24 March, 2010

Charting the Uncharted States

Neil Young is a film programmer and is instrumental in putting together the Uncharted States strand of the Film Festival each year. He talks about his selection of movies for the 2010 festival.

This is the fourth year that I've put together a selection of the best independent American productions under the Uncharted States of America banner. And that means genuinely independent (off-radar, underground, low-budget stuff, not studio-funded "indie" movies.

Once again I'm dazzled by the sheer variety and quality of stuff that's being made over there, very far from Hollywood (in terms of distance and also originality).

Several of this year's selections have never been shown before outside the USA, including Peter Thompson's unclassifiable essay-movie about Dutch art and history, Lowlands (Wed 24 in Pictureville, Thu 25 in Cubby Broccoli) and Kris Swanberg's very warmly-reviewed Costa Rica-set drama It Was Great, But I Was Ready To Come Home (Sat 27 in Otley).

Both of these films are part of a trend whereby American film-makers venture beyond their shores in search of inspiration - another is Jennifer Oreck's dazzling documentary on Japan's fascination with all things entomological, Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo (Sun 28 in Cineworld), which must be a strong contender for BIFF 2010's most irresistable title.

As in previous years, however, most of the Uncharted selections display a strong engagement with contemporary American economics, politics and geography - perhaps most notably exemplified by Lucy Raven's China Town (showing in a double-bill with Lowlands), a visually remarkable movie made up of dozens of still images that show how copper is mined, processed and eventually exported.

But whereas Uncharted States is essentially a guide to the most exciting newer film-makers in the world's richest and most powerful nation, we also like to have the occasional look back at previous groundbreakers. In collaboration with Watchmaker Films - who also brought us Eagle Pennell's The Whole Shootin' Match a couple of years back - we are really over the moon to present the long-unavailable debut from the great Tobe Hooper.

Hooper is best known for his seminal horror films including Poltergeist, Salem's Lot and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, so I think audiences will get a major surprise if they check out Eggshells (Fri 26 in Cubby), a "time and spaced film fantasy" from the 1969 that's a pure artefact of the hippie era.


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