Online, on-air and in person, this is BUFF. And so said the voice of BUFF which greeted the masses of online followers with the May 31 announcement of this year’s opening feature. And though the dulcet tones of Ewan Allinson and DJ Elayne Smith will continue to form a cornerstone of the BUFF movement, things are going to be a little bit different round here. From September, the 2011 British Urban Film Festival will be coming at ya with a whole new look which means, finally, that the buffest film event of the year will be upon us. New films, New venue, same old BUFF – continuing to deliver the UK’s buffest films as it has been since 2005. And as it was back then – from ITV’s headquarters on the South Bank, to this year, from the TUC’s headquarters in Tottenham Court Road – the latest edition of the annual showpiece continues its tradition of reaching out to new audiences, year in, year out.
As part of last year’s 5th anniversary festivities, BUFF announced that it was going on tour, taking the festival to towns and cities across the UK. And as we enter the next 5 years, globalisation beckons. With British actors, directors and exhibitors making their mark in North America, the Caribbean, West Africa, and Central Europe, BUFF will be there at the heart of the action, reaching out to welcome more new audiences all the time.
This month’s edition of the BUFF Blog takes us back to last summer when the festival was contacted by Daniel Buckley, the curator of ‘C the Film’, part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe – the world’s largest arts festival. First established in 1946 as an alternative to the Edinburgh International Festival, the Fringe takes place in Scotland’s capital for four weeks every August.
The Fringe mostly attracts events from the performing arts, particularly theatre and comedy (which has seen substantial growth in recent years) although dance and music also figure significantly. The role of the Fringe Society (the organisers) is to facilitate the festival, concentrating mainly on the challenging logistics of organising such a large event. Ultimately, the society exists to honour the wishes of the participants, to promote them collectively to the public. Early administrators of the society were adamant that it did not come together so that groups could be invited, or in some way be artistically vetted. What was performed and how it was done was left entirely to each Fringe group. This approach is now commonly referred to as an unjuried festival, an open access arts festival or a fringe festival.
An exchange of emails soon transpired between BUFF and **C venues, a package was despatched north of the border and soon enough on August the 4th 2010, those that were fortunate enough to have attended the Fringe would have come across a selection of short films from the BUFF 2009 archive. And as this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe looms near, it seems as good a time as any to hear from Daniel about how it all went ‘up north’ – plus his take on the film industry. A reminder that the BUFF Blog is out monthly and the call for submissions continues until 5pm, July 25. Full details about our roster throughout the year can be found via www.twitter.com/buffenterprises
The film industry has, and I suspect always, will be a difficult beast. It at once screams big business – the establishment, Hollywood, obscene amounts of money – yet it is also traditionally considered to be politically very liberal; consider films like Milk and M.A.S.H. As well as this, film is considered, and has been since the ‘70s, an art form, just as worthy of study as poetry or painting.
Yet, even with this political and artistic diversity, genres are all too easily pigeonholed and formulaic, which can damage genres massively. It might be fair to say that this is becoming the case with ‘urban’ film as well. Yet urban life is nebulous, fluctuating from one extreme to the next. The British Urban Film Festival understands that it is this nebulosity that makesBritain’s urban sprawl such an exciting subject for film.
I first came into contact with BUFF while curating the C the Film festival at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2010 where we did special showcase days of other film festivals from around the country. I remember thinking I knew exactly what to expect when I sat down to watch the DVD Emmanuel had submitted, and as such I was surprised to see exactly what I had been given.
BUFF is unique in its specialist interest in urban filmmaking, and the films we showcased on their behalf took in everything from straight-up drama to social satire to science fiction, all the while never losing sight of the real world and its’ issues that the stories they tell sprang from. Having been snowed under with short films in the preceding weeks, I was also pleased to see a brave predilection amongst BUFF’s selection for longer form short films, a rarity for even the most accomplished amateur filmmaker. These films added a new, rawer dimension to the films on offer at C the Film, which already counted Cornish dance and Scandinavian comedy amongst its offerings.
I’ll try not to dwell for too long on what has gone before, but the best way to understand BUFF is through some of the films on show at Edinburgh last year.
Virus (dir. Kole Onile-ere), was a surprisingly abstract sci-fi short about a dystopian future, expertly executed with a slow-burning sinister fear at its heart. Ominous Thoughts (dir. Tyrone De Grosvenor) was another sci-fi offering that had a terrifying air of inevitability as the characters hurtle towards a future that they cannot control. Colour Blind (dir. Amanda Baker), one of the funniest films on show, took a look at race relations with some very clever use of colour to visually portray racial stereotyping. The wittily titled Much Ado About a Minor Ting (dir. Jesse Lawrence) while more conventional on the surface, mixed edgy humour with heart-stopping action. Fresh Off da Boat (dir. Femi Oyeniran), one of the most accomplished films on show, managed to make the story of a young immigrant boy funny, heart-warming and sad, while Brothers (dir. Diane Musafiri) not only examined issues surrounding single parenthood, but also the emotional pain that can surround them. Still Life (dir. Nelson Sivalingham) was a refreshing change of pace – a modern Asian ghost story that addressed the delicate subject of gang violence.
And as I think this little playbill shows, BUFF may well limit itself to ‘urban’ films, but there is literally no limit as to what ‘urban’ can mean. Urban can be sad. Urban can be funny. Urban can be exciting. Urban can be weird. Urban can be whatever it damn well wishes to be, and no one should try to tell it otherwise.
Curator, C the Film
(c) June 2011
**C venues has a festival team of 180 people and is based in northwest London excluding July and August, when it is based at Adam House, Chambers Street, Edinburgh.
The opinions published in the BUFF blog are a copyright of Buff Enterprises Ltd © MMXI all rights reserved – and is available to view on a monthly basis via Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, Hi5, Ning, Blogger, WordPress, Linkedin, plus other selected blogs and web pages. For more information about this year’s opening feature – ‘David is Dying’ – visit www.britishurbanfilmfestival.co.uk