By Katya Spiers, Film & TV Digital Editor
Are you new to Bristol? Or just looking to get acquainted with the city’s film scene? Freshers Week is looking a little different this year, which may make it difficult to get to know the city. Instead of feeling queasy outside LaRocca while you wait for the bus back to halls, you’ll be participating in yet another Zoom quiz and innumerable remote ‘mingle sessions’.
But while you may not be able to dance the night away at Lola Lo’s just yet, there is still a lot that Bristol has to offer, including its diverse and dynamic film scene.
Bristol is brimming with native film festivals and is host to a wealth of amazing independent cinemas all within a stone's throw of the city centre. Here are the places to go and the festivals to look out for this academic year, as well as the ways that they are taking shape in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Encounters Film Festival focuses on animation and shorts, by both new and experienced filmmakers from around the world. As well as taking place entirely online, this year’s edition includes the festival’s Lockdown Depict selection, created in partnership with The Watershed and the BFI to showcase creativity that has emerged from 2020’s extenuating circumstances, as well as a selection of films from Bristol’s Queer Vision Film Festival, which was due to take place in July.
Encounters Film Festival runs from the 18th of September through the 11th of October, and festival passes can be purchased for only £10 for the whole month, giving you access to the 400+ films being screened, as well as live Q&As, workshops and talks from filmmakers and industry experts.
Halfway down Bristol’s charming, fairy-light-draped Christmas Steps, you’ll find 20th Century Flicks, an Aladdin’s cave of DVDs that are all available to rent – it’s Bristol’s romantic and artsy answer to Blockbuster. 20th Century Flicks is currently operating a distanced rental system: you can browse their extensive and continually-growing selection of films online and reserve a selection of DVDs that you can watch from the comfort of your own bed. The shop is also home to Bristol’s cosiest cinema screen that you can rent out for a private screening of any of the DVDs available in-store. It's a real treasure in the heart of Bristol's city centre.
The Bristol Palestine Film Festival works with various venues across the city, including the Watershed, The Cube Microplex and the Palestine Museum, to screen films by Palestinian filmmakers and that reflect life in Palestine, and encourage dialogues between audiences and filmmakers surrounding Palestine’s rich culture and the realities of everyday life. Last year’s line-up included Elia Suleiman’s It Must Be Heaven (2019).
For those of you interested in the intersection of art and politics, the 10th anniversary edition of the Bristol Palestine Film Festival is due to take place between the 1st and the 6th of December this year.
The Watershed is the most prominent landmark of Bristol’s film scene. Situated right on the Harbourside, the Watershed is host to a diverse selection of screenings, festivals, and Q&As that take place all year round. This is an important destination for any film-loving fresher who wants to keep in the loop with new releases, including foreign films and restored classics, as tickets are only £5 for anyone under the age of 24.
The Watershed will also be screening a selection of films from this year’s London Film Festival which runs from the 7th to the 18th of October.
The Bristol Film Festival screens films in iconic locations around the city, from the SS Great Britain to the Bristol Cathedral, creating a new and exciting viewing experience for familiar titles. Explore the way that different contexts can alter the experience of viewing some of your favourite films. Whether it’s Wall-E (2008) in the We The Curious planetarium, a more eerie underground screening of Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) in Redcliffe Caves, or a wine tasting-cum-Amélie (2001) screening to evoke the winding streets of Montmartre, there really is something for everyone.
The BFF website is being regularly updated with pandemic restrictions and even some at-home film screenings, so keep an eye out there for any upcoming events.
The Cube Microplex is an independent, volunteer-run community cinema space nestled into the back of Stokes Croft. Here, you will find an impeccably-curated line up of films shown sporadically throughout the year, just keep an eye out on their website for details of upcoming events. In The Cube, conventional soft drinks have been replaced by home-brewed cola (delicious) and extortionate ticket prices have been dismissed in favour of making cinema affordable and accessible to everyone, a hallmark of Bristol’s approachable, DIY spirit.
Featured: Heather Cowper, Encounters Film Festival, The Watershed, 20th Century Flicks
Where will you be going first? Let us know!