A Nos Amours: Directors UK talks to Joanna Hogg and Adam Roberts

A Nos Amours is a new collective founded by film-makers Joanna Hogg (Archipelago) and Adam Roberts (Mickey Finn) dedicated to programming over-looked, under-exposed or especially potent cinema. Directors UK spoke to the two directors to find out more about the initiative, their plans for future screenings, and their thoughts on "film as a shared experience"...

D-UK: Can you tell us a little about the concept behind A Nos Amours? How did the idea come about, how difficult was it to set up...

We had a conversation bemoaning the loss of rep, and that there are films we had heard of but were impossible to see - such as films shown in film festivals without UK distribution. We also recognise that film-makers don't often get the chance to curate and advocate films that they love or admire. The next generation of film-makers should be exposed to the cinema we were able to easily access in rep days. Viewing a DVD at home on a TV or computer just doesn’t qualify for us. Cinema is best as a collective experience. There are many screens in London but the variety is lacking.

We speculated that if we could come up with a good strong identity then that provides an envelope for screenings, and we could use any screen. By chance one day Sally Wilton offered us two dates in her Nomad pop up cinema, an off-shoot of The Lexi cinema in Kensal Rise. We jumped. the first film was Maurice Pialat's A Nos Amours...

D-UK: Why did you choose the name A Nos Amours?

... which is how we got our name! It also says to us something about the programming - films we love, which have formed us and shaped us.

D-UK: What films have you shown so far? How successful has it been?

Apart from Pialat's A Nos Amours, we have shown Peter Watkins’ extraordinary Edvard Munch - a film hardly seen in London - and yet deserving of a huge audience. His brother came along, which was a delight. Subsequently we have shown two Bergman documentaries, passionately introduced by Richard Ayoade, which have proved to be key works in Bergman's oeuvre. This was at The Lexi itself, and sold out.

After this we have programmed Black God White Devil by Glauber Rocha, to be introduced by Penny Woolcock. Following the publication of Geoff Dyer's wonderful book Zona, an in depth study of Tarkovsky's Stalker, we decided to programme the film and invite Geoff to introduce it. This is scheduled to play this coming week on May 2nd in the Renoir and May 6th at Curzon Richmond. On May 27th we will show Straub/Huillet's Chronicle of Anna Magdalena - an experimental but beautiful work about J S Bach. This is known only to specialists but deserves to be much better known.

D-UK: What criteria does a film have to fulfil in order to be considered for a night at A Nos Amours?

Our mission statement is: films should be either rare, underappreciated or just plain good. Films are to be advocated by film-makers and others, offering insight, passion or love. Film-makers have not often enough been asked what it is that they love. They spend a lot of time talking about their own work - of course - but we want to know what films formed their sensibilities. Film-makers are on the edge of what get shown and not enough involved in defining taste. We hope A Nos Amours can contribute to what gets shown.

D-UK: How do you go about sourcing the prints of these films? Is it a difficult task?

A lot of homework - using networks, expertise, patience. Rights often lie in suprising places. We have to communicate to rights owners that we are small, fragile and new to this field. We operate on slender margins and take most of the risk.

D-UK: It seems A Nos Amours is one of a few fairly recently established projects - along with the likes of Secret Cinema, Nomad Cinema to name a couple - that attempts to reclaim film for real cinema lovers. Why do you think this is?

Film as a shared experience - it was always that, watching at home alone on the small screen just isn't the same. The screen should be big! The films we love most are now hard to see in cinemas, with far fewer rep houses, fewer titles scheduled each week. The next generation can download of course, but the impact will be so much less. What we love is the chance the talk and chatter outside the cinema after the film.

D-UK: Previous screenings have included introductions from your fellow directors, such as Richard Ayoade and Penny Woolcock. How do these collaborations come about? Do these directors choose the film that will screen, or is it a mutual decision? Are there other British directors you would like to participate in A Nos Amours?

Accident and happy chance. Discussion and deliberation makes sure the films are chosen with care and passionately introduced. This is not about marketing, but about love.

D-UK: Can you give us any clues of future films to be screened? Are there any British films or directors in particular that you think deserve a wider audience?

We're looking at Joan Littlewood’s Sparrows Can't Sing... we both love that film. We are talking to several other spaces in London. Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach is definite - Sunday 27th May @ 5.30 Lexi cinema. Be there!

D-UK: A Nos Amours screenings have moved from cinema to cinema across London. Was this a deliberate decision on your part? Have you any plans to take it nationwide, or even further afield?

We always wanted A Nos Amours to be moveable feast and not to be associated with only one part of London. Our concept can be exported, but for now we are focused on London. We are still building our expertise and contacts. If we can develop an audience for the kind of films we are programming, we will feel very happy that we have been able to enrich the film life of the capital.

D-UK: Do you think with the advent of YouTube and the success of companies such as LoveFilm and Netflix, there is a larger appetite for less well-known, less commercial cinema? Or have the popularities of these companies simply served to reinforce the norms, and given even greater prominence to more mainstream fare?

The net is a wonderful aid to research and education, but the screen is resolutely small, the experience limited. Mass marketing is very powerful and naturally seeks to control and mediate taste. Of course cinema has been a part of our lives now for more than 100 years, and many fine and unexpected and beautiful films have been made. How to keep them in circulation for this and future generations? How to make sure films by Peter Watkins and others are seen, appreciated and loved?

D-UK: Finally, away from A Nos Amours, can you tell us about any future productions you’re working on?

Adam: I've recently made an experimental film, called Remake, that took as a template another film, recreating the shots, but omitting the cast. This will be shown at IMT Gallery in July. I aim to continue this exploration of absence and aparition in another film shortly.

Joanna: I am planning a new film which is about saying goodbye to a place you love. We hope to shoot this autumn in London.

You can visit the A Nos Amours website here