Tag Archives: london

The 9th Annual Images of Black Women Festival | 3-11 May 2013


I’ve been meaning to give this great festival some love for a while. As an introduction to what it’s all about, there’s little I can say that the official blurb can’t tell you with authority, so:

Images of Black Women (IBW) Film Festival has acted for nearly a decade as the only advocate for change in the representation of black women in film, presenting the global black experience with a focus on women in varied roles such as actresses, directors, screenwrites and producers.

Over the years IBW has supported upcoming filmmakers by providing visibility through its its Emerging Filmmaker Forum & helped short-film competition winners as Rungano Nyoni (Mwansa The Great) produce their next film projects. The Festival also premiered work from renowned directors such as the first black woman to win Best Director at Sundance 2012 Ava DuVernay, root-shaking documentary director Regina Kimbell for MY NAPPY ROOTS and welcomed international film icon Euzhan Palcy.

This year (2013) we will be at various venues across London with a special addition of free Art Exhibitions: Feminine Expressions & Representations.

For festival discount tickets & more sign up to our Nucinema mailing list

This year’s programme, spread across a host of London venues, looks fantastic, including such highlights as a screening of Dee Rees’ excellent Pariah, the UK Premiere of Ava DuVernay’s award-winning The Middle of Nowhere [pictured above], and Adopted I.D., a documentary screening as part of the BFI’s African Odysseys strand uncovering the extraordinary journey of Judith Craig, who was abandoned at birth and bravely returned to the impoverished nation of Haiti to find her parents.

Here’s the link for the festival website, and here’s the official festival trailer:


6th BFI Future Film Festival | Day 3


Sad to report, but we’re now in the last knockings of the third and final day of the 6th annual BFI Future Film Festival. I don’t have exact figures to hand, but judging by the crowds, buzz and word-of-mouth, I’d say that it’s been the busiest one to date.

The theme of today has been documentary filmmaking, and my first act was to introduce a screening of Alex Ramseyer-Bache and Daniel Lucchesi’s superb doc We Are Poets (see teaser trailer here). An appreciative crowd lapped up the film in screen NFT2, and kindly stuck around for my post-screening Q&A with Ramseyer-Bache. He discussed his multifaceted early approach to filmmaking, the origins of his interest in the story of We Are Poets, and the challenges posed by a tight budget and a relentless international schedule.

The final round of the day’s sessions have all gone in, and include a screening of Penny Woolcock’s brilliant documentary One Mile Away; a presentation of hit online show Becoming YouTube; and workshops on sound recording and interviewing techniques. They follow a day full of workshops and networking sessions.

I’d also like to give a shout out to Piccia Neri (who’s been behind all Permanent Plastic Helmet’s event poster art to date), the leader and architect of FFF Design Global, the design wing of the BFI’s Future Film Institute. Have a look at their work on their website.

We’ll leave you with Rob Savage’s ace festival trailer. Until next year…

6th BFI Future Film Festival | Day 2


It’s day 2 of the 6th annual BFI Future Film Festival, and the focus of today’s sessions and activities is animation.

The day kicked off with a host of events at 12pm, including a screening of Sam Fell’s cracking animation Paranorman (followed by a director Q&A); a talk by Nic Benns, Emmy award-winning design director and co-founder of title company MOMOCO; and a selection animated highlights from Random Acts, Channel 4’s late night three-minute film slot, commissioned by Lupus Films and curated by ace animator Chris Shepherd.

There’s a whole bunch of stuff still to come, including a programme of BAFTA animated shorts, ident, VFX, voiceover and sound masterclasses, networking tips, script sessions with Script Factory, and the Future Film Animation awards.

And me? I’m blogging from the foyer, and I’ll be here until 5pm to take questions and chat about all aspects of film journalism, from setting up and maintaining a blog, to trying to get your name on press lists so you can invited to preview screenings!

The final day of the festival is tomorrow, and focuses on Documentary filmmaking. It’s pretty much sold-out, but keep an eye on returns, and of course it’s free to come and chat to us, or FilmClub UK (the friendly folk who are sat next to me) in the foyer.

To sign-off, here’s a snap of the crowds gathering in the foyer, outside the BFI Reuben Library aka Future Film Festival HQ:


Interview | Clare Binns, director of programming – Ritzy Cinema

Earlier this year, South London’s beautiful Ritzy cinema turned 100 years old, and it remains a key cultural hub, featuring a diverse selection of classic and contemporary cinema, special events and – recently – live music and comedy. A key factor in the cinema’s success has been the presence of director of programming Clare Binns, a Brixton veteran with a connection to the cinema that goes back over a quarter of a century. We sat down with Clare recently to discuss her career, her affinity with the local area, and her views on the growth of digital technology in cinema exhibition.

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PPH (in bold): Can you explain briefly what your role is at the Picturehouse?

Clare Binns (in regular): I’m what’s laughingly known as Director of Programming and Acquisitions, so I oversee the booking policy for the Picturehouse Cinema Group and we look after 20 cinemas in the UK which are ours and then we look after, programming-wise, about another 40 cinemas across the UK. So I sort of do all of that and then at the same time, we’ve recently gotten into distribution; so I’m heavily involved in the distribution and the picking up of films.

What might an average week entail for you?

Lots of discussions about films, lots of viewing films, lots of strategy. Where we play films, negotiating terms, talking to distributors, going to meetings, talking to film festivals. And also there’s a lot of people who want to work at Picturehouse, so trying to talk to them, encourage other filmmakers about all the new people who are coming through. It’s incredibly varied.

And do you enjoy doing the festival circuit?

Yeah, it’s great! The reason I do this job is to watch films. And it’s just the job’s gotten bigger and changed, but at the end of the day, it’s watching films that I like to do.

You go way back with the Brixton Ritzy and Brixton in general – how did you get started there?

My husband was working as an usher there, I think around 1979, and I was doing other jobs at the time, and I went in as an usher about 1980, and I’ve been involved ever since. So I’ve done everything there.

Clare Binns

So how did your role develop?

I did front of house for six years, but I was a projectionist, I was a manager, started booking the cinemas, started being more involved with other cinemas – just with every transformation of the Ritzy, I’ve been the constant within the organisation. I always say that however many cinemas I program and however much I’m involved, the Ritzy is my template of what a good local cinema should be. You might not always get it right – there’s always more films and more events and other people who’ve got different views. But the fact is that my heart and soul is in the Ritzy and what it means for a local audience, and it’s what I base everything I do on. And I love booking it; I love being involved.

In terms of the path your career’s taken, do you think it’s unique? Do you think those days are gone?

I don’t think it’s unique; I think it’s much harder for people these days. The only qualification I’ve got is a swimming certificate and so I’ve done pretty well. And now most of the people that apply for jobs with me have got university degrees or they’ve been to film school. But I think if you’re hungry enough, if you’re keen enough, if you’re prepared to put in the hours… and you know, I used to do the cleaning at the Ritzy, I did the projection, I was there for the all-nighters and even now, I’m a 24-hour working kind of person. I think if you’re prepared to do that, you can still progress through the film industry. But I think it’s tough.

And do you feel it’s almost not working – it’s a passion, so it doesn’t feel like work?

Yeah, I am passionate about it and I’m incredibly lucky to have the job I have, but at the same time I take my job and what I do very seriously, and I don’t turn off from it – much to my children’s and husband’s annoyance! But you have to be passionate about it; it’s not something you can ever think “oh, I’ll just stop doing this for a couple days.”

What’s your biggest frustration about the job?

Well, there’s times when I wish we had more screens at the Ritzy, and there’s times when 5 screens are too much, because there’s not very good films out there. And you are judged as a programmer on what films you play. I don’t beat myself up too much because at the end of the day someone has to make the decision about what’s played in the cinema, and there’s all sorts of reasons why films get played. It can be frustrating that you can’t always get what you want in the cinema. It’s the best time to be booking; it’s better than I’ve ever seen it, because there’s a lot going on.

Is there something that sticks in your mind, as the ‘one that got away’?

Not really – I suppose it’s been fantastic to see how the Ritzy used to have beg and struggle to get films, and now I spend a lot of my time saying no, because everyone wants their film in there. So I have to work out, with the 13 or so films that are released each week, which are the ones that go in. And that’s why I sometimes get frustrated that there’s not enough screens to do everything in.

The Picturehouse is a chain, essentially, but it’s still very independent in spirit. How proud of that are you of that status in the face of Cineworlds and Odeons that don’t necessarily offer that experience?

I actually think, yes, Picturehouse is an independent company, but to me, it’s what we do, and if we were owned by Microsoft or whoever, the people at Picturehouse all care passionately about film and cinema and what we do. So I think it’s more how you deliver something – and if McDonalds or anyone else delivers anything that’s good and people are excited about it, you don’t criticise that. So I think it’s really about the people that are involved and the passion for what they do. I just think it’s because of who we are here, and it’s not just me – it’s everyone who’s in the fold with Picturehouse.

Do you think that’s there’s an ethos that informs that, that everybody who works at Picturehouse is on the same page?

Yeah, I guess that’s it. And going into distribution, and the sorts of films we’re picking up and what we’re doing – that’s all very exciting. And everyone likes the job – we all like the job; but there’s days when you get frustrated and tired, with any job.

What’s your favourite memory at the Ritzy?

Well, recently, having Harry Belafonte at the cinema was magnificent – because to go into the screen and having a standing ovation from a typical Ritzy audience where it was different ages, races, creeds, colours, politics – everybody. You looked at that audience, where else would you get an audience like this? And it was incredibly moving. But you know, there’s been lots of fantastic things along the way, and we’re talking about having been involved for 30 years. Some of the gay pride stuff we’ve done over the years, Quentin Tarantino coming, I could just go on and on. I think it’s the staff who make that venue, it’s the building, it’s Brixton – it’s everything about it. So I feel just great that I can still be a part of it.

The Ritzy in 1989

In your opinion, why is film important?

Because I think film can do so many things on so many levels – it can entertain, it can make you think. Visually, it gives you something that no one else can… it’s a sharing thing. You can be in your row in the auditorium and feel good, you can be with a full house and experience something like no other. It’s a medium that does not get the recognition like literature or music, but really, I don’t care – I know how important it is. And I know that when you sit in an auditorium like I did at the Ritzy watching The Blair Witch Project with a full house and the gasps and roars and boos. I think film is to me, one of the greatest that there is in life.

And what is it that makes Brixton so special?

I think the Ritzy is part of why Brixton is so fantastic. I’ve lived in Brixton since I was 19 and I’m 57 now – and I love it, I’ve always loved it. It’s changed hugely, and you know, I was in the Ritzy when the ‘81 riots took place. I’ve been there all the way through it and I think what I like about it is this mix. It’s a real mix of everybody – rich, poor, young, old, black, white – and that to me is where I feel comfortable and where I think it’s a true reflection of what this country can be. And it has had some difficult problems and there have been some times when the police have behaved badly, when no money was there, and all the companies suffered. And that’s why I say that after the riots, the fact that Marks and Spencers stayed, and all the other chains left – I’ve seen it grown up. And now I find it remarkable, what’s going on. But I hope it continues to be the liberal, tolerant and exciting place that it’s always been.

What are your views on the current state of exhibition? Do lament the decline of 35mm or are you positive about the future of digital?

I think that 35mm is great, but I think digital has opened a door and we can never go back. For me, it’s allowed me much more flexibility. We can do so many different things that we could never do before. And when you see a 35mm print, it’s great! But if you want to come to the cinema and see a film looking beautiful as the day it was locked, then digital is the way. If you wanted to see Dark Knight in the third week of release, you would see crackles and bumps and jumps and all the rest of it. So I think for the viewer, it’s a really good experiences. And I think for me as a programmer, it allows me to do lots of things I couldn’t do before.

What are your top three films of all time? 

Well, I can sort of give you the three I can think of now. I would say Eraserhead, I like very much. Which Fred Astaire would I pick? Top Hat. And… I should pick one from recently… Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present.

What advice would you give to a young person looking to get into programming?

Be prepared to work hard, not give up, and realise you have to pay your dues. Don’t give up, but you have to keep going and be prepared to do a lot of shit along the way.

You can follow Clare Binns on Twitter @ClareLBinns. Visit the Ritzy Cinema homepage here. A version of this interview originally appeared in the Brixton Bugle newspaper.

Beats Rhymes and Life: Midnight Marauders homage

Soda Pictures, the company behind the imminent DVD release of ace hip-hop doc Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest (which we’re screening at London’s lovely Clapham Picturehouse on Thursday 27 September at 20:30) have created a special homage to the ‘Midnight Marauders’ album cover featuring faces of famous UK artists and DJs who are Tribe fans such as Zane Lowe, Roots Manuva, Reggie Yates and more (plus bonus face Childish Gambino aka comedian Donald Glover). It’s pretty cool, and it looks like this:

Re: the screening, you can, and absolutely should, buy tickets here, and you can bet we’ll be making an event out of it, with drinks and music in the bar, food, and a prize giveaway. Before you scamper off to tell all of your friends, be sure to watch the trailer:

Open City Docs Fest | 21-24 June

Taking place from 21-24 June in venues around central London and across University College London’s WC1 campus, the Open City Docs Fest returns for another round of documentary-based wonder. In terms of info on programme and the ethos behind the fest, there’s very little I can add that hasn’t been covered by the carefully crafted press release, so I’ll hand over to that right now.

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Open City Docs Fest is a live festival devoted to exploring the world we live in through the vision of documentary film. The festival presents films about real life, and about the experience of real people many of whose voices are not often heard. We challenge, explore and expand ideas of what documentary can be and do, provoking debate and opening minds. With interactive screenings, special events, conversations, workshops, performances, music, and great food and drink – the festival provides stimulation and enjoyment for everyone.

Open City Docs Fest has selected films that explore the range of modern life from the challenges of urban living, to the thrills of science, the subversion of art and the restorative beauty of music. Select your viewing from our handily organised festival strands including Science FrictionsProtest WorksSound WavesStill LivesArtists’ DocumentaryThe Image of the EngineerCity ScopeWorld Visions and Shorts programmes alongside a showcase of the winners of our nationwide, online film-making competition, MyStreet or choose from the fantastic titles selected for our Awards by our Jury.

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Needless to say, it looks great. Highlights from the programme include Project Nim, James Marsh’s tragic tale of serious monkey business, Guy Davidi’s 5 Broken Cameras, a Palestinian farmer’s chronicle of his nonviolent resistance to the actions of the Israeli army, Paul Duane’s excellent Barbaric Genius, and the fantastic sounding Grandma Lo-fi, about an elderly Icelandic lady who became a cult pop star. The festival’s opening night gala is Matthew Akers’ revealing doc on performance artist Marina Abramovic, The Artist is Present. Here’s the trailer:

Click here for more information on prices and how to buy tickets.

Film Africa 2011 announced

Permanent Plastic Helmet, already beside itself with anticipation about the forthcoming 55th BFI London Film Festival, has received some more very exciting festival news.

In its first appearance since its inaugural event in December 2008, Film Africa, the London African Film Festival will return, taking place from the 3rd – 13th November 2011 in venues including Hackney Picturehouse, Brixton Ritzy, RichMix and SOAS. The festival programme will showcase more than 50 of Africa’s best films and 15 UK premieres, as well as a wide-ranging selection of Q&As, panel discussions and live performances.

Film Africa will open with the multi-award winning film Microphone, featuring a special presentation by the Egyptian actor, director and human rights activist Khaled Abol Naga and a live performance by Dele Sosimi and Dudu Sarr.

Other guests in attendance will include filmmakers and actors Zina Saro-Wiwa, Sarah Maldoror, Ariane Astrid Atodji, Dorylia Calmel, Sara Blecher and Kamauwa Ndung’u, all of whom will be present to talk to audiences during the festival.

As well as an exciting programme of African experimental film (which itself includes five premieres), there will be a special focus on Africa’s foremost women filmmakers. Sarah Maldoror – the first woman to make a feature film in Africa – will be in attendance to present her film Sambizanga and do a Q&A with audiences.

Other programme highlights include the inauguration of The Distribution Forum, featuring panellists who are committed to improving the distribution and exhibition of African film in the UK (Sunday 6 November, SOAS, free and open to the public); and The Silver Baobab Award for Best Short African Film, with EcoBank sponsoring a prize of £2000 for the winning film, to be presented by filmmaker Sarah Maldoror.

If that wasn’t already enough, there will also be live entertainment throughout the festival, with 9 nights of sounds from a host of London’s most exciting African-inspired musicians and DJs, including Grupo Lokito, the Krar Collective, Mashasha&Sam, Namvula Rennie, Bumi Thomas and DJs Rita Ray, Africathy, Volta 45 and Suga Kan’n.

In summing up the importance of the event, Film Africa Co-Director and Senior Lecturer in African Film at SOAS, Dr Lindiwe Dovey, says: ‘There has never been greater interest in African film, and Film Africa aims to celebrate and participate in this movement. A half-century after Africans started making their own films, supplanting the patronising iconographies evident in colonial cinema set in Africa, African Cinema is finally being recognised across the globe.

It looks essential, and PPH can’t wait!

Visit the Film Africa website for more information.

Do your bit for independent DVD and Blu-Ray in the UK with a click or two

In the light of the damage done to the stock of several independent film, DVD and Blu-ray distributors in the London riots, website Bleeding Cool have complied a thorough list of links where you can visit the iTunes store or other vendors to buy films from said distributors. If enough copies of enough films get purchased, it will make a real impact on the distributors’ chances of comeback from the destruction. Click away.

Sony/PIAS Warehouse Burnt Down in UK Riots