At the International Film Festival Rotterdam in January, the public could watch three films on permanent night-time loop, high above the city, broadcast on big screens attached to the side of tower blocks: these were a Carlos Reygadas film about a women's football match in the Andes, a Guy Maddin film featuring Isabella Rossellini in the electric chair and a Nanouk Leopold picture, filmed entirely in close-up. All were produced on behalf of the festival by UK outfit Illuminations.
Illuminations' Keith Griffiths has been described as 'the great facilitator of British cinema'. It is a reputation he and producer partner Simon Field are living up to as they help kick-start films by maverick UK and international talents.
Griffiths was a deputy-director of the British Film Institute Production Board during a golden period for BFI Production in the late 1970s. He went on to work with the Quay brothers and Patrick Keiller and was instrumental in introducing Czech animation legend Jan Svankmajer to UK audiences. Field, meanwhile, was director of the Rotterdam film festival from 1996-2004, having previously been cinema director at London's ICA.
Griffiths and Field were behind the film side of the successful 2007 New Crowned Hope Festival, celebrating Mozart's 250th anniversary, which yielded six features.
New projects on their slate include a collaboration with Peter Strickland (the Berlinale Silver Bear-winning director of Katalin Varga) and films with Chris Petit (Crossing Borders) and Raul Ruiz (The Man Who Was Thursday). Dave McKean's Signal2Noise, based on the graphic novel by McKean and Neil Gaiman, is seeking production finance.
The company is also working with Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul on Uncle Boonmee: A Man Who Can Recall His Past Lives, which is being sold by The Match Factory. Due to shoot in the autumn, it is backed by ZDF/Arte. 'We are very interested in exploring this terrain between the art world and the film world,' says Field.
Griffiths adds that Illuminations increasingly sees its role as 'developing projects, nurturing them and building the right co-production partnerships for them, while executive producing'.
It will continue to produce some films itself, though the primary emphasis is on 'building creative partnerships with creative international talents'.
Illuminations is back in business with cult director Keiller on a feature with the working title The Future Of Landscape. Griffiths is also executive producing for his long-term collaborators, the Quay brothers, on Sanatorium Under The Hour Glass, a feature-length drama.
'The scale we work on is smaller than most people. It's not only mixed economy but mixed formats that fit into the new world,' he says. 'That's what we're keen on, mixing the art world, cinema, publishing, all the cross-platforms that exist, and working on different scales to make that work.'