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Screenplay 2012

Staff and volunteers at Screenplay: (from left) Roseanne Watt, Joe Christie, Aidan Nicol, Marjolein Robertson and Harry Witham.

SHETLAND Art’s Screenplay film festival 2012 kicked off last week with a programme of events that promised to delight all ages, made all the more dazzling for being in Shetland’s first bespoke cinema and music venue, Mareel.

This year’s theme was “It’s Dark Up North”, a homage to the visual sagas of our Scandinavian neighbours, with films such as the wicked Trollhunter, the sinister and elegiac Seventh Seal and the whimsical Kitchen Stories providing a dark (and often darkly comic) flavour to the programme.

Shetland Arts' Kathy Hubbard interviews Alexandre O Phillipe at Screenplay 2012

That’s not to say that the programme was devoid of any light-hearted humour – as the first guest of the week Alexandre O Phillippe proved with his pop-culture documentaries The People Versus George Lucas and The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus.

I must admit, from the title alone I had fully expected the subject matter of Lucas to either be exclusive to Star Wars fans or, worse, poke fun at geek-culture; instead, I came out of both documentaries with the sense of having learned much more about humanity than about either Wookies or clairvoyant cephalopods.

Anthony Baxter’s documentary left a much less appealing view of humanity, however, in the blood-boiling You’ve Been Trumped.

The documentary approaches the many injustices surrounding Donald Trump’s ambitions to build, he gloatingly claims, “the world’s best golf course”. A project so bloated by commercial gain, the only thing that keeps despair at bay is the knowledge that Baxter has refused to sit idly by and watch his neighbours and landscape be destroyed.

The matter of wealth versus community is driven home through the inspired use of clips from Bill Forsyth’s Local Hero; the headlining guest of this year’s festival alongside BAFTA award winning actress Miranda Richardson.

Richardson introduced screenings of Dance With A Stranger and Spider. In the Q&As after each screening, Richardson was genuine and engaging with her audience, as well as brave enough to join in with a spontaneous Boston Two-Step in the festival club afterwards!

Screenplay 2012 offered a rare opportunity to see Forsyth’s first ever feature film, That Sinking Feeling, delighting a packed Screen 1 with those familiar Scottish quips in the face of dire circumstances.

Forsyth was humble and eloquent in the Q&A after, much to the exasperation of festival curator Mark Kermode: “Bill, you’re a genius! That’s that!”

Bill Forsyth and Alexandre O Phillippe echoed each other in their Q&As: “I wouldn’t do this job if I didn’t have the joy for it.”

Whilst the star-studded programme is certainly a notable part of the Screenplay festival, at its core Screenplay is about the celebration of community and the utter joy of filmmaking – and this year saw a most particular celebration of these qualities in the Hansel of Film and Homemade in Shetland screenings.

A showcase of amateur filmmaking like no other, the Hansel of Film project has not only genuinely celebrated and encouraged home-grown films, but also established enduring links with amateur filmmakers across the UK, some of whom braved the journey to make it to Shetland for Saturday’s finale.

The event itself displayed a visual treat – from Fair-Isle puffins to a re-enactment of Night of the Living Dead using sock puppets, from filmmakers aged 7-70, and from Shetland to Southampton and back: a Hansel of Film truly has been a gift – at times a completely bonkers one – but a gift none-the-less.

Roseanne Watt