The democratisation of the filmmaking process and cheap accessibility of filmmaking tools over the past decades has led to an outburst of people telling stories with moving images and sound, without formal training. It’s an art form in which many learn through play and experimentation, crafting stories through impulse and intuition. This newfound accessibility to filmmaking is an exciting prospect when curating a programme of shorts. Greater access to new creative tools also offers an increased narrative agency for storytellers, especially when the meta-narratives of capitalism, consumption and human centrality which pervade our society, are serving us so badly.
I have been watching and making short films for a number of years and what I love about them, compared to feature-length films, is their economy of storytelling and distillation of emotional narrative. In essence, they are a combination of moving images, sounds and words, which invites us to feel something. The film critic, Roger Ebert, said that ‘the movies are like a machine that generates empathy’. And in the words of Kate Tempest, ‘more empathy, more respect’ is much needed right now.
A recent short film which has struck me is ‘How The Earth Must See Itself’ by filmmaker Lucy Cash. It exists as a poetic companion piece to choreographer Simone Kenyon’s ‘Into The Mountain’ project, which itself presents movement and landscape in dialogue with the iconic text of Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain. The film was shot on super 16mm film, a process which embraces the materiality of the medium and gives the film a beautiful tactility – a quality shared by Mark Jenkin’s acclaimed Cornish feature, Bait. These examples, along with many shorts which have been screened at the annual Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival in Hawick, Scotland, have offered glimpses of possibilities into how we might cultivate empathy with the other-than-human world through film.
Within these confines, what are the new stories that we could tell? Or what old stories could be given voice and form again through a camera lens and microphone?
What excites me about the accessibility of the current culture of short filmmaking is that we have the potential to harness a relatively nascent artistic medium to ‘reassert the role of storytelling as more than mere entertainment’, as suggested in the Dark Mountain manifesto. When compared to the ancient practices of music-making, visual art and writing, filmmaking offers an opportunity to weave these forms together and present something kaleidoscopic with visual and aural texture. It is a narrative platform which has, so far, been relatively uncharted territory within the project.
Free from the interference of profit-driven studios,the independent spirit of short filmmaking and its form also lends itself to creative experimentation within time (and often budgetary) constraints. There’s something dynamic and fresh that happens when people can create within tight parameters. Within these confines, what are the new stories that we could tell? Or what old stories could be given voice and form again through a camera lens and microphone?
Many of my experiences at Dark Mountain events and gatherings have been characterised by feasting on stories, food, songs and fostering new connections and relationships with both fellow humans and other-than-human species, as well as places in which they appear. What brings us together is the desire to honestly face the reality of our unravelling times and asking questions that we don’t have all of the answers to yet: If ‘the end of the world as we know it is not the end of the world full stop’ , what do we hold on to? What is still worth celebrating?
In an age of endings, we invite you to explore the possibilities of how uncivilised filmmaking might look and sound. This call is intended as an inspiration and provocation, loosely tied thematically with the call-out for Issue 17, which will delve into stories of restoration, regeneration, revival, repair, retreat, renewal and return, both in a literal sense and in ways that are less obvious, perhaps exploring some of the re’s messier, more ambiguous sides.
Film submissions may explore these ideas in relation to our place in the interconnected web of life on Earth, or may choose to focus on decentralising human narratives and explore how the other-than-human might be presented through film. In a recent interview in Dark Mountain: Issue 16, Charlotte Du Cann and Paul Kingsnorth spoke about the inherent challenges of endeavouring to step outside the human bubble of experience in ‘The Earth Does Not Speak In Prose’. I don’t think that it speaks through film, either, but I’m excited at the prospect of people creating short films which wrestle with that conundrum.
A small selection of these film submissions will form part of the programme of events at a Dark Mountain event at the Cube in Bristol next April. Film can be easily and quickly disseminated through online digital channels to be consumed individually on personal electronic devices. However, one of our rituals that I think is worth holding on to as we navigate these uncertain times, is gathering with a group of people, in a cinema, as the lights dim and we collectively witness dreaming through lights and sound. Perhaps we’ll feel something new together.
How to submit
We are interested in receiving short films which are elemental, either in their subject matter or manner of making. Submissions can be existing creations which you think might fit the call, or you can create something entirely new in response to this provocation.
All films must be no longer than 15 minutes maximum. We welcome films which have been made in any format but please note that we can only receive submissions digitally as either .mp4. or .mov files via wetransfer to [email protected].
The deadline for submissions is Friday 28th February 2020 and a small selection will be chosen for screening at the Bristol event in April.
We look forward to viewing and hearing what you send us between now and February.
Dark Mountain at The Cube will take place 17th-19th April 2020. Programme and tickets will be available in January. Watch this space!
1 from Eight Principles of Uncivilisation, Uncivilisation: the Dark Mountain Manifesto by Dougald Hine and Paul Kingsnorth, 2009