Fireflies is a captivating collection of words and art inspired by film; each issue explores the work of two filmmakers through a selection of interviews, essays, drawings and fiction. What is immediately striking is its reversible covers: issue two explores filmmakers Bela Tarr and Abbas Kiarostami, so one cover (decorated with potatoes) is dedicated to Tarr (above), and the other (decorated with cherries) is for Kiarostami (below). The content on either side centres thematically around each filmmaker, and when you get to the middle of the publication (designated by a series of black pages, also below), you close the magazine, flip it round, and start again from the other side.
Fireflies is made by a team of three: designer and art director James Geoffrey Nunn, and two editors Annabel Brady-Brown and Giovanni Marchini Camia, who work on the publication between Melbourne and Berlin. When selecting filmmakers for an issue, the team say that they need to have a real passion for the directors’ collective work, because they’ll be spending several months engaging with their filmographies. At either side of the magazine’s centre are interviews with the respective directors (above and below), so after reading and appreciating essays, artworks and poems dedicated to the artists, you then hear from the great auteurs themselves.
The two filmmakers that Fireflies select don’t necessarily have obvious thematic or aesthetic similarities, rather they need to inspire strong creative responses. Their reason for not focusing on a single director each issue is compelling: ‘No filmmaker works in a vacuum’, Annabel and Giovanni explain, ‘cinema is a continuously evolving art and its makers are inevitably interconnected’.
As well as juxtaposing the two auteurs, issue two also interviews other directors within a filmmaker’s ‘chapter’, in order to open up the vacuum even more. In the Tarr section, an interview with Berlin-based filmmaker Fred Kelemen is included because Tarr and Kelemen were both admired by Susan Sontag. The layout contains a hint of German Expressionist films (above): it looks a bit like a cut-up text board from Doctor Mabuse, and this too adds another layer of subtle context.
By using the magazine to juxtapose two great filmmakers, the editors hope that ‘the two halves of the magazines enrich one another’. The design plays an integral part in this, and inspires you to find continuities across the two parts. For example, two short stories in either section are placed on yellow rectangles, bordered by a constellation-like, black and white background (above and below). Fireflies asks you to compare and contrast aesthetic echoes.
Other contributions from artists and writers include a beautiful set of spreads by illustrator Alina Vergnano (above), a collage of thoughts on Kiarostami created from pages on a computer screen (also above), and an essay pulled from an academic book that uses graphs to record how Tarr’s films are structured (note the photocopied effect on the book cover, below). The layout is playful; there is also an essay that arranges text like a series of building blocks (also below).
The two directors are very different, hence the cherries and potatoes on the covers. The idea is that by bringing them together, Fireflies uncovers ways in which they overlap – like their shared interest in ideas of humanism and empathy. By the time you reach the centre of the magazine, there is a spread mixing potatoes and cherries, which have acquired a new meaning now that you know more about the two directors (below).
Fireflies selects filmmakers that are virtually unknown outside cinephile circles ‘despite being superstars within them’. The editors believe that the filmmakers are unknown in the wider world because of the way that cinema is currently spoken about: ‘We hope that Fireflies will introduce the films to a wider circle, to break down some of these barriers and encourage a return of cinema appreciation as a social experience’.
There are surprisingly few independent magazines about film. There is of course the grandfather of independent publishing, Little White Lies, and the new, alphabetically structured Shelf Heroes (currently on their B issue). Yet there is no publication other than Fireflies (that I can think of) that combines critical thinking and artistic responses with such depth whilst still being approachable to those who might not be in the know. The inclusion of art and fiction is an important part of what makes the magazine this way: ‘A work of art can be just as eloquent and meaningful an engagement with cinema as a critical review or thematic analysis’, say Annabel and Giovanni.