Announcing 2024 Programme Highlights

The 14th edition of Open City Documentary Festival, celebrating the art of non-fiction filmmaking, will take place across venues in London from 24 – 30 April. We are delighted to announce In Focus programmes with Simon Liu and Jessica Sarah Rinland, two filmmakers whose work we have been screening at the festival for many years and are so excited to welcome  back. We will also be presenting Folk Memory Project: Between Autoethnography and Anti-ethnography programmed by Hyun Jin Cho which examines the ongoing participatory documentary project in China and following on from last year’s illustrated lecture Cinematic Grandmothers, Feminist Historicity, Grandma’s Grammar will be a 5-screening programme curated by Elena Gorfinkel.

The full festival programme will be announced on 21 March.

In Focus: Simon Liu 

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Simon Liu is a film artist who seeks to build a catalogue of the rapidly evolving physical, political and emotional landscape of his place of origin. His analogue-based experimental film practice comprises abstract diary films, multi-channel video installations, and 16mm multiple-projection performances.

In Focus: Simon Liu presents a body of short films made between 2014 and 2024 amid the ongoing political unrest in Hong Kong. In these works, Liu applies visual interventions in the filming, chemical development, and printing processes to create kinetic, densely layered studies of a city in flux.

Simon Liu’s work has been exhibited at institutions including the Whitney Biennial 2024, Museum of Modern Art, MOCA Los Angeles, SFMoMA, The Shed, PICA and Tai Kwun Contemporary, and screened at festivals globally including TIFF Wavelengths, Rotterdam, Jeonju, Cinéma du Réel, Punto de Vista and Viennale.

In Focus: Jessica Sarah Rinland

Argentine-British artist filmmaker Jessica Sarah Rinland proposes a cinema of tactility. Observing closely the work of conservators, archaeologists, anthropologists, naturalists, and others, her films investigate museological and environmental conservation as a creative process. Natural history and science are reoccurring themes, as is the use of analogue formats, specifically 16mm film. The materiality of celluloid film, and the frequent close-up shots of hands, contribute to emphasise the tactile, proposing a comparison between the work of the filmmaker and that of the researchers with whom Rinland often collaborates.

Jessica Sarah Rinland is the recipient of numerous prizes including Special Mention at Locarno Film Festival for Those That, at a Distance, Resemble Another (2019) and has had retrospectives of her films at Anthology Film Archives, Doc’s Kingdom, Curtocircuito, LSFF and Flaherty Film Seminar.

In Focus: Jessica Sarah Rinland comprises a selection of works made between 2006 and 2021 as well as a programme of Argentine experimental filmmaker Narcisa Hirsch’s films, curated by Rinland.

Grandma’s Grammar

Grandma’s Grammar traces the persistence of the figure of the grandmother as locus of feminist historicity in non-fiction film, considering the grandmother as cinematic medium and privileged subject for modelling alternative modes of storytelling, inter-generational genealogies, and archives of memory and lived experience. Drawing together works by Jean-Pierre Bekolo, Tânia Dinis, Katsuhiko Fukuda, Barbara Hammer, Utako Koguchi, Cecilia Mangini, Gunvor Nelson, Margaret Rorison, Chiemi Shimada, Emilija Škarnulytė, Khady & Mariama Sylla, Ana Elena Tejera and Naomi Uman, the grandmother comes into view as nexus and prism of cinematic possibility, sodality and solidarity, and an ethics of kinship within, and beyond, relation.

Grandma’s Grammar is curated by Elena Gorfinkel.

Elena Gorfinkel is a film historian and critic, and Reader in Film Studies at King’s College London.

Folk Memory Project: Between Autoethnography and Anti-ethnography

In 2005, the Beijing-based Caochangdi Workstation launched the China Villagers Documentary project whose objectives were to train and support amateur filmmakers to make films about their own villages on DV cameras. In 2010 the Workstation initiated the Folk Memory Project which was framed as an oral history and documentary film project to record ordinary people’s memories of the Great Famine between 1958 and 1961, which were on the verge of being forgotten as the older generation passed away. As the project continued, the subject matter has expanded to encompass wider historical events such as the Cultural Revolution and the Land Reform Movement, as well as exploring the interconnectedness between these past events and the contemporary moment.

Folk Memory Project: Between Autoethnography and Anti-ethnography is a celebration of multitudinous perspectives and a reminder of the contested nature of history. It is also an inquiry into the boundaries of selfhood and memory; here the special kinship between the filmmakers and ‘their’ villages asks us to confront new questions about positionality in documentary filmmaking. Unpretentiously re-examining the politics of their own filming, the four films in the programme testify to the power of sharing memories as an act rooted in solidarity.

Curated by Hyun Jin Cho, with works by Zhang Mengqi, Hu Tao, Shao Yuzhen and Li Xinmin.

Hyun Jin Cho is a film curator based in London, with a particular interest in artist moving image and non-fiction cinema. She currently works as a programmer for the BFI London Film Festival.