Thursday, March 27, 2014

Belfast Film Festival (27 March - 5 April) - a cinematic feast with 121 films over 10 days

Every year, the Belfast Film Festival gets better and better.

Except for the festival programmer’s knack for scheduling loads of great films on the same night. I blame that on Stephen Hackett … though with so many movies to choose from, the clashes are perhaps inevitable and forgivable … though at some stage the festival should invent a BFF+1 concept to re-screen each film a day later!

With a mix of local and international films, there’s plenty to tickle your fancy, challenge, entertain and offend.

Out of the 121 films on offer over the 10 day festival here are a few that caught my eye. Ticket prices for the selection of films and events below vary between £3 and £6.

Friday 28 March

19:00 – Ilo Ilo – QFT – A 10 year old Singaporean boy, his Filipina nanny and his parents struggle to weather the 1997 Asian financial crisis. Awarded Camera D’Or for best debut feature at Cannes

Saturday 29 March

16:00 – Quatermass Xperiment – QFT – A manned missile is launched and lands in the English countryside, with two of its three crew members missing. The third undergoes a horrible metamorphosis and starts to kill humans and animals. (The film was later remade as a 'live' production on BBC Four.) Prof Quatermass pieces together the logical conclusion: an alien invasion. Renée Glynne worked on the film and will give a talk from 2pm before introducing this science fiction cult film at 4pm. Having sat through a long and late night screening of Quatermass And The Pit in a BBC studio as part of a previous Belfast Film Festival, science fiction fans will be glad to see this one is scheduled earlier in the day!

18:00 – Busby Furball – QFT – when I looked at the image accompanying the write-up in the Belfast Film Festival programme I knew this had to be a Factotum production. (Their film Ditching is one of my favourite pieces of local cinema.) Three hairy Busbys – Offal, Giblet and Polyp – live on an isolated peninsula. Mind control, oversized fungi, giving birth to a large, intelligent hairy slug, a brain portal and some mind control. 28 minutes of cinema I’m really looking forward to. Reviewed.

Sunday 30 March

19:00 – The Distance – QFT – A surrealist heist film starring three telekinetic Russian dwarves who are hired by a long-suffering Austrian artist to rob a guarded room in a remote power plant in the Siberian Mountains. Their telepathy melds together many different languages, backed by an atmospheric soundtrack.

19:00 – Drawing on Life – BFF Beanbag Cinema, 23 Donegall Street – A local documentary tracing the thoughts of leading architects as it explores how and why they still draw by hand in this digital age.

19:00 – Onus – Dublin Road Moviehouse – No budget (£500) feature film from Belfast-based George Clarke/Yellow Fever Productions. Shot in nine days over two years in Norway, expect dark twists as two sides of the same coin are examined.

21:00 – Noirland – Dublin Road Moviehouse – Northern Ireland’s first crime anthology from writer/director Philip Henry. Three stories following one man who wants “to see the guilty punished, because secrets never stay buried in Noirland”.

Monday 31 March

18:45 – We Were There – Dublin Road Moviehouse – How the Maze/Long Kesh impacted on women’s lives, through absence from family as well as intervention by educational and welfare staff. Recorded in 2007 inside the empty prison, stories told by a prison officer’s wife, inmates’ relatives, Open University tutors, Probation Service staff and a visual artist. Followed by a Q&A with participants and the filmmakers.

19:00 – The Lunchbox – QFT – A mistaken delivery in Mumbai’s famously efficient lunchbox delivery system connects a young housewife to an old man in the dusk of his life as they build a fantasy world together through notes I the lunchbox.

Tuesday 1 April

19:00 – The Dirties – QFT – Owen and Matt decide to make a no-budget epic action farce as they take revenge on their high school bullies. When it doesn’t work out, they switch to make a documentary that reveals more about their own selves that they are comfortable with.

19:30 – Baraka – Townsend Street Presbyterian Church – ‘Baraka’ is an ancient Sufi word which can be translated as “a blessing or as the breath, or essence of life from which the evolutionary process unfolds”. In this spiritual nonverbal film with no plot, no actors and no script, expect breathtaking shots from 24 countries on 6 continents that show the beauty and destruction of nature and humans.

Wednesday 2 April

14:00 – Sleepless Nights – QFT – Exposing the concept of clemency without justice in the Lebanon as a mask that protects the perpetrators and leaves survivors with festering wounds. A moving documentary about reconciliation and justice bring together a guilt-ridden former Lebanese Forces intelligence officer with a mother who is still searching for her communist fighter son who disappeared in 1982. The war ended in 1991 with an amnesty for political crimes. But what is the legacy from that decision?

19:00 – A Story of Children and Film – QFT – Mark Cousins’ personal cine-essay about children on film: a mosaic of clips from 53 films made in 25 countries.

21:15 – The Congress – QFT – Blend of live action and psychedelic animation, science fiction set in a dystopian Hollywood.

Thursday 3 April

18:45 – Border – QFT – A powerful account of contemporary Syria as two sisters learn that a member of their family has decided to desert the Syrian Army and join the Free Army embarking on a hazardous journey to Turkey.

19:00 – Europa Report – Dublin Road Movie House – A privately funded space exploration company sends six astronauts to confirm whether a hidden ocean suspected to lie beneath the icy surface of Europa could sustain life. Near catastrophic technical failure, communication loss and a death as the astronauts overcome psychological and physical toll of deep space travel in this science fiction thriller.

19:00 – I am Belfast: Fragments of a work in progress – QFT – A talk by cinematic flâneur Mark Cousins and composer David Holmes on the making of their new film and the process of writing the music as the film is shot. Will include the first screening of 10-15 minutes of the film.

19:30 – Votes for Women – Culturlann – The story of how Irish women obtained the vote in spite of every main political party in Ireland and Britain opposing women's suffrage in the lead up to the First World War. But women along with a minority of socialist men rose up and eventually secured the vote for over 30s in 1918. Another aspect to the decade of centenaries.

19:30 – Babette’s Feast – Bloomfield Presbyterian Church – Two daughters of a Danish coastal clergyman live a pious and self-sacrificial life. But Babette, a mysterious refugee from France’s civil war, arrives and convinces them to try something outrageous: to try a gourmet France meal. The town are upset and convinced they’ll lose their souls for enjoying this earthly pleasure.

21:00 – Here Be Dragons – QFT – Old cartographers used to label unexplored areas of maps with the legend “Here Be Dragons”. In this film essay, Mark Cousins explores the political, cultural and cinematic landscape of Albania.

Friday 4 April

19:30 – Breaking Ground – BFF Microcinema, 23 Donegall Street – A 63 minute documentary about the work of the London Irish Women’s Centre from its opening in 1983 to its closure in 2012.

19:30 – Gospel According to Matthew – Clonard Monastery – Director Pier Paolo Pasolini’s passionate and poetic retelling of the story of Christ from immaculate conception to death of the cross. Depicted as a fiercely political figure who attacks hypocrisy and social injustice. Dialogue drawn directly from scripture. Recommended by both the Vatican and the Archbishop of Canterbury!

Saturday 5 April

14:30 – Sepideh Reaching For The Stars – QFT – Inspired by Anousheh Ansari, the first Iranian in space, teenage Sepideh lugs her enormous telescope into the countryside to study the heavens. This “unladylike behaviour” isn’t appreciated by everyone in her family. Her passion is to pursue a university education; yet suitors come knocking on the door. Breath-taking constellations together with life-changing moments in Sepideh’s life. Reviewed.

19:00 – The Human Scale – BFF Microcinema, 23 Donegall Street – The proportion of the world’s population living in urban areas is estimated to rise from 50% to 80% by 2050. Danish architect Jan Gehl argues that we need to build cities that take into account human needs for inclusion and intimacy rather than continuing to create cities that repel human interaction. This film asks what would happen if we put people at the centre of our planning.

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