Cinecity, which bills itself as ‘the South-east’s biggest film festival’, has been going for 16 years now, and with screenings on offer in seven different venues, including the Depot in Lewes and ACCA in Falmer, it’s never been bigger.
But it’s the geographical range of the films on offer that’s really striking. Because, once again, the festival’s strapline is ‘Adventures in World Cinema’ and it offers the chance to watch a carefully curated collection of fine movies from all over the world, from Palestine to Georgia, via Afghanistan and Australia. As well as the best of British, of course.
One highlight – timed to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the collapse of the Berlin Wall – is a remastered version of Walter Ruttmann’s influential 1927 documentary Berlin – Symphony of a Great City, a contemporary box-office success despite its avant-garde nature, which compresses a day in the life of the German capital into a beautifully composed hour. The film will be accompanied by a new score, performed by musicians Simon Fisher Turner, Klara Lewis and Rainier Lericlorais.
East Side Story gives an interesting glimpse at pre-1989 Eastern Bloc culture, examining the world of big-budget Soviet musicals, with extracts from classics such as Tractor Drivers (USSR), Holidays on the Black Sea (Romania) and Stalin’s favourite movie, which he is said to have watched over 100 times – Volga, Volga.
Rather more enigmatic and serious is The Juniper Tree, based on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, a little known but highly rated 1990 movie by the late American director Nietzchka Keene. This slow-paced black-and-white tale was shot in Iceland and features the screen debut of a 23-year-old Björk (pictured above).
Portrait of a Lady on Fire, meanwhile, is a rich 2019 period piece by Céline Sciamma, set in the 18th Century, with an all-female cast, that won the Queer Palm and the Best Screenplay at this year’s Cannes Festival. It stars Noémie Merlant as a young artist commissioned to secretly paint a portrait of an increasingly reluctant bride-to-be (Adèle Haenel).
The festival is topped and tailed with local premieres of much-anticipated American films, which have made an impact at Cannes and other festivals, which you would otherwise have to wait till 2020 to watch. The festival opener is Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse, a black-and-white psychological drama starring Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson as two men who get to know each other rather too well while manning a lighthouse on a remote rock off New England. And the closing feature is Taika Waititi’s dark offbeat comedy Jojo Rabbit, about a lonely Hitler Youth cadet, whose best friend is an imaginary version of his Führer; the lad is faced with a number of choices when he discovers his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in the attic. Think The Producers meets Moonrise Kingdom.
For the full schedule see cine-city.co.uk