‘A mini, weird conference of ideas’, as festival programmer Carla MacKinnon describes it, each Rich Pickings event takes a single theme and explores the issues involved through a combination of short film screenings, discussion, live music and art performances. The aim is to get people engaged with a particular topic and draw in crowds who might not usually attend film festivals. As MacKinnon explains: ‘A lot of the festivals that I work with are designed to showcase good new short film work and provide a path for filmmakers to get into the industry… which is good and really necessary, but I suppose there was this whimsical side of me that wanted to do something slightly more exploratory.’
The first-ever event, focused on translation and adaptation, took place earlier this year at the Shortwave Cinema in Bermondsey, London. With literary readings and even a game of Chinese Whispers to illustrate how narratives break down, the central focus was a back-to-back double-bill screening of GW Pabst’s 1931 French- and German-language versions of The Threepenny Opera, which aimed to highlight the differences in these translations.
Another literary classic, Nabokov’s Lolita, is the starting point for the second Rich Pickings event, due to take place at the London Short Film Festival on January 10, 2010. Tackling a tricky subject area, the programme will take a look at teenage and adolescent sexuality in all its forms – ‘imposed, real and perceived’. MacKinnon admits that it’s not an easy theme to curate: ‘What really appealed to me about it is that it scared me because it’s not something I’m comfortable with, and it’s not something where I know what I think about it.’ MacKinnon has decided to kick off proceedings with the rarely seen adolescent films of video artist Sadie Benning: ‘I wanted to start out with the voice of a teenager, but a teenager who kind of knew what she was doing.’ As the daughter of filmmaker James Benning, Sadie was a culturally astute adolescent, and her low-fi, Pixelvision films create a certain voyeuristic discomfort, as she explores her sexuality in intimate detail.
Many of the other films being screened present teenage sexuality from an adult perspective: Girl like Me (Rowland Jobson, 2009) follows a middle-aged man as he mistakenly ends up on a date with a young teenage girl; and Little Red Hoodie (Joern Utkilen, 2008), a disturbing take on the familiar fairy tale sees an adolescent girl crossing the Scottish highlands in a provocative red T-shirt as she delivers a television to her grandmother’s house. In addition, a child psychologist will talk about Nabokov’s Lolita, bringing a voice from outside the film industry and an important ‘dose of reality’ – a refreshing characteristic of Rich Pickings.
During our conversation, MacKinnon tosses around all sorts of intriguing options for the programme, from Japanese animé to Kenneth Anger’s fetishisation of youth and a late-night screening of Eric Rohmer’s Claire’s Knee (1970): ‘It’s like anything with programming, you go down a lot of different, interesting routes and beautiful by-roads before you hit the highway.’ She reveals she has hundreds of themes she wants to work on in the future, ranging from the serious (visions of the end of the world) to the fun and silly (‘monkeys versus robots’). With MacKinnon’s energetic programming, there should be many rich pickings for audiences at LSFF.