Thoughts about a dear friend...
As he did for many people, Al Rees was the first person to introduce me to experimental film. The depth of it was such that 19 years later, i still remember those first films he showed when we first met. He opened up entire new possibilities to me with his wit, depth, imagination and rigour. Whilst i was a student he indulged my initial scepticism and then encouraged my growing awareness. Then later he became a comrade and friend, supporting the ideas and energy that would emerge as no.w.here. He agreed to join our advisory board, to write and programme for us, and to council us when we asked (which we did often). And though he was ill for many years, he never complained, but met us with his energy and love. I will forever respect how he never folded on his position, or belief in the experimental film he favoured. His influence on me was huge, and I think of him as my cultural father, as do many. It is not an exaggeration to say it was an honour to know him, to break bread with Al and Angela, and to work together. (Brad)
In the mid nineties I had not long started an MA at the Royal College of Art where I happened upon a staircase that led out of the then Film and Television department to a non space, an autonomous zone, a cupboard filled with the most unusual collection of VHS tapes. The keeper of this archive, of these radical and inspiring materials was A.L. Rees. It was not long after him and his cupboard arrived that like me, a few other students across different departments found him, and in turn we found each other. Unplanned and unscripted we would spend hours whiling away the time together, watching and discussing film, art, politics, literature in the most radically informal deep conversations. This was and will always be the best part of my education as a student at the RCA. I also had the pleasure of being his colleague for many years at the RCA, which opened up another dimension to our friendship, his ongoing support for my filmmaking which in turn supported my ideas to have a place in the world. His enduring commitment to artists and filmmaking through his years of crossing from one end of London to the other to attend no.w.here’s board meetings. When Al was present we always had the finest laugh, and fun at what could have been at best tedious and bureaucratic. Over the years the numerous and multiple events, screenings and performances that we shared together as friends. The long afternoons spent at the house with the fabulous artist Angela Allen, Al and the cats, always leaving Plumstead so much more relaxed and a few pounds heavier than when we both (Brad & I) had arrived. Al was friend, mentor, guide, critic, colleague and most of all a beautiful radical soul that will be dearly missed in our lives. (Karen)
I first met Al in a pub in Swiss Cottage after a screening, we talked for a while and it was only later that I realised this was the same man who had written Experimental Film and Video, which was hugely influential on me as well as so many others. It opened my eyes to so many aspects of working with the moving image I was utterly unaware of. I will remember Al Rees as a someone who was always ready to listen, share ideas and advice, and for the clarity of insight, wisdom and experience he could bring to overcoming a problem or finding a solution. He told me once that every time he went past the site of Tyburn Gallows in Marble Arch that he would raise his hat and say a prayer to the memory of the dead, and I am holding this generous and touching act in my mind in the week of his passing. (James)