It’s been a pretty excting week as my animation are finally finished! They are soon to be installed at the Senhouse Roman Museum in Maryport for visitors to watch.
In the meantime I’m about to post them on her, so look out for the next few posts. Here’s the blurb:
Eimhir is a Celtic girl living in Maryport at the time of the Roman invasion. She explores the new influences around her with the help of her Roman friend, Lucius.
Written by Mike Smith
Narrated by Chloe Grant
Produced & Animated by Freya Walker Smith
Created for Senhouse Roman Museum, Maryport (www.senhousemuseum.co.uk)
A look back over the four days at Branchage Film Festival 2011
Here are my top 5 hightlights of the Branchage Film Festival 2011, for a complete list of my itinerary check out my previous blog.
#1.The Holiday dir. Ida Akesson
This short was screened as part of the City Life collection and had that gut wrenching comic tragedy thing going on. Ken spends his days hanging out at the burger van with his mates, complaining to them about his nagging wife Irene and the family holiday he’s just booked to Costa Del Sol. However as we watch Ken go home to fake tan and order a ‘Costa Del Sol’ tee shirt off ebay we realise Ken’s home life isn’t quite how he tells it.
#2.Disco, dir. Luke Snellin
Disco was undoubtedly my favourite, a pleasure to watch and a highlight of the entire festival. It’s the last day of summer term and 14-year-old Danny is running out of time to tell Pippa he likes her before the school disco that night. I loved everything about this short from it’s funky titles to the brilliant nineties soundtrack that took me right back to my primary school years. A definite watch for any 90s kids.
#3. Project Nim dir. James Marsh
“In 1973, a newly born Chimpanzee christened Nim Chimpki was sent to be raised by a human family in New York to teach the ape to communicate by acquiring sign-language skills. With very little structure to this ‘scienticifc’ experiment and confused motivations amongst the team, Nim is shifted to new environments over the years and ultimately discarded when he proves that dressing a chimp as a human does not actually stop him being a chimp.”
-Branchage Festival brochure 2011
Project Nim is an incredible piece of documentary filmmaking and both my friend Hannah and I were very moved by it. I left the cinema lost in thought about whether trying to humanise animals can even be ethically correct. I highly recommend this film and defy anybody to watch it and not have an opinion on it.
#4. King Kong vs. Rob Da Bank, Live-Soundtrack
The 1933 version of King Kong with a live-soundtrack by Rob Da Bank. Such an inspired idea. Rob played a mix of electronia, rock, R&B and dubstep, while the film was most silent every now and again he would add in speech and conversations from the original soundtrack.
Live-soundtracking is such a great concept. Although, obviously not a very new one. Putting live performance to film is something we are exploring again a lot more now. Video content has become a big part of singers performances, especially when performing in huge venues. It is used to tell stories and become an extension of the artist on stage. Whether the live soundtracking is heavily rehearsed and choreographed to sync with film, or improvised to enhance a film, it’s exciting to see the two mediums combine.
In the case of King Kong vs Rob Da Bank, mixing the old and new makes you think about both elements a little differently. It was unusual to be watching something live at a film festival; the performance was instantaneous and liable to change (or go wrong) at any minute. I think it makes the audiences more receptive. Rob was mixing to a full house and not only was his music getting a reaction from the audience but scary or funny parts in the film were too, which I don’t think would have happened had there not been a ‘live’ element to the event.
Screening after screening can get intense and make you surprisingly tired, so sitting back to watch a classic black and white film and letting Rob’s dubstep beats soak in was a brilliant end-of-day chill out.
#5. La Bordée D’Branchage: A Mythical Island Party
“Beyond the edges of the map and possibities lies the Island of Branchage… Be prepared for the Island’s strange climate, customs, costumes and creatures.”
- Branchage Festival brochure 2011
This mythical event was undoubtedly the social highlight of the festival. With a (fancy) dress code of Explorers, Dead Celebrities, Lords and Ladies, Kings and Queens, Mermaids, Sailors, Fugitives and Mythical Creatures it literally was like stepping into a mischievous paradise.
It was held in the Spiegeltent; a grand circus tent with lush red velvet drapes, dark wooden stalls around the edge and a huge dance floor in the middle. Great live-music made for a fantastic atmosphere. The fancy dress and may pole dancing was outrageous, as were most of the people we chatted to, including an enthusiastic vicar who danced around his bible for most of the night.
Probably the weirdest party I’ve been to but that was what made it a very entertaining evening.
After a lot of desert-island themed cocktails Hannah and I decided to call it a night, just as ‘Do You Take It In The Ass’ started playing and everybody coupled up for a romantic slow dance…
Branchage is Jersey’s Film Festival which involves a long weekend of film screenings, live-soundtracking and music in the beautiful seaside town of St. Helier.
We spent three day at Branchage and managed to fit quite a bit in. Here’s our full itinerary:
FRIDAY 23RD SEPTEMBER
- Short 1: City Life screened in the Société Jersiaise. Ten shorts exploring the ups and downs of urban life. The films shown were Baby, Blind Faith, Consequences Of The Kill, The Holiday, Invisible, Nadya’s Circus, Paper Hearts, Rid, Sometimes, Sudd (Out of Erasers).
- Short 2: Growing Up. The next set of shorts were all coming-of-age narrative and focused on children and teenagers dreams, fears and daily life. Films included: Assessment, Beans On Toast, Biatch!, Disco, Hard To Say, I Luv Matt Jhonson,Inertia, Join The Dots, Tom And Ester Learn Lessons.
- Death of a Hedge Fund Salesman (2010) Dir. Chloe Ruthven. Documentary about a very unuasal man. Screened in the Société Jersiaise.
- King Kong vs. Rob Da Bank. The 1933 version black and white version of King Kong was screened at Cineworld to a rousing live-soundtrack mixed in front of the cinema screen by Rob da Bank.
- La Bordee D’Branchage Party: A Mythical Island Party. A wonderfully, weird party in Branchage’s Spielgeltent.
Funky cow print seats in The Grand Jersey Hotel:
SUNDAY 25TH SEPTEMBER
A poor effort on Sunday as the sun was shining just that little bit too much for us to turn down a boat ride… We did make it back in the afternoon though!
- Editing Masterclass with David Charap, editor of many TV programmes, BBC films and documentaries including The Deep Blue Sea and We’ll Take Manhattan.
Checking the festival itinerary at the Mythical Creatures party:
See my next blog for my top 5 highlights of Branchage 2011…
One of the best things about TIFF is it’s audiences. Unlike other film festivals the general public are able to attend all the public screenings, including the world premieres. The combination of the public and industry professionals gives screenings a great atmosphere and makes for a very receptive audience; jokes are laughed at, heroes are clapped and most cast and crew receive a standing ovation.
What really warmed my heart was before each film a series of adverts are shown acknowledging the sponsors of the festival and thanking the volunteers. Without fail the audience would clap the hundreds of volunteers who work tirelessly to get TIFF running smoothly.
That and the ‘No Piracy’ warning which was always met with a dozen of the audience growling ‘ARRRRRGHHHHHHH’ (as pirates, it took me a while to get it) made the huge scale festival very personal and with a strong sense of community.
TIFF completely overwhelms Toronto; I chatted to a few locals, some of who enjoy the festival whirlwind and others who admitted avoiding downtown during those 10 or so days. When leaving Toronto the security guy noticed my freebie TIFF tote bag. He was excited to hear I’d travelled all the way from the UK just for the festival and quizzed me about my favourite film, maybe a little worrying for somebody who was supposedly airport security but I’ll let that pass. TIFF brings a real buzz to the city and most Canadian’s seemed really quite proud of it.
As for the films I saw some incredible ones that really inspired and reached out to me, and I saw some others which didn’t. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As I’ve menetioned before I think there’s a lot to be said for audiences’ film expectations, or lack of. Watching a film with little knowledge of it’s narrative, setting, cast etc feels to me like ‘pure’ movie watching; no trailer that tells you the entire story, no insane media buzz. Despite being at TIFF I managed to stay away from that hype. I was going from screening to screening, watching one film after another with little time to see even who the cast was or who directed it. I was privileged that often the only pre-film information I received was from the cast and crew introducing it.
The media is definitely a double-edged sword in both making the audiences aware of films but also ruining any ambiguity; before your average cinema trip you know exactly what you’re going to see and it’s not often the narrative surprises you. I’m not completely disregarding trailers but my film experiences would definitely have been different had I already read every article and seen every leaked set photo before watching the films. I often went into the cinema theatres very unaware of what I was about to watch and was lucky enough to experience two hours in another city, time or universe.
Same time next year please.
Saturday 17th September…
First Position [USA, 2011]
“In the competitive world of classical dance, practice, discipline and perfection are paramount. First Position is a documentary that follows six young dancers as they compete for awards and elite scholarships at one of the most prestigious children’s ballet competitions in the world: the Youth America Grand Prix” - TIFF
First Position is an incredible documentary that follows six talented ballet dancers, aged nine to nineteen, as they train to compete in the prestigious Youth America Grand Prix. The dancer who stood out for me was Joan pictured above. At just sixteen-years-old he lives in London away from his family in Colombia in a bid to fulfil his ballet dreams and trains tirelessly in the hope of winning a scholarship with London’s Royal Ballet School.
The director Bess Kargman did a Q&A after the screening. Like many filmmakers screening at TIFF Bess was hoping to find a distributor and suggested she was in the process of confirming a deal. She said her ultimate aim was have the documentary screened in cinemas internationally so keep a lookout. This film made me laugh and cry and I was a real highlight of the festival.
The two films I saw on Saturday evening didn’t do a lot for me, so if you’re curious about them google it!
Hidden Driveway [Canada, 2011] Dir. Sarah Goodman
i am a Good Person/i am a Bad Person [Canada, 2011] Directed by, written by and starring Ingrid Veninger
Sunday 18th September…
My final film of the festival!
The Education of Auma Obama [Germany, 2011]
Branwen Okpako’s The Education of Auma Obama is an intimate documentary about the U.S president’s older half-sister.
“An academic overachiever, she studied linguistics and contemporary dance in Heidelberg, Germany, before enrolling in film school in Berlin, where she met Nigerian-born director Okpako in the nineties. After living in the United Kingdom for a short period, Auma Obama eventually moved back to Kenya to mentor a young generation of community activists, social workers and other ambitious young men and women who lacked her privileged education and training, but were nonetheless determined to make a positive contribution to their society.” - TIFF
By the time I’d watched this documentary I was pretty filmed out. Even though I’d seen some great films both me and my friend Julian felt my film choices were going downhill a bit so thought we better quit while we were ahead! Seven days after arriving in Toronto I had watched a total of 15 features and 8 short films which I was happy with but I think I can do better!