A Festival of Guerrilla Filmmaking

I run a module at my university called Guerrilla Filmmaking. It is a final year module, in which students are asked to make a series of films (a minimum of three, a maximum of five – they submit a portfolio of three at the end).

The rationale behind the module is to encourage students to make films at short notice – to prepare them for the short deadlines that they might face in later life, and to get them to think creatively about how to get around obstacles in their path.

Furthermore, the module is designed to get them to think about how to make films in spite of logistical and technical constraints.

Indeed, the module actively engages with technical constraints. Taking as our starting point Jørgen Leth and Lars von Trier’s Five Obstructions (Denmark/Switzerland/Belgium/France, 2003), and being inspired by Fernando Birri’s assignment to film students in Argentina to make a film without a film camera, the students have to make films that respond to the following challenges:

1.     Make a film that does not feature moving images and which responds to the question: what is the meaning of Europe?

2.     Make a film that does not feature any synchronisation between image and sound, which does not feature any music, and which documents an issue of concern local to you.

3.     Make an experimental, animated or found footage film that deals with recent political events, be those global or local.

4.     Make a film about a human rights issue using only a mobile phone and/or other telecommunications technology (i.e. do not use a dedicated camera).

5.     Make a silent film that consists only of one take, and which is about multiculturalism.

The fourth is intended to coincide with the Roehampton Human Rights Film Festival, to which students are encouraged to submit a film (and at which Guerrilla Filmmakers won all of the prizes this year – as they did last year, too).

Students can play a bit fast and loose with these challenges – and they do, as will be seen below.

Beyond The Five Obstructions, the module also involves watching a series of films that correspond in different ways to what guerrilla filmmaking is or might be.

The ‘guerrilla’ aspects of the films that we watch can be thematic or technical. In short, the films we watch and the texts that we read correspond to what we might term ‘minor’ cinema in various different ways. And they hopefully challenge any traditional hierarchy (particularly technical/technological hierarchies) concerning what constitutes a good or bad film. And of course to watch films from all over the globe.

Here is a list of the films we watch and the key readings that I ask students to look at (although I am not sure that many of the students do the reading):

Week 1 “Thou shalt be ready to do this module”

Screening: The Five Obstructions (Jørgen Leth/Lars von Trier, Denmark et al, 2003)

Key Reading: Mette Hjort, ‘Dogme 95: The Globalization of Denmark’s Response to Hollywood,’ Small Nation, Global Cinema: The New Danish Cinema, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005, pp. 34-65. 

Week 2 “Thou shalt embrace thy limitations”

Screening: Año Uña/Year of the Nail (Jonás Cuarón, Mexico, 2007)

Key Reading: Fernando Birri, ‘Cinema and Underdevelopment,’ in Michael Martin (ed.), New Latin American Cinema, Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1997, pp. 86-94.

Julio García Espinosa, ‘Toward an Imperfect Cinema,’ Jump Cut, 20 (1979), pp. 24-26. http://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/onlinessays/JC20folder/ImperfectCinema.html.

Glauber Rocha, ‘An Esthetic of Hunger’ (trans. Randal Johnson and Burnes Hollyman), in Michael Martin (ed.), New Latin American Cinema, Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1997, pp. 59-61.

Week 3 “Thou shalt make a virtue of poverty”

Screening: En Attendant Godard (William Brown, UK, 2009)

Key Reading: Mike Figgis, ‘Choosing Your Weapon, Learning to Love It,’ Digital Filmmaking, London: faber and faber, 2007, pp. 5-14.

Week 4 “Thou shalt keep it simple”

Screening: Lao ma ti hua/Disturbing the Peace (Ai Weiwei, China, 2009) [You can watch the whole film here.]

Key Reading: Valerie Jaffee, ‘Bringing the World to the Nation: Jia Zhangke and the Legitimation of Chinese Underground Film,’ Senses of Cinema, 32. http://www.sensesofcinema.com/2004/feature-articles/chinese_underground_film/.

Jia Zhangke, ‘The Age of Amateur Cinema Will Return’ (trans. Yuqian Yan), http://dgeneratefilms.com/academia/jia-zhangke-the-age-of-amateur-cinema-will-return/.

Wu Wenguang, ‘DV: Individual Filmmaking,’ Cinema Journal, 46:1 (2006), pp. 136-140.

Week 5“Thou shalt not flee but walk towards reality”

Screening: Kid Icarus (Carl Bird McLaughlin and Mike Ott, USA, 2008) [You can watch the whole film here.]

Key Reading: Ana Kronschnabl, ‘Plugin Manifesto,’ 2004. Available online at: http://manifestoindex.blogspot.com/2011/04/plugin-manifesto-by-ana-kronschnabl-web.html.

Rosa Menkman, ‘Glitch Studies Manifesto,’ 2010. http://rosa-menkman.blogspot.com/2010/02/glitch-studies-manifesto.html.

Neocinema, ‘Dogma 2001: New Rules for Internet Cinema,’ 2001. http://www.neocinema.com/.

Week 6 “Thou shalt find ingenious methods of production”

Screenings: Decasia (Bill Morrison, USA, 2002) and Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (Todd Haynes, USA, 1988)

Key Reading: Henry Jenkins, ‘Quentin Tarantino’s Star Wars? Grassroots Creativity Meets the Media Industry,’ Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, New York: New York University Press, 2006, pp. 131-168.

Week 7 “Thou shalt have a week off” 

Week 8 “Thou shalt embrace that which is considered minor”

Screening:Go Fish (Rose Troche, USA, 1994)

Key Reading: Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 2: The Time-Image (trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta), London: Continuum 2005, pp. 207-215.

Patricia White, ‘Lesbian minor cinema,’ Screen, 49:4 (2008), pp. 410-425.

Week 9“Thou shalt dare to make unconventional films”

Screening: Afterimages (William Brown, UK, 2010)

Key Reading: Jacques Rancière, The Politics of Aesthetics: The Distribution of the Sensible (trans. Gabriel Rockhill), London: Continuum.

Week 10“Thou shalt learn to develop and work in a team”

Screening: Ang pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros/The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros (Auraeus Solito, Philippines, 2005)

Key Reading: Khoo Gaik Cheng, ‘Just-Do-It-(Yourself): independent filmmaking in Malaysia,’ Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 8:2 (June 2007), pp. 227-247.

Alexis Tioseco, ‘Shifting Agendas: the Decay of the Mainstream and the Rise of the Independents in the Context of Philippine Cinema,’ Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 8:2 (June 2007), pp. 298-303.

Week 11“Thou shalt meet the deadline”

Screenings: SMS Sugarman (Aryan Kaganof, South Africa, 2008) [you can watch the film here] and Trash Humpers (Harmony Korine, USA/UK/France, 2009)

Key Reading: Ryan Shand, ‘Theorizing Amateur Cinema: Limitatons and Possibilities,’ The Moving Image, 8:2 (Fall 2008), pp. 37-60.

Week 12 “Thou shalt think about and reflect upon thy work”

Screening: In film nist/This is Not a Film (Jafar Panahi and Mojatba Mirtahmasb, Iran, 2011)

Key Reading: Godfrey Cheshire, ‘Iran’s Cinematic Spring,’ Dissent, 59:2 (2012), pp. 76-80.

Shiva Rahbaran, ‘An Interview with Jafar Panahi,’ Wasafiri, 27:3 (2012), pp. 5-11.

So, overall, the rationale is also to get my students to un-learn what they believe ‘good’ filmmaking to be, and to realise that most constraints can also be considered opportunities for creative expression. It is also to get them to engage with the politics of filmmaking – and to try to understand how the methods used to make a film inform what the film can say and how it says it.

Some 60 or so short films were made this term by 18 students – most done single-handedly, but with some collaborations along the way (if students join up as a team – I only saw pairs this term – then they can only make one film with the same team).

So, with the above in mind, I’d like to use this blog as a means to ‘curate’ a mini, online festival of the most distinctive films that were made this term – with apologies and all due respect to those students who participated but who do not have more than one film in this festival (though at least one film by each student is present).

I shall embed the films from YouTube (you can watch all of the films on the Guerrilla Filmmaking channel). And I shall divide them up according to the five different challenges to which they respond.

1.     Make a film that does not feature moving images and which responds to the question: what is the meaning of Europe?

What is the Meaning of Europe? by Charli Adamson and Alex Crowe

What is the Meaning of Europe? by Metin Bülent and Daniel Pakbonyan

My Europe by James Holliday

Europa by Alex Taylor

2.     Make a film that does not feature any synchronisation between image and sound, which does not feature any music, and which documents an issue of concern local to you.

Local Concern by Jordan Steel

Sound Sync/Local Concern by Charli Adamson

Local Concern by Sam Taylor

– 30 + 30 = 0 by Oz Courtney

Silence of Night by Paulo Fernando de Sá Vieira

Alzheimer’s by Katie Willis

Oyster Users by Alex Crowe

Better than Sex by Danny Riches

3.     Make an experimental, animated or found footage film that deals with recent political events, be those global or local.

Vote Romney by Millad Khonsorkh

Found Footage Film by Kine Tvedt

Pinheirinho by Paulo Fernando de Sá Vieira (Second Place, Roehampton Human Rights Film Festival)

ALL HAIL THE KING OF THE WEST! by Danny Riches

War on Women by Katie Willis

From An Outsider by Oz Courtney

4.     Make a film about a human rights issue using only a mobile phone and/or other telecommunications technology (i.e. do not use a dedicated camera).

What are my Human Rights? by Eman Seidi

Bless Dale Cooper (Free Tibet) by Millad Khonsorkh

The Perfect Human’s Rights by Louise Dias di Benedetto and Sam Taylor (Winner, Roehampton Human Rights Film Festival)

Poverty at Your Doorstep by Cristiana Turcu (Third Place, Roehampton Human Rights Film Festival)

The Death Penalty by Charli Adamson (Third Place, Roehampton Human Rights Film Festival)

Arms Sales and Human Rights Don’t Mix by Dan T. Ngoy

5.     Make a silent film that consists only of one take, and which is about multiculturalism.

Underground by Sam Taylor

Multiculturalism by Daniel Pakbonyan

Multiculturalism by Charli Adamson

Multiculturalism by Kine Tvedt

I hope you enjoy them. Most show wit, some are easier to watch than others, but all show ingenuity in getting around the challenges set…

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About wjrcbrown

I am a Lecturer in Film at Roehampton University. I am a sort of filmmaker.
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One Response to A Festival of Guerrilla Filmmaking

  1. Pingback: Guerrilla Filmmaking Festival 2014 | wjrcbrown on film

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