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Behind the scenes at Bristol Radical Film Festival….

Bristol Radical Film Festival kicked off on Monday (3rd March) and runs for the rest of the week, culminating in the headline weekend on Saturday (8th March) and Sunday (9th March)… We spoke to Steve Presence, one of the organisers, about this year’s festival.

How long has the festival been going?

Only three years, but it’s expanded a lot since the first festival… We’ve really seen it grow.

Can you tell us about some of the highlights of this year’s festival?

All of it! For me, though, one of the highlights was the (bike-powered!) Wednesday night showing of Man with a Movie Camera at Roll for the Soul community bike cafe (…  Roll for the Soul only started up last year so it’s nice to be able to support them.

On Friday night I’m really excited to have Iranian actress and filmmaker Mania Akbari showing the British premieres of her films Dancing Mania and From Tehran to London. She’ll be doing a Q&A after the screening.

On Saturday night we have an incredible documentary piece, The Spanish Earth and To Die in Madrid, about workers’ occupation in 2009 in Milan. It’s a really good mix of quite militant class conscious theory combined with the excitement of the action.

How did the festival first come about?

It was initially set up to showcase some of the work I’d been doing for my PhD, which I started in 2009 and finished last year. I was researching the history of political/radical documentary in Britain and halfway through that research process I started to realise how much of what I was studying wasn’t been shown in public. I teach Film Studies and some of my colleagues were interested too, so we set up the festival and it’s grown from there.

I remember going to Hay-on-Wye Film Festival and the most political film they showed was Lindsay Anderson’s 1968 film If… – which is a brilliant film, but it’s a shame it was the only remotely radical screening there.

As well as running the festival I’m also trying to set up the UK Radical Film Network, which again comes out of some of the research I was doing for my PhD. I looked at some of the groups involved in making radical films in the UK at the moment and there are loads of people up and down the country running similar festivals, but we aren’t really properly keeping in touch with each other. If anyone is involved in putting stuff on and wants to know more about the network, drop us a line at

Bristol is a pretty radical place, so ideal for this festival, really…

Definitely – there’s a lot of counter-cultural stuff going on. In fact we’ve tried to make sure we don’t just focus on the films themselves but also using the screenings to draw attention to the other progressive stuff that’s going on in the city centre.

There’s a really healthy film culture in Bristol, too. The Cube Cinema is a community cinema run by volunteers which shows all sorts of films, from Hollywood fare to the most avant garde stuff you can imagine (

The festival is ‘radical’ in a wide sense so draws in a lot of different visions of a more equitable, sustainable society.

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