What better way is there to introduce the local celebration of films encompassing such diverse themes as human rights, societies in transition, same sex relationships, and policing, than to send scantily-clad, barely post-pubescent girls around the room serving media types and party crashers whiskey sours at noon? While I’m sure the good folks at the Belfast Film Festival didn’t dress the young ladies, kudos to them for choosing a PR firm that provided an excuse to get a buzz before lunch. I am firmly convinced that one could spend a very enjoyable, if not lucrative, life simply figuring out when and where events are being launched and crash the party. You might have to settle for never having any food that doesn’t involve a tooth-pick but small price to pay for your fill of glossy pamphlets and free wine.
The continuous cycle of festivals in Northern Ireland rotated to film as the 7th annual Belfast Film Festival introduced this year’s programme (and their corporate sponsor, Jameson) Tuesday at the Black Box. The festival will run from March 22 until April 1. I really enjoyed last year’s film festival for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was that I got to meet Jett when we walked out of the same horrible movie. Now, that might not be the greatest commercial for the festival but I will say that I saw a lot of movies during that time and Three Needles was the only one that I walked out of. In fact, the film that followed Three Needles also sported the word “three” in the title and was one of the best films of the year. Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, Tommy Lee Jones’ first foray into directing, took place in the borderlands between both the United States and Mexico and between life and death, empathetically telling the story of those who dwell in these shadowy spaces. I absolutely loved the film, and since we had time for a nice dinner due to the unexpected brevity of the previous film, I was able to thoroughly enjoy the movie on a full stomach.
The best part of the festival is its diversity of subject matter and genres. For someone who studies random war zones and loves documentaries, the festival comes close to being the proverbial candy store. Where else, in Northern Ireland at least, can you see a film about the war between Azerbaijan and Armenia or about Haitian gang leaders in the hell-like slum of Port-au-Prince, Cite Soleil? If you happen not to prefer to fill your time with images of violence and suffering, you could go to the drive-in to see Dirty Dancing or watch Kenneth Branagh celebrate the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth with his interpretation of The Magic Flute. There’s also a film entirely in an Australian Aboriginal language, a film about Guatemalan prostitutes challenging policewomen to a soccer match, an entire night devoted to the films of Chevy Chase, and a variety of Japanese anime, including Paprika, a movie the festival brochure describes as “a head-on collision between Hello Kitty and Philip K. Dick.” Now, how could you miss all of that?
There’s a lot more to the festival than that; I just chose what jumped out at me during a quick perusal of events. I’ll be writing more about the festival throughout the month of March so stay tuned for Erin’s picks on film festival fun. I’ll try to throw in options outside of the human rights/war zone genres for those of you interested in films with lighter subject matter. For now, you can consult the official Film Festival web site for all you festive cinematic needs. And all you out-of-towners, don’t forget Jett’s infamous offer of lodging.
(Photo at top: frame from the Magic Flute, picture above from Ghosts of Cite Soleil)