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Flatpack Film Festival 2016 - Birmingham

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by ABC Writer (subscribe)
Freelance journalist with a passion for theatre, the arts, food and books.
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Films, Art, Documentaries And More
The critically acclaimed Flatpack Film Festival features 137 events across 17 venues in Birmingham as it marks its 10th anniversary. Along with film screenings, there will also be live performances and art installations from April 19 to 24.

 Richard Nicholson: The Projectionists, Flatpack festival , Birmingham film festival
Richard Nicholson: The Projectionists photo exhibition is part of Flatpack Festival

The main change to this year's event sees the festival hub move to the beautiful and historic building of Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery's Gas Hall, off Victoria Square. Gas Hall will be the base for numerous exhibitions and free daytime screenings, for people to sample the programme.

Gas Hall also provides fun for families and children of all ages with Colour Box. It is a weekend of screenings and workshops offering plenty of opportunity to get creative as well as seeing the best in animated world cinema during April 23 and 24.

From Ethiopian sci-fi to six-hour Portuguese epics via American biopics and memory-bending thrillers, this year's Flatpack festival programme offers a wide-ranging assortment of cinematic gems from around the world.

Flatpack's opening night launches on April 19 at Adrian Boult Hall at 8pm with a unique presentation of Carl Theodor Dreyer's atmospheric and mesmerising, Vampyr (1932). This has an imaginative new live rescore by four piece multi-instrumentalists Minima and film pianist Stephen Horne.

Among the highlights is Deniz Gamze Erguven's debut Mustang which shows at Mac Birmingham in Edgbaston on April 20. It has a score by Warren Ellis and is a lyrical fable that pits adolescent sensuality against the patriarchal society of a quiet Black Sea village.

While at The Electric Cinema in Station Street on April 24, there's also an oddball Japanese fantasy Love and Peace from prolific filmmaker Sion Sono.

Blind cinema, electric cinema, Flatpack film festival
Blind Cinema is one of the innovative experiences at Flatpack

The Electric Cinema also hosts Blind Cinema on April 22 April, which has been devised by Belgian artist Britt Hatzius. As visitors enter the cinema, they are blindfolded by a group of schoolchildren who describe a whispered narration to what they see on screen via an ear trumpet. Partly inspired by the art of audio description, the film Britt has made will never be seen by anyone other than herself and her young narrators, who will see it themselves for the first time.

Always paying attention to the marriage of film and music, Flatpack has this year incorporated an Optical Sound strand to the programme. This is hosted under one roof at the Birmingham and Midland Institute for a weekend of live soundtracks and A-V performances, screenings and events. This includes, on April 22, new scores to Chris Marker's existential time travel classic photo montage La Jeteé re-scored by LARVA, and Giant Axe Field's Thaumatos - an improvised audio-visual cut-up tribute to Georges Franju's world of mystery and illusion, with footage from his Surrealist Judex (1963) and Nuits Rouges (1974).

On April 23, mechanical magician Pierre Bastien gives a performance reformulating his Silent Motors set. He has been making his own musical machinery for nearly 40 years creating textured looping soundscapes made up from various sources including Meccano parts, motors, fans and rattles.

Picture-wise photographer Richard Nicholson has images on display in Gas Hall on the changes to the projection box as film has made way for digital. Richard Nicholson: The Projectionists is displayed from April 20 to 24. The work is part of a wider research project at the University of Warwick on the changing role of the projectionist.

Documentaries this year celebrate eccentric creativity. Adventurer Karel Zeman on April 19 at The Electric Cinema focuses on Czech animator and Harryhausen contemporary Karel Zeman. Don't Think I've Forgotten on April 22 at Birmingham & Midland Institute is about the vibrant 1960s/70s Cambodian music scene that was tragically cut short by the Khmer Rouge.

Adventurer Karel Zeman on April 19 at The Electric Cinema focuses on Czech animator and Harryhausen contemporary Karel Zeman. Flatpack film festival Birmingham
Documentaries at Flatpack includes one on Karel Zeman

Then there is NG83 on April 23 April at The Electric Cinema, which takes a look back on the UK Hip Hop/Breakdancing explosion in the 1980s, particularly in Nottingham. There is also Original Copy, at The Electric Cinema on April 24 about a Mumbai painter who elevates movie advertising to a fine art.

Flatpack also this year explores the legacy of pioneering art group Action Space - an artists' initiative founded in 1968 which saw enormous multi-coloured inflatables pop up in parks, council estates and shopping centres.

One of the founder's sons, Huw Wahl, has recreated one of Action Space's legendary inflatables and will set up home in Victoria Square for the final three days of the festival from April 22 to 24. There will even be a chance for festival-goers to see a new film about Action Space featuring archive footage and testimonies from those involved. It will be shown at Electric Cinema on April 23.

Closing the festival at The Old Rep on April 24 will be a screening of of F.W.Murnau's expressionistic adaptation of Goethe's Faust (1926) which shifts back and forth between demonic gothic horror and bucolic comedy. Providing a live score to the film is Matt Eaton (Pram) and Gareth Jones (Misty's Big Adventure).

Flatpack Festival has grown in popularity and various directions since it's beginnings as a short film night in a Digbeth pub.

Co-founder and director Ian Francis says: "Flatpack has lost most of its baby fat, while we hope retaining traces of what made it so adorable in the first place. We've tried to keep rethinking things every year, trusting our instinct and listening to feedback."
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Why? Films, documentaries, art and more
When: April 19 - 24, 2016
Where: All across Birmingham
Cost: Varies - Many free events
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