Last weekend I made my annual pilgrimage to Keswick Film Festival. It all started on the Thursday evening, there was a great selection of food at the opening party but I didn’t get chance to try much of it as I was too busy catching up with old friend and trying to find more clean plates for people. The opening film was Michael Winterbottom’s Everyday a film which was premièred on C4 last November and I had been keen to see. It’s been sat on my PVR since that broadcast but when I knew it would be showing at the festival it made sense to wait. Mark Kermode was correct to say it is worth seeing in the cinema but the film felt more like an interesting experiment than anything else. I wanted something dramatic to happen and when it didn’t it felt like a wasted opportunity.
Friday started for me by seeing Men At Lunch, a fascinating documentary focussing on the iconic photo taken during the building of the Rockefeller building. Unfortunately the end of the film undoes all the great work of setting up the story and mystery by focussing on only two of the men from a village in Ireland. Perhaps this was a results of funding by the Irish Film Board but it’s a huge mistake and a massive shame. The film starts repeating and even contradicting itself whilst tightening the focus on the two most boring people interviewed in the film.
I Wish and I wish I’d liked it more, I’d heard great things and it’s a charming film but for one reason or another it didn’t quite work for me. The following film was Play and this worked much better for me but not the rest of the audience with walk outs and one of the lowest audience scores at the festival, I even heard that one person had claimed the film should never have been allowed to me made. For me it remains one of the best films of the festival; wonderfully shot and performed, funny in places, mysterious in others and utterly terrifying throughout. Along with I Wish and Everyday, Play contains some wonderful performances from children. My final film of the day was Nightbreed – The Cabal Cut, I’d have preferred to see About Elly showing at the same time but realised I could see that another time and there wouldn’t be another chance to see this strange work in progress edit pieced back together from found footage and introduced by the restoration director. It was fascinating to see even if it was more work-on-progress than I expected, some parts were unwatchably poor VHS quality but they expect to be able to clean it up a lot more. I was expecting a horror film and perhaps this is what was originally released but this version is a monster love story which reminded me more of Guillermo del Toro than anything else.
A lot of my Saturday was taken up with my work on the Osprey Short Film Awards from finalising the winners with the judges, meeting the film makers, showing the films and seeing the prize given out. I shouldn’t divulge the inner workings of the judging panel but the standard of films was incredibly high and I’d have been happy for most of the films to have won one of the prizes. From the back of the cinema it felt like most of the films went down well, especially New Deal which went on to win the Audience Award. I thought Believe might win the Audience Award, it only narrowly missed out on one of the main prizes but at least John Hurt gave it a special mention which hopefully will do the film more favours than our little award. As always, I wondered if we’d given the prizes to the right films but I’d be doing that whoever the winners were and as clichéd as it sounds everyone deserved to win. It helped make the following tweet so I’m happy with that:
— Heather Smith (@HeatherRobyn) February 25, 2013
I stayed at The Alhambra for the rest of the evening, even managing to squeeze it a quick pint at The Square Orange between films. Good Vibrations was a great music biopic (I was expecting it to be a documentary), I enjoyed John Hurt’s choice of Tulpan a lot more than I expected (how do they make films like this) and Owning Mahowny is one of my newest favourite films.
So to the final day, Thursday evening felt like such a long time ago as I settled into watching The Man With The Jazz Guitar, I may have selected this film because they are active on Twitter I certainly had no immediate interest in the subject. The film was the first real disappointment of the festival, an interesting man and life story to be told but a mess of a documentary which lacked any structure. The next choice was perhaps the most difficult an potentially great film I’d never heard of (Kauwboy), the nearly-première of Peace And Conflict with the film makers or McCullin a film I’ve been wanted to see since it’s release but could be easily seen elsewhere. I’m glad I went for McCullin, it was the best film I saw at the festival (and possibly so far in 2013) and deserved the Audience Award.
I made up for not seeing Peace And Conflict by going to the on stage In Conversation with director Tony Britten and Don Boyd, it was an interesting chat but focussed too much on Benjamin Britten which if I’d known in advance might have persuaded me to see Touch instead. I stayed on to watch War Requiem which again I saw because it seemed like a more interesting choice and chance to see something I wouldn’t normally see. It lived up to my expectations of something that wouldn’t be to my taste but I’m still glad I saw it. I also didn’t have high expectations for the closing film which I hadn’t heard of and knew it had a failed to get a theatrical release. As it turned out I really enjoyed Ashes, fantastic performance from Ray Winstone (shocking to think he probably made this around the same time as The Sweeney) and stylishly made, I knew how it was going to turn out but I enjoyed the ride.