The Manifesto Film Festival is set to return to the cinemas of Amsterdam from the 6th-8th of September 2019. Ahead of this latest celebration of ground-breaking international cinema, Jack Brindelli – who co-founded the festival in 2016 – explains what makes the event so special to him.
When I set out to build a new festival from the grassroots up, I wanted to see fulfilled; an event that could craft a community celebrating independent filmmakers with unique stories to tell, and supporting each other in their common struggle to continue making impactful, meaningful art. Whether I helped lay the foundations to achieve that or not is not for me to say though. I might have co-founded the Norwich Radical Film Festival – which I’m proud has grown into the Manifesto Film Festival in Amsterdam – but I am not the right person to explain what has made this festival so special.
For that, you need to speak to one of the people who has benefitted from the experience first-hand, and to my mind, nobody embodies that more than Donna Kavanagh. Returning for what will be her third outing at a NRFF/Manifesto event, Donna has flown half-way around the world from New Zealand to attend screenings of films on which she provided the score.
When I asked her what keeps her coming back, Donna told me, “The NRFF and Manifesto is special to me because of the people; filmmakers from all over the world coming together to connect and share. It feels like we are on the same frequency, like family.”
On her way to this year’s Manifesto Film Festival, Donna also had time to stop off in London to catch up with a host of other alumni, before continuing on to Amsterdam. It would be an understatement to say that her story makes me extremely proud. The idea anyone would come all this way for something I helped kick-start on three occasions is extremely moving, but even more so is the fact those events have helped to craft a kinship between people who would otherwise never have met, and encouraged them to support and collaborate with each other beyond a three-day event.
“We explore and discuss filmmaking, techniques, politics, art, possibilities, ideas, story-telling and so much more,” Donna added. “It is truly a unique experience, a place to be inspired and I just can’t get enough. The friendships I have formed at both festivals have led to collaborating internationally.”
Donna is not alone either. Since its inception, Manifesto has seen filmmakers return year on year from every corner of the earth. People from Austria, the UK, Brazil, the US, Kurdistan, and the Netherlands – among many other nations – have all been drawn to the event over the years.
Ultimately, this is also what I will always treasure most about my time working in film festivals. At this moment, the world feels like it is more divided, more atomised, more hostile to ordinary people than it has been through my entire life. As politicians and business leaders fiddle while the planet burns, and as new walls continue to go up on every continent to prevent us uniting to fight back, cultural experiences which allow us to connect with other human beings become increasingly essential.
The communal element of cinema can give us a vital way of collectively processing this often careless and nonsensical world, while drawing us together to work to change it. That is not something we will ever get from shutting ourselves off with Netflix, or whatever cabin-fever-causing app comes after it. The connectedness of an event like Manifesto is therefore something we can ill afford to lose – and something we should all do our part to protect and expand.