For a few days at the end of February, the 17th Keswick Film Festival became easily the hottest ticket in town. With another fine assortment of films, each year the so-called Friendly festival goes from strength to strength. Even the weather agreed to play ball this time, as clear skies and stunning sunsets made for a magical atmosphere. Forget the likes of Cannes or Sundance, the ethereal shores surrounding Derwentwater always provide one of the most striking backdrops in the world. Sadly, this year’s festival also marked the end of an era, with Ann Martin standing down after 10 years as Director. She does however, leave behind a strong legacy and crucially there are no doubts about the festival’s future. Quite the opposite to when she took over at a crisis meeting back in 2007. From the beginning, she set about engaging the local community and succeeded in building a festival based on fun. Screening around 300 films in the process. Her fondest memory is the moment when she asked the celebrated actor John Hurt to become the festival’s patron. (To which he agreed naturally!) Relationships with local schools and colleges from the UK and France have blossomed under her guidance too. By encouraging interaction with guests and young people, students from the likes of University of Cumbria, Carlisle College and an exchange programme between Ullswater Community College and a French school at Dinard have all benefitted from coming to Keswick. She cites recommending documentary films, such as The Wolfpack (screened this year) as amongst those she strived to put in the festival programme. Whilst, events like 2010’s Africa Trek (featuring Alexandre Poussin talking about his epic journey from the Cape of Good Hope to Israel) and Frankenstein Sings in 2011, a 25-minute abbreviation of James Whale’s 1931 classic, accompanied by the Lancaster Millennium Choir, were often far greater than the film itself.
My own personal favourite from this year’s programme was Alice Rohrwacher’s, Cannes Film Festival Grand Prix 2014 winner, The Wonders. An intimate, enchanting and often powerful portrayal of how the strict rules of an old way of life clash with the new.
A new book titled ‘An A-Z of Cumbria & the Lake District on Film’ is due to be published by Hayloft Publishing Ltd in 2016 – please keep checking this website for updates.