Exploring the impact of conflict on everyone through film #ConvoCinema at the QFT

susan picken QFTRather than telling stories about wars, we’re also interested in exploring how conflict has impacted on displaced people, refugees, women, those who are left behind and the soldiers as well … We’re trying to broaden it out from a purely historical perspective into something that is a little bit more about the actual people and feelings and how it has impacted on people’s real lives.

That’s how Queens Film Theatre‘s head Susan Picken described the new Conversations about Cinema: Impact on Conflict season of films in collaboration with other independent cinemas like Bristol Watershed and Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff.

The original inspiration was that the Great War was meant to be the war that ended all wars and very clearly it hasn’t. So we started thinking about how conflict had been represented in the interim in the history of film.

While the story of Vera Brittain in new release Testament of Youth has just finished a two week run in the QFT, four more films have been programmed in February, each looking at different creative approaches used by filmmakers to explore conflict, locally and internationally.

Bernadette – Monday 2 February at 6.30pm – a documentary by Turner Prize winner Duncan Campbell on Bernadette Devlin described as “a very creative interpretation on the documentary form”. Followed by a panel discussion.

The Act of Killing – Tuesday 3 February at 8.50pm – first screening of Joshua Oppenheimer’s director’s cut in Northern Ireland which explores the impact of guerrilla warfare and mass extermination and how the perpetrators come to terms with their actions.

Restrepo – Wednesday 4 February at 6.15pm – Tim Hetherington offers a glimpse into the war in Afghanistan from his perspective embedded with the Second Platoon, Battle Company, 173rd Airbourne Brigade for fifteen months. A Skype Q&A with Iraq war veteran Raymond Ranger follows the screening.

Waltz With Bashir – Thursday 5 February at 6.30pm – An animated documentary exploring the trauma of war and human right violations as Israeli director Ari Folman reconstructs his own memories of the 1982 invasion of Lebanon through interviews with fellow veterans and the massacres at the Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut.

Aside from these archive films, a new release will tie in with the conflict strand:

Selma – Friday 6 to Thursday 19 February – Ava DuVernay’s poignant and passionate chronicle of a tumultuous three months in 1965 including Dr martin Luther King Jr’s campaign to secure equal voting rights and the epic march from Selma to Montgomery which culminated in President Johnston signing the Voting Rights Act, a significant victory for the civil rights movement.

The QFT manages Film Hub NI, a UK-wide initiative to grow cinema audiences. As head of the QFT, Susan is obviously a fan of independent cinema, and the trend towards hosting discussions and Q&As after screenings.

There’s a lot that people can experience and enjoy and learn from and be inspired by. There’s a whole world of film out there that you just don’t get access to … One of the joys of cinema is that it’s a communal experience and being with other people and it’s a shame that people can’t have that experience more often – which is what the Film Hub for Northern Ireland is trying to do – to broaden that experience out.

For a while, the future of the QFT and a number of NI film festivals looked very bleak due to the proposals for a 50% cut to their DCAL budgets. The new Stormont Budget has been agreed and while the final figures have not trickled down from departments to arms length bodies and the delivery organisations, the signs are that while there will still be a cut to funding but “it’s looking a lot more positive” and won’t be quite so severe.

But anything is an improvement on 50% of your budget being taken away. What was phenomenal and was really encouraging was the amount of response that we got and how people cam out to the consultation and supported everybody in the sector. I think it really shows that people do care.

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