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Our Journal

Fire Spells

Head of Academic Research at Arts University Plymouth, Judith Noble, and freelance filmmaker Tom Chick have screened their film ‘Fire Spells’ as part of the Open City Documentary Festival.

‘Fire Spells’ is both a portrait of Judith and her views on magical practice and a ritual film itself. Director Tom, follows Judith as she makes a protection spell for him.

“The film began as an exploration of folk magic and customs about protecting the home” explained Judith, “it evolved into a portrait and examination of my own practice”.

‘Fire Spells’ was screened at the Open City Documentary Festival alongside two of Judith's older films, ‘Mysteries’ and ‘Red Sea’, both from 1982. Judith’s older works have recently been digitised through BFI funding to support the preservation and distribution of artists' films. The film was shown to a full house at the Genesis Cinema and included a post-showing Q&A session.

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Still from "Fire Spells"

“Having a film about oneself is somewhat nerve wracking,” admitted Judith. “I think Tom has a very visual, poetic way of telling stories. We have been working on this project for the last three years and it was a pleasure working with him”.

The film observes Judith as she uses fire and its remnants to create a protection spell. She explains how the articles she uses become woven in with her drawing, a drawing that becomes layered in with the personal. ‘Fire Spells’ was also shown as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2022.

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Still from "Fire Spells"

The Open City Documentary Festival is a London-based film festival, with a mission to create an open space to support the art of creative documentary and non-fiction filmmakers. The festival program included screenings of new films, retrospectives of important non-fiction filmmakers, cross-media projects and a series of talks and workshops. 59% of filmmakers presenting new work at the festival identify as women or non-binary. Opening with Brazilian filmmaker Ana Vaz’s ‘It is Night in America‘, the festival closed with Tsuchimoto Noriaki’s 1975 ‘The Shirauni Sea’, shown as part of the festival’s retrospective of the Japanese filmmaker’s work.

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Still from "Fire Spells"

The new films shown in this year’s Open Film Festival represent 25 countries and include five world premieres, two international premieres, three European premieres and 27 UK premieres. The festival is a discursive space, a gathering place for the non-fiction community in London and beyond. Its purpose is to reflect on the state of documentary today and to re-imagine what it could and should be.

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Still from "Fire Spells"