Film Festival Review: Plymouth Film Festival 2016 Day One

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The Plymouth Film Festival returned to Plymouth Arts Centre for it’s most successful year yet – Ben Cherry reviews the weekend and the screenings he attended in the first of a three part blog!

I have never been to a Film Festival before. I hadn’t really had the opportunity before, but for some reason or another I felt I needed to go to at least one screening at the Plymouth Film Festival this year, and so I spent the vast majority of my weekend at the Plymouth Arts Centre attending most of the screenings at the festival.

The Plymouth Film Festival was founded by Ben Hancock and William Jenkins back in 2013 and has been an increasingly bigger event ever since. After the weekend had finished I asked William Jenkins what prompted the two of them to set up the festival. He said, “We started it because we wanted to go to it. We figured that if we wanted an event in the city then there must be others that felt the same way. Our long term goal is to raise the profile of film in the South West and to try to elevate Plymouth and the surrounding area to a point where it’s actually viable for film related businesses to establish themselves here.”

The Opening Night

I wanted to review at least one showing each day. I couldn’t make the 3pm showing due to being at work but I was interested in The Pressures of Modern Life screening which I was able to help usher for. Each screening was made up of six to eight films built around a loose theme. I was curious to know how these themes were chosen. Will Jenkins explained, “We watch all submissions and pick out the films we really love and want to screen, then try to work them into loosely structured categories. Some are easier to fit than others of course, but we see popular themes each year, and that helps the underlying concepts or ideals of the films we stay current to”. In the Modern Life showing six short films were played for the fairly busy cinema and I got my first insight into the world of film festivals.

All six films were very strong. One of the most enjoyable films in the screening was Murder Selfie, directed by Tobias Tobbell. The film follows a couple who suffer a home invasion by two masked characters and the events of the film are told via the character’s social media platforms.  The film is almost a throwback to the Silent film era, relying on soundtrack and the phone messages on the screen to drive the narrative instead of spoken dialogue. The humour was black and some of the extremities of the character’s actions were not overly outlandish disturbingly. Social media does bring out an obsession of gaining more ‘likes’, ‘followers’ etc. and this obsession is what motivates the character’s in the film. Like all of the films shown at the festival the subject is very relevant to 2016.

My favourite film however and maybe out of the entire festival was the much deserved Best Fiction award winner, ‘I Used to Be Famous’ directed by Eddie Sternberg. The film follows a failed nineties boyband star Vince, who is desperate to get back in the public consciousness and ends up meeting a gifted young man who he connects with musically. The film is both painfully funny and painfully tragic. The film really reminded me of Ricky Gervais’ The Office where the humour is derived by awkward situations and the delusions of grandeur from the main character. It wasn’t only the humour that felt Office-influenced. The climax of the film where Vince plays a concert for his new found friend and the general public was heart-warming and life affirming without resorting to being overly sentimental. The Office does something similar in its finale by offering a positive and realistic resolution to its characters. The film gave in my opinion the best line of the festival with Vince trying to sell his boyband to a non-believer by saying they were ‘like 5ive but Street’. I was pleasantly surprised by how good the film was and could have happily watched it as a feature length film.

Ben Cherry

Parts 2 and 3 of Ben’s review available later this week!

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