Once upon a Tyne Valley Film Festival
After the huge success of the first Tyne Valley Film Festival in 2019, it’s little wonder that it’s back this year, and, once again, the Forum Cinema in Hexham are at the forefront of this most singular of events. The festival brings together rural film clubs, venues and community organisations with one thing in mind: a celebration of cinema. And this year’s programme spans the entire history of the form, from pre-sound classics to contemporary foreign language releases.
Opening the festival on 19 March at Forum Cinema – in collaboration with Hexham Book Festival, Northumberland Libraries and New Writing North – is a talk by award-winning author Horatio Clare, followed by a screening of Chasing Ice, a visually stunning documentary which follows the efforts of nature photographer James Balog as he publicises the effects of climate change in the Arctic.
On 20 March, again at Forum Cinema, there is a screening of Citizen Kane (pictured) on 35mm. Orson Welles’ film is rightly regarded as a masterwork – with plenty of ground-breaking technical whiz-bangery to keep any cineaste happy – but it’s a film that is also just so damn entertaining. It wears its status very lightly and you should never pass up the chance to catch it on the big screen.
The beautiful setting of Hexham Abbey is the venue on 21 March for a screening of a special restoration of the 1929 reissue of The Phantom of the Opera, and bringing it to life will be Jonathan Eyre who will provide expert live organ accompaniment. Directed by Rupert Julian this classic horror stars the incomparable Lon Chaney in one of his most iconic roles.
On 21 March, Wylam Film Club are showing a riotous Serbian comedy Black Cat, White Cat at Wylam Institute. The film will be preceded by an acoustic set of Balkan gypsy ballads by violin and accordion duo Ruth and Annie Ball. Director Emir Kusturica brings together a giddy melange of farce, romance and crime that unfolds at an intoxicating pace within a community of gypsies.
Forum Cinema will shining a light on the career of the first female filmmaker, Alice Guy-Blaché on 22 March, with a screening of new documentary Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché. Narrated by Jodie Foster, the film investigates the full scope of the life and work of cinema’s first female director, screenwriter, producer and studio owner. It will be followed by some of her short films made between 1912-1916.
Classic British comedy will get an airing on 23 March when Tyne Valley Community Rail Partnership present a screening of the 1937 Will Hay classic Oh Mr Porter! This will be screened inside the Old Booking Hall at Haltwhistle Train Station. Lovely!
Hexham’s underground music venue The Vault is hosting a screening of Ken Russell’s 1975 rock music Tommy, followed by some live music by The Parkers, on 25 March. A creative tour-de-force this classic has an incredible cast that includes The Who, Elton John, Tina Turner, Eric Clapton and Jack “it’s really him!” Nicolson.
On 26 March, music is also the focus at Fuse Cinema in Prudhoe with a screening of Everything: The Real Thing Story. Dubbed “the black Beatles”, the four lads from Liverpool recount their incredible story from the tough streets of Toxteth to the bright lights of New York.
Forum Cinema welcome British astronomer Gary Fildes on 27 March with a screening of Searching for Light, a documentary which follows Gary on a journey of a lifetime as he travels through the Chilean Atacama Desert visiting the world’s largest observatories that sit under the darkest skies. This will be followed by a Q&A.
One 28 March, inside Hexham Abbey’s Great Hall, enjoy afternoon tea (rather than breakfast…) before a screening of the Audrey Hepburn romcom Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
To close the festival, on 29 March, Forum Cinema are presenting a screening of one of the year’s best films, Portrait of a Lady on Fire. Set in late 18th century France, painter Marianne is commissioned by an affluent countess to paint the wedding portrait of her sheltered but headstrong daughter Héloïse, in the hope it will find her a wealthy husband. However, as the two women grow closer, their intimacy and attraction begins to blossom, paving the way for a simmering, star-crossed romance.
We don’t have room to cover the whole programme here (be sure to check the website below for the whole caboodle) but I simply have to find room to mention The Motorcycle Diaries at Allendale Village Hall (which details the fascinating tale of Che Guevara – 19 March); Spirited Away (possibly the greatest of all animated films from Japan’s incredible Studio Ghibli, Forum Cinema – 22 March); The Breakfast Club (John Hughes’ 80s classic, Fuse Cinema, Prudhoe – 23 March); and Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (not just one of the greatest silent films of all time, but one of the greatest films. Period. Forum Cinema – 24 March).Tyne Valley Film Festival, 19-29 March. For further information and to book tickets: tynevalleyfilmfestival.com