sign of snow-bound pedestrians yet. But, it's only November.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

UnderWire Festival

The inaugural UnderWire festival of women's short film work is in full swing and concludes tomorrow with an awards ceremony.

Visiting the third day of the festival, I caught the Editing and Directing categories, preceded by a lecture by screenwriter Linda Aronson. Speaking in rather non-linear fashion, she offered some anecdotes from her career and then moved on to a suitably convoluted explanation of parallel narrative structure. This was, unfortunately, rushed, owing to time constraints, but she has some books out that would shed some more light on a fascinating topic. Her message: don't be afraid of flashbacks!

Next up was the the Directing category of five films, the standout of which was The Storymaker. An atmospheric and increasingly creepy set-up finds a bedridden woman delivering unintelligible thoughts to a group of Expressionist-looking scribes. At first I thought it was a wry commentary on artistic inspiration. But, then I decided it was a metaphor for Alzheimer's or some other degenerative illness. Visually striking and gripping, it lingered in the memory. Marigolds was also memorable for its cringe-making mother-son relationship. The climactic scene had audience members gasping and laughing in discomfort.

In the Editing category, I was impressed by Skateistan, a doc on a skate park in Kabul and also liked Dear Mummy, a clever mix of live action and animation.

The awards ceremony for the various categories is tomorrow evening .

Monday, November 15, 2010

Ladyfest Ten: day three

Viv Albertine; photo: Val PhoenixSo, finally, the thrilling conclusion of a three-day epic. A not so early start didn't really help me catch up on sleep, but I was ready to go for the afternoon start of the film programme, which started with a workshop on DIY film-making, courtesy of Kanchi Wichmann, who shared clips from her forthcoming feature, Break My Fall.

I had to run up to the Resource Centre to check on the other film-making workshop, which was actually due to start later, so I wasn't around for the whole slot, but returned in time to deal with some DVD burning drama, which meant we had to switch around our second programme, running the feature Too Much Pussy before the three shorts that accompanied it. I kept expecting someone from the library to walk in during what was a very sexually explicit, very queer doc on a performance troupe's tour. Very funny to screen that in a public library.

With our work as the film group done by 5:15, we were free to enjoy what remained of the festival, and I spent a very enjoyable hour listening in on a beatboxing workshop run by Gracious B, who had performed on Friday night and blown me away with her vocal percussion prowess.

After a brief rest, it was on to the Garage for what was billed as lo-fi day, which I found amusing. For me it was more like post-punk day, with a bill featuring Viv Albertine, Tender Trap, Wet Dog and Trash Kit. For me, Viv Albertine was the undoubted highlight, offering more connection with the audience and some very personal songs, delivered in spiky and forceful style. The closer was a slow-burning indictment of married life, from one who knows. Wow. After that, the kids just couldn't compete, though I enjoyed the racket they made.

After a quick group photo, our film group scattered to the four winds. Life just won't be the same without Ladyfest.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ladyfest Ten: day two

JD Samson of MEN; photo: Val PhoenixWow. Wow. Wow. So tired I can barely type, but will do a quick recap of Saturday, which started at 10 with me not taking the Victoria line to Highbury, because of engineering works. Instead negotiated a replacement bus (or Ersatzbus as we have taken to calling it) and a tube, so was a bit late.

Had a brief chat with Gabriella Apicella of UnderWire film festival on the paucity of decent women characters onscreen, then took a DVD up to the Holloway Resource Centre and crashed a Queer Health workshop, but not before I sptted a familiar face and had a reunion with Lena, formerly of Ilsebill, but now studying in Loughborough and down in London for the weekend. Then it was back to the library screening room for Tina Gharavi's narrative screenwriting workshop, where we learned to make cliches our friend, so that we can subvert them.

After a super-quick turnaround, it was time for the headline act: JD Samson introducing Le Tigre: On Tour. This had taken awhile to arrange and we were all relieved when she strode in, accompanied by Ginger from MEN and other friends. It fell to me to do the introduction and run the Q & A as my colleagues were too shy. Aside from one ill-fated mention of Christina Aguilera, I think it went OK. And I also grabbed a quick interview with JD for my radio show. Amazingly, we finished early and were able to exit the library, without being shoved out by security.

Thereafter, I watched the excellent bill at the Garage, consisting of Veronica Falls; Vile, Vile Creatures (who lent MEN a guitar when a string broke); Battant; Nicky Click; and headliners MEN (JD's other band), which left me quite energised, although security there were needlessly brusque. MEN proved a revelation, as the two songs I'd heard had left me underwhelmed. But, live it worked really well, the throbby bass lines and beats lifting the energy, while frontwoman JD proved equally adept at working her computer and the crowd. She also wished Ladyfest a happy tenth birthday, which went down, not surprisingly, quite well.

One more day.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Ladyfest Ten: day one

Patricia Panther; photo: Val PhoenixJust back from a buzzing evening at the Horatia, watching some fantastic UK hip-hop as part of Ladyfest Ten. I only caught a few acts, but I was really impressed by Patricia Panther and Lykez, two acts who couldn't be more different in presentation but are marvellously entertaining to watch. Whereas Lykez is all streetwise teenaged cockney attitude, Patricia Panther offers a soulful Glaswegian take on beats and rhymes. I was positively energised.

Which is saying something, as I had a heavy dose of Ladystress when I turned up at the film venue for our opening programme. We had a few last-minute hicccups and were not entirely prepared when we opened our doors. But, we had an awesome bill of films, and Kim Longinotto turned in a mighty fine introduction to her film, Divorce Iranian Style. I imagine she must've introed this film hundreds of times since its production in 1998, and the Islington Central Library is not the most glamourous locale for a screening. But, she was very thoughtful and entertaining in providing some context for it and got everyone well warmed up to see it. Hurrah.

I mostly stayed at the library during the day but did pop over to the Horatia briefly to see the Big Debate panel, as I was keen to see Viv Albertine. It was pretty much winding up, but I did catch a few comments by her to the effect that she feels like girls are more clued up than they are given credit for, and pop culture isn't necessarily detrimental to their development.

Back to the library for some more screenings and we just made it out the door at 5pm, having discovered very late that one of our filmmakers had been sitting there all day without introducing herself! Most unlike a filmmaker, not to shout from the rooftops. Verv sweet.

My proudest moment came watching the Ten Years of Grrrls Creating Culture doc that our group curated from past Ladyfests. Seeing some of my lo-res footage and stills mixed in was very pleasing. I finally feel part of Ladyfest and it makes me think I must have been doing something right these last 20 years.

Two days to go.

Ladyfest Ten this weekend in London

Ladyfest Ten flyer with pumpkin; photo by Val PhoenixSo, it's finally, finally here. I have been immersed over the last couple of months in the film group for Ladyfest Ten, which is on this weekend in London.

Things I have experienced in the organisation of Ladyfest Ten:
  • unravelled the mysteries of the Ning
  • created spreadsheets
  • uploaded Google Docs
  • applied zombie make-up
  • baked chocolate cakes
  • accosted a filmmaker at the London Film Festival
  • encouraged a colleague to accost a musician at a club
  • got locked in a house
  • scoured my archive for film, photos and audio
  • discussed codecs, at length

Ah, the magic of Ladyfest.