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Flatpack festival preview

Dazed previews this weekend's Flatpack film festival, and brings you the inside story on Birmingham's burgeoning celluloid scene

Starting seven years ago in a pub called The Rainbow as a means for local auteurs to showcase their wears, Flatpack  in Birmingham is now one of the UK’s most imaginative and best loved film festivals. Now in its seventh year, Flatpack’s aim to make film an exciting and unpredictable experience, with projects mixing up live elements with animation and film and people using limited resources in interesting ways. Dazed Digital spoke to festival originators Pip Mcknight and Ian Francis about some of this years more intriguing events.

Plasticine Party
“There’s a band called Moon Unit who do this Frank Zappa-inspired improvised jazz, and they’re performing a live score to a Bruce Bickford film. Bruce Bickford was Frank Zappa’s animator; he used to make plasticine models of faces falling in on themselves. The film’s called Cas’l. He’s been making it for years and years and he’s only just finished it, so it hasn’t been shown much at all. We’re using plasticine as a theme. We’re going to leave out all this plasticine for people to play with and there’ll be artist spaces to compete against each other to make the best possible worlds out of plasticine. It’s going to be pretty messy.”

Music documentaries are always a big part of the festival programme. Memory and Desire is about Ian Duffy and the Lilac Time. He was the founding member of Duran Duran and he had success in the 80s with a song called “Kiss Me”, which was kind of a one-hit wonder. He was a bit of a new romantic and he started doing folk music with the Lilac Time at a time when folk music wasn’t cool. So they’re more revered now as a great Nick Drake-esque folk band at a time when no one else was doing that kind of thing. Separado! is about Gruff Rhys’s road trip through Patagonia to find a long-lost ancestor. There’s a whole migration from Wales to Patagonia in South America, with the Welsh looking for a new and a better life; a new Wales where they’d have greater independence. And they still have Welsh speaking communities in South America, some of which he visits. But it’s just a sort of brilliant, psychedelic road trip.

Lanterna Magika
Magic lanterns are what we had before movies. They’re large format slides with chunky pieces of glass and some of them have moving parts. So you get these strange psychedelic patterns from turning a disk within a disk, or more jokey things like a mouse appearing from under the carpet; a really crude form of cinema, basically. The film-maker Bill Douglas is best known for his trilogy of 70s films about his childhood in Scotland. He was a massive fan of optical entertainment and built up a massive collection of them and put them into his last movie, Comrades, which was recently re-released by the BFI. It’s about his passion for optical illusions and pre-cinema gadgetry. We also have this local man called Mike Simkin who has his own collection of magic lanterns; he’ll be doing a magic lantern show alongside the screening, which will be really, really interesting. It should be quite special.

Synth Eastwood
They’re an Irish collective who have built a name doing these open-submission art events in Dublin where they give out a theme and people contribute work - it’s a mixture of an exhibition and a club night. They’re going to do a mini residency in Birmingham gathering up images, film and sound to use as raw material for the night. They’re pulling together lots of visual work, live performance, animation; all sorts. It shapes from film performance art into music, and by the end it’s basically a DJ free-for-all. They’ve got the Clark, on Warp records, and Gangpol & Mit who are this French duo who bounce animation and music back and forth between each other. At the same venue there’s also a guy called Hugh Coony from Dublin who’s this one-man YouTube auteur. He makes these little films where he films himself in different characters - he uses extremely basic props to dress himselfup as birds and robots and all sorts. He’ll be doing this thing on the Synth Eastwood night where he sits in a box and you feed your art requests into a slot and he’ll create it live in the box and feed it back out in a frame for you.

Flatpack runs until Sunday 28 March around various venues in central Birmingham (

Keep an eye on Dazed Digital this weekend for regular blog updates from the festival
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