Monday, 14 October 2013

Chagford Film Festival 2013 - another unqualified success!

Indigo for an incubus.
Elizabeth-Jane Baldry
accompanied 'Nosferatu'
in a stunning evening gown

Jubilee Hall Wed 25 Sept

Congratulations to the Chagford Film Festival Committee. Elizabeth-Jane Baldry, Don Badger, Stephen Saunders, et al have come up with the goods once again.

Tony Hawks
The ball's in your court!
The 2013 Chagford Film Festival has been has been as popular and successful as ever. This is not just a film festival - It is a feast of film and film related events. Visitors to Chagford for even one day of this fabulous week come away with a wealth of exciting and unexpected experiences.

Countdown to convivial entertainment.
Oscars, cinema memorabilia & films
- all in the Chagford Globe Cinema
Things started in style with a gala opening. Gypsy music, a full choir, a colourful and delicious spread laid on at the Globe Inn, all to welcome a very special guest.

Comedian and Author, Tony Hawks, was in Chagford for the screening of his film 'Playing the Moldovans at Tennis', which came out in 2012.

The setting was intimate. Upstairs, the Globe has a very surprising feature. A small cinema (with bar!) seats up to 100 for a cosy evening of movie entertainment. After the film, Tony took questions from the floor, and was on hand until late in the evening to discuss his work.

Elizabeth-Jane Baldry
Live harp music at Jubilee Hall
The week continued with more movies screened in the Globe, and other venues as well. Local film makers had the day to themselves on Wednesday - with the screening of an incredible fifteen short films by local directors in the Globe Cinema. Congratualtion to the Festival Committee for completing the selection process to include all submissions - and reformating every film to fit a consistent format.

Historic Endecott House  was the setting for the big-screen classic 'The King and I' on Thursday afternoon, While on Wednesday night Jubilee Hall was home to a sell-out spectacular, 'Nosferatu'. This silent movie from 1922 was shown with live accompaniment by professional movie accompanist and composer Elizabeth-Jane Baldry.

Elizabeth-Jane herself gave the introductions. This extraordinary film was the only movie by German production company 'Prana Films'. Their buddhist-inspired logo was seen briefly on German bill-boards in 1922 before the film was withdrawn and the company declared bankrupt to avoid legal action by Bram Stoker's family for infringement of copyright.

Max Schrek is Count Orlok
Florence Stoker rightly claimed that the story is a thinly disguised reworking of Bram's novel 'Dracula'. If she had had her way, all copies of the film would have been destroyed. Luckily one print had already been distributed and copies have been preserved by enthusiasts ever since.

There is more to this than a regular vampire story. 'Nosferatu' implies not only the undead, but also the unclean (νόσου φορέα = disease carrier). Count Orlok (the equivalent of Stoker's Dracula) comes to Germany in a coffin which is accompanied by five other coffins - all filled with soil from his 'unhallowed' grave.

Salzspeicher warehouses in Lübeck
The soil is infested with rats which infect the crew of the cargo ship Demeter with plague. By demonic power the ship still docks in Germany and the plague spreads. Orlok moves into his unlikely looking 'house' (an abandoned salt warehouse in Lübeck) and leers through the windows each night at his neighbour Ellen Hutter, whose blood he hopes to consume.

In 1918, three years before the film was made, Germany had suffered an epidemic of 'Spanish 'Flu' (the same H1N1 strain which caused 17,000 deaths from 'swine flu' in 2009). In 1918 influenza killed 20% of people infected - and half the fatalities were in young adults. Although the infection originated in New England it easily crossed the battle lines of the Western Front and, during the last two months of the war, killed more people in Germany than all the military actions of the war itself. (2.6M vs 2M).

A terrible discovery
Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim)
stumbles upon Count Orlok
in a casket of infectious earth
Most memorable for Germans was the sudden decimation of communities without warning. Impressions from the time, and ideas about what countermeasures should have been taken were translated back in time to 1838, when the film is set. The photography of Fritz Wagner and Günther Krampf, coupled with the painstaking direction of Friedrich Murnau transport any audience effortlessly to the Germany of Felix Mendelssohn and Robert Schumann - at the end of the pre-industrial era.

Nosferatu is no more . . .
Hans Erdman's original orchestral score survives only in part, requiring additional writing or improvisation to accompany the whole film. It gently massages the audience's mood to match the subject matter with it's romantic themes, following the rhythm of the action neatly. (Murnau made this somewhat easier by directing the actors to perform to the beat of a metronome.)

A natural choice for any professional accompanist, this was Elizabeth-Jane's inspiration for this year's film festival. Working, as always, scene by scene, Elizabeth had created a harp accompaniment which matched the mood of the story, complementing the atmospheric imagery. In addition, the distinctive sound of her harp Oberon followed the action faithfully while making seemless links between the successive scenes.

Reincarnation Street - Cert 18
After Elizabeth's performance there was a chance to see a an extra special local film-maker's creation. At 11pm, Jacki Juno's 'Reincarnation Street' brought the sights and sounds of Totnes to Chagford - as a fabulous puppet animation.

After a late night of film fun, Lucy Moore and Stephen Saunders started Thursday with a very productive screenwriting workshop attended by several aspiring authors - and two more established film experts - Jackie Juno and Elizabeth Jane Baldry.

'Cockneys vs Zombies'
Producer: James Harris
Credits just rolling:
In the evening two more film producers came to Chagford for simultaneous showing of their new movies. James Harris was in the Globe Cinema for 'Cockneys versus Zombies'. The theme was familiar, and the gratuitous violence towards the 'fair game' zombies highly questionable. However, the characters and acting were superb - and the action sequences amazing.

'The Moo Man'
Producer and Star
Andy Heathcote
& Stephen Hook
Particularly notable were Alan Ford and Rasmus Hardicker as high energy grandfather and grandson working together to save as many survivors as possible. James answered questions after the show. Viewers were interested to know how it was possible to find so many willing victims of zombie genocide - no problem. Londoners were lining up to join the doomed horde.

Meanwhile in Jubilee Hall, Andy Heathcote had
James Mann helps Ian Wellens
divvy up the delicious cheeses
arrived for the showing of his production 'The Moo Man'. With Andy was the subject of his film, dairy farmer Stephen Hook. Viewers arrived early to enjoy samples of the film's subject matter - unpasteurised cheeses.

Jonathan Richards is on hand
with a variety of vintages
Ian Wellens and James Mann were there from 'The Cheese Shed' in Bovey Tracey - with a variety of cow and goat cheeses in plentiful supply. Cheese goes well with wine, so Jonathan Richards brought up a generous supply from 'Best Cellars' wine merchants in Chagford Square. All gratis of course!

Festival Chairman Don Badger
chairs a lively discussion with
Andy Heathcote & Stephen Hook
Having been converted to the product, the audience were
introduced to the mode of production - in film. 'The Moo Man' is a very moving documentary of one man's efforts to produce a natural product at a realistic price. Afterwards Stephen was more than happy to answer questions about his work and the problems he still faces. The question and answer session went on long after the Zombie fans had dispersed. Some even came to Jubilee Hall to see what the big discussion was all about.

Both movies were sell-outs, but even those without tickets didn't feel left out - in 'Cult Corner' at the Globe another vintage horror was showing - Godzilla!

Ron Saunders - a documentary
On Friday Stephen Saunders led another workshop, this time on special effects, while the evening was given over to the Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi - 'The Blues Brothers'. The classic movie was followed by an evening of dancing with a Blues Brothers tribute band.

Ron Saunders - in person
Saturday, the final day, started early with 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' - a late breakfast and stage make-up workshop with Hannah Wing. After lunch the Okehampton Excelsior Silver Band struck up in Chagford Square while, back in the Globe Cinema, a capacity audience arrived for the welcome return of Ron Saunders for another of his selections of 'Pathé' archive films.

Ron worked at Pathé for nearly ten years and his storehouse of knowledge about the methods of preservation - and the content of the archive itself - is endlessly fascinating. This year's presentation started with an impressive video documentary featuring Ron and his colleagues explaining restoration and storage techniques. Then Ron arrived in person and kept everyone entertained for an hour with clips of entertainers throughout the twentieth century. Singers, dancers, comedians, acrobats - a cavalcade of talented artists from past decades.

Joseph Späh - Don't look down!

Particularly intriguing was an act called 'Ben Dova'. The 1932 recording shows an acrobat, dressed as a late-night reveller, teetering on the parapet of the 56 storey Chanin Building in New York. After nearly falling into the void, he climbs a lamp-standard to light his cigarette on the gas mantle. As the support rocks and breaks free from its mounting he dangles by one hand over the abyss leering drunkenly. Despite the suspicion that an optical illusion is involved, and the stunt is not as dangerous as it seems, the images are truly terrifying.

When acrobatic skill is at a premium
There is a strange coda to this story. It seems that the acrobat - Joseph Späh - was planning a return trip to New York in 1937 but missed his ship. At some expense he managed to get a last minute berth on the airship Hindenburg - and we know how that trip ended. At last year's Pathé afternoon, Ron started with several different views of the Hindenburg's fatal fire taken by different reporters.

It appeared from one angle that a passenger jumps out of the burning ship. That may have been Joseph Späh.  He was making a film himself from the forward passenger section of the Hindenburg when he saw the light of the flames reflected from the hangar roof. As the stern crashed to the ground Joseph avoided being thrown backwards by clinging to a handrail.

The Adagio Dancers
Alexis & Dorrano
in 'Danse Apache'
His acrobatic skills and strength made it possible for him to dangle until the bows levelled. Then he adroitly sprang though the observation window at the optimum moment, falling twenty feet and rolling clear of the falling wreckage. Joseph was incapacitated by a broken ankle, but was dragged to safety by one of the many men seen rushing towards the fire - an off-duty serviceman in the United States Navy.

Connections of this kind came up repeatedly during Ron's exposition - later events or stage acts prefigured in film.

'Danse Apache' - by Mik
One act from the archive was immediately recognisable - having been performed and lampooned many times before and since - The Adagio Dancers, Alexis & Dorrano's performance of 'Danse Apache' from 1934.

The dance has always intrigued and amused audiences with its extreme violence (inspired by 'Les Apaches', a Parisian street gang). Buster Keaton made a fabulous spoof version in 1930. (He was the dame!) Copenhagen artist Henning Dahl Mikkelsen was clearly influenced by the act forty years later when he created this cartoon strip (above) for US readers.

Many thanks to Ron Saunders for once again providing this extra special feature for the Festival.

In the star-chamber
(Globe Inn lounge bar)
Elizabeth-Jane Baldry
meets the director of
'Ferocious Planet'
Billy O'Brien
On Saturday evening the Festival ended as it had begun, with a glamorous gala screening - Peter Jackson's 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey'. Premium ticket holders were brought to the red carpet event in style, in a candy pink stretch limo, and treated to a flute of 'bubbles' at the Globe. Although these VIP tickets had been sold out for some time, late-comers were still able to see the film - at a reduced price - at Endecott House.

After the film the revelry continued with the now familiar Chagford Award Ceremony, and there was a special guest - Ryan Gage, who will play Jackson's neo-Tolkein character, Alfrid, in the Hobbit sequels.

Having gone out with a bang, Chagford Film Festival will bounce back with even more fun and surprises for 2014. We can keep in touch by subscribing to their website and facebook page. Meanwhile Elizabeth-Jane Baldry continues her work with Chagford Filmmaking Group as their latest film 'Tam Lin' goes to post-production. Keep up with all the details on the fairytalefilms website.

Looking forward to more film in 2014!

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