BowieFest at the ICA
It seems strange that no one had thought to do it before, but now the ICA, located on London’s Mall, has had the forethought to programme an entire weekend film festival dedicated to music icon and legend David Bowie. Joe Walsh reports for Film3Sixty on the inaugural BowieFest.
The weekend kicked off with a screening of D.A. Pennebaker’s seminal documentary Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, which charts Bowie’s final appearance as Ziggy in 1972. Suzy Ronson, the wife of Bowie’s former guitarist Mick Ronson, provided magical anecdotes prior to the screening recalling her days on tour with the band. The atmosphere was buzzing throughout, young and old singing along together to Bowie’s most famous hits. It was the altogether perfect kick-start to a fantastic weekend celebration of music and film. Fans of Bowie’s music arrived dressed in their glad rags with painted faces mimicking the singer’s various personas, all making for a vibrant after party where patrons discussed Bowie’s career (in worryingly great detail) whilst knocking back a few glasses of wine.
The next day focussed more on Bowie’s movie roles with a screening of the 1983 Palm D’Or winning Merry Xmas Mr. Lawrence (which Bowie refers to as “his most credible performance”), neo-gothic cult horror The Hunger (1983 – pictured above) and the highlight of the day, a screening of The Man Who Fell To Earth followed by a Q&A with director Nicholas Roeg. This fantastic film, based on the sci-fi novel by Walter Travis, feels almost written for Bowie whose androgynous features perfectly provide the out of space aesthetic, undoubtedly marking it as one of Bowie’s finer performances.
On Sunday all children of the 80s could rejoice and relive their youth with a screening of Jim Henson’s much-loved Labyrinth (1986 – pictured above). The reaction from the audience was a wonder to behold as many, now parents, had brought their children along to connect with Bowie as they had as kids. This was followed by Julien Temple’s odd, yet enjoyable, musical Absolute Beginners (1986) set amidst the steamy streets of 1950s Soho. Closing the weekend was a screening of Cracked Actor, directed by Alan Yentob (now Creative Director of the BBC) who was in conversation afterwards discussing the project and recounting tales of Bowie on the road. The film documents Bowie’s 1974 concerts in the US after he had abandoned Ziggy and reinvented himself in the Diamond Dogs era. This was one of the most revealing events of the weekend as the Q&A merrily ran over due to the audience interest in gleaning information from Yentob on what Bowie the man is truly like to be around.
It was also announced that this insightfully programmed and highly successful festival will travel to New York and Berlin next year, while the rest of us can only hope that BowieFest will become an annual event here in the UK.