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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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