Joanna Hogg on A Nos Amours

Alongside a clip from her latest film Exhibition, director Joanna Hogg discusses setting up the A Nos Amours film collective

"It was around November 2011, I was chatting with Adam Roberts about a film we had both been watching by Maurice Pialat and we said how much more fun and more interesting it would be if we could have watched and discussed it together. So it came from a desire as filmmakers to share our film loves with each other and in a wider context with other people.  And very quickly after this discussion, I happened to be in a situation where I met Sally, the owner of a cinema called The Lexi in Kensal Rise and she said, “well, you can come and show some films in Whiteleys", because she had taken over a Dafont Books in the mall. We thought OK, we’ll show A Nos Amours by Pialat and we took our name from that. There were about six people in the audience on beanbags in December and it was freezing! I remember being desperate to get more people to come in and see the film and standing outside the shop in the shopping centre trying to drag passers by into the cinema. I don’t think I was very successful but it just seemed important to get more people to come in and see the films.

"It came from a desire as filmmakers to share our film loves with each other and in a wider context with other people"

We usually try to invite another filmmaker to introduce a particular film. We don’t do any Q&As afterward because we don’t want anything as structured as that, but what is equally important is creating a space after the film’s finished for people to talk and share their experience of the film. What’s very satisfying is that we’re finding that a lot of people coming to our screenings have never seen these films on a big screen before and might have never even seen the work of a particular filmmaker before. So there’s almost – sounds a bit serious – but an educational side to what we’re doing. And actually it’s kind of an insurance policy, ensuring that these films remain in our consciousness; that they get transferred onto younger generations and they keep these films alive somehow.

Right now we’re embarking on our most ambitious project, a retrospective of Chantal Akerman’s films. We’re showing every single one of her single screen works chronologically and we’ve decided that it’s impossible to do this kind of retrospective over a weekend or even a few weekends, so it’s going to take us about two years! The ICA have dedicated themselves to this retrospective and it’s possible we may end up with an actual exhibition of her installations. So I’m suddenly working in a completely different arena from my work doing my own films and it’s very exciting. And it’s very exciting to feel that you’re actually making a difference to how an artist’s work is seen, Chantal Akerman isn’t that known in this country, so we’re actually giving her the attention that she deserves."

Beginning her career as a photographer and apprentice to Derek Jarman, Joanna Hogg went on to direct several music videos and television shows before releasing her critically acclaimed feature directorial debut Unrelated in 2008. Since then, 2010's Archipelago and her latest film, Exhibition, have marked her out as a master filmmaker claimed equally as national treasure and outsider; an unofficial bastion of the arthouse and avant garde. Exhibition is a tale of a marriage riven by silences, sadness and Objectum-Sexuality – a condition where individuals have sexual feelings for buildings. Starring artist Liam Gillick and Viv Albertine from the Slits, Hogg displays the cinematic craftsmanship honed in her earlier works to portray the wild eyed yet unspoken distress of privileged people, stripping them down to their core humanity and weakness.

One can see Hogg’s encyclopaedic knowledge of film extending beyond her work as a director. A true cineaste, she co-founded A Nos Amours with Adam Roberts in 2011, forming a collective ‘dedicated to programming over-looked, under-exposed or especially potent cinema’. Currently showing the largely forgotten works of Chantal Akerman at the ICA, A Nos Amours is restarting a long halted dialogue with some of the most extraordinary films from the past, bringing them back to the light, and the acclaim they deserve.

A Nos Amours is currently in residence at the ICA with a retrospective of Chantal Akerman’s complete works. Exhibition is in cinemas on April 25.

Text by Caroline Lever