Come See The Paradise

Niall Anderson looks at smaller festivals and special screenings coming up this summer

'Is that the Lord in your eyes or are you just happy to see me?' Maria Falconetti in Dreyer's The Passion Of Joan Of Arc
‘It’s been seven hours and fifteen days since my last confession.’ Maria Falconetti in Dreyer’s The Passion Of Joan Of Arc

Film festival season begins every year in January with Sundance, proceeds to Berlin for February, and advances to Cannes in early May. Somewhere in the middle the Oscars happen, and then the heavy-hitters take a breather till August and Venice. In the meantime there are countless smaller festivals, special one-off screenings, and various blink-and-you’ll-miss-em appearances of directors and films you might like to see if only you knew they were happening. So welcome to the Mostly Film Blink-And-You’ll-Miss-Em round up for summer 2013.

First up, because it’s genuinely first up, is a special showing in London’s Union Chapel of Carl Dreyer’s 1928 silent masterpiece The Passion Of Joan Of Arc. A critical classic almost since it first appeared, and renowned for the savagely self-exposing turn of its star, Maria Falconetti, The Passion has inspired countless musical interpretations and post hoc soundtracks. The one you’ll hear at the Union Chapel is by Irish composer Irene Butler, scored for soprano, organ and electronics. Part of the Union Chapel’s Organ Project season, the piece will be performed on July 17th only. If you’d like free tickets, there will be a competition on MostlyFilm’s twitter account – starting NOW.

'No, I'm just happy to see you.' Amit Kumar's Monsoon Shootout.
‘No, I’m just happy to see you.’ Amit Kumar’s Monsoon Shootout.

Following immediately on – by which I mean, starting the next day – is the return of the London Indian Film Festival. Headlined this year by Amit Kumar’s Monsoon Shootout, the aim of the festival is to show the English-speaking world the best in independent Indian cinema. For the first time, the roster will include Pakistani and Gujarati films. Particularly interesting is playwright Mohat Takalkar’s film debut, The Bright Day, a picaresque tale of a youthful backpacking journey in India, only this time made by somebody actually from India.

Closing out the LIFF is the Satyajit Ray Foundation’s Short Film Competition, taking place in the Nehru Centre in London’s West End on 23 July. Six short films compete for best of the year, with a shortlist involving films from India, Canada, the UK and the US. Recommended for those who want a short, sharp look at what Indian cinema might become in the next decade.

Much more populist – and also a bit baffling – is the British Airways Silent Picturehouse festival running from 22-26 July. The first gimmick here is that you get headphones for every film – the better to replicate the in-flight movie experience. Because, as we all know, the films you see on planes are absolutely the best films ever, seen under ideal conditions, always.

The second gimmick is that every film is supposed to have a “time travel” element – the better to remind you that films were once completely silent. How Skyfall, Jaws and Top Gun are supposed to remind you of this is a conundrum the organisers don’t care to explain: maybe it’s just that you’ll almost certainly have seen them before. But hey, if you like Skyfall and hate people, you might like this.

Do what thou wilt. 'What, even this?' Frightfest founder Aleister Crowley - such a card.
Do what thou wilt. ‘What, even this?’ Frightfest founder Aleister Crowley – such a card.

More reliable – or at least more provably deathless and implacable – is Frightfest (22-26 August), haunting the Empire Leicester Square for the umpteenth year since founder Jimmy Page conjured it into being by scrying up the necromantic spirit of Aleister Crowley using a mirror made of pure Satan. [Editor’s note – this may not have happened.] Mostly Film will doubtless produce its usual eye-rolling, head-swivelling account of what went on once the festival ends, but why not get in early? The roster this year includes the reanimation of the Child’s Play franchise in the form of Curse Of Chucky, and concludes with films called (sequentially) Painless, Wither and Snap – which is either a late Beckett trilogy or a radical rebranding of Rice Krispies.

Lest this all seem a bit London-centric and comfortably bourgeois, why not head to the Arnolfini in Bristol between 17 and 23 September for the Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival? The festival has a good hit rate in launching new careers in film and TV. This year’s Oscar-nominated short from the UK, ‘Head Over Heels’, had its debut here in 2012.

By now, though, we’re heading into September and getting ready for the London Film Festival – the spiritual beginning of Mostly Film. Before that happens, though, we have the return of the London Spanish Film Festival, one of the youngest of the festivals covered here. A slightly chaotic experience in previous years, Mostly Film hopes the festival can iron out its technical problems and give its impressive roster of films the airing it deserves.

Got any other festivals to recommend? Bung your suggestions in a comment and they’ll magically appear in the sidebar.

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