Niki Harman, Creative Director of Light After Dark Film Festival and Film Programmer for Nottingham Contemporary contacted us before Cinema Rediscovered Film Festival in Bristol about attending. As a film programmer of repertory cinema we felt that a bursary would help Niki to attend the festival related to her own work and keep fresh ideas coming into the Midlands. Niki Harman reports attending Film festivals is crucial to a film programmers role.

Article written by Niki Harman 

As a film curator who specialises in repertory cinema it was an exciting prospect to be able to attend Cinema Rediscovered in Bristol.

This visit feels like a crucial part of my work as a film programmer, being able to see what is out there, what others are doing and seeing where we sit in the broader picture of repertory cinema. It has had an influence on how we may move forward with our own programming.

In addition to this, Cinema Rediscovered has strong links with Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna, who premier newly restored pieces and have strong links with distribution companies that work on re-releases, such as Kino Lorber and The Criterion Collection. Having insight into their partnership opens up possibilities, space to dream and broadens how we can programme films for the audiences we serve.

One challenge when programming repertory film is the lack of awareness and availability of diverse voices compared to more contemporary films. After reflecting on what I was able to watch at Cinema Rediscovered, out of the 16 films I saw, 10 films were directed by women and 3 were directed by black filmmakers. Some of the collection I had never seen before, these before-unknown-to-me titles will now make up a season we are working on next year and was a real inspiration to see under represented voices getting their time in the light.

The festival was structured in four strands: Reframing Film Restored & Rediscovered, Look Who’s Back: The Hollywood Renaissance & the Blacklist and my favourite; Down & Dirty: American D.I.Y. Restored. This included KAMIKAZE HEARTS which was thematically on point for the programme I have recently curated, focusing on lesser-known queer cinema.

My highlight of the festival was Bette Gordons VARIETY which was inspired by VERTIGO and set in 1970’s New York downtown, drenched in a Nan Goldin aesthetic with a sleazy female gaze - I loved it, punctuated with Kathy Aker style monologues that were fun and inspiring. It has given me food for thought on some up and coming projects.

It was a great opportunity to connect with programmers, writers and academics in this space. I connected with Camilla, Rebecca and Lauren at the festival who are from Invisible Women Archives and hosted several screenings at Cinema Rediscovered including a live score of SALOME. Since then, I have had meetings with Invisible Women Archives and I have commissioned them to do an exhibition using archive film called “peepshow”.

Another good bit of networking was meeting Yael at distribution company, Kino Lorber, she took me through their back catalogue and showed me some of the amazing titles they have, one of which was FLAMING EARS, we screened it previously in September as part of our exhibition launch and that was a nice full circle moment. This conversation alone with Yael inspired a few ideas we are now percolating on and hopefully can bring to light soon.

Pam Hitchins, who I greatly admire gave an impassioned talk at the festival. I have since connected with her also and I'm looking forward to also working with her in the future

Overall, this festival was warm, welcoming and very well organised with pin-like attention to detail. It was a real treat to attend. Whilst at Cinema Rediscovered I had a chance to reflect on my own curatorial perspective, how I have programmed film since I started and the tone with which I create immersive film events. It’s important to have moments like this where I can reflect as it nourishes and strengthens my work.

It was a joy to see the wider community we are a part of as Light After Dark Film Festival comes into its second year.

If you are inspired to attend a film festival you think will help with your own programming after reading Niki's report of Cinema Rediscovered you can find all you need to know about applying for a bursary here