Saturday 15 March 2014

A Festival Diary - Wednesday 5 March 2014

Wednesday 5 March 2014
BFI Film Academy / Le Jour se Lève / The Patience Stone / The Golden Dream

Rural Media/BFI Film Academy
It’s the first highpoint of the year: I award myself a day’s leave, drive to Hereford and watch a few films. The first event is free. The Rural Media Company (based five minutes’ walk away) had recruited local, teenage film-makers; the BFI Film Academy provided additional expertise from the very top-drawer. Their work, three shorts, was screened and then a panel of Tony Lawson, Richard Greatrex and Naomi Vera-Sanso supplied constructive criticism, advice and guidance. You can look up Tony and Richard on IMDb and be amazed. Naomi, of course, has been the Producer, then Director of the Borderlines Film Festival since day one.

I waded through a lot of home-made shorts fifteen years ago for a film society doing its bit. The acting was usually good (of the central casting variety), the editing acceptable and the scripts so-so to pretty poor. There were a lot of genre pieces and traditional jokes: the audience is there and they’re easier to make. The big advance is in presentation: today’s low-budget films look far better. If you’re thinking of making one: give the actors more to do and get them to do less. Film-making is far cheaper and swifter than in the Super-8 era. Would it be prohibitive to have a first draft?

The next film was hand-picked by Francine Stock (of Radio 4’s The Film Programme, repeated at 11pm, Sundays) for Borderlines. What fun to see the Institut Français name-checked alongside various local government bodies. Le Jour se Lève is French, black and white, made in 1939, established the dissolve as film language for reminiscence, scripted by a poet, populated with adults and features the iconic film-star representations of their respective genders: Jean Gabin and Arletty. Borderlines screened an Arletty film, Les Enfants du Paradis, last year – another film with a character who believed he could talk his way into or out of everything.  I hope there’s more from Gabin and Arletty next year.
Jean Gabin and Arletty in Le Jour se Lève
I like to book my tickets early, remember nothing but the date and time, then discover more about the film whilst watching it. As the opening credits of The Patience Stone shared the screen with sun-bleached curtains I thought it could be a documentary until ‘based on a novel’ came up. Like the previous feature most of the film takes place in one room – because it’s too dangerous to leave it. And the lead, practically a one-woman-show from Golshifteh Farahani, talks about the events that led to this point. You’d think that festival programmers organised these coincidences deliberately. Having seen Osama (Afghanistan, 2003) last year, at an Amnesty International do, I can report the Afghan woman’s daily life make the adventures of your favourite all-action hero look silly. Mass-production means I can scan the shelves of a bombed-out building in the Middle East and spot a lemon-squeezer just like one my grandmother had. The Patience Stone contains two-and-a-half sex scenes and one joke – a bit like “The Boat That Rocked”.
The Patience Stone
After spending hours watching noble people getting shot at in claustrophobic circumstances The Golden Dream was almost a relief. Think of The Incredible Journey or Stand By Me but with Guatemalan teenagers making their way through Central America, either using Shanks’s pony or riding the deck, to ‘the golden dream’ of a migrant labourer’s position in Los Angeles. The Spanish title, “La jaula de oro”, translates as “the golden cage”. Caged birds turn up a lot in movies: a female resident, with pet, making her retreat in Le Jour se Lève – it’s no place for a budgie; the fighting quails in The Patience Stone that pinpoint a girl’s place in a patriarchal pecking order. You could fill a festival with caged bird movies.
The Golden Dream
The lives of the immigrants in The Golden Dream are valued even lower than Taliban girls. Loose ends are not resolved but it’s probable they will end terminally. The film is the debut feature of Diego Quemada-Diaz, camera assistant to Ken Loach. A couple of days later I attended a lecture by Barrie Trinder, an authority on the Industrial Revolution in the Midlands, about bargemen on the Severn. They worked, stole and gave street performances, no different to the travellers in this film.

Robin Clarke (Festival Volunteer)

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