The Belfast Film Festival is preparing to roll out the red carpet from April 16th for its annual 10 day festival of star-studded premieres, quirky events and the best in world cinema.
Over 100 screenings will take place in venues across all quarters of the city, including Queen’s Film Theatre, Movie House Dublin Road, Belfast Waterfront, The Mac, Strand Arts Centre, the Sunflower, Culturlann, Duncairn Centre, the Black Box, and the Festival’s very own Beanbag Cinema.
Festival Director Michele Devlin said: [quote]This is our 15th Festival and we really have grown in size and stature over the years. We now run a year-round programme of education and outreach activity and special events, but the highlight of our calendar will always be our Festival Fortnight.[/quote]
The opening night world premiere will be a homecoming moment for Belfast-raised critic and filmmaker Mark Cousins whose feature, I Am Belfast, will leave audiences looking at the city in a whole new light through the eyes of a 10,000 year old woman. Its score is by David Holmes, Belfast born composer and producer whose film soundtracks include Out of Sight, Ocean’s 11 and Hunger.
The closing night sees the UK premiere of The Survivalist, the feature debut of Northern Ireland filmmaker Stephen Fingleton whose Oscar-shortlisted film SLR screened at the Festival in 2014. The Survivalist has its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in the US. Local actor Martin McCann shines in this tale of a ruthless loner who lives off a small plot of land in post-collapse Northern Ireland.
Sporting stars from yesteryear are expected to attend the star-studded UK premiere on 24 April of feel-good football drama, Shooting for Socrates, a David and Goliath story about Northern Ireland squaring up to the mighty Brazil in the 1986 World Cup. Co-written by Marie Jones and director James Erskine, the film stars Rebus leading man John Hannah as manager Billy Bingham, Conleth Hill (Game of Thrones) as legendary sports reporter Jackie Fullerton, Ciaran McMenamin (Primeval) as Sammy McIlroy, and Nico Mirallegro (Hollyoaks) as a young David Campbell making his Northern Ireland debut on the world stage.
Richard Williams, CEO, Northern Ireland Screen said [quote]Northern Ireland Screen seeks to provide the people of Northern Ireland with the opportunity to see as wide a range of films as possible, including those made by the wealth of home-grown creative talent. Through our continued support from DCAL for Belfast Film Festival, we can help achieve this goal and make a significant contribution to film culture, education and training, and at the same time respond to the department’s imperative of promoting equality, targeting poverty and social exclusion. We are delighted to note the various premieres of Northern Ireland Screen funded productions as part of this year’s festival – I Am Belfast, Shooting for Socrates and The Survivalist, as well as the numerous shorts from our up and coming film-making talent.[/quote]
Belfast Film Festival always seeks to illuminate the world around with the best of New Cinema and this year is no exception, with Oscar-nominated Timbuktu playing. The film is a stunningly rendered drama about a family whose destiny changes abruptly at the hands of Islamist fundamentalists.
A smash success at Cannes, The Tribe is a compelling, confrontational film from Ukraine that focuses on a gang of deaf boarding school students; Terry MacMahon’s Patrick’s Day is a heart-breaking love story about the right to intimacy for everyone; Rosewater marks the directorial debut of The Daily Show host Jon Stewart and stars Gael García Bernal in both a moving personal story and a tribute to those journalists who risk their freedom, and even their lives, to tell the true stories behind world-changing events.
Enthralling, provocative and timely, 99 Homes starring Andrew Garfield is set amidst the backdrop of the 2008 housing market catastrophe. And Lasa and Zabala is the true story of two Basque refugees who were kidnapped, tortured and murdered in 1983. Pili Zabala, the sister of Josu Zabala, one of the men who were killed, will be in attendance for a public Q&A after the screening.
Two films are competing for the longest and most intriguing title of the Festival. Distinctive Swedish filmmaker Roy Andersson, heir to the Bergman throne, returns with the absurdist, surrealistic and shocking pitch-black comedy, A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence, and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is the first Iranian Vampire Western ever made; a joyful mash-up influenced by spaghetti westerns, graphic novels, horror films, and the Iranian New Wave.
Belfast Film Festival’s Documentary Panorama is packed with gems from around the globe, including the buried history of the outrageous, often brilliant women who founded the modern women’s movement from 1966 to 1971 is celebrated in She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry; Maïdan, an epic, formally audacious documentary chronicle of the historic protests in Kiev’s Maïdan Square; Lambert and Stamp is a wonderfully alive behind-the-music chronicle that rescues two genuine mavericks from the footnotes of rock history. And complementing the screening of Shooting for Socrates is the world premiere of Spirit of ’58, a new documentary about Northern Ireland’s 1958 World Cup squad led by the peerless Danny Blanchflower.
Boogaloo and Graham Oscar nominee Michael Lennox will hold a special ‘making of’ talk about his debut feature, A Patch of Fog. And in recognition of the growing film production sector in Northern Ireland, this year the Festival has introduced a new section, presenting a series of locally made feature and medium length films. Most of these projects were produced on micro-budgets and developed by the filmmakers with their own money and in their own time, but with an endless supply of energy and enthusiasm.
In its special events section, some of the most celebrated film classics of the 1960s and 70s will be screened in settings that quirkily complement the films and turn them into memorable events. BBC Blackstaff House is braced for the arrival of a “mad as hell” news anchor for Network, the Great Hall at Queen’s will succumb to anarchy with Lindsay Anderson’s if…, the Black Box is preparing to dish out beer and beans at Blazing Saddles Night, and there will be an eerie live soundtrack by French band ‘Coffin’ to accompany David Lynch’s Eraserhead at The Mac.
Throw in the perennial quiz for film buffs, Sherlock Holmes caper Murder by Decree in a Masonic Lodge, an evening of cinema seduction burlesque-style, and you have the recipe for a slice of movie heaven this April.
Belfast Film Festival takes place from April 16th to 25th. Tickets can be booked online at www.belfastfilmfestival.org or with Visit Belfast Welcome Centre, 9 Donegall Square North, Belfast. BT1 5GJ. Phone +44 (0)28 9024 6609.
Belfast Film Festival, together with O2, is funded by Northern Ireland Screen, Department for Culture, Arts & Leisure, BFI, Belfast City Council, and supported by Peroni Italy and Europa Belfast. Media partners UTV, U105 and Belfast Telegraph.