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Phillip Bergson

Writing about Films and Festivals.


Film Critic, UK,Invited Member  of  The UK Critics' Circle

FIPRESCI abd the European Film Academy.

Visiting Lecturer, Prague Film School.


Winner of the  "Student Journalist of the Year" competition in the UK weekly New Statesman, as a Classics Scholar Phillip Bergson then founded the Oxford Film Festival and, on graduating, was selected by "The Sunday Times" as a 'New Critic' and in the same week began broadcasting on film for many BBC Radio programmes. A contributor to the "Times Literary Supplement", "TES",The Spectator,film critic on "The Sunday Standard", "Screen International",Variety, "Film Bulletin", "Film a Doba" inter alia, and on the FilmFestJOURNAL in Berlin and Screen Dailies at Cannes,he also worked for the "European Script Fund", has scripted shorts and features (that have been produced and released) and, fluent in eight-and-a-half languages, currently programmes and advises several international film festivals and is.Casting Consultant on several international features. At the National  Museum of Photography, Film and Television, in his native Yorkshire, he created the "Eurovisions" project, to promote classic and contemporary European cinema,which was inaugurated at the Cine Lumiere in London by His Excellency the President of Iceland.

Presenter and Programmer,London Turkish Film Week, December 2018

Co=programmer, 2nd London Turkish Film Week, April 2019

Artistic Director, 3rd London Turkish Film Week, planned for 1-7 June 2020.

As a FIPRESCI Jury Member

and a member of  International Juries at

Thessaloniki, Europa Cinema (Rimini), Munich Documentary, Manaki Brothers,Cine Jove (Valencia),Chicago, TIFF-ODA


London Leads in Doc Wars

Suddenly, everything's coming up doc-fests. Munich's has just ended (a well-run event organised in the famous  Film Museum and other  gemuetlich venues around the Bavarian capital since 1991), Sheffield's has just announced the complete programme for its event which  moves dates from autumn to next month, and the now stand-alone Edinburgh International Film Festival, with its new team and slenderer budget, returns to its post-war orgins with a strong focus on the documentary for its 65th edition, running later next month. But the palm has been taken so far by the London International Documentary Festival (13-28 May 2011), which in only its fifth edition has grown enormously in size, ambition and achievement.

The omens may not have been auspicious  for the opening- not only because it was Friday the 13th (and apparently some of the festival staff and a lot of their brochures were briefly stuck in a lift en route to the Barbican!), but its new timing clashes with some other film event rumoured to be happening in a fishing village on the wrong side of Monte Carlo. The press launch had, however, been a very lively soiree in the splendid premises of the London Review of Books's own bookshop (in the heart of Bloomsbury and in the shadow of the British Museum)- this distinguished literary journal (whose latest issue, published on 19 May 2011 at £3.20 or $4.95 to US and Canadian literati, contains a lively review of a new biography of Humphrey Bogart) has been an enthusiastic champion of the festival through its publisher Nicholas Spicer, offering not only office and party space but- I suspect - probably raiding its own cafe for the tasty canapes and a memorable Sauvignon from New Zealand for the launch on 7th April- O! brave new bookshop, that has such wines on its shelves.A goodly crowd of multi-lingual festival volunteers may have outnumbered card-carrying members of the Critics' Circle giving up their Friday evening for the event, but the new press attachee Fiona Hazard had an efficiently-presented dossier and as guests spilled out onto the pavement on the first warm weekend of what would prove to be the hottest UK April on record, it was clear that the LIFD was bidding fair to become an event of size and importance, to add to the crowded schedule of London-based film extravaganzas, and one not to ignore.

Opening night certainly confirmed that.An elegant pre-screening reception was hosted by the Brazilian Embassy in the suitably fern-filled Conservatory Garden atop the labyrinthine Barbican arts centre.Guests who had just jetted in included Kathleen Russo, widow of Spalding Gray and producer of the film about him selected in LIDF, and  sharp-eyed media representatives could have recognised an actor from Point Break amongst the ferns and festival staff.The inaugural screening, in the underground Cinema I, was completely sold out, and an ambassadorial deputy made a quite emotional introduction to its subject, Senna, an engrossing feature-length portrait of the  young Brazilian racing driver whose brilliant career ended on the track in 1994.

The Festival Director Patrick Hazard eloquently chaired a panel after the screening with the UK-based director of the film Asif Kapadia, his producer and script-writer, who explained how they wanted Ayrton Senna to tell his story in his own words, charting his decade as a legendary Formula One driver, and his rivalry with Alain Prost.Using a wealth of found footage, much of it previously unseen,the film ensures that  the personality of Senna captivates throughout .Unsurprisingly,it won the World Cinema Documentary Audience Award at Sundance this January, and judging by the response of the people who paid to see it here, should do well on theatrical release imminently in this country.

Exiting the Barbican Cinema 1, I was handed a map purporting to show the way to the next whisky bar, or rather to the so-called 1920 Bar, venue for a party promising cachaca  treats sponsored by Sagatiba.A map to get out of the complicated Barbican complex itself would have been just as welcome (I refer you to an earlier blog), but I should admit that as we struggled through the main foyer, the joint did seem to be jumping, with post-concert audiences cavorting amiably aside still-open cash-bars to distinctly unMahlerian beats and atmospheric lighting - perhaps a Friday Late event or something do with the long night of the museums? But it was not our Brazilian fiesta, and it took a deal of wandering the adjacent streets as clumps of lost guests finally reached darkest Clerkenwell and  the venue to which we were summoned, which turned out not to be an art deco speakeasy, but simply the address, 19-20 Great Sutton Street. Downstairs there was a welcomingly retro space, but it more resembled something out of Barbarella or TV's 'The Avengers', rather than the Roaring Twenties.Never mind the absence of Lalique,the cocktails rocked, so muito obrigado ,sponsoring Sagatiba! I made my excuses and stayed till 2a.m.

The sub-title to the 2011 LIDF is 'A Conversation in Film' and the festival continues (to 28th May) in a dozen further venues, around the capital, from popular public cinemas such as the Curzon Soho, to luxurious screening rooms in the Courthouse and Soho Hotels, university venues such as the excellent Birkbeck Cinema, and the more- comfortable-than-it-sounds Horse Hospital, nestling behind the handsomely-revamped Russell Hotel, in the Square of the same name. Short and long documentaries focus on Arab themes, Happiness, and Pakistan. Continuing the strand of feature biographies, I much enjoyed Steven Soderbergh's And Everything is Going Fine, apparently five years in the making and already seen at a host of international festivals (and last year in Edinburgh).This does not even acknowledge the tragic, ironic end of the quirky American actor and monologuist,Spalding Gray who went to the great green room in the sky by his own hand some seven years ago, but celebrates the way he found his voice, quite literally, intercutting footage from several of his unique, discursive and wrily amusing sit-down shows.After the screening, in the Barbican's Cinema 1, Patrick Hazard engaged the producer Kathleen Russo in eloquent discussion about Gray's life and art ,and several audience members shared warm remembrances of seeing him perform live.Although this film does not yet have any distribution in the UK, it clearly deserves to, and the LIDF is to be applauded for arranging such an elegant English premiere of it.

Further programme and ticket details from The screenings in Europe House are free but require reservation.

Phillip Bergson

About Phillip Bergson