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The Crack Magazine


Whitley Bay Film Festival

All the big stars are coming to Whitley Bay this August in celluloid form as the 10th Whitley Bay Film Festival shouts lights, cameras, action!

It all began with a shark on a beach. Ten years ago some people got together and thought it would be a jolly wheeze to screen ‘Jaws’ on the beach and lo, the Whitley Bay Film Festival was born. And over the last ten years the festival has bloomed to become of our favourite events in the north-east. It’s all down to the quality of their curveball programming as well as the quirky venues that make it such a winner.

This year the festival is being launched at the lovely Rendezvous Café with a screening of The Smallest Show on Earth (1957). This comedy sees a young couple inheriting a debt-ridden old movie theatre and it stars the cream of post-war British talent including Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna playing alongside the estimable likes of Margaret Rutherford, Peter Sellers, Leslie Phillips and Sid James. 

I don’t suppose there’s a year goes by when I don’t watch Mike Leigh’s Nuts in May (1976) and – hooray! – it’s coming to the Crescent Club in Cullercoats. This television film was originally part of the BBC’s Play for Today strand and sees Alison Steadman and Roger Sloman starring as Candice Marie and Keith, a nature-loving couple on a camping holiday. Needless to say the other campers on the site don’t come up to their high eco-standards and conflict ensues. Hilariously. Later, on the same evening, another of Mike Leigh’s televisual treats, Abigail’s Party (1977), will also be screened. This suburban comedy of manners also stars Alison Steadman in the couldn’t-be-more-different role of Beverley, a monstrous social climber who invites her neighbours round for drinks. Excruciatingly. 

The Rendezvous Café is also the venue for a rare screening of the classic silent film Sunrise (1927). Directed by the German master F.W. Murnau (Nosferatu, Metropolis) it’s an allegorical tale about a man fighting the good and evil within him. It’s often cited as one of the greatest silent films ever made, if not the greatest, and to see it today one is astonished by the boldness of its visual experimentation. This screening will feature a live electronic soundtrack from The Mediators. 

Another of my personal favourites is being screened at the Jam Jar Cinema in the shape of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960). Based on the Alan Sillitoe novel of the same name this prime cut of British kitchen sink drama sees Albert Finney giving one of his finest performances as a Nottingham factory worker who lives for his weekend diet of birds and booze. It will be introduced by local cultural historian Chris Phipps.

Phipps will also be at St. Mary’s Lighthouse – along with Mark Iveson (author of ‘Cursed Horror Stars’) – for The Uninvited (1944). This superior ghost story sees a brother and sister (Ray Milland and Ruth Hussey) holidaying in Cornwell. They fall in love with, and move into, Windward House, an abandoned chintzy English seaside home. But the reason they’re able to pick up this gothic pile for a song is that it has something of an unsavoury past…

There will be lots more for horror and sci-fi fans to get their teeth into at St. Mary’s Lighthouse this year with screenings of The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951) and Godzilla (1954). The Day The Earth Stood Still is one of THE great genre films of the 1950s and this screening (also introduced by Chris Phipps) will include a theremin demonstration from Dr Brown (a theremin crops up on the film’s eerie soundtrack). It’s not all chills at St. Mary’s. The lighthouse will also screen the Disney classic The Little Mermaid (1980).

Another British 1960s classic, Whistle Down The Wind (pictured - 1961), will be shown at Eccles Hall in Earsdon. Featuring a fantastic turn from a young Hayley Mills it sees an injured murderer (Alan Bates) taking refuge in the barn of a remote Lancashire farm. He is discovered by three children who believe him to be the second coming of Christ.

There will also be several Amnesty International events this year including a screening of Children of War at the Tyne Theatre and Opera House in Newcastle. Filmed in the war-zone of northern Uganda over a three-year period, this is a unique and incandescent documentary that follows a group of former child soldiers as they escape the battlefield. It will be followed by a panel discussion with contributions from Amnesty staff.

We’ve only highlighted some of our own particular favourites from this year’s festival. Be sure to check the full programme from the website, below.

Whitley Bay Film Festival, Friday 16 August-Sunday 1 September. whitleybayfilmfestival.co.uk      

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