CinemaAttic Presents ADRIFT ’22: In Conversation with Moving Image Artists Elena Duque and Lydia Beilby on Making Subversive Film-making Accessible in Scotland

A still from Inventario Churubusco. Set in a film lab, this is a close up of a white gloved hand holding a strip of film against a lamp.
Laboratorio Experimental de Cine

Earlier this Summer, Ibero-American film collective CinemaAttic launched ADRIFT, a daring new film season celebrating essential world cinema over the course of 6 weeks across Scotland in venues such as Summerhall, St Paul’s Church, CCA Glasgow, and GFT. The film programme featured critically-acclaimed festival darlings A Night of Knowing Nothing and Los Conductos, avant-garde cult classics La Jetée and Un Chien Andalou screened on 35mm print, and subversive experimental shorts such as Inventario Churubusco (pictured above) curated in collaboration with La Inesperada Festival.

Screening experimental films in the non-English language amidst the height of Summer blockbuster season is no easy feat with releases like Jurassic World: Dominion and Top Gun: Maverick dominating UK cinema screens, though perhaps the box office success of the genre-defying Everything Everywhere All At Once – which sees an English, Cantonese, and Mandarin-speaking family battle through a metaphysical journey of self-discovery – signalled that commercial audiences may be yearning to engage with bold new forms of film-making that break away from the mainstream, and furthermore, immerse themselves in non-Western cultures. In a “post-pandemic” world where travelling overseas is still a precarious health risk, celluloid escapism can allow us to depart from what is familiar and safe, and venture into the exciting unknown.

CinemaAttic’s mission to bring festival highlights from Cannes, TIFF, and Berlinale to Scottish shores with sliding-scale ticket prices, allowed for local cinemagoers to engage with the best of world cinema in an affordable and accessible way. In June, they ended their ADRIFT film season with three remarkable community-focused, film-making workshops entirely free of charge. Hosted by uniquely talented creatives with backgrounds in film-making, curation, and academia, workshop leaders Mario Torrecillas, Elena Duque, and Lydia Beilby, set out to introduce film-making techniques in experimental, animated, and analogue cinema to participants of all ages.

Based in Barcelona, Mario Torrecillas’ ongoing audiovisual project, Pequeños Dibujos Animados was conceived with the aim of educating children in cinema and cultural diversity by tapping into their creative thinking through animation, drawing, and music. For six years, PDA has been developing short animated films with children all over the globe, encouraging them to explore their dreams, concerns, and unique perspectives of the world around them via the medium of visual storytelling. Torrecillas’ ten day animation workshop at Glasgow’s Hillpark Secondary School challenged pupils to reflect on their community and how they envision the future, not only learning screenwriting and practical film-making throughout the process, but seeing their final cut edited and colour corrected in post-production by Torrecillas’ team, enabling them to gain professional credit and experience in the creative sector should they wish to pursue film-making.

A photo of Mario Torrecillas' workshop at Hillpark Secondary School. Pupils are gathered around a table, reaching out to move their animated figure on a sheet of paper, as an iPad placed over it records the movement. The pupils are not shown with the exception of their hands and arms.
Mario Torrecillas

Spanish-Venezuelan film-maker Elena Duque, who is best known for her whimsical, experimental shorts such as Valdediós and Pasatiempo returned to CinemaAttic this year as a collaborator following the showcasing of her work at last year’s GAZE. PLAY. DREAM programme. Her three day workshop hosted at Craigmillar Library in Edinburgh, The Past Counts The Future, saw participants combining old and new stop motion animation techniques inspired by Georges Méliès and Segundo de Chomón. Though Duque spends her time creating and teaching primarily outside of Scotland, “the enthusiasm, openness, and criteria” of CinemaAttic’s work resonates with her. She shared*, “I’ve really liked that eagerness to discover new things without limits of genre, format or duration. I think that the passion for film can be seen in all the work that is carried out, both in terms of discovering and sharing this discovery with the community.”

As seen in Duque’s own filmography, her workshop encouraged participants to create their films with a tactile and playful approach. She notes, “The techniques I use come from my own practice as a filmmaker and animator. I am self-taught in the field of animation, and in a way, animating for me is something very magical and satisfying despite the intensive work involved,” Duque adds. “I’ve always liked the idea of achieving eye-catching results with simple techniques and simple materials, and that’s what I’ve tried to transmit in the workshop. In the same way as I work, using recycled collage materials and inexpensive equipment, I would like the participants to find their own voice and inspiration as well.”

Edinburgh native Lydia Beilby co-founded her film collective, Screen Bandita, with Leanora Olmi in 2007, in “an attempt to draw attention to (women) directors, artists, and practitioners whose work remains relatively undiscovered and obscure, or criminally underrated”. Screen Bandita have presented the works of Maya Deren, Lynne Ramsay, Andrea Arnold, Jane Campion, and a mutual favourite of Duque’s – Margaret Tait. Beilby’s 16mm direct-animation workshop at CinemaAttic allowed participants to draw, paint, etch, and collage directly onto celluloid filmstrips. “We explore film as a sculptural form; a material that we push to the edges of its physical capacities in order to allow its materiality to reveal itself,” Beilby explains. “This we set in motion through the application of paint to the surface of the film, mark-making and scratching into the emulsion, and collaging other visual ephemara onto the filmstrip. We think outside of, and beyond, images, and instead centralise emotional expression and a physical, gestural engagement with the filmstrip. So there is a liveness, and a performative element also inherent to the process.” 

A photo of Elena Duque's work process. A photo of Elena's upper torso and face is place on top of a messy paint tray. Elena's face is painted over to obscure it.
Elena Duque

In theme with ADRIFT film season’s tribute to pioneering, subversive film-makers (Buñuel, Marker) Beilby credited the Scottish-Canadian animator Norman McLaren when asked about what served as inspiration behind the techniques used for her 16mm film workshop. “(He) integrally created a dialogue between sound and image in his work. The group responded to a 1930’s Jazz record played on a wind-up gramophone. We discussed how the music made us feel, what colours and shapes it brought to mind, and how we might translate a sense of the music and its tempo, rhythm and tones, visually onto the filmstrip.”

Beilby’s Screen Bandita collective has hosted 16mm direct-animation workshops across many communities, mentoring participants of all backgrounds and ages. “It is always really rewarding,” Beilby reflects. “Seeing how participants use their creativity to express a sense of themselves on the filmstrip, through the colours they choose, the way in which they apply the paints, whether they take a meticulous or more abstract, gestural approach.” She adds, “I’m usually meeting participants for the first time in workshops, and I am aware that I am asking them to engage with an art-making process that is perhaps outside of both their range of experience and general comfort zone, so I really appreciate their openness to try something new, and feel that they share something really resonant about themselves through the work they make.” 

Duque too, shares this sentiment in building an open creative environment. Her stop motion workshop saw elders and children working together side-by-side with little to no previous knowledge of film-making, demonstrating that animation can be an accessible gateway to developing practical skills. “I think it’s another gateway,” Duque suggests. “I always try to convey that you only need to have an idea and the desire to make it, that you don’t need expensive equipment or super-productions. The DIY culture is very present in my work, and I firmly believe (even more so today) that an idea is worth more than technical expertise or the means at your disposal. Great things can be done with the mobile phones we all carry in our pockets.”

A photo from one of Screen Bandita's previous workshops. This is a close up of a girl holding up a strip of film, observing it closely.
Screen Bandita

Though with that in mind, many young cinephiles and aspiring film creatives of the Gen Z generation seldom get the chance to be taught non-digital film practices through college and undergraduate arts courses, let alone have a hands-on opportunity to interact with celluloid and create something new with it (I, for example, a Film BA graduate in her mid-20s, had never seen a strip of film until a year ago when my partner brought one home from his cinema exhibition trip.) which begs the question: How essential is celluloid film-making to one’s film education? “For me, it is important that people have a sense of film as a physical artefact that can be touched and interacted with, and that absorbs and reflects its lived experience,” Beilby explains. “An important part of my practice as an artist is passing on my analogue film skills, ensuring that making work with photochemical film remains a lively and vital option in the future. I hope that after my workshop participants feel more confident about celluloid as a really rich, playful material and will be inspired to continue their creative explorations!”

Beilby’s mission to keep celluloid film alive with participant engagement also raises an interesting idea on the “preservation” of it, where the corruption and alteration of the filmstrip does not necessarily signify a destruction of it, but rather, transforms it into something new, as a way of honouring it. Beilby describes her workshop as “An artistic gesture that exists as a kind of opposition to the capitalist-led machinations of mainstream cinema exhibition and making.” She elaborates, “Here we make work with the scrap remnants of cinema, with discarded strips of film, with resolutely vintage equipment and artisanal methods, and without the use of a camera. This way of working requires imagination and trust in the material as one has little notion of how the work will look until it is projected. Participants work independently to realise their own creative vision, but collectively too, as once all of the individual strips are spliced, then together we have made a film, which is a truly wonderful thing!”

Beilby’s words here ring true to the spirit of CinemaAttic’s ADRIFT film season in Scotland, in which its programme and workshops led by Beilby, Duque, and Torrecillas all fundamentally reject tradition, the economic, social, and political barriers set in place against low-income and marginalised individuals, and strive to inspire change, to engage with and create new ideas on the future of the cinema landscape we hope to manifest for ourselves. I asked Duque what ambitions she had for her workshop, she reflected on the place, and the people… “After each workshop I always make a mental note of things that could have been done differently, and of ideas that arise within the context of the workshop itself. In this case, I’d love to try animating in Edinburgh’s incredible landscape, and try to delve more deeply into the participants’ own interests and backgrounds, which is ultimately the richest thing you take away from work like this.”

A photo taken by Miguel Manzano at one of CinemaAttic's previous film screenings. There is a lively big audience sat down watching what is on screen (which is not in frame).
Miguel Manzano

*This interview features quote translations from Spanish to English approved by Elena Duque.

by Nathasha Orlando Kappler

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is nathasha-okappler-1.jpg

Nathasha is a film communications assistant and aspiring programmer. She has previously worked with BFI Future Film Festival, CinemaAttic, Berlin Film Society, and Deptford Cinema. She loves Fiona Apple, unhinged heroines, and new hollywood cinema. Her favourite films include: Bringing Up BabyPossessionBetween The Lines, and Madeline’s Madeline. You can follow her on Twitter and Letterboxd.

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