We are delighted to open this year’s Festival with the UK premiere of a Dutch film ‘The Conductor’, which sets up one of the major Festival themes, celebrating women as both directors and subjects. Directed by Maria Peters and starring Christanne de Bruijn (both attending), ‘The Conductor’ focuses on the amazing true story of Dutch born Antonia Rice who, in the late 1920`s, became the world’s first woman to successfully conduct a large symphony orchestra. The struggle against male prejudice is explored in the Israeli film ‘Working Woman’ with the insidiousness of male workplace abuse, whilst in ‘Permission’ (Iran), a female football player is refused permission by her husband to leave the country, according to Iranian law, for an international event. In the documentary ‘XL Chelsea,’ a trans woman soldier and whistle-blower faces various prejudices, and conversely, the Russian film ‘Battle for Sevastopol’ celebrates Lyudmila Pavlichenko’s achievements as the most decorated female sniper in history.
14 wonderful and notable international films are highlighted as part of the ‘Re-Discovering Women Directors’, a selective historical survey from Ida Lupino in the 50`s to the late Agnes Varda’s last film. Regrettably there are some omissions due to problems of licensing older films and lack of space, perhaps with the illustrated talk supporting this section a few gaps may be filled. We will also be featuring previews/premieres of new films including Joanna Hogg’s ‘The Souvenir’ and partnering the new national ‘F-Rating,’ which has been created to identify works with women directors, writers and main protagonists.Supporting Women Filmmakers
Co-incidentally as I write this introduction at the end of the Karlovy-Vary Film Festival in Czech Republic, the last two competition films saw only women on stage presenting their films: Dwein Baltazar’s ‘Ode to Nothing’ from the Philippines, and Martha Stephen’s ‘To the Stars’ (USA). Perhaps times they are a changing?
What is a “Festival” film? This term is now so regularly used by critics and the film industry that it almost implies a genre of its own. The festival film is variously described as challenging, innovative, profound, demanding, provocative, stimulating or even incomprehensible or bonkers! The narratives are sometimes elliptical or non-linear (‘Transit’). The retro use of ‘black and white’ and ‘academy ratio’ (‘Bait’ and Lynn Ramsey’s film ‘Morvern Callar’) is increasing, together with “slow film”, long static camera takes (Carlos Reygadas’ ‘Our Time’), and leisurely pacing often with stunningly composed visuals (‘The Chambermaid’, ‘Strays’). A Festival film is invariably an auteur work as director/writer with original material not from existing books etc. There is now virtually only a Festival Circuit outlet internationally for these films to be seen on the big screen, and 80% of Festival films that I have seen at Cannes. Venice, Berlin, Karlovy Vary never get seen or distributed in the UK, so here in Chichester you have a unique opportunity to sample a few.
Less we get too serious, for pure entertainment we have the three open-air shows in Priory Park (‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, ‘The Lion King’, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’). There are a number of films in a lighter vein - who can resist the charms of ‘The Grand Hotel Ballet’, where in a Swiss hotel school students train to greet guests, fold table clothes and chop vegetables without looking - all set to a singing dancing musical! Or in ‘Happy Ending’ (Denmark) a couple dare to start over again after a 50-year relationship, and in the crazy French film ‘The Shiny Shrimps,’ a genuine Parisian gay water polo team became notorious for their fabulously unconventional bad behaviour. When have we had a feel-good documentary? Look out for ‘The Biggest Little Farm’. And don’t forget to be charmed by the late Bruno Ganz in a rare screening of ‘Bread and Tulips’ or ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’ tribute to the late Michel Legrand.
The golden age of the documentary continues with over 20 new films including a strong political focus with Werner Herzog’s engrossing ‘Meeting Gorbachev’, the whistle-blower in ‘XL Chelsea’, the NHS examined in ‘Under the Knife’, capitalism scrutinized in ‘Capital in the 20th Century’, and Steve Bannion under the spotlight for ‘The Brink’. Don’t miss Michael Klinger’s entertaining documentary ‘The Man Who Got Carter’, which he will introduce about Tony Klinger, his father producer, who made ‘Get Carter’ (also showing separately) amongst other films of note. I am expanding the Jazz focus this year with six great documentaries including ‘Ella Fitzgerald’, ‘Count Basie’, ‘Blue Note Records’, climaxing in an Annie Ross celebration with live jazz, led by fabulous new singer Vimala Rowe and an all-star quartet, beginning with a rare BBC Scotland film on ‘Annie Ross.’
The Festival has always championed new talent and independent world cinema and nearly all are UK Premieres, some from the UK will be introduced by their filmmakers. But we are pleased to be showing films from Moldova (‘Werner Gruber’, a thriller), a brilliant slow burning drama ‘Stray’ from New Zealand, a poetic Russian film ‘The Person Who is Not’, from Ukraine the weirdly humorous ‘The Gendelyk’, and ‘The Funeral’, a disturbing ghost story from China (waiting to be passed by the Chinese censor). Remember specially to vote for these Indies - the film makers are eager for feedback.
Unlike most Festivals, half of our films recall the past with tributes, anniversaries, archives and retrospectives, and this year we are extending the Audience Awards for these films, so now, you can vote for everything you see. We are delighted to welcome director Michael Radford to introduce his ‘Il Postino’, a rare screening now, but one of the most popular films ever made. The retrospective will be supported by six other Radford films. Three other retrospectives are dedicated to the late Albert Finney, Bernardo Bertolucci, Nicholas Roeg, and with a single-film tribute to Bruno Ganz (‘Bread and Tulips’), Ermanno Olmi (‘Il Posto’), plus Stanley Donen, Michel Legrand and Andre Previn. We are pleased to be including two special UK tours of New Canadian Cinema and five films of Japanese master Kore-eda (‘Shoplifters’).
The Treasures from the Archives are the results of superbly digitally restored classics, and some of the longest (over 3 hours) are in our main auditorium with those comfy seats: ‘Woodstock’, ‘Apocalypse Now’, ‘1900’. And a rare 35mm screening of Bertolucci’s 3-hour 30-minute epic ‘The Last Emperor’. Also specialising in 35mm prints only, we are for the first time using the facilities of Slindon Cinema to show two films: ‘Performance’ and ‘The Tango Lesson.’
In the year of the cinema’s Ruby Anniversary this is possibly our most ambitious Festival, so let’s together make it the most successful so far. However, this could not be staged without the enthusiastic support of our Partners (BFI and Greenwood Wealth Solutions), Walter Francisco (General Manager), Carol Godsmark (PR, Marketing & Hospitality), the Projectionists, Box Office Staff, New Park Centre, and those invaluable Volunteers that make everything possible.
Roger Gibson Artistic Director July 2019