After the kicking it has taken from recent government cuts, it’s a surprise that the UK film industry hasn’t just crawled off, put on a suit and got a ‘proper job’. But no, it’s still here, and if anything this climate of minimal budgets has given those filmmakers and artists used to making glorious moving images from peanuts a chance to seize some attention of their own.
Granted, nobody knows how it’s going to pan out until, over the next few years, we begin to see the fruits of any labour that’s happened following these constrictions. But for now things seem positive, especially within the world of artists’ film, with Clio Barnard buckling under the weight of critical love for The Arbor, Gillian Wearing at the London Film Festival, Frieze hosting its own cinema – it’s a time to reformulate our approach rather than panic.
Maybe I’m too optimistic, but it’s the only way forward for me. So when I went to the inaugural Cineast, a new film salon set up as a platform for the screening and discussion of contemporary moving image, I wasn’t surprised to have to elbow my way to a seat. Screening the work of Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor, Cineast offered the audience a chance to see extracts from their Civic Life series followed by a discussion with Molloy.
Made in negotiation with, and featuring, various community groups, the Civic Life films vary from the dreamily surreal to the more narrative driven but are all marked by a controlled yet slightly woozy cinematography that nonetheless affords its actors (all from said communities) their own freedom. Molloy described their method as working ‘in the moment’, ascribing this both to the duo’s theatrical roots and their penchant for 35mm film, too expensive for multiple takes.
Since the first film, Who Killed Brown Owl, this style has encouraged financial backers and communities to trust in the filmmakers. Interestingly it emerged from the discussion that the funding for their first feature, Helen, came from their suggestion of merging the monies they were offered to make shorts for four different regions and using each as a location. This was hard work, no doubt, but one that enabled their work to be realised as a full-length cinematic film.
Molloy cites the fact that film is a divisive medium, that people have a strong reaction to and want to talk about, whether they like it or not, as a reason for the series’ continued popularity. It’s also, I think, the reason why free events like Cineast are invaluable, turning the art gallery into salon where audiences can engage directly with filmmakers, or simply vote with their feet and hit the bar instead.
Cineast continues in various locations throughout East London, contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
-- Laura Bushell
All images courtesy Cineast
Images: Civic Life: Tiong Bahru 2010, Film Still; Twillight, Film Still.