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Features / Shetland Arts calls ‘action’ on Screenplay 2015

Local filmmaker Marjolein Robertson speaking during the Screenplay launch at Mareel on Tuesday night. Photo: Lauren Doughton

THE SCREENPLAY film festival, now in its ninth year, launched last night in Mareel with a small prosecco-and-popcorn preview of the attractions we can expect to see at this year’s festivities, writes Alex Garrick-Wright.

SIC convener Malcolm Bell and Shetland Arts director Graeme Howell were both full of praise for the positive effect Screenplay has had over a relatively short period of time; both for broadening the cultural variety within Shetland, and for raising Shetland’s profile outwith the isles.

Bell said that Screenplay “is vital to the cultural landscape”, especially with regard to bringing film screenings to the outer islands and remote halls, and for the broad spectrum of films that are picked for screening each year.

He added that it has “a major role in efforts to raise Shetland’s profile”, which is difficult to dispute – clocking in at 95 events on last year’s festival calendar, Screenplay made The List magazine’s Hot 100 for 2014 at number 92. “[Screenplay is] something we’re very proud of.”

Curated by the trinity of chief film critic for the BBC and The Observer, Mark Kermode, University of Southampton professor of film studies Linda Ruth Williams, and festival organiser Kathy Hubbard, Screenplay 2015 is shaping up to be an impressive outing.

The audience at Tuesday's launch. Prestigious guests for this year's festival include Olivier award-winning Scottish actress Lindsey Duncan. Photo: Lauren Daughton

Guests include director Carol Morely, producer Cairo Cannon, Candida Doyle (of Britpop/alt rock band Pulp), animator Elizabeth Hobbs, and Olivier-award-winning Scottish actress Lindsey Duncan, who has appeared dozens of times on both the small and silver screens, in everything from BBC’s ‘Sherlock’ to ‘Up Pompeii’. While Simon Pegg has had to decline due to scheduling conflicts caused by ‘Star Trek III’ (which is a forgivable excuse), there are still one or two guests who have yet to confirm.

The meat-and-potatoes of a film festival is the film selection, which for 2015 is extensive and refreshingly varied. While reproducing the list would make for a poor article, a few interesting choices leapt out; ‘Jaws’ (an absolute treat on the big screen), cult classic sci-fi ‘Silent Running’, Ralph Bakshi’s under-appreciated and over-looked animated version of ‘Lord of the Rings’, and the frankly bizarre looking ‘Internet Cat Video Touring Festival’, which is exactly what it sounds like, and has played in venues all over the US, recently selling out its run in Glasgow.

Other unusual delights include German children’s’ film ‘Fiddlesticks’, which will be dubbed live (although whether into English or Shetland dialect is unclear) and a screening of 1926 silent swashbuckler ‘The Black Pirate’ with live musical accompaniment.

For the first time, punters can buy a festival membership allowing entry to all events.

One stand-out attraction will surely be a screen version of Shetland musical ‘Tell Wiz’. First performed in 1958, ‘Tell Wiz’ has become a beloved part of Shetland culture, and recently played to great acclaim and full houses at the Garrison Theatre, where Lerwick-based cinematographer JJ Jamieson captured this unique piece of island dialect-based theatre on film. For anyone who missed out on tickets for the live show, this will be one to look out for.

One of Screenplay’s greatest strengths has been the dedication to fostering local film-making. Marjolein Robertson, of Maddrim Media, was on hand to talk about the effect the festival’s ‘Homemade in Shetland’ short film screenings have had on aspiring writers and directors.

With the only prerequisites for entry being either a Shetlander by birth or by settlement, ‘Homemade in Shetland’ offers a chance for locals to try their hand and, ultimately, get the addictive elation of seeing their blood, sweat and celluloid up on the silver screen.

Having traditionally screened films of up to five minutes each, this year sees the addition of the ‘5-20 Minute’ category, for film makers with more ambition and experience, which looks set to raise the bar over previous years.

Bowing to public demand, Shetland Arts are this year offering festival cards, which will admit access to every single event in the programme (including the chance to rub shoulders with the guests at the drinks reception), and are on available now for £90 from Mareel. Get your card, get your popcorn, and get comfy; Screenplay is on from 28 August to 6 September.

Alex Garrick-Wright

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