Friday, March 15, 2013

A feast of fantastic films at the 13th Belfast Film Festival (11-21 April)

The programme for the 13th Belfast Film Festival was launched this week and in a little under a month, cinema screens across Belfast will be screening local and international films – shorts, features and documentaries – to suit all tastes and pockets. (Most of the films are £4-6 a ticket.)

I’ve previewed some of the screens and events below to whet your appetite before delving into the full programme. Festival programmer Stephen Hackett spoke to me at the launch and talked about some of his highlights in the dense programme of cinema.

Thursday 11 April

Made in Belfast, 7pm, Moviehouse, £6 // Local actor Paul Kennedy has turned writer and director and his film premieres and opens the festival. A story of friendship and betrayal, of an author returning from Paris to face the friends and family he treated so badly.

La Traviata, 8.30pm, St Anne’s Cathedral, £8 // Members of NI Opera's Young Artists’ Programme will perform pieces by composers inspired by Verdi before the screening of La Traviata in a fabulous location.

Saturday 13 April

Spoof or Die, 5pm, QFT, £4 // In this short film set in modern day Northern Ireland, Craig and Nicky are bullied at a bus stop and decide to bunk off school. But as the ghosts of conflict emerge, their brash youthful anarchy leads them towards a darker, older world, and from that towards an unexpected closeness. Written by Stacey Gregg and directed by Prasanna Puwanarajah.

Only the Young, 7pm, QFT, £6 // A documentary following three teenagers living in a small desert town in South California. Skateboarding, friendship, heartbreak, desolation. “Delicate and ethereal filmmaking” from Jason Tippet and Elizabeth Mims.

Cool Hand Luke, 8pm, Crumlin Road Gaol, £10 // Clips from classic prison movies precede the outdoor screening of Cool Hand Luke starring Paul Newman. Tours of the gaol from 8pm; film starts at 9pm.

Sunday 14 April

A Hijacking, 7pm, QFT, £6 // Kasper from Borgen turns up in this Danish film written and directed by Tobias Lindholm. A tense thriller develops as the crew of MV Roven are taken hostage by Somali pirates while the shipping company CEO is a hostage to ever-escalating negotiations conducted from his corporate prison. Filmed on a real freighter that had once been hijacked off Somali.

Monday 15 April

What is this film called Love? 7pm, QFT, £6 // Mark Cousins is back at the Belfast Film Festival with his “poetic documentary about the nature of happiness” filmed for just £5.80 over three days in Mexico. Travel, homecoming, solitude and looks like it was filmed on a pocket Flip camera. Miles away from Mark Cousins’ previous output: the epic fifteen and a half hours of The Story of Film that tracked the history of cinema over more than a hundred years. Update - review and interview with mark Cousins.

Brief Encounters, 7pm, Beanbag Cinema, £5 // Documentary following photographer Gregory Crewsdon as he creates elaborate portraits of suburban American life and his own anxieties, dreams and inner desires. To get his still images, he sets a house on fire, builds enormous sets with large crews and shuts down city streets.

Tuesday 16 April

Dead Dad, 8.30pm, Beanbag Cinema, £6 // A story of loss, sibling relationships and resentment. Three siblings come home to attend their dad’s funeral. There’s an abandoned dinosaur themed mini golf course, the dad’s ashes and the need to get together to give the man who split them up a proper goodbye.

Last Tango in Belfast, 9pm, QFT, £7 // In the summer of 1973, Belfast City Council was “focused beyond the escalating unrest on the streets and firmly fixated on the cinematic souls of its citizens”. The Council’s viewing committee debated Last Tango in Paris over the summer and ultimately banned the Oscar-nominated film. Forty years on, Belfast Film Festival audiences will get a chance to review the film and come to their own conclusions.

Wednesday 17 April

Politics and Drama Debate, 6pm, Belfast MAC, £4 // Stratagem’s Quintin Oliver chairs a panel discussion asking why political drama is in short supply on these islands? Why do we know more about the workings of the fictional Danish parliament via Borgen than the devolved institutions in Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh.

The Fifth Season, 7pm, QFT, £6 // A small Belgian agricultural community struggles as spring does not follow winter. Instead crops fail, cows stop producing milk, and human relationships deteriorate, perhaps at a faster rate than mother nature.

Thursday 18 April

Doctor Who, 7pm, Micro Cinema, Free // A screening of the colour-restored six Doctor Who episodes in the serial The Mind of Evil from the Jon Pertwee era. Free screening, but booking necessary.

Friday 19 April

Devices of Attachment, 6pm, Micro Cinema, £5 // Damian Gorman’s critically acclaimed 1992 film for BBC Two followed the writer across Northern Ireland with poems read against the backdrop of violent scenes of conflict and interviews with “ordinary, decent people”. This will be the first screening of the film in Ireland for 21 years, and will be followed by a Q&A with Danian Gorman and producer/director Hugh Thomson.

Pictures of the Pope, 8pm, Micro Cinema, £5 // Join William Crawley as he “assesses the best and worst onscreen portrayals of the pontiff, and what they tell us about the spiritual times in which they were made”.

Saturday 20 April

Niall Óg, Culturlann, 7pm, £6 // On top of the BBC documentary, another crew from Belfast Media Group followed twenty six year old Lord Mayor Niall Ó Donnghaile throughout his year in office. A year in Belfast’s life dominated by MTV and Titanic, but also conflict, regeneration, mental health and investment. Irish language documentary directed by Siobhán Ní Chiobháin and produced by Sorcha Nic Eochagáin featuring interviews with Niall as well as UDA leader Jacie McDonald.

The Evil Dead II at Ormeau Park, 9pm, £8 // Want to be scared witless in Ormeau Park? The organisers encourage you “to wrap up warm and bring your own seating, chainsaws, umbrellas, raincoats and hot drinks” to the “gaudily gory, virtuoso, hyper-kinetic horror sequel/remake”.

Sunday 21 April

We are Legion, 1pm, Beanbag Cinema, £5 // A feature length documentary looking into the birth, growth and culture of the Anonymous hacktivist movement with its online cyber attacks and offline protests. Copyright abuse, censorship, police brutality: We are Legion examines what motivates people to get off their sofas and join the risky world of civil disobedience and Anonymous activism. [This is the original film that was reedited and shortened in a recent BBC Four Storyville episode.]

Ernest and Celestine, 2pm, QFT, £6 // On the last day of the festival there’s an animated children’s film. “Giant bears and tiny mice don’t tend to socialise much, but when grumpy deadbeat bear Ernest and crafty orphan mouse Celestine cross paths, the two become inseparable friends and embark on a journey that will turn their worlds upside down.”

My Brooklyn, 3pm, Beanbag Cinema, £5 // Documentary exploring the forces reshaping Downtown Brooklyn and Fulton Street Mall (a popular shopping destination in New York City) as government policies and corporate development join forces to displace small businesses and long-time neighbourhood residents. Followed by discussion organised by Forum for Alternative Belfast.

Final Cut, 7pm, Moviehouse, £6 // György Pálfi’s premiers and closes the festival. It combines scenes from over 450 other films and marries them into a new narrative. A “master class in both film history and editing” as well as a storyline that can’t be carried by a lead actor or a common location.

There are also a couple of films looking at Human Trafficking as well as a series looking at pregnancy, motherhood and two shorts and a timely debate looking at abortion.

BBC Northern Ireland are also working with the festival to profile the work of playwright Stewart Parker. Details to be added when available

And if that’s not enough, Northern Visions (who recently won the Belfast community TV digital licence) are running chargeable workshops on Interview Techniques and Working with the Media (Tuesday 16 April) and Final Cut Pro 7 Editing for Beginners (Wednesday 17 and Thursday 18 April).

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