We first fell in love with Nikolaus Geyrhalter’s Homo Sapiens at the Berlin Film Festival last year and, after hearing that the film hadn’t been picked up for distribution over here, we were keen to find a way to bring the film to UK audiences. In lieu of any other options, and inspired by the various film collectives popping up around the country over the last couple of years (from Badlands to the Bechdel Test Fest; The Final Girls to a nos amours) we set up Misc. Films over the summer.
As Misc. Films, our mission is to provide a platform for those films that seem to fall through the cracks – whether recent highlights from the festival circuit that feel too niche or specialist for a UK distributor to take on, or forgotten gems that received limited exposure on initial release. As our name would suggest, we aren’t confined to a particular genre or mode of filmmaking, but pride ourselves on showcasing a wide range of work that reflects both our individual tastes and audience appetites. Whatever the film, though, our goal would be the same: to give them a life where they belong, up on the big screen.
What started out as a one-off screening of Homo Sapiens back in October 2016 has, due to the enthusiasm of bold programmers across the country, blossomed into a UK wide tour, taking in dozens of venues along the way and turning us – unexpectedly – into the film’s de facto UK distributors. It has been such a fun journey, and also especially rewarding to discover that there absolutely is an audience for films that might initially seem niche or challenging, if you know where to look!
It feels so fitting, then, to partner with Picturehouse on these Discover Tuesdays screenings and introduce Homo Sapiens to a wider audience. It is such a special film, even if the initial pitch might seem a little daunting. It’s essentially an hour and a half of static shots of ruins from around the world, with no narration, musical score or on-screen titles to provide context, but one of the film’s many pleasures is that this allows the audience to extract their own meaning from the images, to find their own way through the film, and to create their own narrative.
What emerged for us over the course of the film was a profoundly philosophical meditation on the nature of ‘progress’ and the inevitable failure of any kind of colonial project – in this case, the appropriation of the natural world by humankind. In the decaying structures and abandoned spaces now inhabited solely by weeds, wildlife and weather, we see nature defiantly reclaiming its territory and the titular homo sapiens conspicuous by their absence.
But the remarkable strength of Geyrhalter’s purely observational style of filmmaking is that, ultimately, it is up to the audience to figure out the film for themselves. Feedback from our screenings so far has revealed that you don’t need to be a diehard artist’s film aficionado to ‘get’ Homo Sapiens. Whether an intense, earth-shaking epiphany or a simpler, yet by no means insignificant, visual experience, you’ll take something away from viewing the film.
Our other Misc. Films projects to date include two rare screenings of Oscar-winner Barry Jenkins’ debut film Medicine For Melancholy at Picturehouse Central. The film hadn’t been shown in the UK since the London Film Festival back in 2008, and we were thrilled that the director himself was able to join us for a special introduction while he was in town for the UK release of Moonlight. As for what’s to come, we’re still planning our next screenings, but for the time being we hope you enjoy Homo Sapiens, and we look forward to returning to Picturehouse at some point in the near future!