Flatpack mixes film and moving image together with live music, history and heritage, technology, and performance, creating a one-of-a-kind experience unavailable anywhere else. The ‘magnificently eclectic’ festival is now in its 17th year with a menu of extraordinary events and immersive adventures over six days in May.
Flatpack is a mobile film unit based in Digbeth that started as ‘7-Inch Cinema’, a film night at the Rainbow Pub 20 years ago in 2003. There is a BAFTA-qualifying short film programme, guest curators, and a multitude of live audiovisual performances.
These event highlights from Flatpack Festival 2023 show why it is still the UK’s most innovative and eclectic film festival. The festival shines a spotlight on the unique and unusual, and the people behind them, from a dystopian sci-fi soundscape performance and light show DJ-set, to an AI music album and live score screening in an empty swimming pool.
Film and… Music
Man with a Movie Camera + Live Score explores 1920s life in the Soviet Union, the film is the 9th best of all time according to a Sight & Sound poll. The score is the world premiere of a collaboration between Ukrainian composers Roksana Smirnova and Misha Kalinin and Brum’s own Sarah Farmer.
In C Pour 11 Oscillators et 53 Formes is a live audio-visual rendering of Terry Riley’s seminal work In C, featuring a colourful alphabet of shapes and animations and two modular synthesizers.
Imaginary Friends is hailed as the ‘apotheosis of cinema in its purest state’, Imaginary Friends is a foley performance and a must-see for all film and cinema lovers.
Queens of Disruption + Live Scores Teaming up with the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire this special performance features six live musical scores. Composers will accompany a selection of early 1900s short films that explore feminist protest, slapstick rebellion and suggestive gender play, spotlighting women who refuse to be boxed in.
Sonic Visions explores sound and music in all its aural wonder, this selection of shorts goes on various sensory journeys across the globe. All films are up for the Optical Sound Short Film Award.
Film and… Technology
Ralf Baecker: A Natural History of Networks / SoftMachine a real-time projection of shape-shifting liquid metal from award-winning German artist Ralf Baecker. A mind-blowing improvised performance, with custom-built electrochemical experimental apparatus (SoftMachine) behind the wheel.
The Computer Accent is a brave new world where art, technology, and humanity collide. In 2017, the dance-pop band YACHT decided to compose, record, and produce a music album using artificial intelligence. Longtime film-producing partners Sebastian Pardo and Riel Roch-Decter documented the process and debuted as co-directors.
Miriam Bleau: Soft Revolvers Bleau ‘plays’ light-up LED spinning tops like traditional DJ turntables, and pre-programmed beats and bleeps match the movement and manipulation of the tops. Accompanying projections show how the sound is being created, expressing the intricate and brilliant process.
Miriam Bleau: Unsculpt A stunning listen with a dystopian sci-fi landscape Unsculpt will be accompanied by Bleau’s visuals for the first time, formed in 3D by ‘generative process’ and “machine learning”.
Film and… History
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. Includes a day of conversations exploring different aspects of the nuclear, with contributions from artists, scientists and historians, a screening of 1984 TV landmark Threads and a ‘support group’ of sorts on Sunday provided by the Scarred for Life crew, presenting a new Cold War special.
Films from the archive include two Björk appearances in the musical Dancer in the Dark and Icelandic rock doc Rock in Reykjavik (1982)
Film and… Discussion
Seaside Special + Q&A Jens Meurer’s documentary explores a year in the life of the residents and performers of a post-Brexit Cromer.
Lair of the White Worm is an anniversary screening of the cult classic presented by the UK’s biggest horror and film history podcast, The Evolution of Horror. There will be a live podcast recording after the film and audience Q&A.
Mediterranean Fever was the best Screenplay at Cannes 2022. It’s a funny, warm film that explores mental health and masculinity via two neighbours who forge an unexpected friendship. Fellow of the British Psychoanalytical Society Andrea Sabbadini will be at the event to delve deeper into the themes.
Ampe: Leap into the Sky, Black Girl + Live Demo are three short films exploring ways in which Black girls and women seek to understand and find autonomy over their bodies, whilst leaning on the solidarity of the sisterhood. Following the screening there will be a live demonstration of Ampe, a rhythmic, high-energy Ghanaian game. Programmed by Philippa Walusimbi
The Grunwick Strike: The Year of the Beaver + Q&A is a screening and discussion centred around the Grunwick Dispute, a two-year strike at a photo-processing plant in North London, exploring the idea of unified ‘class struggle’ through the lenses of gender and race and the resurgence of the labour movement in Britain. Programmed by Selene’s Archive
En Route: Zimmers of Southall + Asian Women and Cars pairs two short documentaries that explore the varied and overlooked importance of driving and car culture amongst British-South Asian communities. Programmed by Abiba Coulibaly
Dorothy Towers Playlist has been programmed by artist and writer Sean Burns, this series of screenings celebrates film and TV from the 80s and 90s that profiled mavericks, artists, musicians, and writers who dared to live outside pervading norms. Sean will also screen his film Dorothy Towers, exploring the legendary Clydesdale and Cleveland Towers which have long been a haven for LGBTQ+ people. The Dorothy Towers Playlist provides an opportunity to convene around the stories of extraordinary trailblazers.
Queer Living: Wanna Get In My Drawers? is an immersive look at Queer living, chosen family and the stories that can be found on a bedside table. Curator Beth Steventon-Crinks invites you into the intimate space of a Queer bedroom.
Flatpack Festival will be in venues throughout Birmingham from 16 to 21 May. Tickets are online at https://flatpackfestival.org.uk/flatpack-2023