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Branchage Festival 2010: A Preview
The Quietus , September 21st, 2010 12:11

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This weekend, the Quietus will once more be heading across the English Channel to the island of Jersey and the third year of the International Film Festival known as Branchage. As we reported last year, both on the Quietus and on Caught By The River, Branchage is one of the finest festivals you're going to encounter, carefully curated and lovingly organised, not to mention entirely friendly to those who find the idea of hours droning on about the nether regions of French New Wave rather tiresome. That's without the venues in which the Festival takes place - with only a single Cineplex on the Island, Branchage commandeer a string of unusual venues that this year include the Jersey Opera House, a barn, a horse box, a tug boat, polytunnel and a few churches.

In 2009 we headed over the introduce British Sea Power's superlative soundtrack to Man Of Aran, that so hit a chord with the Island community that our film editor Dave Moats was stopped by a baggage handler as he left Jersey airport, who wished to tell him how special the event had been. This year, we're putting our name to a whole host of soundtrack events. There's Robin 'Scanner' Rimbaud's soundtrack to magic lantern projections - (read our interview with Rimbaud about the event here). We're also massively looking forward to Zombie Zombie's soundtrack to Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin which, in keeping with Branchage's habit of using unusual venues, will take place in a tug boat in St. Helier harbour. In a curious alignment of artist, film and place, tQ favourites Bo Ningen are performing a score to Tatsuo Sato's animation Cat Soup in a church. One of the highlights of the festival last year was Amiina's soundtrack to the animation of Lotte Reineger. In fact, we enjoyed that so much that we brought it to London last Christmas for a candlelit performance in Shoreditch Church. This year, we're thinking that Gorky men Richard James and Euros Child's musical accompaniment to the work of Russian animator Yuri Nordstein will be a similarly magical event. You can find out further details of the live soundtrack programme over at the Branchage website.

Another way in which Branchage tops the average industry bash is through its extra-curricular activities. So Mr Ian Svenonius, writer and musician best known for his work in Nation Of Ulysses and Weird War, will be hosting an "interactive performance" of a kind "unseen since the days of prehistoric man" on the wave-swept rocks of Ecrehous. Expect a full Quietus report on his discussion of "the housing crisis, the waste of gasoline in stock car racing, the propensity of Germans to use Scandinavian names for their children, and what to do when caught in the rain with pastries". We'll also be on Old Jersey's WFMU Radio chatting to their affable presenter Billy Jam - find out more about his show here. And when that's done and the night has fallen across the Island, our friends at Adventures In The Beetroot Field and the good gents of the Filthy Dukes have somehow managed to kidnap one of our favourite live bands, Chrome Hoof, and bring them across the water for a belting do in the mirrored and ancient Spiegeltent, erected on the St Helier promenade. HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOF.

There are, of course plenty of choice films, including some documentaries which are not to be missed. Much like last years’ stunning Sleep Furiously, Greetings from the Woods makes the mundane and everyday seem strange and beautiful. Mikel Karlsson captures the sleepwalking pace and eccentric characters of his Swedish home town. Sometimes disquieting and Lynchian, sometimes profoundly funny, this is a great film to drift along with. Watch out for the Viking doing his shopping, “American Indian” enthusiasts and the man who wants to photograph your dog.

While it has the outward appearance of a standard science documentary, Vanishing of the Bees raises some provocative questions about our relationship with nature. It investigates the causes and impacts of the seemingly spontaneous disappearance of whole colonies of bees over the last few years - a phenomenon which could threaten much of the food we eat (Douglas’ Copelands latest novel Generation A is set in a future where just such a catastrophe has occurred). While the film’s depictions of mechanised farming, smart-pesticides and strong-arm corporate tactics are worrying, the more terrifying thought is that we may never know why the bees are disappearing.

The long awaited American: The Bill Hicks Story documentary does well with the scant footage and photographic materials available. Instead of slow panning across the same photographs ad-nauseum, the directors have used collage and animation to tell the notorious comic’s story. The film even manages to give added insight into a life already laid bare on stage.

In Cowboys in India Simon Chambers sets out to find a small community in India fighting an evil corporation with bows and arrows, but finds quite a different story (or stories) on the ground. Accompanied by his two hapless guides, his quest becomes more Aguirre than A Fist Full of Dollars. Weary of any easy answers, Chambers has made a film more about the journey than about the truth.

Also check out Seperado!, Gruff Rhys’ journey to find his musical heritage, featuring one of his latest bizarre collaborators, surreal British filmSkeletons, deranged and hilarious stop-motion A Town Called Panic, WWII propaganda film Went The Day Well, Lourdes, Black Butter - Tasting The Past, and Last Train Home.

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