Keswick Film Festival

Festival History

Whether you're new to the event or want to revel in remembrance of films past, former Keswick Film Club Chairman Rod Evans takes you on a journey through the past.

KFF5 February 2004

Stephen Frears
Stephen Frears

Trying to identify a well-known name to give the Festival some scope and appeal, first approaches were made to Terry Gilliam and Richard Attenborough, but they both regretted their unavailability. We had also thought of Stephen Frears, who had a slightly slimmer volume of work behind him (as pointed out in The Independent by David Thompson - "what, a retrospective already??!!") but Frears was difficult to pin down - although he didn't refuse our invitation. Thompson's view was: "I'm not sure that Stephen Frears has ever had a plan. I think he sees himself as muddling along, utterly English yet very drawn to the fun of being in America and making a few American films, and more or less confident in this age of forgetfulness that hardly anyone (except the citizens of Keswick) grasp just what he has done, or managed, or got away with."

In the end Stephen Frears couldn't get to the festival, although seven of his films were programmed (2 made for TV) and he came along instead at the beginning of April to introduce My Beautiful Laundrette and visit the students at Carlisle College, with whom the Festival was developing a promising relationship.

The 'Best of the Fests' strand, so successful hitherto, was polished up once more, and accounted for 6 of the films on the programme, including the intriguing Cloud Cuckoo Land, directed by Matt Dickinson, which was receiving only its second UK screening after a win in Italy. Co-written by its star, Steve Varden, who himself suffers from cerebral palsy, it tells the tale of a young man searching for adventure, freedom and love by taking to the air despite his physical handicap. It attracted by far the biggest audience - virtually a sell-out at the Theatre - and, along with One of the Hollywood Ten, headed the list of most popular films, probably as much for its virtue of having been shot locally to Keswick as its inherent artistry.

David Miller devised his 'Buried Treasure' strand - films that undeservedly had not had a proper release: Christy Malry's Own Double Entry, One of the Hollywood Ten, Winter Kills, The Stunt Man (starring Peter O'Toole), giving the Festival a very welcome eye-opening dimension. Our (by this time) old friend Neil Sinyard (later to become Professor of Film Studies at Hull University) would be hosting an interview with the filmmakers Paul Tickell, Karl Francis, Nick Moran and Bruno Coppola about the problems of getting films to the screen, and Neil would also be giving two talks, one on Frears and the other on the Hollywood Blacklist during the McCarthy era.

We had some welcome local support again, Booths declaring themselves willing to help and supplying food for an opening do and a Cloud Cuckoo Land party - committee members showed a fair degree of energy and KFF5 saw the portentous advent of Alex Greenwood, a new, film-festival-experienced member who volunteered to mingle with the punters to get a feel of how the Festival was really regarded. Financially speaking, KFF5 was reasonably successful in achieving an 11% increase in ticket sales and a 7.5 increase in box office receipts over the 2003 event, but a dip in funding (grants were becoming hard to obtain) meant that care would be needed for the way ahead.

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