Monday 31 March 2008

Extra screening of No Country For Old Men (no more cataclysms, please)

An additional screening of No Country for Old Men will take place at 11.15 Saturday 5 April in The Courtyard.

Why? Because torrential rain for most of Saturday afternoon and evening caused structural damage to The Courtyard and led to all screenings being cancelled. Normal service has now been resumed. Here is the information from their website:

Over the weekend an inspection revealed damage caused by heavy winds to the end wall facing the car park. Measures were immediately taken to secure the building pending full repairs. The building is now completely safe and secure for the public and is open as usual.

The Lives of Others did go ahead at the WRVS Hall, the Flicks in the Sticks venue in Hereford, on the eastern edge of the city. The film drew a capacity crowd, an encouraging sign for the promoters who are participating in the Film Festival for the first time this year.

Saturday 29 March 2008

Opening Night in the Sticks

Bodenham Village Hall

From Festival Director, David Gillam:
There was a wonderful atmosphere at Little Dewchurch Village Hall for the opening Night of Borderlines Film Festival on Friday. 71 people packed in to see The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain, a convivial crowd and charming film meant a great time was had by all. Little Dewchurch promoter Richard King was delighted, "It's great to see so many here enjoying the film, to see some new faces in the audience - and the free beer (sponsored by The Rural Media Company) was greatly appreciated. So thanks to them and to Wye Valley Brewery for that." Dave Berry, author of Wales & Cinema, who introduced the film was amazed to see so many people in the audience. And though he's introduced the film many times over the years he said, "The atmosphere tonight was something really special, unique really, I've never seen such a social scene around the screening of the film. Quite amazing really, when I arrived and saw the size of the village I certainly didn't expect anything like this!"

The omnipresent Dorothy Goodbody

A good night across the board. High turnouts for many venues with people, including quite a few Golden Ticket holders, arriving from much further afield than normal.

Audiences in Bodenham, Burghill and Bosbury

Moccas proved delightful; impressive trees surround the village hall and even the car park was festively lit. Made most welcome by Dave Collins, the promoter, and his team and there must have been around 70 of us at the screening - from Hereford, Madley, Clifford as well as Moccas itself. A surprise reunion for Dave; an old work colleague who'd moved to Brilley 4 years ago showed up unexpectedly. And I met local farmer, Owen Whittall, whom we've managed to persuade to join the debate which follows The Lie of the Land at the New Rural Perspectives event on Saturday 12 April. As well as a leading light in the farming community, Owen turns out to have been the driving force behind the renovation of the village hall. For some reason I'd imagined he'd be shy and retiring!

And, unusually, I enjoyed And When Did You Last See Your Father? more on second viewing. The first time I was picky about the film; this evening I was totally swept away by Jim Broadbent's marvellous performance. The opening scene - with its mixture of sheer exhilaration and acute embarrassment as Morrison's father jumps a traffic queue heading for the Races, waving a stethoscope and bellowing "Let us through, we're doctors!" - takes some beating. After the show we lingered till the bar was cleared, comparing notes about the reserve of our own fathers' generation and wiping away the odd tear.

And from Garway:
The weather turned out a bit wild for the Opening night at Garway for The Band's Visit - an Israeli film, promised on DVD, but held over by Sony until its opening in the USA. Undaunted, Flicks in the Sticks arranged for an ancient 35mm 'portable' projector from Staffordshire, delivered and set up lovingly by Simon, who then waxes lyrical about its pedigree. People arrive windblown and well wrapped up, with cushions under their arms, and only too happy to partake of a glass of free Dorothy Goodbody's Wye Valley Ale, courtesy of the The Rural Media Company. The film is a delight - only a little marred by the fact that the front half of the 50-strong audience cannot see the subtitles for the first reel. During the interval, when excellent home made cakes and coffee are consumed, Simon supervises the adjustment of the screen, supported by several tall men from the audience, and the projector is wedged up with two romantic novels from the village hall cupboard. All is well. The second reel can be enjoyed equally by everyone and gets a round of applause for this wry, touching human story.

Friday 28 March 2008

Good weather for films

The first day of the festival and the weather is perfect for watching films: grey skies, intermittent rain and high winds, cold but not freezing. Enough to drive you into a hospitable darkened room but not too inclement to prevent venturing out at all.

I'm off to introduce the film (And When Did You Last See Your Father?) at Moccas Village Hall this evening. I'm equipped with a Borderlines pop-up banner, a stash of Wye Valley Brewery Dorothy Goodbody's Springtime Ale (courtesy of the Rural Media Company and not purely for my own consumption, I hasten to add), my camera, a DVD of the newly commissioned festival trailer and a bottle-opener (just in case). And most of the rest of the Borderlines board are similarly spread across the countryside, popping up at Flicks in the Sticks venues in Bodenham, Little Dewchurch, Bosbury, Ledbury, Garway, Gorsley, Burghill and Ewyas Harold.

Thursday 27 March 2008

Heading into town?

Keep your eyes peeled...

Pre-festival press coverage

These are the items I've clocked anyhow:

Interview with Festival Producer, Naomi Vera-Sanso BBC Radio Shropshire, Friday 28 March
Listen Again has now expired

Interview with Festival Director, David Gillam BBC Radio Hereford and Worcester, Thursday 27 March
Listen Again
has now expired

Preview The Guardian Guide, Saturday 22 March

Valley Girl: a trip to the flicks Jane Wheatley, The Times, Saturday 22 March

Interview with Andrew Grieve (director of On the Black Hill) The Film Programme, BBC Radio 4, Friday 21 March

Listen Again has now expired

Budding actors take starring roles Hereford Times, Friday 14 March

Saturday 22 March 2008


Coming this way: controversy, celebrity, chit-chat, conversation. Compiling the hospitality list for the festival, Borderlines Producer Naomi has discovered that over 50 speakers will be turning up this year. And, as is the last-minute nature of these things, the figure is still growing. Guests range from ex-Python Terry Jones who'll be introducing the breakneck Rene Clair farce Le Million to some of those responsible for the two-minute Migrant Stories, personal takes on what it's like to come from Eastern Europe to work and live in Herefordshire. And many, many more.

It got me thinking. What makes a film festival? Particularly one that's not populated by industry delegates out to buy or sell. It's not simply a matter of watching films. Nor even of watching a lot of films in a short space of time. Watching films in the company of a lot of people begins to hit the spot. Rubbing shoulders with visiting experts takes the whole thing into another dimension: you look at films and the topics they cover in a completely new light, ask questions, argue the toss.

I heard one of the speakers due to take part in the New Rural Perspectives event being put on the spot on Radio 4's Feedback programme the other week. Graham Harvey, Agricultural Story Editor of The Archers, had been called in to answer listeners' complaints about the soap's anaerobic biodigester storyline. Too specialist, it was alleged. The digester is a piece of industrial machinery that chews up waste and spits it out in the form of biogas. There are very few of these in the UK (one happens to be close by, in Ludlow). Not only, Harvey argued persuasively, does the story reflect farmers' concerns among about tackling climate change; it's also a focus for the continuing power struggles within the Archers clan and is already causing ructions in the village. Big drama ahead.

Not sure that Borderlines can stretch to live wrangling and family feuds. No shortage of them up there on screen of course.

Friday 7 March 2008

Atoning in South Shropshire

Tagged along last week to the launch of the tours season at Stokesay Court where much of the film Atonement was shot in the summer of 2006. It's a massive pile. Though I'd heard that an entire wing had been airbrushed out of the establishing shot I hadn't appreciated - until standing in its opulent if rather gloomy wood-panelled splendour - that my whole cottage could have fitted into the central Great Hall with room to spare.

Mundane matters such as heating bills sprang immediately to mind. Ironically the chilliest spot in the house was the scene of greatest passion in the movie. Not, in actual fact, the library but a mere billiard room, the clinch taking place up against bookshelves crafted with considerable taste by Shepperton Studios carpenters and thoughtfully left behind. For the Court's owner, Caroline Magnus, who received Stokesay with its leaking roof as an unexpected legacy from an aunt, the filming came as a godsend. The production company, Working Title, was particularly generous in decorating and redecorating the rooms that were used and in leaving key items behind. Among these, the 8 foot Triton statue that dominated the fountain. This now occupies the landing at the top of the stairs and turns out to be made of polystyrene. There wasn't time to explore the grounds but I wouldn't have been surprised to discover that when Keira Knightley plunged into the fountain the water would have only come up to her ankles.

The tour as a whole provides some fascinating insights into the combination of skillful fakery and pure cash that continues to drive the cinema business. Fabrication and duplicity, coincidentally, are significant themes in Atonement but the estimated value of the production to the local economy is a substantial £1.5 million: location fees, extras, accommodation, transport, food and other services. Naomi, the Borderlines Festival Producer, remarked that the local osteopath, an acquaintance of hers, had seen a dramatic rise in business over the period of the shoot. Much stress, it seems.

Film tourism is Atonement's bequest to South Shropshire. Will it be as big here as in the US? One item that the production company could not be prevailed on to leave behind was the doll's house replica of Stokesay that, with its orderly trail of wooden animals, features in the film's opening shot. That was destined for an after-life - and a few bucks - across the Atlantic.

Festival promo

Take a look at what's been on offer at Borderlines in previous years.