The Brighton Film Festival, 2006

Cinecity, the Brighton Film Festival began on Thursday (16th November) and is set to continue for the next two and a half weeks, until Sunday 3rd December. For the fourth year running Cinecity promises to present the biggest programme so far in its history, combining international cinema, global premieres and previews, favourites from the archives, moving image and installations, new digital ventures, shorts, Q&A’s with directors and much more.

Shanghai: Celluloid city
Every year Cinecity zooms in on one international city as its key feature, and this year it’s Shanghai, China, once a small fishing village, two centuries later a sprawling metropolis – modern, cosmopolitan and vast, with rapidly rising skylines and a futuristic feel. The programme looks set to expand mental images and perceptions of Shanghai with a range of events, old and new, aiming to explore all aspects of the cityscape, its society, culture and psycho-geography.

All festival screenings are either at the usual venues – Duke of York’s, Gardner Arts, Cineworld, Odeon – or others like Fabrica, Sussex Arts Club, and De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill. Temporary venues include a ‘micro-cinema’ at the Brighton Fringe Basement, hosting film, documentary, installation and mixed media events, particularly those with a Brighton connection.

In focus: Nick Broomfields Ghosts
, documentarist Nick Broomfield’s latest feature was the first screening as part of SEE, the two-day Brighton Documentary Film Festival (18/19 November), running alongside main festival Cinecity.

The film is a dramatised account of the events leading up to the Morecambe Bay incident of 2004 when 21 Chinese migrant workers drowned in rising tides while picking cockles for pittance across the bay. Ghosts is based on the original research of journalist Hsiao-Hung Pai who carried out undercover investigations into the lives of Fujian irregular workers in the UK and wrote a series of exposing articles for the Guardian newspaper, which not only reveal the particular circumstances of this exploited minority group, but also cut a sharp slice across the whole of British society, raising questions about intricately interconnected problems within laws and attitudes surrounding asylum and race.

Visual illusions
Soon to be shown on More4 and out on general release, Ghosts is a powerful, moving and highly authentic visual work, and, much like Hsiao-Hung Pai’s writing, it’s about more than just one tragic incident: it’s about the bitter contrast between, on the one hand, a country that is preserved in the minds of people living in poverty as an image of civility, choice and hope, and on the other – and in reality – a country that is nothing more than a player in a wider problem, a country that hides behind the mask of democratic ‘values’, while turning a blind eye to the use and abuse of foreign migrants occurring at every stage in the economic process.

So while big businesses and corporations are legally allowed to trade and operate in ways solely profitable to them, a whole ripple of problems is spread outwards causing other smaller businesses and citizen workers, in attempts to succeed under harsh and unfair conditions, to choose the abuse and exploitation of those most vulnerable in such a climate: migrant workers. Ghosts is a film about global-scale injustices and human rights violations happening right now.

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