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UCL events news and reviews


Open City Docs Festival 2014

By uclzean, on 4 July 2014

Open City Docs Festival began on 17 June with the opening gala, Auction House: A Tale of Two Brothers (2014), directed by University of London alumnus Edward Owles.

Auction House: A Tale of Two Brothers

Auction House: A Tale of Two Brothers

The director’s opera prima tells the story of brothers Anwer and Arshad who own India’s oldest auction house, the Russell Exchange, in Calcutta. Despite the difficulties the brothers face due to the popularity of eBay, the story was light-hearted, largely owing to the good humour of the siblings.

Anwer, who had emigrated to London in the 60s, takes on the role of pseudo-elder-statesman. He has business experience in London and returned to India four years ago to inject some expertise back into the team and educate his younger brother Arshad, who, with a paltry 40 years of management under his belt, didn’t always take too kindly to his brother’s advice.


The politics of image control

By Ben Stevens H P Stevens, on 3 July 2013

The Open City Docs Fest did not restrict itself only to film screenings, it also boasted a number of compelling panel discussions. A prime example was the ‘Copyright, Copyleft, Copywrong?’ event, chaired by Roly Keating (Chief Executive of the British Library), explored the thorny issue of copyright law in an age when creativity is increasingly about quotation and juxtaposition.

Paul Gerhardt (Archives for Creativity and Film and Sound Think Tank, JISC) argued that artists make new work of artistic merit even from existing material and cited the example of The Clock by Christian Marclay, a 24-hour audio-visual piece that is entirely composed of clips from Hollywood films that show the time on a clock or a watch.


Even though Marclay did not contact all the studios for permission, when the Tate bought The Clock, its lawyers came to the same conclusion as Gerhardt and advised that no permission was needed.

Lilian Edwards, Professor of Internet Law at Strathclyde University, explained that copyright is a bargain between creators and users, but could also be seen as a monopoly over knowledge, which is why it’s limited over a term and includes fair use exclusions.

In a similar vein, John Archer, producer of the mammoth Channel 4 documentary series, The Story of Film, explained that it was never practical to clear all the rights for the clips used, so he decided to make the series under the fair use exclusion.


Subcultures and subterfuge at Open City Docs Fest

By news editor, on 3 July 2013

pencil-iconWritten by Ben Stevens, Content Editor at UCL Communications and Claire Roberts, UCL French & Italian 2013

So often, the success of a documentary comes from the level of access that the director has gained to extraordinary people or extraordinary worlds – in the process, offering an audience a perspective that they’ve never seen before.

12 O'Clock Boys

This was certainly what marked out several films at the recent Open City Docs Fest.

Now in it’s third year, the festival filled venues across UCL, Bloomsbury and even further afield in Hackney from 20–23 June.

The Opening Gala, 12 O’Clock Boys, is set in Baltimore – but while the city may be familiar to fans of The Wire, the world it captures – urban dirt bike gangs – is anything but. (more…)

Lost treasures, cocaine and intimacy at the Open City film festival

By Ben Stevens H P Stevens, on 21 June 2011

“Buzz” – a film festival can have the best programme imaginable, but if it lacks this all-important ingredient, it has a mountain to climb. Thankfully, buzz is the only way to describe what I felt on entering the Open City hub in Malet Place last Friday.

The Open City London Documentary Festival, the first event of its kind in the capital, took place 16–19 June in venues across the UCL campus, packing 160 films into four days.

UCL was the festival’s main sponsor, while Dr Michael Stewart (UCL Anthropology) was its director. Further support came from an array of cultural institutes, film distributors and corporate sponsors.