Cinecity, Brighton’s annual independent film festival, turns 21 this year and has scheduled more than 50 films across 10 venues in Brighton and Lewes next month.
From Friday 10 November to Sunday 19 November, screenings will include previews of four major films due for release in 2024, short films made by local film-makers and award-winning films from world cinema.
There will also be Q&A sessions, live music showings and another look at three Powell and Pressburger films, among them the Red Shoes.
It all began in 2003, remembers the festival’s director and co-founder Tim Brown, when the Brighton Festival dropped film from its programme to concentrate on the performing arts.
At the same time, the Brighton Jewish Film Festival, set up in 1997, shifted its focus away from the city to become the UK Jewish Film Festival and is still held every November.
“Brighton, with its a rich film history and a large and enthusiastic cinema-going public, was left without a dedicated film festival,” says Tim. “At the time I was part-time education officer and special events programmer for City Screen (now Picturehouse).
“My other job was education officer at Screen Archive South East, working with Director Frank Gray. We reasoned bringing the two organisations together could provide a solid platform for a Brighton Film Festival with strong cultural and commercial drivers at its centre.”
Time has proved them right. Cinecity, the largest celebration of cinema in the south east, flourished from year one when Pulse: A Stomp Odyssey and Dogville were the opening films in a festival of more than 40 screenings.
This year’s screenings will bring the total shown since 2003 to more than 1,000 films, a remarkable achievement for Tim and his small team. “One festival has hardly finished before work begins on programming and organising the next one.”
The programme is very strong this year, he says. “We kick off on (Friday) 10 November with Poor Things, winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, by Yorgos Lanthimos, who directed the award-winning The Favourite. Andrew Haigh’s All of us strangers closes the festival on Sunday 19 November.
“In between, we have outstanding and award-winning films, among them Fallen Leaves by Finnish director Ari Kaurismaki, winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes, and Evil Does Not Exist, the work of Oscar-winning Japanese director Ryusuke Hamaguchi.”
Spring, a city symphony devoted to Kyiv and made in 1929 by Mikhail Kaufmann, is one of several films that will be accompanied by live music.
We will not fade away was made over the past three years by Alisa Kovalenko and is a moving look at the lives of five teenagers in the Donbas region of Ukraine.
Both will show under the Reel Lives banner, reinforcing the cultural exchange between the UK and the Ukraine.
Tim and his colleagues have faced many challenges and witnessed many changes in the cinema world during the past 21 years. Chief among the challenges was the covid pandemic of 2020 when all cinemas had to shut their doors.
“We got round that by partnering with Bath, Cambridge and Cornwall film festivals to produce Amplify, a very successful online response.”
And changes? “The fundamental shift from celluloid to digital,” he says. “In the first year all the films were celluloid. In 2004 a restoration of Blow Up was our first digital test screening. This year all the films but one are in digital format.
“New technology is also available to cinemagoers. As a result, Tim and his colleagues are required to provide security at the showing of the major previews to ensure that nobody copies the films on their phones before their release in the UK and the USA.”
The only old school film is Mad Love, a surrealist extravaganza shot in 16mm in the 1970s. “It’s the centrepiece of a programme of events celebrating the centenary of Brighton-based experimental artist and film-maker Jeff Keen,” says Tim. “It’s a very Brighton way of celebrating celluloid.”
Cinecity 2023 is supported by the British Film Institute, Film Audience Network and the Screen and Film School Brighton.
For more information, visit the cine-city.co.uk website for details about venues, screening times and prices.