Back for its 12th year, the 2023 Bristol Radical Film Festival of political, activist and experimental filmmaking comprises a rich mix of contemporary political films and rarely seen archive gems. The festival takes place at the Cube Cinema over the weekend of November 4/5.
Saturday’s highlight is a screening of recent documentary Cassius X: Becoming Ali, which is shown as part of Islamophobia Awareness Month.
Unlike other Muhammad Ali docs, this centres exclusively on the transitional period in the great boxer’s career from 1959 to 1964, during which he befriended Malcolm X, converted to Islam and changed his name – initially from Cassius Clay to Cassius X.
Saturday’s programme also includes Everything Must Change, a documentary exploring how multiple crises – cost of living, climate change, food, housing, land – have come about and how these are being resisted. The screening includes a Q&A with Shaun Dey.
Nae Pasaran is a feature-length documentary telling the story of how factory workers in a Scottish town in 1974 refused to carry out repairs on warplane engines in an act of solidarity against the violent military coup in Chile. It explores just how significant their actions were in depriving the Chilean military dictatorship of much of its air power.
Back in 1973, the Bristol Trades Union Council (BTUC) was given access to BBC resourses to make a unique documentary marking its centenary. Written, researched, and presented by trade unionists, 100 Years of Struggle recounts key moments from Bristol workers’ history, including the 1892 strike in Redcliffe by women confectionery workers, anti-war organising in WW1, the 1926 general strike and the police riot in Old Market in 1932. This rare screening will be followed by a panel discussion on the recent wave of strikes and union organising today.
Sunday’s highlight is the acclaimed Pakistani trans drama Joyland, which had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival back in 2022 and was Pakistan’s entry for Best International Feature Film at the 95th Academy Awards. Set in inner-city Lahore and centred on the lower middle class Rana family, this has the family patriarch forcing his daughter-in-law to give up her salon job after her husband finds work as an erotic dancer. Matters are complicated when hubby falls for a trans starlet.
Also on Sunday, Swiss film The Hearing invites four asylum seekers to re-enact their gruelling hearings with real state interviewers. The twist is that they’re permitted to turn the tables and interrogate their interviewers.
Equally topical, Abby Martin’s documentary Gaza Fights For Freedom centres on the 2018-2019 Great March of Return protests in the Gaza strip, exploring the deprivation caused by the Israeli government blockade of this small territory.
Finally, the annual International Short Films Showcase presents new work ranging from Italy, Finland and Spain to Iran the USA and UK. The programme includes a campaigning animation highlighting the housing crisis, anti-fascist traditions in London’s East End, the oil industry’s suppression of research on climate change, and a dance performance exploring women’s inequality in the workplace.
Go here for the full programme and ticket links.
Main image from 100 Years of Struggle: Bristol Radical Film Festival