Thursday, 6 October 2011

Aesthetica Short Film Festival

It's always nice to hear about a new festival on the block offering something a bit different and the upcoming inaugural Aesthetica Short Film Festival (ASFF) promises to be a pretty special celebration of short film, with 150 shorts (docs, fiction, animation, music video, artists' film...) being screened from 30 countries.  But what's really lovely about it is the setting - these shorts will be shown in historic venues around York.  A festival after our own hearts, ASFF will use 15 different locations around the city, so the discerning attendee can explore York's medieval halls, historic buildings and contemporary art spaces as they watch.  Lovely, lovely, York-y short film greatness.

There's a good selection of Masterclasses taking place during the festival too, including sessions with Ivana MacKinnon (associate producer of Slumdog Millionaire) and screenwriter Mark Hermann (The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Brassed Off, Little Voice).

As for the selection of films themselves... we really shouldn't play favourites, we know, but a quick scan of the very full programme throws up some great films that you might have missed at this year's Branchage, so do look out for INERTIA (Todd MacDonald), NOAH'S ARK (Sam Meech), THE HOLIDAY (Ida Akesson), SILENT THINGS (Rob Brown), JOIN THE DOTS (Jessica Lux), PARIS/SEXY (Ruth Paxton), ORRIBLE (Giles Ripley), COTE D'AZUR (Caroline Ward), WAR DANCE (Ed Edwards), and also here's a shout for the very funny THE MAESTRO (Chris & Ben Blaine), which we haven't screened, but have very much enjoyed.

'Paris/Sexy' Ruth Paxton

'Inertia' Todd MacDonald

Aesthetica Short Film Festival takes place 3rd to 6th November 2011. The festival organisers say 'Explore York. Experience Film.'  We say 'Yes, okay, that sounds pretty special'.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Where are we blogging at?

Missing the news on our blog?
We're updating the News page of our snazzy new website, so head HERE to check out what we're up to.


Thursday, 14 July 2011

Get back to your Grassroots


Only 8 days to go until Grassroots festival transforms the Val de la Mare dam into a lovely Eco Friendly one-day music festival with all the little extras that make Grassroots gorgeous - like amazing Jersey Pottery global streetfood for sale.  And twice the normal number of bars...

Natch, Branchage will be going, hanging in the eco village, crunking in the favela funk dance arena, swapping our recycling for drinks tickets.  Chilling out, maxing, relaxing... the usual.

Headlining this year is the Blues man whose voice hits you where it hurts, Seasick Steve, with Arrested Development second on the bill - oh to hear Everyday People in late Jersey sunshine, yes!

Also on the line-up, Easy Star All-stars, Backbeat Soundsystem, Mat McHugh, Ben Howard, Josh Flowers, Rick Jones, and DJing in the dance arena, Bag Raiders, Brad Baloo, Mr Bongo Soundsystem and The Uplifter.

To get you in the mood for the main event, here's one of Seasick Steve's many Jools Holland live performances...


Win a pair of tickets for Grassroots Festival 2011 on 23rd July by answering this question:

"Grassroots takes place at Val de la Mare reservoir.  Which classic 1978 film did Branchage screen down at the dam last year?"  (Clue: it was neither a bird nor a plane.)

Email with your answer in the subject line.  A winner will be drawn at random on Monday morning and the tickets will be posted out to you in time for the festival.

See you there!

Thursday, 23 June 2011

A weekend of documentary delight - Doc/Fest 2011

Before the memories of Sheffield's tremendous festival of documentary films - Doc/Fest 2011 - fade, here's our run down of the event and some of the great films we saw, and it was all watched over by the godfather of documentary filmmaking, the mighty Albert Maysles.

Bad photo of Albert Maysles.  Disclaimer: photographer was too in awe to get closer.
Maysles (who made seminal 'Cinema Verite' films with his late brother David, including Gimme Shelter [shown at Branchage 2008], and Grey Gardens), was at Doc/Fest to accept a Lifetime Achievement Award, give a masterclass and introduce a few of his films.  Despite being made in 1968, Maysles' Salesman shone out as one of the greatest films in the festival.  This portrait of door-to-door Bible salesmen travelling across America in the late 60s is as touching, funny, eloquent, honest and endearing as it is revealing, in its subtle capturing of a time and a place. 

We also caught a few early screenings of soon-to-be-released films to watch out for.  First up, Life In A Day - a composite of footage of 'everyday life' filmed by the good people of planet Earth on July 24th 2010.  Director Kevin Macdonald is a versatile kinda guy - he's won BAFTAs for both docs (Touching The Void) and fiction (Last King Of Scotland), as well as an Oscar for the astonishing One Day In September.  Regardless of the type of film he's making, they're always stunning because he really knows how to shape a story and keep the audience enthralled.  Life In A Day is no exception - and it's hardly surprising that it runs you through the gamut of human emotion, as it's a film about human lives - the little things, the big things, the mundanities, the tragedies, the sinister, and the loving - all around the world. (Well, around most of the world, but the limits to the footage they got in are more than understandable).

Next, already in cinemas, and highly recommended, Asif Kapadia's extraordinary bio-pic of Formula One driver and Brazillian national hero Ayrton Senna.  Senna's magnetic charisma and passion for driving, for his religion, and for life makes his story utterly captivating.  Lovers of Formula One should be frothing at the mouth with the glut of race footage in this film, but people who associate F1 with blaring tellies to be avoided on Sunday afternoons (yup, hi, right here) will be equally charmed and mesmerised by the man and by the film.

Strangely enough Calvet also traces the life story of one charismatic, larger-than-life man, but this one was a runaway, gangster's body guard and addict, running his life into the ground, until at his very lowest point - locked in a house in Nicaragua on a three month diet of drugs and paranoia - he discovered that he could purge himself of his torments by painting.  There's a long way to go from that point to the man we meet in the film, retracing the crucial moments of his life across the globe and trying to hunt down his long-abandoned son.  It's impossible to look away from Calvet and the film, like the man, is fast-paced, brutal in its honesty, colourful and surprisingly sensitive for something that feels so brash.

Another big film at Doc/Fest coming to a screen near you (in August) was Project Nim - again, in a way, a portrait of the life of a man.  Except of course Nim isn't a man, he's a chimpanzee, who was raised like a human child as part of a 'scientific' experiment to see if chimps could be taught to use (sign) language to communicate with humans.  Well, it's a bit like science, except shockingly irresponsible and ill-advised from start to finish.  Nim's story is a tragedy - and Oscar-winning director James Marsh's handling of the chimp's life tale is probably one of the most humane treatments Nim ever received.

Last but not least, a shout out for Just Do It: A Tale Of Modern Day Outlaws.  Clearly a film that was challenging to make from start to finish, it's a rare look behind the scenes at activist groups like Climate Camp and Plane Stupid, following them through their clandestine planning sessions to their surprisingly well organised direct action attacks. Don't go to this film to if you're looking to find a discussion about whether activism is an effective way to deal with climate change, but definitely watch it to see some properly passionate people who are fed up with feeling impotent in the face of global problems, and so take matters into their own hands. The surprising meat in this story isn't so much about young 'uns chaining themselves to railings and breaking into power stations (impressive as that is), but about police powers to silence the dissenting voice - hair-raising to say the least.

Brilliant festival, run seamlessly, thanks in no small part to the lovely atmosphere fostered throughout and Doc/Fest's legion of wonderful volunteers.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Win tickets to MAN ON WIRE at Open City London

There are hundreds (literally) of documentaries to watch this weekend at Open City London Documentary Festival.  The programme of films is stunning, covering a massive range of non-fiction titles and featuring appearances and screenings from giants of documentary filmmaking like Christi Puiu, Penny Woolcock and Pawel Pawlikowski.

1pm, Thursday 16th June, at UCL's Darwin Theatre

The very first screening of the very first Branchage Film Festival was Man On Wire.  The film went on to win an Oscar, and it holds a special place in our hearts.  A dramatic and arresting mixture of reconstruction and original footage, the film recounts Philippe Petit's 1974 wire walk between the Twin Towers, 1350 feet above New York.  Man On Wire feels like more of a heist movie than a documentary - it's doc filmmaking at its most cinematic and magnificent.

To celebrate the wisdom of Open City for putting it back up on the big screen, we're giving away a pair of tickets to the screening this Thursday 16th June at 1pm. 

TO ENTER, email with 'MAN ON WIRE' in the subject line, and we'll select a name at random first thing on Wednesday morning (15th June) and email the winner.

Feast upon the rest of the Open City programme here too !