A look ahead to the Derby Film Festival

Sir John Hurt (c) Graham Lucas Commons

Sir John Hurt (c) Graham Lucas Commons - Credit: Archant

Nigel Powlson discovers what’s in store at Derby Film Festival, which takes up a November slot for the first time, and talks to Festival Patron Anwen Hurt

Adam Marsh

Adam Marsh - Credit: Archant

There are more films being made than ever before but your chances of seeing them on a cinema screen are dwindling. With most multiplexes concentrating on a handful of blockbusters, it's left to independent cinemas like Derby's QUAD to champion the diversity of international filmmaking.

That's the arts centre's ambition all year round but especially at the annual Derby Film Festival where you can see a host of new films over the course of four days.

The festival has moved from May to November this year to help it reach an even wider audience as QUAD's Adam Marsh explained.

'We felt there was a ceiling on how many people would come in May, regardless of the films and guests, so we thought by moving to November we would give it a time to grow - it's a part of the year when people want to be watching films.'

Ken Loach Photo: Graham Lucas Commons

Ken Loach Photo: Graham Lucas Commons - Credit: Archant

As we went to press QUAD was hoping to confirm that Ken Loach will attend the festival for a Q&A.

Adam said: 'We want to present him with our Hero of Cinema award and screen his new film Sorry We Missed You which has had great reviews at Cannes. It looks like a film that does what Ken Loach does best, commenting on society as it is today. The impact Ken Loach has had on cinema in the last 50 years, from Kes to I, Daniel Blake (which won the Palme D'Or at Cannes), is incredible.'

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On the Friday of the festival, QUAD will again be collaborating with Derby Cathedral for a special screening with live music, following on from the success of Nosferatu, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Phantom of the Opera.

This year Neil Brand will be bringing his score for Alfred Hitchcock's 1929 silent classic Blackmail to the Cathedral. Adam said: 'Black and white silent films with live music are really evocative in the Cathedral and Neil's doing a workshop for us on the following morning as well.'

Adam Buss, Sir John Hurt, Phil Davis, Adam Marsh Photo: Graham Lucas Commons

Adam Buss, Sir John Hurt, Phil Davis, Adam Marsh Photo: Graham Lucas Commons - Credit: Archant

The festival will also be screening the latest offering from Derby producer Dominic Burns - Madness in the Method.

Adam says, 'They filmed in Derby with the Council House standing in for a Los Angeles courtroom. It's also the last screen appearance of Marvel's Stan Lee, who made a cameo appearance in the film just before he died. Matt Willis from Busted is in it and we are hoping that some of the cast will be along for the screening.'

The call out for submissions for films for the festival has seen three times as many entries as last year.

Adam said: 'It has gone amazingly well and we have a team of judges working hard viewing them all. We will be doing an expansive shorts programme and turning our digital studio into a fourth screen and showing packages of short films on loops. We will curate a couple of packages and screen them in the cinemas as well.

My Extraordinary Summer with Tess

My Extraordinary Summer with Tess - Credit: Archant

'We have films from all around the world including China, Iran, France, America, Sweden and many more countries.

'Whenever we open up for submissions it makes you realise how many films are being made each year. We have had so many brand new feature films put forward and they are getting at least eight out of 10 from the judges which makes it really difficult to find room for all the really good ones. Some are genre films, and some are just quite small dramas. The way the cinema market is at the moment you wonder who is going to embrace these films and if we don't show them, who is going to?

'That means there will be a significant strand of brand-new cinema that has certainly never played in Derby before and maybe hasn't played anywhere in the UK. Alongside that we will be cherry picking a handful of specially curated films with a higher profile that have played other festivals and will be released in the UK later in the year.

'One of the reasons I'm so excited about showing new films is that I saw My Extraordinary Summer with Tess in Berlin. It's a Dutch family film, really sweet. I thought it was absolutely brilliant, but at the same time I couldn't imagine how it was going to get screenings in the UK. It won't be seen alongside Toy Story 4 in the multiplexes. But I loved it and I want to introduce the people of Derbyshire to it. That will play on the Saturday afternoon and it's a remarkable film with universal themes.

'Because it's a festival you almost certainly won't have heard of the vast majority of films but hopefully by putting them together like this, we are encouraging people to come and take a chance. You might see something you don't like but you are more likely to see something great that makes it worthwhile.

'There is always going to be greater awareness of films with big advertising budgets that you can see promoted on posters on the side of buses. But there is room for other films and there are more being made than ever before because of the ease of technology. This means there has to be a curation - if you tried to watch everything being made you would go crazy. Hopefully, we will guide our audiences to some amazing film experiences.' u

Derby Film Festival takes place from 14th to 18th November. Go to www.derbyfilmfestival.co.uk for details. Weekend passes are available that give you admission to all events (you will still need to book seats for the most popular events) or you can watch individual films/events.