Why independent art house cinema is vital

As the film industry becomes increasingly homogenised, Laura Egerton explores the challenge and value of funding innovative artistic projects 

Artists are increasingly working with the moving image. Christian Marclay’s The Clock – winner of the Golden Lion Award at the 2011 Venice Biennale – is one of the most successful examples of an artist working creatively with film: his 24-hour masterpiece is made up of thousands of clips relating precisely to the time of day – combining to make a cinematic clock.

It is impossible to watch in one sitting, and sheer length allows it to neatly sidestep the commonconundrum posed to the viewer of an artist film shown in a gallery: how much time to devote to it? More often than not you will start watching a film halfway through and not see it all. But does that really matter?

It is a real treat to watch an artist’s film on the big screen. 10 years ago you could see an alternative film in a multiplex, today blockbusters dominate and arthouse cinemas are struggling. Online providers Netflix and Amazon Prime are turning the film industry on its head: despite the obvious benefits of cost and accessibility, the cinema experience is lost when your audience is sitting in front of an iPad.

There are some steps in the right direction. In the UK, The Artists Cinema 2016 – produced by the Independent Cinema Office and LUX – gives leading visual artists the chance to reach a larger audience.

The UAE’s Moving Images – a partnership between the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF), Sharjah Art Foundation and Art Dubai – is dedicated to exploring the intersection between art and film. The last Moving Images event, at DIFF last December, was a screening of the documentary MONIR directed by Bahman Kiarostami. The film is a reflection on the life of the Iranian artist Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian.

Laura Egerton

10 years ago you could see an alternative film in a multiplex, today blockbusters dominate and arthouse cinemas are struggling.

Laura Egerton, Laura Egerton is a freelance curator, writer and art historian based in Dubai. She was formerly Curator of the Abraaj Group Art Prize for Art Dubai

Intimate footage of the artist at work on her mirrored geometric creations in her studio – producing drawings using bees dipped in ink – offer a rare insight to her practice.

Its producer, Leyla Fakhr, told the audience that she believes that art and film  intertwine and cannot be separated. She also openly discussed the difficulty of finding funding for such a production. Film festivals have become more  important than ever as a vehicle for independent films to gain traction. In Dubai the pop-up platform Cinema Akil brings independent films from around the world to audiences in Dubai.

For summer 2016 they have collaborated with Alserkal Avenue to create A Hard Day’s Night, with a line-up that explores labour, technology, industry and the human condition. It includes the sci-fi classic Metropolis, Egyptian romantic drama Factory Girl and Japanese animated adventure Castle In The Sky.

Image Nation in Abu Dhabi provides vital support to Emirati filmmakers in helping to ensure their films reach an international audience. Ali Mostafa’s From A to B and Majid Al Ansari’s Zinzana both premiered at last year’s BFI London Film Festival.

Such events bring a community together: going to the movies has always been a shared experience. In its essence film is about recording the passing of time and capturing moments of synergy: something we should all remember.