Beg Steal Borrow’s William Brown is proud to curate Roehampton Guerrillas (2011-2016), a showcase of short films made by participants in William’s Guerrilla Filmmaking class, which he has been teaching at the University of Roehampton, London, since 2011.

The class involves students making a series of short films that involve both a technical and a thematic constraint – akin in some respects to Lars von Trier and Jørgen Leth’s The Five Obstructions (2003), which is the first film that participants watch as part of the class.

The class also invites participants to draw on a history of guerrilla filmmaking from around the world, reading important texts and manifestos by filmmakers like Julio García Espinosa, Fernando E. Solanas and Octavio Getino, Glauber Rocha, Jia Zhangke and Wu Wenguang. Participants also watch and gain inspiration from work by zero- to micro-budget filmmakers like Giuseppe Andrews, Ai Weiwei, Khavn de la Cruz, Mike Ott and Harmony Korine.

Roehampton Guerrillas (2011-2016) features 39 short films by 31 different filmmakers, and which respond to eight different challenges set to participants on the course. The films, chosen from among 100s made during the first five years of the Guerrilla Filmmaking course, are all packed in to a 127-minute running time!

Short on time, with no technical support, and forced to make films about topics and using techniques that are not of their choosing, the Roehampton Guerrillas prove the following:-

  • You don’t need money to make a film.
  • You don’t even need a camera.
  • You only need an idea.
  • Limitations do not hinder creativity. They drive it.

Among the filmmakers whose work is showcased are various who have worked with Beg Steal Borrow in different capacities, including Aleksander Krawec and Millad Khonsorkh, who both perform as actors in The New Hope, and Angela Faillace, who has designed the posters for The New Hope and Circle/Line.

Viewers may want to watch the films out of order. As a result, below is a list of films included in Roehampton Guerrillas (2011-2016) with timings so that viewers can browse the selection at their leisure.

Challenge #1
Make a film using only still images and which answers the question: what is Great Britain?

00m46s-04m37s – ‘This is Britain’ by Pablo Saura
04m37s-07m23s – ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ by William Guy
07m23s-09m58s – ‘#1’ by Josh Fenwich-Wilson
09m58s-11m08s – ‘Bricks’ by Lola Lextrait

Challenge #2
Make a film using only still images and which answers the question: what is Europe?

11m18s-15m02s – ‘Postcards from Europe’ by Marc Moyce
15m02s-16m48s – ‘Europe’ by Charli Adamson and Alex Crowe
16m48s-19m58s – ‘EuropA’ by Aleksander Krawec
19m58s-24m10s – ‘The Foreigner’ by Lino Negri

Challenge #3
Make an experimental, animated or found footage film that deals with a personal issue.

24m19s-29m17s – ‘Gainsbourg For Eve(r)’ by Eve Dautremant-Tomas
29m17s-30m43s – ‘Ambition’ by Joshua Bessell
30m43s-33m55s – ‘#3’ by Audrey Jean
33m55s-35m12s – ‘Your Future Depends on Women’ by Zainab Nassir
35m12s-39m32s – ‘Early Onset Alzheimer’s’ by Taylor Matsunaga
39m32s-40m28s – ‘Memory’ by William Guy
40m28s-43m18s – ‘#3’ by Josh Fenwick-Wilson
43m18s-46m10s – ‘Open Your Eyes’ by Benita Paplauskaite
46m10s-48m49s – ‘Mind Glitch’ by Pablo Saura
48m49s-50m16s – ‘Monday Morning’ by Marina Oftedal
50m16s-52m41s – ‘Vote Romney’ by Millad Khonsorkh
52m41s-56m39s – ‘From An Outsider’ by Oz Courtney

Challenge #4
Make a film about a political issue that does not feature any synchronisation between image and sound.

56m48s-60m56s – ‘Aylesbury Estate’ by Maya Djurdjevic
60m56s-67m21s – ‘Free Tibet (Bless Dale Cooper)’ by Millad Khonsorkh
67m21s-69m58s – ‘Eat My Fear’ by Lino Negri
69m58s-72m52s – ‘Access’ by Marc Moyce

Challenge #5
Make a film about a human rights issue that does not feature any synchronization of image and sound.

73m01s-76m45s – ‘Surveillance’ by Mary Burnett
76m45s-81m56s – ‘Peri’ by Eve Dautremant-Tomas
81m65s-84m03s – ‘The Imperfect Human’ by Gabrielle Littlewood
84m03s-89m15s – ‘The Perfect Human’ by Louise Benedetto and Samuel Taylor

Challenge #6
Make a film about a political issue that consists of only a single take.

89m23s-92m12s – ‘Patriarchy in Porn’ by Zainab Nassir
92m12s-95m50s – ‘Alien’ by Sian Williams
95m50s-99m15s – ‘Toaster’ by Ewelina Lipska

Challenge #7
Make a film about multiculturalism using a smartphone, or which is silent and consists of only a single take.

99m23s-102m28s – ‘Girl Before a Mirror’ by Wajod Alkhamis and Pablo Saura
102m28s-109m20s – ‘Underground’ by Samuel Taylor
109m20s-111m20s – ‘Watts’ by Dasha Sevcenko
111m20s-113m52s – ‘Dilution’ by Myles Bevan

Challenge #8
Make a film that is a letter to a loved one and which consists either of found footage or which is an animation.

113m59s-116m54s – ‘Google Heart’ by Lola Lextrait
116m54s-119m59s – ‘Letter to a Loved One’ by Valerie Gonzalez
119m59s-122m26s – ‘The Façade’ by Tom Heffernan
122m26s-126m23s – ‘Dawn of the Third Challenge’ by Angela Faillace

Beg Steal Borrow News, Roehampton Guerrillas (2011-2016), Uncategorized

Notes from the LFF: Computer Chess (Andrew Bujalski, USA, 2013)

American cinema, Blogpost, Film reviews, London Film Festival 2013

In a recent essay that chimes with many aspects of my own ongoing research – into DV filmmaking from all over the world – Francesco Casetti and Antonio Somaini argue that low definition filmmaking is cinema’s attempt, after Marshall McLuhan, to ‘cool down’.

That is, cinema has become so fast, so ‘hot’, such an intense stimulation of the senses, that it needs to ‘cool down’ – and to become more low definition in its images. Or rather, films that are made using low definition images seek to cool the medium down, such that a balance is within audiovisual media is restored.

I like this line of argument, but I do not agree with it entirely. For, what Casetti and Somaini’s essay suggests is that low definition films are always already in the service of high definition films – acting as a necessary brake to their relentless drive towards bigger, faster, brighter, louder…

And while I suspect that there is truth in this, I am not sure that filmmakers of deliberately low definition films feel that they are complicit with the high definition films with which they (cannot) compete.

Nonetheless, given that Andrew Bujalski’s Computer Chess is a film shot using video cameras (the Sony AVC-3260) as per those available at the time of the film’s late 1970s/early 1980s setting, this is nonetheless a movie that has resonance with Casetti and Somaini’s thesis.

The film tells the story of various computer programmers who holes up in a hotel conference room for a weekend to take part in a computer versus computer chess tournament, which will culminate in the winner taking on a human chess Grand Master.

Given the ‘tournament’ set-up, the film’s mockumentary approach, and the video aesthetic, Computer Chess feels very much like a mix between Best in Show (Christopher Guest, USA, 2000) and recent return-to-video films Trash Humpers (Harmony Korine, USA, 2009) and No (Pablo Larraín, Chile/USA/France/Mexico, 2012).

But the combination works: here at the beginning of the more intense period of the digital era, we have in fact a nostalgia for buggy, inefficient computers that will never be faster or smarter than a human, delivered with the blocky, blurry images of a video camera that promised never to replace good ol’ analogue filmmaking.

While Bujalski draws some hilarious geek characters, whose commitment to computer chess might make of them something like human automatons, nonetheless Computer Chess itself is a very human film – something made most clear by the increasingly hallucinogenic nature of the film.

That is, cats invade the screen, a computer seems to become sentient, and humans start to act as if computers. Akin in a certain fashion to Ben Wheatley’s wonderful A Field in England (UK, 2013), the trippy nature of Computer Chess suggests the way in which human identity and thought remain elusive in terms of our ability to compute ourselves (indeed, within neuroscience, the argument that the human brain is like a computer has somewhat receded in recent years).

A deliberate assault upon mainstream film aesthetics, Computer Chess does ‘slow down’ mainstream cinema – making of this film an example of the non-cinema that is the beating heart of cinema proper.

In other words, while some so-called ‘mumblecore’ directors seem to be inching – if not sprinting – towards increasingly audience-friendly, cutesy fare (I am thinking of the Duplass brothers and Lynn Shelton, even though I like all as filmmakers), Bujalski seems to be pursuing a braver, more idiosyncratic path (as also is Joe Swanberg, what with his seven-productions-a-year ethos).

Computer Chess won’t please everyone, but is prepared to be its own film, to court disapprobation by telling both a weird story and with a ‘grungy’ aesthetic. Whatever ‘mumblecore’ is or was, if this is it, then it remains relevant and exciting even today.