by Elliot Davies
This will be the third time that the Derby Film Festival has been a thing, and this year’s lineup is a real mixed bag of nuts. Across 10 days there’s a mouthwatering selection of 25 previews and a wealth of archival screenings. There’s films from China, Iran, USA, Brazil, Sweden, France, Finland, Turkey, and Japan, as well as a host of tasty homegrown treats.
Let’s take a quick look at what’s going on, shall we?
25 previews! 25 chances to see some big screen delights before they’re witnessed by the unclean eyes of the masses!
The organisers seem particularly pleased to have secured Florence Foster Jenkins (pictured), which they believe will become “one of the independent cinema hits of the summer.” This is a “delightful comedy drama” starring Meryl Streep. She plays an aged heiress who dreams of becoming an opera singer. This one’s directed by Stephen Frears, who made his name with a one-two-punch of heartwarming character studies, Philomena and The Queen. So expect another heartwarming character study from the heartwarming character study master.
Other previews of note include Being Evel, an Evel Knievel documentary; steampunk fantasy animation April and The Extraordinary World; Hacienda-gutting account Do You Own The Dancefloor?; SNL exploration Live From New York!; Turkish coming-of-age drama Mustang; and as part of Peter Munford’s excellent Satori Screen initiative, Japanese cel-shaded murder mystery The Case of Hana & Alice.
See Films In Other Places!
As anyone who’s struggled to watch Avatar on their mobile while they rub shoulders with strangers’ armpits on their morning commute will tell you, the setting in which you choose to watch a film matters hugely. Your immediate surroundings will determine whether your viewing experience is a transcendent night of self-discovery, or a miserable hour of self-loathing.
Well, at the 2016 Derby Film Festival, there’s sure to be one transcendent night of self-discovery, and one transcendent afternoon of self-discovery. The line between fantasy and reality will blur with a couple of screenings in curious locations that have been carefully chosen to gel with the unique atmosphere conjured by the films.
See the haunting and poignant 1923 Hunchback of Notre Dame (pictured) in the spectral confines of Derby Cathedral, with live musical accompaniment on the cathedral organ! Witness the glamorous Roman Holiday while surrounded by the exquisite exhibits from the Joseph Wright and the Lure of Italy exhibition at the Derby Museum!
Bask In The Glory of Famous People From Stage & Screen!
Simon Callow (Simon Callow!) will be guiding a captivated audience through his four decades of warmth, wit, and exuberance. He’s the Festival Guest of Honour, and the day of his visit (Wednesday May 4) will also see a screening of A Room With A View (pictured), featuring a performance that resulted in a BAFTA nomination for Simon.
Barbara Shelley (Barbara Shelley!) will be in the city on Saturday May 7. She’s a legend of British genre cinema, and her visit will be marked by screenings of some of her most unforgettable performances – Dracula: Prince of Darkness and Quatermass and the Pit (I am THERE!)
As ever, on the closing weekend of the event, the Derby Film Festival will drink an inadmissible potion by the light of the full moon and mutate into the 4th Annual Fantastiq Film Festival.
This is a veritable three day bloodbath of genre goodies, with enough haunted squalor to satisfy even the most jaded “I guess I’m desensitised” of gorehounds.
Seriously – there’s some screenings here that I know are too extreme for me. Like the UK premier of American Guinea Pig: Bloodshock (pictured), a gruelling torture porn epic that wears its walk-outs and disgusted “problematic” thinkpieces as badges of pride. One gets the impression that this film isn’t intended for general release or public viewing. Entry is strictly limited to Festival attendees. You can’t buy tickets on the door. That’s…pretty terrifying.
This screening is preceded by a booklaunch – Derby-based Alex Davis’s Film Gutter Vol. 1, a tell-all account of his time spent immersed in extreme cinema. And for anyone who storms out of American Guinea Pig wondering just how the hell such a film could ever have been “allowed” to be released, the next day will see a talk by BBFC examiner David Hyman. He’s the BBFC’s horror specialist, and he’ll doubtlessly have some gnarly scars to show for it. After all, he presumably had to sit through the uncut version of A Serbian Film.
Fantastiq is also putting on a number of previews. There’s Green Room, which has already attained notoriety as “the film in which Patrick Stewart plays a white supremacist”. There’s The Snarling, which might be the best British zombie film since Shaun of the Dead. Then there’s It Came From Connemara, a documentary which explores Roger Corman’s 1990s Irish exploitation factory.
And of course, there’s the chance to see a number of gut-wrenching classics splattered across the big screen: Basket Case, Strip Nude For Your Killer, and Your Voice is a Locked Room and Only I Have The Key. There’s even an audio presentation of Orson Welles’s War of the Worlds!
The 2016 Derby Film Festival has a thematic strand. This year they’re looking at the theme of journeys – both emotional and physical. And you know what that means: Road movies!
They’re showing Leningrad Cowboys Go America (pictured), which I have no hesitation in describing as one of the top 10 funniest films I’ve ever seen. Wild At Heart gets a screening, and you should never turn down the chance to see David Lynch on the big screen. Then there’s Koyaaniqatsi, as moving as it’s mesmerising.
But what strikes me as the most unmissable screening of the whole festival is a double bill of 1970s car adventures. Vanishing Point and The Driver, back to back, together at last. You can almost smell the burning rubber, the gasoline, and the unidentifiable cheeseburger “secret sauce”.
The 2016 Derby Film Festival is going to be boss, and we’re going to cover as much of it as is humanely possible.
Check back here from April 29th for daily reports and reviews, and visit the official site for tickets and screening information.