Friday, March 04, 2011

Where Art Meets Commerce

Sign on door of Showroom gallery announcing Reproductive Labour exhibit; photo by Val PhoenixYesterday provided a double helping of alternative cinema, as I visited Reproductive Labour, Cinenova's exhibit at the Showroom. Running for another three weeks, it offers tiny section of the archive of this longstanding feminist film distributor.

Each day of the exhibit a selection of films is screened. What I hadn't realised until I was in the space was that visitors could also request films. After a brief browse at the display of ephemera from various films in the archive, I settled down to watch Friday's selection, chosen (unseen) by Howard Slater, both on the theme of "father". The Death of the Father and The Father is Nothing both proved to be artful depictions of power and control, made in 1986 and 1991, respectively, quite a fruitful time for feminist film-making. I had a nose through some of the files on show and was amused to see some contained rejections from film festivals and apologies for delayed royalties! Perhaps too revealing. The next three Saturdays feature lectures and more extensive screenings.

Cake celebrating 25 years of London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival; photo by Val PhoenixThat evening it was on to the launch of the 25th London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. Festival launches tend to be little more than extended thank yous to sponsors, interspersed with a few clips to tantalise the punters. This one proved rather more dramatic, as the future of the festival was being loudly debated, first by the announcement of a Facebook campaign to "discuss" the BFI's stewardship and then at the after-party, as the rumour going round was that this is to be the last festival! What? I wondered. Funding cuts to the BFI mean the future of the LLGFF will be assessed between the end of the festival in April and the calendar year, and that comes from BFI director Amanda Nevill.

Which rather cast a pall over what should have been a pretty joyous knees-up. 25 years is pretty good going. This year's festival has been curtailed to one week, because of the missing money, but it still boasts some intriguing films and events, including a preview of The Night Watch and The Owls, a new feature from Cheryl Dunye starring a who's who of dyke cinema.

But, as the volunteers who run Cinenova know, providing a platform for artistic excellence is no guarantee of finding financial support. They haven't had a grant in years.

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