Cromarty Film Festival – An Appreciation in Anticipation

14 Nov 2012 in Festival, Film, Highland

Film-maker Lindy Cameron’s personal appreciation of the Cromarty Film Festival.

YOU KNOW what it’s like when it’s your turn to choose the DVD.

YOU’RE tense, you’re nervous, you laugh a bit louder at the jokes, scream a bit more at the scary bits. Because you’ve made yourself a little bit vulnerable. It’s about your taste after all. Up close and personal. Which actually could be the motto of the Cromarty and Resolis Film Festival, now in its 6th year – Up Close and Personal, and unique in many ways.

The Angel's Share

The Angel's Share - a Gala screening this year

The by-line for this film festival is My Favourite Film Festival, because guests are invited to choose their 5 favourite films, and the committee select one of them to screen. In its 6 years so far the festival has welcomed an impressive array of guests to share their personal cinema favourites and to stay around awhile to watch and talk and eat curry.

Kirsty Wark, Sanjeev Kohli, Eddi Reader, John Byrne, writers Ali Smith, Ian Rankin and AL Kennedy, politician Charles Kennedy. Plus a selection of Scotland’s own brilliant film-makers – Sherlock’s Paul McGuigan, Dr Who’s Douglas Mackinnon, Last King of Scotland’s Andrea Calderwood, Hallam Foe’s David Mackenzie, Rob Roy’s Michael Caton-Jones, and probably Scotland’s most revered producer, Iain Smith – all people at the top of their game with fascinating insight into the business, but all of whom gave of their wisdom and experiences in a chummy, cosy settting. Audiences actually do come away from these sessions feeling not only enlightened but also like they’ve just had a gratifying gossip in Grouchos. Definitely Up Close and Personal.

Cloaked by the fabulous backdrop of Cromarty and its neighbouring parish Resolis, the Committee really make use of the Gothic atmosphere that descends upon the town in deep mid-Winter. There are open-air screenings with braziers and mulled wine, torch-lit walks up to The Stables – venue for gloaming and late night screenings. Animated films are projected onto the mothballed Lighthouse; the warm and welcoming Sutor Creek Cafe is the venue for couthy Scottish gems. The Old Brewery becomes the Festival Hub and offers a chance for a breather and a welcome blether over heart-warming soup, inspiring talks or a dip into the Scottish Screen Archive. And the Gala event on the Sunday night – a curry feast, a fantastic film, and a wee bit of music, is snuggled in to the lovely community atmosphere of Resolis Hall.

Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in Annie Hall

Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in Annie Hall

And so to this year, the festival looks like another cracker. Added to the venues mentioned this time also the Highland Travelling Cinema, the Screen Machine, will make an appearance for its first outing away from its regular circuit.

Among the guests will be the legendary politician Tony Benn, and they will be showing Will and Testament, a deeply moving intimate documentary portrait of the great man, followed by his favourite film which will be Brassed Off, which includes a tour-de-force performance from the late very great Peter Postlethwaite.

Rhona Cameron, comedian and writer will be there, and her chosen film is Woody Allan’s classic Annie Hall. She’ll be quizzed about life, love and what cinema meant to her when she was growing up in Mussleburgh.

Enzo Staiola in Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves

Enzo Staiola in Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves

Screenwriter Paul Laverty, long-time collaborator of Ken Loach’s, in a previous life was a Human Rights Lawyer in Nicaragua which gave him the inspiration for his first feature script, Carla’s Song. His favourite film on this occasion will be the beautiful Italian classic Bicycle Thieves, and this year’s Gala Event will screen his latest hugely popular film, The Angel’s Share.

As if this wasn’t enough also making an appearance will be Moray-based Michael Start, of the House of Automata, who made the models for films like Hugo and the eerie dolls and toys in the Woman in Black, both of which will be screened during the weekend. Armourer Carl Summersgill will give audiences insight into his experiences on films such as the Clash of the Titans and the Eagle of the Ninth. And the lovely Scottish Screen Archive People will be back with a selection of gems with Highland connections from their vaults.

It is worth mentioning, and again this is quite unique, that this film festival is run almost entirely by a volunteer committee – it really is a labour of love and it shows. They work to make themselves sustainable by doing things like creating and selling a beautiful poster of images of ridiculously photogenic Cromarty. But they also get funding from Regional Screen Scotland and other organisations – most happily The Co-op. This year is the International Year of Co-operatives and to celebrate the committee’s relationship with (and on-going support from) the local Co-op membership, the Festival will be screening The Rochdale Pioneers, a recently completed film about the Co-operative movement.

So it’s all go for a full and frantic weekend of all things film.

Comfortable? Certainly. Eccentric? Probably. Magical? Undoubtedly.

And films that mean so much somehow, when seen with people who long for you to like them, no matter who they are.

The 2012 Cromarty Film Festival runs from 30 November until 2 December.

© Lindy Cameron, 2012