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London Festival celebrates the cutting edge in filmmaking

The Times BFI 50th London Film Festival celebrates the cutting edge in artists’ filmmaking by dedicating a special event to Kenneth Anger, a legendary pioneer of independent cinema.The Festival’s Avant-Garde Weekend (28-30 October), will also celebrate the influential work of Jack Smith, another filmmaker distinguished for his uncompromising creative vision, and will welcome back James Benning (One Way Boogie Woogie/27 Years Later), attending the festival for the fifth time.

Kenneth Anger’s iconic films are an extraordinary demonstration of the transformative power of cinema. Often hailed the ‘Godfather of MTV’ for the innovative use of music in his influential short film Scorpio Rising, Anger is also the best-selling author of the “Hollywood Babylon” books, which first spilled the beans on the dark side of Hollywood’s golden age. The special Kenneth Anger 35mm Preservations event offers an opportunity to see Anger’s landmark works as they have never been seen before: in glorious new 35mm prints made by the UCLA Film Archive with support from The Film Foundation. The Festival will also screen Anger Me, a feature-length documentary in which the director looks back on his amazing life and career.

The Experimenta strand also premieres Cam Archer’s much anticipated debut Wild Tigers I Have Known. Archer here develops and hones his ability to capture the moody world of adolescence and in particular the twin dual pleasure and pain of the teenage crush with his captivating and provocative feature. The young California-based indie director was discovered through the Sundance organisation, and has quickly established a strong reputation as a director of imaginative shorts and music videos.

Challenging censorship through avant-garde filmmaking is the subject of Queer China: An Evening with Cui Zi’en, an exclusive Festival event featuring a key figure in China’s burgeoning gay scene. Cui Zi’en, a professor at the Beijing Film Academy, is currently not allowed to teach because he refuses to leave gay issues off the academic agenda. Two of his digital films Star Appeal and Withered in a Blooming Season will be screened, followed by an in-depth discussion that will explore issues around queer identity and alienation.

Also featured in a special event will be Phil Chamblis (Arkansas Auteur: The Folk Art Films of Phil Chambliss) - making his international debut at this year’s 50th Festival. His unique short films about life in the Arkansas backwoods play like film folk art and will appeal to discerning viewers.

The Avant-Garde Weekend (28-30 October) provides a unique opportunity to survey recent cinematic work by international artists, presenting a diversity of observations, personal statements and technical innovation over four curated programmes of short films and videos. Other highlights of the weekend include Jack Smith & The Destruction of Atlantis, a documentary dedicated to the exotic world of Jack Smith - a seminal figure of contemporary art, experimental theatre, fashion, film and photography. With a cult following, Jack Smith has also been adored by the likes of Andy Warhol, who once said Smith was “The only person I would ever copy. He makes the best movies.” The Festival’s annual Avant-Garde Weekend gives the public unparalleled access to artists’ film and video, which is now enjoying a greater public profile as more cinema screenings take place at major art institutions such as the Tate Modern and Frieze Art Fair. Luis Recoder + Sandra Gibson will perform a live multi-projection work at the ICA, physically manipulating the film strip and projected image live before the audience. These young New York artists are at the forefront of contemporary practice in the field of live film performance known as ‘expanded cinema’.

The Festival’s jubilee year will celebrate other ways of expanding the cinematic experience at several events presenting film outside the traditional cinema venue. This year, the 50th Anniversary will host a special free event in Trafalgar Square - ‘A Portrait of London’ - on Friday 27th October. Under the creative direction of Mike Figgis, a series of short films or ‘digital postcards’ from UK-based directors and artists will be mixed live to music by Roxbury (who have previously worked with Goldfrapp), and projected onto a 120ft screen in front of the National Gallery. The following Sunday will witness the world’s largest ever screening of Surprise Films across 50 London venues. 50 Screens will feature surprise films in cinemas across London, together with screenings in unconventional venues, such as a h hhhhh h ospital, a prison and a pub.

In addition, the premiere of Lukas Moodysson’s Film on the Square feature Container will coincide with a one-off art installation at the ICA called Inside The Head of Lukas Moodysson: The Container Crypt. The installation will project Container onto three separate screens inside an interactive environment. The visitor will be encouraged to navigate the space using torches, exploring Moodysson’s creativity through objects and artefacts from his feature films Container, Lilya-4-Ever and A Hole in My Heart, which screened at last year’s Festival.

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