By Nora Foster Today, Wednesday 8 July, the Swedenborg Film Festival returns after a two-year hiatus. I am very excited to be relaunching the festival in a new format with Gareth Evans (editor, producer and film curator, Whitechapel Gallery), at the upgraded and refurbished Swedenborg Hall. We look forward to seeing many of you there – but in the meantime here are five reasons why!
1. Lech Majewski’s Renaissance Triptych: ‘a revelation that should not be missed’ Lech Majewski’s astonishing feature film series The Garden of Earthly Delights (2006), The Mill and the Cross (2011) and Field of Dogs (2014) brings to startling cinematic life the works of Bosch, Brueghel and Dante respectively, creating highly symbolic and profoundly immersive encounters with Swedenborgian themes of heaven, hell and visual metaphor. This festival will mark the first time Majewski’s award-winning Triptych has been shown complete in the UK; and we are thrilled that Mr. Majewski himself will be present to answer questions from the audience.
2. Richard Ashrowan’s Alchemic Film
Richard Ashrowan is an international moving image artist and Creative Director of Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival, where we presented a special programme of SFF shorts earlier this year. Exploring ideas of alchemical transformation, Ashrowan’s work is founded upon an investigation of landscape and a metaphysics of place. His research-driven practice has also included an exploration of the use of light by alchemists from the 12th to the 18th centuries. We look forward to seeing Ashrowan’s stunning shorts, which encapsulate so many themes found in our festival, in the unique context of Swedenborg House.
3. Swedenborg Short Film: A Spectrum of Inspiration
This week’s events mark the re-launch of the Swedenborg Film Festival, exploring ideas encountered in the work of philosopher and visionary, Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772). Swedenborg’s theory, that everything in the visual world corresponds to a spiritual reality, has influenced generations of artists and movements including Romanticism, Symbolism, Surrealism, Expressionism and Magical Realism. These selected films from previous editions of the festival (2010–13), illustrate the scope of the ‘Swedenborgian’ theme – from the symbolic imagination of Hisab, to the Surrealist performance of The Cut, to The Subterraneans’ suggestion of hidden worlds. We hope these works will inspire artists and filmmakers to create and submit new work, when we open the call for entries to the festival on 13 July.
4. Swedenborg Hall: Reborn
Recently refurbished and upgraded, Swedenborg House is a beautiful Grade II-listed 18th-century townhouse, situated in the heart of literary Bloomsbury, close to the British Museum. Described by the Guardian as ‘one of London’s most atmospheric venues’, the gracious, ground-floor lecture hall accommodates up to 100 people in a grand, neo-classical setting and creates a specially charged context for all films.
5. Meet the Directors
The SFF is not only a place to discover fantastic film, but an opportunity to meet two of the world’s leading filmmakers in their fields. On Wednesday 8 July, pioneering multi-media artist Richard Ashrowan will talk about his research-driven practice, inspired by ideas of alchemic transformation. Ashrowan’s interests led him to found the fantastic Alchemy Artist Film and Moving Image Festival in the Scottish Borders, which we look forward to hearing more about. On Friday 10 and Saturday 11 July, we will be joined by Lech Majewski: the multi-award-winning director of The Garden of Earthly Delights (2006), The Mill and the Cross (2011) and Field of Dogs (2014) as well as a theatre director, writer, poet and painter. Majewski has been the subject of a retrospective at MoMA, New York and his art film has featured at the Venice Biennale. He has also lectured on Symbolism in art, a highly ‘Swedenborgian’ theme, and it is both an honour and a pleasure to welcome him to Swedenborg Hall. Nora Foster is Communications Coordinator at Frieze magazine and art fair, and former Publicist and Assistant Coordinator at the Swedenborg Society. In 2015, she is co-curating the Swedenborg Film Festival with Gareth Evans (writer, editor and Film Curator at the Whitechapel Gallery, London).
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