As the biggest film festivals around the globe are grappling with the dilemma of getting the community of participants, once taken for granted, together again, here comes ‘LongShots’, an online film festival whose idea had been born before the pandemic. Available on BBC Reel, the month-long festival (starting May 28, running through to June 26) finds itself poised to be the perfect antidote to the deep-seated anxiety of these uncertain times, by giving us films which show us what it is to be human.
The seven films, chosen from among the seventy-plus films nominated by a group of international curators, are diverse slices of life. Childhood, Boyhood, Youth tracks a bunch of young dancers in a Portuguese ballet school, to adulthood. Champion Of The World focuses its lens on a former bodybuilder and his world, touching upon how masculinity and modernity are different for different generations and genders. Chanson Triste is about migration and identity, seen through the eyes of an Afghan refugee and a singer. Can going back to a remembered place give you what you want? That’s the theme of First Line Of China. A group of children are in the frame in Their Voices, in a glance at what goes on in a Polish boarding school. Indigenous faces lead us to looking back and looking ahead, in Uncle Yim. And Taraash is about a poor Indian farmer, a Bollywood fan who dreams of writing his own films, and manages to see what it is like to be a creator.
“As a filmmaker myself, I know how hard it is to get our work seen,” says Anna Bressanin, an editor with BBC Reel. “Not everyone can make it to the big festivals like Sundance and Tribeca, so I thought why not use our online platform where millions of people can watch these films from these emerging documentary filmmakers around the world. The idea came to me pre-Covid 19, and now it seems to be just the perfect time for us to see these hidden gems.”
Each film will be on for three days, and the screenings will be followed by Q and As with the filmmakers on the BBC Reel’s social media platforms. “We are also planning on a virtual red carpet so that it feels like a real festival,” says the New York-based Bressanin, for whom the whole exercise has been soul-satisfying. “We were looking for original stories, creativity, execution and access, and I think people will find them all in here.”
The audience will be able to watch the films for free, and vote for the best film after the festival is over, making it a true global engagement. “I am very, very excited,” says filmmaker Ana Catala, content manager at the Tribeca Film Institute, who was on the team which shortlisted the seven films. “There are so many voices which need to be heard, which don’t get a hearing because they don’t have the funds or the connections. It is, if I may call it that, an equalising festival.”
Going forward, an online format may also be the only kind of film festival accessible to us in these times of social distancing. LongShots may turn out to be much more than a long shot, then.
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