Flatpack Fes 2023 inc live Ukrainian musicians at Moseley Road Baths

Festival dates: Tues 16 May to Sun 21 May 2023

Tickets on sale: Tuesday 28 March 

Flatpack Festival announces 2023 programme

with special events including Soviet/Ukrainian film ‘In Spring’ at Moseley Road Baths with a live, original score by Ukrainian musicians, and a screening of ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ to celebrate Birmingham Botanical Gardens’ collection of hungry carnivorous plants

Bag your tickets for the ‘magnificently eclectic’ Flatpack Festival, now in its 17th year. Hosting an extraordinary array of events and immersive adventures, the festival pops up over six days in May throughout Birmingham. There is a BAFTA-qualifying short film programme, guest curators, and a multitude of live audiovisual performances.

Flatpack is a mobile film unit based in Digbeth that started out as ‘7-Inch Cinema’, a film night at the Rainbow Pub 20 years ago in 2003. It has since achieved BAFTA-qualifying status for its short film programme and champions and supports film across the Midlands. Flatpack Festival is known for its eclectic and surprising programming of live performances with artists and musicians alongside archive shorts and feature films from around the globe.

Opening this year’s festival is a special screening of Mikhail Kaufman’s ‘In Spring’ with live music at Moseley Road Baths. The film was rediscovered in 2005 and time travels back to ordinary life in 1929 Kyiv as winter turns to spring. Displaced Ukrainian musicians Roksana Smirnova, a pianist and Misha Kalinin, a guitarist will play a live, partly improvised score. Originally premiering in Norway in 2022, during this time of war the artists are representing Ukrainian culture by touring this work around Europe. 

During the festival week, the Ukrainian musicians will be in residence to collaborate with Birmingham-based mixed media artist and musician Sarah Farmer. They will close the festival with a new score for Dziga Vertov’s 1929 experimental silent film ‘The Man with a Movie Camera’, often considered the best documentary of all time. 

Sam Groves, Head of Programme, Flatpack Festival said: “I was fortunate to see Misha and Roksana perform ‘In Spring’ in Norway. I was so enchanted that I had to bring them to Flatpack. They lived in Kyiv at the start of the war and now have special permission from the Minister of Culture to represent Ukraine performing around Europe. Misha describes their work as a bridge bringing the reality of the war into people’s minds. Central to this event and what we do at Flatpack is creating connections and shared experiences, so we are excited to welcome Roksana and Misha to the festival. I have no doubt that their collaboration with Sarah Farmer – an outstanding musician and composer based in Birmingham – will result in something new and extraordinary.”

A taste of what’s on at Flatpack Festival 2023

Carnivorous Plants

What better way to enjoy Birmingham’s Botanical Gardens’ significant collection of tropical and temperate carnivorous plants than with a screening of the 1986 American horror comedy musical film ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ directed by Frank Oz? The film is centred on a floral shop worker who discovers a sentient carnivorous plant that feeds on human blood and stars Rick Moranis. It’s the first time Flatpack Festival will be at Birmingham Botanical Gardens based in Edgbaston.

Films to change your life – best viewed on the big screen

The festival features a programme of real and fictional stories running the gamut of human experiences, from seeking spiritual guidance at a Japanese Buddhist monastery (Ahsen Nadeem’s documentary ‘Crows Are White’) to musical collaborations with AI (‘The Computer Accent’ by Riel Roch-Decter and Sebastian Pardo) and ‘Best Screenplay’ winner at Cannes 2022 ‘Mediterranean Fever‘ which follows aspiring writer Walid on a journey of dark encounters with his small-time crook neighbour. Fellow of the British Psychoanalytical Society Andrea Sabbadini will be introducing the film, encouraging the audience into psychoanalysis of the film’s themes, and leading a discussion.

Guest curation

Now in its third year, Flatpack’s Open Call brings three exciting new offerings programmed by guest curators from underrepresented groups. 

Philippa Walusimbi is inspired by two works of art, the book ‘The Sex Lives of African Women’ and the film ‘Ampe: Leap into the Sky, Black Girl’. Their event explores expressions of Black womanhood with three short films and a live demonstration of Ampe, a rhythmic, high-energy Ghanaian game. 

Selene’s Archive hosts a screening of Steve Sprung’s 1985 documentary ‘The Year of the Beaver’ with a panel discussion. The film centres around the Grunwick Dispute, a two-year strike at a photo-processing plant in North London. The dispute from a predominantly Asian women workforce was an important landmark in the history of British industrial action, and the role of unions during the rise of Thatcherism.

Beth Steventon-Crinks hosts ‘Queer living: Wanna get into my drawers?’ an immersive look at Queer living, chosen family and the stories that can be found on a bedside table. Beth invites audiences into the intimate space of Queer bedrooms, filling an apartment at the Rotunda with bedside tables from Queer people across the city. The installation sets the scene for Juliet Bashore’s 1991 documentary ‘The Battle of Tuntenhaus’.

Birmingham and heritage

Atomic City is a new Flatpack project, sparked by the moment in 1940 when two European physicists at the University of Birmingham wrote a confidential memo outlining how a nuclear weapon could be built, and why it should never be used. Guests include Jo Hookway, the daughter of Rudolf Peierls, Australian Aboriginal artist Yhonnie Scarce and the team behind the Scarred for Life books who will present a new Cold War special. The festival hosts talks and screenings around the ‘Atomic City’ theme. 

It is 20 years since Flatpack Director Ian Francis hosted a mixed media night in a pub in Digbeth, a monthly event that eventually grew into Flatpack Festival. In celebration, there will be a pub-based film night as part of this year’s festival, complete with short films, live music and DJs.

Also returning is the super popular ‘Made in the Midlands’ shorts programme.

Immersed in sight and sound

Audiovisual delights and an immersive experience of illuminations and electroacoustic soundscapes courtesy of Montréal-based Myriam Bleau, with real-time projections of shape-shifting liquid metal from award-winning German artist Ralf Baecker and a visual and electronic reinterpretation of Terry Riley’s seminal work ‘In C’ (considered as the founding work of the minimalist movement) from artists Julien Sénélas, Jérôme Vassereau and Soia.

Bitesize inventions

The BAFTA-qualifying short film competition returns, pushing the boundaries of short-form filmmaking with a programme of animation, documentary, experimental and comedy from around the world.

Ian Francis, Director, Flatpack Projects said: “Flatpack continues to show unique events that you can’t see anywhere else that we hope might move or inspire, challenge or surprise people. Everything we do at Flatpack is to bring people together to make connections and share ideas and experiences. Twenty years on from hosting 7-Inch Cinema, a pop-up ‘DIY’ style short film night in a pub, Flatpack Festival maintains a sense of experimentation and trying new things that are reflected in the festival programme, which is known for its eclecticism and originality.”

Flatpack Festival will be in venues throughout Birmingham from 16 to 21 May. Tickets are on sale from 28 March https://flatpackfestival.org.uk/flatpack-2023