The cult cinema obsessives from Scala Forever are back with Scala Beyond, a six week long season of one-off cinema events bringing together some of the UK’s coolest festivals, cinemas and pop-up events. The season launched last night with an 8 hour film jam at Roxy Bar and Screen. Contributing film clubs operated a kind of relay system, with 40 minutes each to screen work giving a taste of what they’re all about. Keen to pitch themselves well in a limited timeframe they rose to the challenge brilliantly.
London Short Film Festival‘s contribution to the night was a screening of the awesomely freaky 25-minute long violent stop-motion fantasy nightmare Bobby Yeah by Robert Morgan (see trailer below). A bastard child of Jan Švankmajer and David Lynch, the film combines a visceral, hallucinatory aesthetic with a plot which simultaneously makes no cognitive sense and absolute instinctive sense. This is undoubtably the result of the production process – Morgan spent three years working on the film without planning any of it. He just started on the first scene and went where it led him.
Passenger Films, a more academic-leaning film club with a focus on geographical themes, screened a selection of shorts about whaling, including Whaling In Antarctica, a documentary set on a factory whaling ship in the early part of the 20th Century. A mind-blowing picture of a brutal but extraordinary practice, the film included vast shots of tiny men wading around waist-deep in chunks of steak the size of houses and internal organs the size of tanks, slicing through tree-trunk vertebrae and sliding around deck on blood and thick slabs of skin.
The Flipside‘s remit is to trawl the BFI archives for lost and overlooked gems and drag them to the light of day. For this screening they chose Skinflicker, a 1972 fake-documentary charting the kidnap and murder of a public figure by three English dissidents. The Flipside team explained they wanted to show a film representing a time when BFI’s production priorities included creating work which provided an alternative to mainstream commercial cinema (in sharp contrast to the current ethos).
Other film organisations who contributed to the night included down-and dirty retro enthusiasts Video Tape Swap Shop, Filmbar 70, The Duke Mitchell Film Club and left-of-centre blogsite and filmclub Days Are Numbers, who screened a mash-up of some of their favorite films as well as the cheeky Codename Dragonfly, a film-within-the film CQ by Roman Coppola. Cigarette Burns Cinema showed the 1975 Cronenberg TV show The Lie Chair while Suitcase Cinema brought down their projector-in-a-box and screened some lovely flickery 16mm films including Chris Marker and Joris Iven’s À Valparaiso (1962).
The night served as a hugely compelling taster for the upcoming season, which is like a wet-dream wonderland for film geeks. Every single day between now and October sees one or more edgy, lovingly curated screening event. A perfect mix of stuff you know and stuff you wish you knew, events range from an outdoor screening of Linklater’s Dazed and Confused to Eurotrash and ‘Night of The Bloody Pint’ all-nighters from Filmbar70; from Robocop at a ‘post-apocalyptic Drive-In’ to a free screening of Sweded films from around the world and an Amos Vodel all-night wake. Why not kick it off on Monday with Night of The Psychotronic Soundtrack? (trailer below).
The Scala Beyond team is doing a great job of bringing diverse film initiatives together and promoting them to a wider audience. Most of these film clubs and venues are volunteer run, no-budget shows powered by goodwill and a love of getting drunk and watching obscure films. The next six weeks will be an education.