Flavia Cheesman

The Rai Film Festival: A much-needed celebration of international art

Flavia Cheesman
The Rai Film Festival: A much-needed celebration of international art

A few days ago, an online petition to revoke Article 50 and remain in the EU reached over 5 million signatures, with the highest concentration of these signatures within a constituency coming from Bristol. This is of course for numerous reasons, but one of them is the internationalism of the city. It is this internationalism that has caused the RAI Film Festival to plant its roots here, a festival dedicated to celebrating international art.

Bristol is a melting pot of creativity and international diversity. It was ranked as the UK’s most inspiring city in 2016, and among the marking criteria for this were its performing arts opportunities, art schools, galleries, museums, music production facilities and film industry facilities. Meanwhile, its universities welcome staff and students from over 150 countries worldwide. Yet, with all this in mind, how frequently do these two spheres of creativity and international diversity overlap?

The simple answer is, not enough. This is the opportunity that the RAI Film Festival provides. This is a 4-day festival, taking place at Watershed this week, running from the 27th-30th March. The festival grounds Bristol within international culture, by celebrating the best in ethnographic, anthropological and archaeological filmmaking from around the globe. It is a leading forum that explores the multiple relationships between documentary filmmaking, anthropology, visual culture, and the advocacy of cultural diversity. In doing so, the festival attempts to open up an intercultural discourse through the medium of film.

The RAI (Royal Anthropological Society) showcases over 60 pieces of filmmaking, whether these are short films or full-length feature films. Additionally, it hosts unique special events, filmmaking master classes and even Q&A’s with some of the directors of the films that are on show.

Films possess the power to transport us elsewhere, and these 60+ films embellish this power to offer us a glimpse of the world outside of Bristol. This is not simply geographically, but culturally and socially. While some of the pieces combine a range of cinematic techniques, It Was Tomorrow (28th March / 1.20pm) explores the memories and fantasies of three refugees through animation, theatre and documentary images. Others such as A Delicate Weave (29th March / 11.10am) warmly paints a musical tapestry of Gurjarat in India which celebrates the area’s remarkable culture and humility. At the very heart of this festival lies an innovative exploration of the diverse traditions and cultures our world rarely acknowledges.

A Delicate Weave

A Delicate Weave

Bristol is a proud city, one that prides itself on being progressive. Whether this progress is social, environmental or multicultural, the city is proud of it. However, the RAI Film Festival offers us an opportunity to be humble. It offers us an opportunity to not tout Bristol as being ‘The Best’ anything, but to celebrate the artistic achievements of other nationalities and cultures. In a time when the city is pushing harder than any other constituency to remain as international as possible, the festival offers an opportunity to practice what we preach. If we are in favour of international diversity, then we should seize this opportunity to celebrate international art.


The RAI Film Festival runs from the 27-30 March at Watershed, Bristol

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