GFF diary, episode two

I am a fugitive from a chain gang...

by Jennie Kermode

One thing that's for sure about any film festival is that things never go to plan. This is partly because actors and directors have their own wayward schedules, partly because projection equipment is innately unreliable, and partly because even we reviewers are unfortunately subject to the intrusion of real life. This is why it's important for everyone to pull together and help out, generating a spirit not unlike that of a chain gang. Got to keep the rhythm to keep those films rolling along.

A new member of the gang was introduced on Saturday, as the CCA began the first stage of its participation in this year's event. No more contenting itself with just paintings and sculpture; no more being closed at random times and denying passers-by the city's best crême brulée - it was time for the Centre for Contemporary Arts to get serious about film. Short film, to be precise, as this is undoubtedly what it does best. Particularly popular was the evening screening of Night Terrors, five scary little snippets from directors who don't usually venture onto that sort of territory. She Wanted To Be Burnt director Ruth Paxton and several of the films' stars were hanging around in the bar to talk to audience members afterwards. And if that wasn't scary enough, half an hour later at the GFT there was a screening of George Romero's eagerly awaited Diary Of The Dead. Other highlights of the evening included the enchanting Honeydripper and coming of age drama XXY.

Sunday began with something special for younger viewers: the UK premiere of The Spiderwick Chronicles; whilst those horror fans were back out in droves to watch Teeth, which proved enormously popular - "The funniest film I've seen for ages," said one fan. By this time the GFT had acquired a permanent crowd which seemed to linger regardless of what was actually going on on the screens, and the atmosphere in the lobby was very excitable. The staff were excited too. "I've just heard that, as of this afternoon, ticket sales for the festival have already exceeded all those from last year," said festival director Allison Gardner. Guest of Honour John Sayles, who really enjoyed his afternoon masterclass, was also very positive about he festival, predicting a bright future.

In the evening, I got a taste of eagerly anticipated Lebanese film Caramel, which is scheduled to open across the UK in May. Slow-paced but always involving, it proved as sweet as anything in my favourite Lebanese restaurant (Shallal on Gibson Street, for anyone who wants to try), but it was never cloying. Definitely one of the best of the festival so far.

Monday morning started early for me as I set off for the Malmaison Hotel to interview John Sayles. Over a nice cup of tea in the extraordinarily noisy bar we talked about Honeydripper and The Spiderwick Chronicles, which he co-wrote. He was delightfully verbose (which always makes my job easier!) and really knew his stuff. I was just that bit too shy to tell him that I've been a fan ever since I saw The Brother From Another Planet, which I doubt anyone else remembers now, but it was an interesting discussion nonetheless.

We finished with just enough time for me to rush home and do some editing before my afternoon screening of Thieves. This story of a young man who learned the craft of picking pockets at a very early age stood out because of its inventive dizzy visuals, but they proved to be a bit more than I could cope with, as I was starting to feel quite ill. I got to wondering about that nice cup of tea. Thieves is all about the art of looking nonchalant, however, and I sat neatly in my place doing my best to concentrate on my job until a projector fault gave me the excuse I needed to nip out, inform the staff of their technical problems and then vomit discreetly in the toilets. I managed the rest of the film, but afterward staggered home blearily, collapsing into bed. Turning off lights, taking pills, and texting frantically. I don't know what we did before mobile phones. There was no way I could make My Blueberry Nights in the evening but the lovely Emma, down in London, was able to cover it. Unfortunately there was less I could do about supporting Stuart at the evening launch of his Moving Pictures exhibition in the Thirteenth Note. Apparently he managed pretty well on his own, but he accepted rather too many drinks and couldn't remember how he got home; the following morning he was sicker than me.

Unable to work the next day, I had to call upon the rest of the gang to help out. Fortunately I had been providing crashspace for an old friend, Hojheg, who also happens to be a writer, so he agreed to cover the afternoon screening of The Girl By The Lake for me. Andrew bravely took on Rambo in the morning to keep those new releases in order. In the evening Stuart attended the special film festival supporters' screening of The Letter which I'd been invited to, and reported that the party afterwards went very well - he left at ten and was still able to communicate clearly, so it would seem that he was sufficiently circumspect not to indulge too much in my share of the free drinks.

Today I'm back at work and setting up weekend interviews as Angel and The Bank Job keep packing those punters in. There's really not much point in trying to escape from a chain gang. Sooner or later they'll find you again. Or you'll end up like the Thieves, and that ain't pretty.

More soon; watch this space...

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