August 15, 2008

Offbeat Film Festival Will Be a Ball


WITH no red carpet, paparazzi or glitzy after-show party, and not even a cinema, Scotland's latest film festival is by no means conventional.

The first Nairn film festival, founded by Oscar-winning actress Tilda Swinton, launches today, showing an offbeat mix of classic, unusual and obscure films - in a former ballroom.

Entry is GBP 3 - or free if you bring a tray of home-baked cakes - and the audience will sit on beanbags.

The idea for a festival on the Moray Firth came when Swinton, "on a quixotic whim", according to Mark Cousins, a former director of the Edinburgh International Film Festival and co-organiser, decided to rent an old ballroom in the town, known as the Ballerina, where Pink Floyd and the Who once played.

The festival will run for eight and a half days - because when Swinton, who played the White Witch in the Chronicles of Narnia, came up with the idea she was making a film about falling in love with cinema at the age of eight and a half.

Federico Fellini's 8 will close the festival on 23 August.

The festival has attracted movie buffs from as far away as the United States and Finland and extra screenings of some films in the 200-seat venue are being arranged to match demand.

Swinton, who lives in Nairn, will break from filming the romantic drama I Am Love in Italy to attend.

The programme includes Roman Polanski's The Fearless Vampire Killers; All About Eve, starring Bette Davis; and Murder Most Foul, with Margaret Rutherford.

The 1964 Ukrainian film Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors and Singin' in the Rain will also be screened along with the premiere of God Gives Nuts, But He Does Not Crack Them, UK director Matt Hulse's 2008 short.

Audiences will be encouraged to cheer and make a noise at the end of films.

"In France people whoop and boo at films, in the non-posh bits of American cities too", says the festival website. "As well as your passion, humour, goodwill and cake, could you bring a jam jar of peas to rattle, or some other kind of noise-making instrument."

Opening night will be exactly 135 years since the venue, built as a public hall, opened with a grand ball on 15 August, 1873.

Later it became a concert venue, attracting bands such as Pink Floyd, The Who, Cream, Fleetwood Mac, Status Quo and the Bay City Rollers. In more recent years it has been a clothes shop, social club and bingo hall.

Matt Lloyd, spokesman for the event, said: "We could have sold out twice over for some films. People are attracted because it's so different, the spirit in which it's being done and the fact the programme is quite unlike anything else.

There seems to be a set model for film festivals and this is an attempt to step outside that repetitive model."

Talks are already taking place to make the festival a regular event. Among those attending will be representatives from Scottish Screen, the national screen agency for Scotland, which is supporting the festival with GBP 10,000 of lottery money.

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