If you missed us on Ujima Radio 98fm last month - worry not! Click the link below and find us in the first half an hour of the Women's Outlook show on Wednesday 26th June (but we'd recommend listening on for the rest of the show too). Big shout outs to people we've worked with and admire: Viki Browne, Many Minds, In Our Hands, Landworkers' Alliance, Sims Hill Shared Harvest, Save Hamilton House and Kim Loginotto.
In June we were invited by the lovely folk at St Werburgh’s City Farm in Bristol to give a talk about filmmaking. A huge thanks to Kat and the farm for inviting us, to those who came and shared their own stories and questions, and to the great work of the farm in general. You can see a film we made for the farm a couple of years ago below.
We’re happy to say our filmmaking has come on leaps and bounds since then and it was a real honour to be able to talk openly and honestly about our own personal journeys with filmmaking and how it shapes our collaborative, sensitive approach to our work. The beautiful footage below is from the amazingly talented Florence Pellacani. And the still above is from Soul Media/St. Werbughs City Farm.
My best mate recommended that I watch this documentary. Although It feels quite traditional in the sense of storytelling style, the content is fascinating. To see a powerful young Maori woman working with the pakeha in the 80’s New Zealand filmmaking world is incendiary. This is a powerful story about the importance of hearing indigenous voices in our mainstream narratives. Decolonising the screen uses archival footage, former interviews with Merata interweaved with stories from her 5 children. It is a unique look at the struggle of the colonised, of the power of story telling and of the combination of the often misconstrued, but ultimately complimentary roles of mother, storyteller and revolutionary.
First published on Shambala’s blog.
AS THE FILM AWARD SEASON DRAWS TO A CLOSE AGAIN FOR A YEAR, WE TOUCHED BASE WITH BRISTOL-BASED FEMINIST FILM-MAKERS JO BARKER AND HOLLY BLACK OF BLACK BARK FILMS.
With movements like MeToo and Black Lives Matter having a stake in making real and positive change in the film industry, we wanted to take a look on-the-ground where independent film-makers have long been telling the stories tinsel-town has left by the way side.
Through our yearly adventures in utopia we’ve come to know that where there’s creativity, there is power to create change. Jo and Holly’s film-making speaks power to this and puts community at the forefront, using film to bring unheard voices and stories to our attention.
Having worked with Shambala and Bristol’s No More Taboo, a non-profit tackling period poverty, Jo and Holly helped create the first non-gendered menstruation station at a UK music festival; The Red Sea Travel Agency at Shambala 2018 – look out for their short documentary about this – coming soon. Last year at Shambala we also screened their incredible film on farming (In Our Hands).
We caught up with Holly and Jo, to talk story telling and using films to creative positive change – as well as picking their brains on top tips for any budding Shambalan film makers.
IS THERE POWER IN A STORY?
HB: Storytelling is the way in which we understand the world. As Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi argues, there is a real danger in the idea of ‘a single story’ – having just one narrative of a subject. Through our work we really try to veer away from the danger of a single narrative.
JB: Stories and metaphors are an extremely powerful in enabling us to understand another person’s perspective. The way someone chooses to present something helps us to understand what goes on in their mind, what they are picking up on and how they interpret the same thing we see but through a different lense. I feel stories are tools for compassion.
DO YOU BELIEVE FILM CAN CREATE POSITIVE CHANGE?
HB: Hell yes! We see before we can speak. We understand images and visual representations of the world from an incredibly young age. Film (documentary in particular) can show us the world through a different lens, one which we may not have considered before – which may or may not inspire change. We don’t make films hoping that they will change the way people live, we make films that raise questions and offer new perspectives.
JB: I totally agree with Holly. At Black Bark Films we don’t set out to change people’s opinions but to offer a platform for those voices or perspectives that are being overlooked. It’s through elevating these stories we hope our audience will consider their own opinions from a different angle, this may then result in a positive change for both storyteller and audience.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE MOST IMPORTANT STORY YOU’VE TOLD THROUGH YOUR FILM-MAKING?
HB: Oh my gosh. This is hard. In Our Hands was our first experience with a feature length documentary, and it allowed us to really get into some of the issues around food and farming in the UK, in the stark light of a looming Brexit. I think that the solution focused ‘we’re already doing it’ narrative is powerful in this film. The idea of coming together, of challenging the current systems and of the compelling characters involved in the food sovereignty movement is incredibly important – and we hope others feel the same!
JB: For me it was being a part of the last year of the community space Hamilton House, and documenting the eviction of Coexist who managed it. Living in Bristol and seeing the regeneration and then subsequent gentrification of the Stokes Croft area has been hard for us to watch. It’s a sad inevitability for most cities that creative, cultural community spaces go this way, but it is something that we felt strongly connected to and want to be involved in it’s documentation.
TELL US ABOUT WHAT YOU’VE BEEN WORKING ON RECENTLY…
HB: Recently we’ve been exploring the representation of women in film. We’ve been looking at these amazing women Jo and Shelley who are the Algobabez – live coders who are part of the Algorave scene in the UK. Within the scene they are creating safe, nonjudgmental spaces for women and people on the margins to create and perform.
We’re also working with Bristol performance artist Viki Browne to look at hyperfemininity – what it means to perform femininity in safe spaces and how this could affect a woman’s sense of empowerment. Working in theatre is a new creative venture for us, and it’s great to stretch and challenge ourselves in new areas.
WHAT ABOUT THIS YEAR IN FILM? WHAT FILMS HAVE INSPIRED YOU RECENTLY?
HB: 2018 has been pretty good for female filmmakers (despite the poor show of representation at the Oscars). On Netflix we really enjoyed the 90’s nostalgia of the documentary Shirkers directed by Sandi Tan, an endearing film following the filmmakers chasing their lost film from decades ago. The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Desiree Akhavan was also a favourite of mine, looking at gender and sexuality through the eyes of a young person sent to Christian ‘pray the gay away’ camp. Also worth a mention was that Black Panther was shot by female cinematographer Rachel Morrison!
JB: I was blown away by Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs’ Blindspotting. The way it presented hard hitting and provocative issues around race, class and gentrification through a spoken word style script was incredible. I took my parents to watch it and my dad thanked me at the end, saying he normally wouldn’t have chosen see something like that, but he was pleased as it had given him a lot to think about. Goes back to the earlier question about films making a positive change.
ANY ADVICE FOR SHAMBALANS WANTING TO START MAKING THEIR OWN FILMS?
HB: Just go out and make a film! Pick up a camera. Ask your pals to help out. We made our first film ‘100 Miles and 2 mouths’ accidentally, as part of a research project. It was brilliant fun and we learnt a lot by just doing it. We also learnt a lot about making documentary by putting ourselves in front of the camera and what it feels like to be on that side of things which has helped hugely in our practice!
JB: Try not to look around at what everyone else is doing, just be sure of what you are and your intentions. Your films are an extension of your voice and how you interact with the world, don’t be afraid to do it your way and offer up another way of seeing things.
. . . . .
Thanks both, we’ll see you back on the field for Shambala 2019. To all menstruating and non-menstruating Shambalan’s alike, be sure to check out the Red Sea tent in August, and Black Bark’s inspiring work in the mean time – it’s bloody great!
we’re so excited that our first feature length documentary ’In Our Hands’ (2017) has been shown internationally at Courage Film Festival 2018, Berlin (Germany), New Earth International Film Festival 2018, Krakov (Poland), Life Sciences Film Festival 2018, Prague (Czech Republic), and the British Documentary Film Festival, London (UK).
IT’s also currently oj tour in Austria with Hunger Macht Profite and has seen around 200 community screenings across the UK in the past year.
2018 has been a big one for Black Bark Films - have a look at our highlights below. In 2019 we would love to collaborate more, so if you have ideas for projects, shorts or promos that you are dying to get out there do get in contact.
- Our first feature length documentary made in association with the Landworkers' Alliance In Our Hands, was shown by communities across the UK from Cornwall to the Scottish Highlands over 300 times! This look at food and farming in the UK post Brexit was also officially selected for the British Documentary Film Festival in London, New Earth International Film Festival in Krakow, Life Sciences Film Festival in Prague and Courage Film Festival in Berlin. Keep your eye out for more screenings on the In Our Hands page.
- Our first international shoot to accompany Gerald Myles from COCA in Pembrokeshire to Germany for a 33,000 strong demonstration in support of small scale farming - included filming Gerald ride a tractor through the streets of Berlin!
- Continuing to support and document the work of the Land Workers' Alliance at their AGM.
- Received funding to begin exploring our relationship with land and land ownership in the UK, working alongside the Land Justice Network.
- We've loved working with our favourite camera person Florence Pellacani on many of these projects.
We are working with performance artist Viki Browne to explore what it means to perform femininity whilst feeling safe, in a multidisciplinary performance layering projection and live video relay over live performance. We are currently in a research and development phase during Viki’s residency at Trinity Bristol for January 2019.
Watch this space for a teaser to follow soon…
We saw this at the Landworkers’ Alliance AGM this past weekend and we were blown away.
“With unprecedented access and research, NAE PASARAN reveals for the first time the incredible impact made by Scottish factory workers 40 years ago against one of the most repressive dictatorships of the 20th century.
40 years after their defiant stand in protest against Pinochet's Air Force in Chile, Scottish pensioners discover the dramatic consequences of their solidarity.
1974, Scotland. Bob Fulton, a Rolls-Royce engine inspector, returns to his section, upset and anxious. He's just told his colleagues that a Chilean Air Force jet engine has arrived in the factory for maintenance and he's refusing to let it go through, in protest against the recent military coup of General Pinochet.
He's seen the images of people packed into football stadiums and the Chilean Air Force jets bombing Santiago, and now one of the engines from those very same planes is right there, waiting for inspection.
He can see his supervisors approaching, he knows he's about to be fired, yet he feels a responsibility...”