Creative Dundee

Blog: Dundee Guerrilla Film Festival

Two Amps share their experience of collaboration through the Community Ideas Fund after hosting an ambitious series of ‘happenings’ across 2023.

In December 2022, Rhiannon Mudaliar and Erin Farley teamed up to pitch their idea, the Dundee Guerrilla Film Festival, at our Amps Forum. Our Amps network comes together at this annual event to vote on a collaborative project that they want to see receive the Community Ideas Fund – a fund that encourages Amps to work together on something new and experimental that will result in a positive social impact in Dundee. With approximately 50% of all Amps subscriptions going towards the pot, it’s a fund that exists thanks to our growing community. In this blog, Rhi and Erin share their experience of bringing their project to life.

Save the date for the final ‘happening’ of the Dundee Guerrilla Film Festival at 6pm on Sat 16 December. In the days running up to the event you might be able to spot some art pieces by illustrator, Charity May, popping up along the waterfront… keep an eye out!

We’ll be launching the next round of the Community Ideas Fund in January 2024.

So… what was that about?

This year, Erin Farley and I, along with a small army of volunteers, coordinators and artists, were the Dundee Guerrilla Film Festival.

The project was designed to challenge the growing push in art and cinema towards digitisation, and the privatisation of film. It’s becoming more and more difficult to view films without paying for a subscription service – or several. Streaming giants like Netflix are seeking to wring every penny they can out of viewers. There have been reports on crackdowns against ‘account sharing’ all year. Sharing a movie you loved was once as simple as lending someone a video cassette or DVD – now, with fewer people keeping physical copies of their favourite media, it’s become a bit trickier. So what are we to do?

The very best of the artform, the films that stay with us throughout our lives, shape the way we see the world. We imagine ourselves striving through our own stories, like our onscreen counterparts. They unite us in suffering and in love. At its most powerful, it is my belief that cinema can help to uplift us out of sorrow and drudgery. It can provide a route of escape, can clear a mind and allow us to see, unimpeded, the very best of what humanity can imagine. Folk tales served this purpose before the camera. New digital mediums like video games continue this lineage. Stories belong to everyone – they aren’t something you should be able to price. The world will be a much poorer place if we permit cinema to be hidden behind a paywall.

Dundee hosts several organisations doing fantastic work pushing to embrace and uplift collective action – whether through mutual aid, reuse and recycling, or protest. We asked ourselves: Why not cinema, as well?

We pictured a series of 12 events, each one designed with zero barriers to access: no admission and no tickets. Each one would be in a new place, showcasing the work of a new artist alongside, for the delight of our audiences, a new film.

Our role: to be facilitators, agitators and creative instigators! Our remit: to challenge the ethics of copyright law, and encourage the production, dissemination and celebration of art! Once a month for the entire year, we met, never in the same place twice, to share art, film and our own personal creative work. You may have seen our posters – you may have even wandered past our primary encampment, and never known.

Erin’s reflections

We knew the Dundee Guerrilla Film Festival was an ambitious project from the very beginning. Twelve monthly happenings, pairing an artist’s exhibition or performance and a film screening in often unconventional venues around a city – could it happen? In Dundee, absolutely. Could it happen exactly to plan and on schedule, according to all our original ideas? Well… let’s just say this year has been a wonderful life lesson in embracing uncertainty and doing our best. Finding venues was perhaps the most challenging aspect of organising the happenings. Dreams had to be scaled back on several occasions. (Also, it seems audio cables truly hate us.) But, often at the very last minute, something would work out. The willingness of Creative Dundee’s network to offer support has been an important thread in this project since the very beginning – before the news that we’d won the pitch had really sunk in, we were already receiving enthusiastic offers of projector loans and ideas for people to speak to. The other very important factor in this project’s success, which cannot go unsaid, has been that Rhiannon Mudaliar is an absolute powerhouse of artistic energy.

And many of the events have proved how much embracing the uncertainty and having a go can pay off, and how working outside the usual ‘art’ venues adds new meaning to an exhibition or performance. The February happening, in which Lauren Boyle’s series of artworks Inward was displayed in a long trail throughout the warren of rooms and corridors below St Paul’s Cathedral – linked by driftwood, stones and seaweed – led the audience on a journey which resonated far more with Boyle’s themes of both childhood exploration and adult sorrow than I can imagine a straightforward wall display ever managing. In July, C.L. Gamble transformed Dundee Botanic Gardens into a near-future scenario which was somehow both utopian and dystopian. Both the scenario – a Dundee mostly cut off from a hostile Tory Britain in which recycling, repurposing and home-growing were the only way to survive – and the experience of the event, in which the audience were active contributors to the art as it unfolded, really brought the theme of radical exchange and resistance at the heart of this project to life. Likewise, the art swaps at the end of happenings have been far more than a simple exchange of items – they have been the site for many excited conversations where people and ideas connect in ways they might not have anywhere else. 

Rhi’s reflections

For me, the D.G.F.F. has been a 12-month lesson in relinquishing control. Sometimes, this means finishing your hot toddy and going to bed – and sometimes this means delegation and relying on your team. 

Oh, my team! What could I write here to adequately sing the praises of everyone who helped on this project? Erin has gone a long way towards explaining how generous the Amps community has been with their time and resources. Alongside this, we have had the absolute pleasure of working with a wide range of artists in so many different mediums. From emerging artists to well known staples of the scene here in Dundee, every person involved in this project brought their heart and soul to the brief. From the freezing cold late-night poster runs to last minute technical hitches, the community of volunteers who came together month after month to make this event come together bore everything with grace and excitement. Strangers have become colleagues, colleagues have become friends, and those friends have stayed with us even through cancellation chaos, last minute venue changes, improvised exhibition setup and printer disasters.

Just over the halfway point, I was expressing my disappointment in turnout to one such friend. She, the D.G.F.F’s primary (and only) driver, reminded me that month on month, seeing similar faces was not a bad thing. Crowds of hundreds were not something we would ever be equipped to handle. What the D.G.F.F. set out to do was develop a community, where we could discuss our lives, our art and the politics of the city. We are so, so proud to say that in this regard, the festival was an absolute success.

The festival wasn’t for Erin and I – it was always for the broader community we found, and it feels wrong to spend the whole time just gabbing about what I felt. Without further ado, you can find our list of thanks here.

To everyone who we met along the way – thank you for coming. Keep asking questions, keep digging into this gorgeous city of ours and – most importantly – don’t stop sharing stories.

One more happening to go.

See you all around!

Photos: Rhiannon Mudaliar

The Community Ideas Fund is made possible thanks to our Amps network. Each year, approximately 50% of everyone’s subscription helps fund an exciting new collaboration that benefits Dundee. New supporters are always welcome – join Amps and help make Dundee even better, and keep an eye out for the next round of the fund launching in January 2024!

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