HOME’s essential Artist Film Weekender enters its fifth year with an all-female programme arranged to tie in with the arts organisation’s year-long project, Celebrating Women in Global Cinema. Curated by Alice Wilde and Jamie Allan this year, the Weekender is always an urgent, blistering reminder of the riches to be found in artist video work.
For those of us immersed in conventional cinema, even the international art house scene, it’s a pleasure to bear witness to far reaches of moving image art, to experience its developments and provocations, both aesthetic and political. From Beatrice Gibson’s pulsating tribute to Claire Denis, motherhood and feminism, to Ulrike Ottinger’s iconic surrealist piece, Freak Orlando, this year’s weekend looks as good as ever.
Ottinger’s 1981 film, delivered with a post-screening Q&A from the transgressive feminist filmmaker and Jackie Stacey, Professor of Media and Cultural Studies at The University of Manchester, feels like a certain highlight. Succinctly billed as “Virginia Woolf meets the German camp underground” by critic Jonathan Rosembaum, Freak Orlando follows its eponymous, androgynous lead through space and time, passing from the world’s beginning to an ultramodern present, taking in the “absurdity, the madness, the incompetence, the cruelty, and the endless thirst for power” along the way.
The Weekender has a special focus on Vietnam this year, with the UK premiere of Pham Thu Hang’s documentary The Future Cries Beneath Our Soil accompanied by a focus on the films of Vietnamese filmmaker Trinh T. Minh-ha and London-based Onyeka Igwe. Curated by Gill Park, a special programme starts with Minh-ha’s complex visual study of the women of rural Senegal, before shorts by Onyeka which aim to reclaim archive material through protest, dance, voice and text.
Closer to home, this year’s Northern Artist Focus is The Carnival Films of Rhea Storr. The filmmaker, who will be in attendance for a post-screening Q&A with HOME curator Bren O’Callaghan, “explores the social structures, costume and language of carnival (from the Junkanoo parade in the Bahamas to Leeds West Indian Carnival), the visibility of black bodies in rural spaces and her identity as an artist of Bahamian and British heritage.” We’re told to expect an approach to carnival that emphasises its position as a space for both celebration and protest.
Colombian filmmaker, Laura Huertas Millán is also in attendance for screenings of short works that fuse documentary, ethnography and fiction into hybrid hypnotic cinema that takes us from a drug lord’s replica Dynasty mansion in the Amazon rainforest to the artist’s own aunt going through rehab following a suicide attempt. Millán will also deliver a filmmaker masterclass, as will Beatrice Gibson ahead of a screening of her Jarman Award-nominated I Hope I’m Loud When I’m Dead.
Gibson’s masterclass will be delivered at Manchester’s Paradise Works Artist Studios in Salford (the screening is at HOME), which also hosts the Weekender’s opening event on Thursday 28th November. Featuring works from an array of international and Manchester-based moving image artists, Cinema Paradiso is an evening of expanded film, video screenings and experimental performances – audiences are advised to dress warm, but there will be free hot soup provided.