SHETLAND’S annual film festival is “better than Cannes” with celebrities queuing up to take part, according to the UK’s leading film critic.
Mark Kermode has given a glowing five stars to the island festival, Screenplay, which opened on Friday and this year features actor Bill Nighy on the opening weekend of his new film.
Previous guests have included Jason Isaacs, who played Lucius Malfoy in Harry Potter, Miranda Richardson and Terence Davies who was inspired by Shetland to begin work on his acclaimed film version of Sunset Song.
“Shetland is better than Cannes,” said Kermode, who helps to curate Screenplay and will present his Radio 5 Live film review show from the islands on Friday. “It is everything Cannes isn’t as it’s friendly, inclusive and all for the audience.
“All the previous guests have loved it and have told their friends, so now there are more offers than can actually be used in one year.”
Kermode said part of the attraction was that guests are able to mingle with the audiences. He said: “I remember seeing Miranda Richardson being taught the Boston Two Step in the bar then when Isaacs finished his talk he said he was going to take his kids to the pool and the whole audience just went too.
“Terence Davies just loved it and began working on Sunset Song while he was there, which turned out to be a huge success. He’d wanted to do it for ages but it all started in Shetland because he was able to get his head clear.”
Kermode, who lives in Southampton, became involved in the UK’s most northerly film festival after taking part in Shetland’s to book festival, Wordplay. Poor weather curtailed the trip, giving him and his partner Linda Williams, a university professor who lectures on film, just a tantalising glimpse of the islands.
The pair, above, were then asked if they would like to help start a film festival – even though Shetland had no cinema at the time. “We thought it would be good as we could then stay longer but then we had to think about who we could have as guests,” Kermode said. “At first it was an uphill struggle getting people to come but that has completely changed. This is the 11th year and we now have an incredible cinema and really lovely guests.”
As well as Nighy, who will take part in a Q&A session after the screening of his latest film, The Limehouse Golem, on Saturday, rising star George MacKay will hold a Q&A after a showing of his 2013 comedy Pride and will also join the audience during a special singalong screening of Sunshine on Leith.
But Kermode, Williams and fellow curator Kathy Hubbard insist the real stars of the show are the contributors to the Home Made screenings of films made by Shetlanders. “We don’t fight with other festivals for the newest releases but show films we like and films we think Shetland will like that cover a range of ages,” Kermode said.
“That is why Kathy is so important as she knows what will appeal and shows films we would not have considered. She makes sure there are films in all locations, gets children and the schools involved and makes sure OAPs are not forgotten about so it is all very inclusive.”
Source: The National