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CINECITY: In Conversation with Tim Brown

Updated: Mar 10

The Channel Editors Abbie Hodges and Fiona Green sat down with Cinecity founder and director Tim Brown to discuss the upcoming festival and the future of cinema.

A&F: Hi Tim! We’re so excited for this year’s 20th edition of Cinecity, can you tell us a bit more about how the festival came to be and the ideas behind its programming?

The first Cinecity festival happened in 2003, up until then Brighton had never had its own film festival. It seemed like too good an opportunity to miss out in such a creative place like Brighton, so we set Cinecity up. Since then, the festival has been so well supported. There’s a lot of demand in Brighton for film and audiences really love coming out to see a wide range of cinema.

Cinecity’s programming ethos is ‘Adventures in world cinema’ , so we wanted to show international films that may usually get overlooked in favour of Hollywood blockbusters

A lot of the time, we’re really asking audiences to put their faith in us and trust our judgement… This can be quite scary but, seeing as we’re going into the 20th edition, we must be doing something right!

A&F: One thing that is really great about Cinecity, is that you accept short film submissions from local film-makers, so we have a lovely balance between all these international films, with the much more local… is this something you always envisioned for the festival?

Yes, we definitely wanted this balance between worldwide film and local film-making! Brighton is a creative hub with lots of aspiring film-makers. It's really wonderful to give people the chance to be seen on the same screen as this critically acclaimed work from all around the world.

For these local film-makers, it's really important for them to be able to see their work in a cinema and see people's reaction to it. A film isn’t complete until it's been seen by an audience.

One of the most lovely things about Cinecity is that we show work by local film-makers, often short films, and then a few years down the line their work returns as one of the larger features. There’s this sense of the festival allowing film-makers to grow, and then exhibiting this growth.

A&F: In an age defined by streaming and being inundated with all these different platforms, where do you think film festivals lie within this? Do you think they still hold the same level of importance?

Yes, that’s a question a lot of us are currently asking and trying to figure out. The pandemic definitely accelerated everything. Alongside lockdowns, the shift to and success of streaming pushed cinemas into a time of struggle, and now streaming at home has become the new ‘normal’. We’re also experiencing a cost of living crisis at the moment which really adds to the struggle of cinemas staying alive.

However, people are finding their way back to the cinema, and to film festivals, which is very encouraging. Going to the cinema is so different from watching films at home. It’s a collective experience. It’s uninterrupted like it might be at home, you’re immersed in this experience of the big screen and sound systems, in darkness with a bunch of strangers.

We’re always trying to think of new ways to engage audiences, this year at Cinecity we have a lot of special events such as Q&As, live music, networking events, and archival footage, which has been very well-received. I think film festivals have a rosy future ahead.

Seeing cinema is supposed to be exciting and often risk taking - It’s important to go and see stuff that’s different from what you’re used to! A lot of our culture of buying and consuming is so skewed towards guaranteed enjoyment but one piece of advice I would give is to be dangerous! Take a risk and see something new and discover something great in the process.

A&F: And finally, our last question (and possibly the most difficult!) What is your favourite film?

Am I allowed two? This is Spinal Tap by Rob Reiner, I find something new to laugh at every time. And Come and See by Elem Klimov, which is an incredibly dark and powerful piece of cinema.

Photograph courtesy of Tim Barclay

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