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By midlandsmovies, May 23 2017 09:59PM

Derby QUAD announce new Patron

A new festival Patron have been announced following the fourth Derby Film Festival, which ran at QUAD Derby from 28th April to 7th May. The ten-day festival included sell-out events, special guests and film previews from well know, lesser known, local and international film-makers.

DFF Film Previews included Oscar nominated animation My Life As A Courgette, war epic Fires On The Plain, vibrant teen-drama Spaceship, sumptuous animation The Red Turtle, family drama After The Storm, Finnish deadpan comedy The Other Side Of Hope, the new documentary David Lynch: The Art Life and Mindhorn a surreal comedy starring The Mighty Boosh’s Julian Barratt and featuring Steve Coogan, Simon Callow and Kenneth Branagh.

DFF Special events included The Phantom Of The Opera screening with live organ accompaniment at Derby Cathedral as well as Special Guests Michael Jayston, Alan J.W. Bell, Norman J. Warren, David McGillivray, Lesley Megahey and M. R Carey.

One of the sell-out events, which closed the festival on Sunday 7th May, was A Tribute To Sir John Hurt. Derbyshire actor Sir John Hurt was a Patron of QUAD since it opened in 2008 and Sir John’s widow Anwen Hurt came to QUAD and took part in a moving Q & A with Tony Earnshaw, discussing the actor’s extensive career and links to Derbyshire.

A film-reel of highlights of Sir John’s film career was followed by a premiere screening of The Journey (12A), which featured one of Sir John’s final performances.

QUAD’s Cinema One was renamed Sir John Hurt Cinema at the event and Anwen Hurt has announced she is to become Derby Film Festival’s Patron.

Adam Buss QUAD CEO and Derby Film Festival Director said “Once again we were delighted by the reactions of audiences to some of the key events and film screenings at Derby Film Festival. The brilliant Derby Cathedral played host to the incredibly atmospheric live musical accompaniment to Phantom of the Opera".

"Our tribute event to Sir John Hurt which included contributions by his widow Anwen, was on one of the most touching we have ever hosted. Anwen Hurt has agreed to be joint patron of Derby Film Festival with our existing patron David Morrissey, both of whom are committed supporters of helping us bring the best in cinema and events to Derby.”

The festival will return in 2018, full details will be found on http://derbyfilmfestival.co.uk

By midlandsmovies, May 21 2017 09:05AM

Derby Film Festival 2017

By Guy Russell

A little under two weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the 4th annual Derby Film Festival. Hosted by QUAD the festival kicked off on the 28th April followed by ten days’ worth of screenings, talks, short films and competitions.

Each year the festival has a different theme and the films listed in the programme reflect that theme in some way. Last year’s festival had the theme of “Journey”, this year’s however was “Habitat” and as the festival organisers describe it, “the environment that films take place in can vary hugely and create a massive impact on the narrative and the characters”.

Mindhorn (2017)

On the opening night of the festival the audience was treated to a preview of the upcoming comedy Mindhorn starring Julian Barratt of The Mighty Boosh fame. Directed by Sean Foley and written by Barratt and Boosh collaborator Simon Farnaby this plays a lot differently than what we’re used to seeing Barratt do.

Instead of eccentric and odd humour however we’re treated to the sad, self-deprecating comedy which Will Ferrell and Steve Coogan have excelled at for years. Barratt plays it just as brilliantly as Richard Thorncroft, a former 80s television detective who longs for a comeback on the screen but instead finds himself being asked to assist the police in apprehending a real life murderer.

Mindhorn will draw obvious comparisons to Steve Coogan’s Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa that was released in 2013 as Partridge found himself thrust into real action as a hostage negotiator. Coogan actually stars in Mindhorn also as Thorncroft’s former co-star Pete Eastman who is now a star in his own right. Accomplished actors Kenneth Branagh and Andrea Riseborough also feature.

It was a pleasure to know the film was shot on location in the Isle of Man, the sleepy location played a part in the film and looked glorious on the screen. I really enjoyed Mindhorn and I am fairly confident the rest of the audience did too as the screening was filled with laughter. This British comedy delivers plenty of laughs wgich is sadly something that isn’t too common in British cinemas right now. It was also refreshing that the film is completely original and not only commissioned because of its ties to an already established television show (Alan Partridge, The Inbetweeners). I hope to see more Mindhorn films from Barratt in the future.

You can still catch Mindhorn showing at the QUAD in May.

David Lynch: The Art Life (2017)

This documentary about David Lynch’s life and work as a filmmaker was an advance preview as part of the Fantastiq element of the festival.

Directed by Jon Nguyen and Rick Barnes this intimate look inside Lynch’s youth, his persona and his “art life” couldn’t come at a more relevant time. Twin Peaks, arguably Lynch’s most recognisable title in his resume is weeks away from being revived, so an expose into the mind of one of the most enigmatic directors around today is satisfying to watch. Narrated by Lynch through a vintage microphone speaker he guides the audience through his awkward life affirming adolescence right through into his adulthood giving the viewer an idea about how his mind works and why he is such a vivid and eccentric director.

Last year’s Derby Film Festival screened Wild at Heart (1990) and whilst I wasn’t the biggest fan of the film I understood why Lynch has a massive legion of fans. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this documentary as much as I did but with a sleek running time of only 90 minutes I found myself wanting to hear Lynch talk more about any subject! Nguyen and Barnes do a great job in keeping the films pace light and swift, never letting the film sag or outstay its welcome.

Whilst I’m a firm believer of “less is more” when it comes to knowing a film or filmmakers secrets I am guilty of seeing filmmakers quizzed on their films or their career, making sense of the subtleties they have placed in their films. This documentary is a must see for any David Lynch fan or film fan.

Whilst this was an advance preview as part of the Derby Film Festival, viewers can catch this documentary when it hits cinemas in July 2017.

Ace in the Hole (1951)

Directed by legendary filmmaker Billy Wilder, this long unappreciated noir film was a new watch for me and was screened during the festival and fitting perfectly with the theme of habitat.

Ace in the Hole stars Kirk Douglas as Chuck Tatum, a cynical, libellous, cruel adulterer who has been caught on previous occasions creating fake news to further his career as a reporter. We find out early on that Tatum has been fired from every newspaper from New York to Chicago and has now found his way in Albuquerque, New Mexico offering his services to small town paper The Albuquerque Sun-Bulletin.

Tatum is a classic noir protagonist, a flawed, greedy individual who only looks out for himself, a familiar trait in a lot of people in the modern world today. Frustrated at the lack of “big news” in his small town, Tatum is sent to a nearby rattlesnake hunt to report on when he stumbles upon local man Leo Minosa (Richard Benedict) who has been tragically caved in whilst scavenging in an old Indian cave. Tatum virtually rubs his hands as he sees the tragedy as a way to write “big news” again, instead of getting Minosa out as quickly as possible Tatum slyly delays the rescue effort so his story can grow.

What follows is a massive media circus surrounding the cave, tourists from different states camp out, hot dog vendors at every turn, carnival rides and even a band performing and selling a song they have written for Leo. Tatum, along with Leo’s estranged wife make a huge windfall whilst Minosa is trapped.

Wilder through the characters and brilliant cinematography by Charles Lang, scathingly attacks the American people’s obsession over tragedy, no surprise then when Ace in the Hole flopped at the box office only finding its appreciation in the last two decades. Wilder famously spoke of the poor box office performance saying “Americans expected a cocktail and felt I was giving them a shot of vinegar instead”.

Ace in the Hole fits ideally within the theme of habitat as the location creates a massive impact on its central characters. Without the Indian cave trapping Leo there would be no circus, no story. As I mentioned earlier this was a first watch for myself, and I enjoyed it thoroughly, I can see this becoming a favourite on my shelf for years to come.

To find that it didn’t find an audience when first released is disappointing, the film was definitely before its time and I would gladly recommend this film to anyone!

The Truman Show (1998)

Moving on from Ace in the Holes attack of the public’s desire for tragedy is The Truman Show, a film attacking the publics obsession for drama. Directed by Peter Weir, The Truman Show stars Jim Carrey as Truman Burbank who since birth has been the subject of a reality television show about his life. Adopted by Christof (Ed Harris) who serves as the show’s creator and executive producer Truman is unaware that his whole life has been scripted, materialized just for ratings.

Unlike Ace in the Hole, The Truman Show was a huge commercial and critical success even though both films criticise human natures worst aspects. Originally The Truman Show was written as a thriller set in New York City however when Weir approached the project the film was developed as a comedy, attaching the world’s biggest comedy star Jim Carrey as the lead. I believe this is one the reasons the audience accepted a filmmaker’s critique of them as Weir masks his attack with comedy.

Truman’s entire life has taken place inside a giant production dome in Hollywood, designed to create the image of the beautiful, fictional Seahaven Island. When films stay in our mind long after the film has finished sometimes it’s not the plot or the characters that makes our minds revisit the movie but because visually we can’t get the films “look” out of our head.

The matching cottages, porches and white picket fences seem too perfect to be real, some of the shots by cinematographer Peter Biziou almost resemble some fantasy films like Brazil (1985). Similar to Mindhorn, The Truman Show was shot on location in the aptly named Seaside, Florida, a fact not many people can believe, many believing the look was achieved on a soundstage in Hollywood.

I’m sure most people had already seen The Truman Show when it was screened on the penultimate day of the festival, however like myself I’m sure they enjoyed seeing it on the big screen with an audience laughing with them. If you’ve not already seen Truman, then I would highly recommend this film!

Guy Russell

A big thank you to Kathy Frain at Derby QUAD

By midlandsmovies, May 18 2016 03:20PM

Derby Film Festival 2016 by Guy Russell

Recently I had the pleasure of attending the Derby Film Festival in its third and most rousing year yet, taking place over ten days kicking off on the 29th April with a networking hour for other reviewers, filmmakers and film fans followed by a preview screening of Florence Foster Jenkins. The festival came to a conclusion on the 8th May with the Five Lamps 24hr Film Challenge Screening and awards ceremony, further putting its unique stamp on Festivals around the Midlands as one that not only celebrates established films and stars but also supporting independent films and encouraging new local talent.

In only its third year the DFF has managed to make quite a name of itself, this year naming its DFF patron as David Morrissey whilst its base at QUAD can boast of its varied patrons in John Hurt, Jack O’Connell and Paddy Considine to name a few. Also announcing a special guest in Sir Ben Kingsley who gave from what I understand an entertaining talk on his career.

Every year the DFF has a theme. This year the theme was selected as ‘Journeys’, both physical and emotional and what better film to embody the nature of this theme than David Lynch’s 1990 film Wild at Heart. Whilst not the biggest fan of Lynch I can respect his work as a director, someone who isn’t afraid to project his wildest dreams and visions onto the screen regardless of the subject. Here he does just this waving excessive sex and violence right in front of the audience’s eyes.

Using his actors Laura Dern (Lula) and Nicolas Cage (Sailor) as instruments in making the viewer follow their story and possibly relating to their youthful and exuberant lust, a heavy task with a story as wild as this one. Lynch later revisited the ‘road trip’ theme again in The Straight Story, a film in my opinion completely different to Wild at Heart. Here Lynch plays it ‘straight’ having his protagonist cross North America on his lawn-mower, a premise as simple as they come.

Wild at Heart however takes a simple story of two lovebirds on the run throws in organised crime, jilted mother-in-law’s, hitmen, car crash victims, prostitutes, bank robbers and several Elvis Presley sing along’s. Madness. Brilliant madness. One can argue that Wild at Heart isn’t a film that concentrates so much on story as it does acting as a springboard for Lynch’s distinctive visions and ideals. This film boasts an excellent ensemble performance particularly from Willem Defoe and Harry Dean Stanton who is one of those character actors you always love to watch.

Keeping up with DFF tradition the second weekend of the festival kicked off the Fantastiq theme, celebrating all things Horror, Sci-fi and Fantasy. Within this weekend I was fortunate enough to catch a preview of the much anticipated horror/thriller Green Room directed by Jeremy Saulnier. I won’t give too much away for the majority of people who are just watching it on release this week but I can say it is worth a watch, a worthy successor to Saulnier’s 2013 thriller film Blue Ruin.

Green Room follows a punk band forced to retreat to their backstage dressing room after witnessing a murder at the hands of a neo-Nazi gang led by Patrick Stewart (Darcy Banker). Saulnier successfully captures the tension and mood of being cornered by merciless killers in a remote Pacific Northwest town perfectly, showing us why exactly he is one of the most exciting young directors working.

After leaving Green Room I felt memories of watching John Boorman’s Deliverance or John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13, Saulnier brings back that feeling of taut, thrilling cinema that was so well done in late 70s American cinema. If you manage to get to a cinema to watch Green Room do it, especially if you’re a fan of Patrick Stewart and want to relish the fact that he’s on the silver screen in a role that’s not Professor X.

Last but definitely not least came the closing event of the festival, the Five Lamps 24hr Film Challenge. A fitting conclusion to a festival that promotes and encourages local talent, some of them first time filmmakers taking on the hefty challenge of planning, writing, filming and editing a three-minute short film in 24 hours. The ceremony hosted by Five Lamps Films very own Sam and Carl lasted a cool 90 minutes, a healthy number of entrants entered but the night never seemed to sag, helped much by the hilarious introduction of Sam and Carl who both need knighthoods or stars on the Hollywood walk of fame for keeping alive the independent short film circuit in Derby. Without such the city wouldn’t be able to boast that it’s a growing hub for all things filmmaking. Go to the bi-monthly Five Lamps short film night at QUAD and see for yourself the amazing talent Derby has to offer.

When someone can create a meaningful, entertaining short in 24 hours it’s something to write home about, and if that doesn’t happen (my effort in 2012) then it serves as great practice as well as being bags of fun and an experience I’ll never forget. Congratulations to all who had taken part in this year’s challenge, whilst it’s impossible to mention all the short films on the night I will mention my favourites.

Enigmatic Productions The Sitter was a personal favourite of mine, it was well shot and smoothly edited allowing the director to create a good pace and sense of normality to then rip the carpet under the audiences feet.

Superfreak Media’s Wreckage took 3rd place on the night and you can see why. What at first seemed like another play by play zombie film ends up being something completely different, possessing production value and an impressive amount of extras. One worth watching.

James Pyle’s Finding His Voice kicked off the screening with a more light-hearted approach, managing to get laughs with no words spoken. Brilliant.

Alex Gilbert Films Heads of Tails which took 2nd place on the night resonated with the audience, you could feel all eyes were on this film. A film most of us can relate to in some way, not many dry eyes when the credits rolled.

Congratulations to all the participants again and to everyone that helped organise the 3rd Derby Film Festival, I hope It was a successful one for you too.

Guy Russell

Thank you to Mike Sales, Kathy Frain and Peter Radford.

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