Monday 7 April 2008

Saturday in the shoes of David Gillam, Festival Director

The favourite film at this year's festival so far seems to be The Band's Visit - if we had an audience award it would certainly be a front runner. Laughter, tears, during the roller disco scene tears of laughter, and all the time something going on beneath the surface that gives you something to think about afterwards. Its a perfectly formed, unpretentious film that is an object lesson for any low-budget, first-time filmmaker - beautifully played, a great script, no grand gestures or unnecessary melodrama, it just gently works its magic. And at 90 minutes long it gets on, does its stuff and gets off again. I can't count how many people have said to me how much they enjoyed it. Perfection!

1.00 I meet Terry Jones, his partner Anna, and his old friend and TV producer Jerry Bugler at The Courtyard. Over lunch it soon becomes clear that Jerry's first priority is to find a bookies to fulfill his duty of placing bets for all his family on the Grand National. Meanwhile Terry regales us with tales of directing opera in Lisbon (Infernal Machines - which may yet become a film) and how Richard II got a bad press from Henry IV, Shakespeare and various others. A wrong that six hundred years later Terry seems determined to right. He delivers an amusing, well-pitched introduction to the charming oddity that is Le Million - innocent, amusing, with a great piss-take of opera. The many different ways the music plays into and across the action, suggests that Rene Clair must have been quite an innovator in the first few years of sound. And you can certainly see the influence it had on the Marx Brothers Night at The Opera. Then Terry and Jerry are out and away to catch the National.

5.15 Saturday afternoon and director Jan Dunn still hasn't arrived and as her film, Ruby Blue starts at 5.30 and the screening is sold out, I think this is cutting it a bit fine - particularly as she has the DVD we're hoping to show. No director to introduce it is one thing, but no film is quite another! She'd set off from Muswell Hill at 10.30 this morning, then spent 2 hours completely stationary on the M4 because of a jack-knifed lorry. I give her another call to find out where she's got to - she's in the car park, phew! And she soon sails into sight, gives the poor sweating projectionist the DVD, we've time for a few quick photos with actor, Sean Wilton and we're off and into the Studio to introduce the film. And what a warm reception it gets at its first UK screening! Lots of laughter, applause at the end and a very warm and appreciative Q&A afterwards during which Jan's phenomenal energy and enthusiasm for her work and particularly the two leads - Bob Hoskins and Josiane Balasko - shines through. The audience - both young and old - really respond to the positive ending to a film about the fear and paranoia of small town England. Although its shot in Ramsgate, it could well be set in Hereford and people take it to their hearts accordingly. Over dinner at Miro's it's sad to learn how much time and energy she is putting in to distributing the film herself, when really with a little bit of tidying up and the right distributor it could be marketed like Billy Elliot. I feel immensely frustrated on her behalf and just manage to stop myself from offering to help. She's already shot her third film but has just been turned down by the UK Film Council for completion money to finish it. Why? She's bought the rights to a Rose Tremain novel and so is starting work on her fourth feature film in 3 years - how does she do it? Finally fall out of Miro's after a long, boozy, chatty, dinner with Jan, Sean, Carol and Alan from MovieMail around 1ish - a fine ending to a fine festival day.

1 comment:

BLURT said...

Postscript: Jerry e-mailed to say that, though his horse only came 4th in the National, his son had backed the winner and was contemplating giving up his law course!