Last weekend, Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery in Carlisle hosted their second ‘Weekend of Film’. The excellent three day event featured a diverse programme with some of the best in independent, alternative and world cinema for a Cumbrian audience. A number of screenings were followed by Q&A’s with members from the cast and crew of several films. Other events across the weekend included drop-in animation sessions hosted by animator Robin Webb, and a Mobile Movie Challenge, enabling groups of three or more to create short films from scratch, using only a smart phone or laptop. Among the film highlights were Amy – a documentary of unseen archive footage and unheard tracks from the late Amy Winehouse, Addicted to Sheep – a documentary following a tenant hill farmer and his family in the North Pennines, The Tribe – an astonishing and unnerving Ukrainian drama, and the weekend’s closing headliner, Blood Cells – a powerful British drama featuring a man on the fringes of society, attempting to come to terms with the harrowing Foot and Mouth outbreak at the turn of the milliennium. Inevitably, the Q&A afterwards with writer and producer Ben Young brought up the resonance of the film’s background subject matter with a Cumbrian audience. Especially as the opening shots incorporate the sort of burning pyres, which instantly reprise one of the deepest traumas of recent British history. For the best part of a year hundreds of farms throughout Cumbria were blighted with the disease and the exact number of animals killed can only be guessed at. Only the unprecedented events of September 11th overshadowed the crisis. Yet despite its difficult and devastating undertones, it is still somewhat incredible that events surrounding foot and mouth have been practically ignored by filmmakers. Although Simon Beaufoy’s sad and gripping film The Darkest Light (released a couple of years before the main outbreak in 2001), does contain a story about a farmer trying to conceal an outbreak of the disease. Despite a few technical problems during the screening of Blood Cells, thanks must go to the ‘Weekend of Film’ for showing a film that attempts to bring the destructive legacy of such a tragic episode to life on screen.
Next time – Will the hugely anticipated next Star Wars film prove to be a new awakening for film in Cumbria?