by Ge Allan
"There is so much out there beyond your Netflix membership and torrented TV, so go and explore it before this break from reality ends."
Although many industries are in turmoil right now, one currently on my mind is the film industry. While it might not be easy to sympathise with big studios delaying multi-million dollar blockbusters by a few months, there are film festivals big and small cancelling and causing the industry to grind to a halt.
Film festivals are the vein through which most arthouse, independent, and low budget films flow. It's through events like SXSW that films and filmmakers gain their audiences, monetary support and distributors. As these events have been cancelled, productions have stopped and cinemas shut.
In the meantime, many film festivals have signed a film festival survival pledge, making the festivals due to be postponed or cancelled accessible online and therefore helping the industry continue through this uncertain period. But while paying rent and protecting your family might be on your mind, you probably have some time to watch films or read some online articles.
Why not support the industry in a small way by accessing all the FREE content online? By watching films, talking about them, researching them, reading about them, we can appreciate what the industry does for us and maybe when we can all go outside again we can put the money we have towards diverse and interesting storytellers, volunteer-run cinemas and free film archives. There is so much out there beyond your Netflix membership and torrented TV - so go and explore it before our break from reality ends.
The BFI Player
A British institution, the BFI has a wealth of archive material, shorts and feature films free to access on their online player. Recommended viewing includes various terrifying public service films and 5 newly commisssioned LGBTQ+ shorts
This wonderful volunteer-run cinema donates 100% of its profits to charity, and is moving online and providing lots of free film content and positivity through their channels. Creating a Virtual Lexi Programme, the cinema will provide links to a diverse range of films online. Sign up to the newsletter and you’ll get regular updates on the titles and schedule of group film viewings.
Many of them will be free to access on various streaming platforms and will be accompanied by online commentary and group chats after the film. They are also working with MUBI and offering 3 months of free viewing to Lexi customers.
If you need any more excuse to go to their website, check out their community hub page and see some lovely things happening during lockdown as well as recommendations of what to do indoors.
Video film essays
If you want to absorb some interesting film discussions without reading pages and pages, why not try watching some video essays, a fantastic form of learning which entails no effort on your part. There are a vast amount online from professional scholars to bedroom vloggers and all for free.
Pioneers of the form are the editors of [in]Transition , a peer-reviewed academic journal of video essays available to watch for free. Video essays range from filmmaker Charlie Lyne’s film about framing, to colour in hammer horror and fembots on screen. One favourite is a beautifully compiled piece showing the blurring of camera shots in film.
For a pure visual compilation of films, David Ehrlich’s impressive ‘Best Film Of’ video compilations are a wonderful way to see what films you’ve missed from the years going back to 2014.
Film writing & academic articles
As many students and academics have been placed indoors and away from libraries and places of study, online journals and academic resources such as JSTOR have made more material open access. Simply search for anything film related you might be interested in reading about and you will find heaps of journals, articles, reviews and book chapters to wile away the days.
Similarly, OAPEN has a whole database of open access books including those on film and cinema to download as pdfs.
The respected film writer David Bordwell has a vast website of his work which is easy to digest. Similarly, Thomas Elsasser who recently passed away was a champion of open access film theory and put a large amount of his writing online, such as a majority of a film textbook.
Screen Online is a great resource to read about British film. Film Journals such as Cleo and Senses of Cinema are also free online and are filled with articles about film in all forms. Try articles such as a female writers roundtable on 90’s teen films, socio-economic critique and utopia in Florida Project or a love letter to Stifler’s mom.
Leeds Queer Film Festival
This film festival was due to begin in April but is one of the many postponing due to COVID19. In the meantime however they’re generously gathering together a google doc of LGBTQ+ films currently available for free online. Follow them on Twitter for their updates and send them any other free content you can add to the list.
If you’re into reading or writing screenplays, you have a database at your fingertips on this website. See how your favourite movie was written, or read some unproduced scripts.
Free films on Youtube
While you probably already know Youtube has a world of free content, you might not know how many good feature length films are actually on there. At the time of writing the following films are available on YouTube and in great quality.
Ge Allan is the Film Editor of the Radical Art Review. Reach her via radicalartreview [at] gmail [dot] com