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The Crack Magazine


Lighthouse! Cameras! Action!

The Whitley Bay Film Festival is noted for its incredibly imaginative programming, special guests and quirky venues, and punters should be in cinematic heaven this August/September because the organisers have reached deep into their goodie bag and pulled out some real cinematic plums.

And the first cinematic plum that really jumps out at me is a screening of Valerie and her Week of Wonders at St. Mary’s Lighthouse (pictured). This 1970 film from Czechoslovakian director Jaromil Jireš will be introduced by artist Paul Harvey, in advance of his latest exhibition in Prague, who has completed a rather glorious painting especially for the festival, which will be on display at the lighthouse. If you’ve not seen the film then you’re in for a real treat. Peter Hames, (author of 'The Czechoslovak New Wave'), puts it well: “In approaching Valerie and her Week of Wonders it’s quite difficult whether to say this is a horror film, this is a fantasy film, this is a soft-porn film, this is an art film, because it’s not really any of those things, but in some way it’s all of these things. It’s a film you should be prepared to be surprised by. As soon as you try to put a firm interpretation on it, it reverses it…” And, as Harvey comments, “Once seen, never forgotten.”

I always look forward to a visit to the region from Graham Fellows (aka John Shuttleworth, aka Jilted John) and he will be bringing his It’s Nice Up North to the Crescent Club in Cullercoats. Filmed by internationally renowned photographer, Martin Parr, the film is a hilarious spoof documentary in which John Shuttleworth tests the popular theory that the further north you travel, the friendlier people will be. Expect to hear Shuttleworth’s usual priceless musings, as well as plenty of This-Is-Britain visuals from Parr.

Another special festival guest arrives in the shape of Peter Flannery, writer of the award-winning drama Our Friends in the North. He’ll be chatting to Chris Phipps about this classic saga of the political and personal fortunes of four north-east friends over the period of three decades.

Local cultural historian Chris Phipps will also be on hand to introduce a number of classics including one of the key sci-fi films Things To Come at the Jam Jar Cinema in Whitley Bay. An 80th anniversary film screening, this epic traces the fate of a world ravaged by World War 3 and rebuilt by a technocratic state ruled by aviators. The film remains breathtaking with le Corbusier landscapes, wrist videophones, monocopters and a Jules Vernian space gun.

Phipps will also introduce Tales of Terror, a 1962 movie from that master of schlocky horror, Roger Corman. The film features a trilogy of Edgar Allen-Poe inspired tales and showcases three top Hollywood talents in Vincent Price, Basil Rathbone and Peter Lorre. Also attending this screening will be Mark Iveson, author of Cursed Horror Stars, who will reveal some of the real life demons battled by actors like Lorre, Lugosi, Chaney Jr and Robert Quarry.

More Phipps? He’ll also be on hand to present The Kinetoscope Show 2 at the Crescent Club. This will feature over 50 years of wonderful BBC archive footage from the region, much of it not seen publicly since its original broadcast. Brace yourself for excepts from a 1971 BBC documentary on T Dan Smith and his £90m scheme to make Newcastle ‘The Brasillia of the North’; clips from All Dressed Up and Going Nowhere (1972), where it’s skinheads verses hairies around the streets of Newcastle; and Muhammad Ali’s celebrated 1977 visit to South Shields.

Sci-fi fans are sure to be chopping at the bit for a screening of Fritz Lang’s 1927 classic Metropolis at The Rendezvous Café in Whitley Bay, which will have a live electronic soundtrack courtesy of coastal analogue sensation The Mediators.

There has been plenty of Alice in Wonderland shenanigans kicking around of late, and there will be a very welcome screening of Jan Svankmajer’s 1988 movie, Alice, at St. Mary’s Lighthouse. A memorably surreal take on Lewis Caroll’s novel, it mixes one live actor with a large variety of stop-motion animated creatures.

One of the more unusual venues this year will be Cobalt 23 at Colbalt Business Park, which is being taken over for a unique screening of Dolly Parton’s movie debut, Nine To Five. Get dolled up in your best office wear and be prepared for some hot-desking…

 Naturally there has been a lot of projects this year to mark World War One and the Jam Jar Cinema will be screening the film documentation of the Cloud Nine Theatre Company’s award-winning Death At Dawn. Filmed earlier this year, it marks the centenary of young North Shields soldier William Hunter, one of more that 300 soldiers shot at dawn in France during the First World War.

As usual the festival will also feature Arthouses, a free programme of moving image installations in homes, gardens and site-specific locations around Whitley Bay; and this year the festival will be screening films as part of the Green Beans Community Sunday Market, which will feature free walk-in screenings of films with local interest.

STOP PRESS: Just heard that the festival is being launched at the lovely Rendezvous Café on Saturday 13 August with a showing of Tony Hancock’s magnificent The Punch and Judy Man, a film whose reputation has grown year on year since its release in 1963. A seaside film for a seaside town. And it’s also came to light that there is to be a screening of the fabulous Ealing Films comedy The Titfield Thunderbolt, at the Station Masters Community Garden. More news on these, as well as the programme above, and other additions, can be had from the website, below.

Whitley Bay Film Festival, 13 August-4 September. Full programme from: whitleybayfilmfestival.co.uk            

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