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Arts / Screenplay curators reflect on final festival: ‘It seems a bit unreal that we won’t be doing this again’

Co-curator Mark Kermode says he has ‘no doubt something will replace Screenplay’ and added their tenure is ‘ending on a high’

From left to right: curators Mark Kermode, Kathy Hubbard (festival director) and Linda Ruth Williams. Photo: Dave Donaldson

CURATORS Mark Kermode and Linda Ruth Williams have reflected on their final year of Screenplay after 16 years of putting on the film festival in Shetland with festival director Kathy Hubbard.

Williams said: “It’s lovely to be back in Shetland, but it’s quite sad because it’s our last Screenplay. It seems a bit unreal that we won’t be doing this again next year.”

Kermode added: “We’re also really proud of having done 16 years. Kathy was the driving force behind it after we came up to introduce The Wickerman at Wordplay and we loved it.”

When Screenplay began Shetland didn’t have a cinema, so the festival was held at the Garrison Theatre at first. Kermode explained: “Kathy sort of willed it into existence, and every year it got bigger with the number of screenings increasing and more people are coming.”

Both Kermode and Williams hope to “pass the torch on to the next generation” and attend Shetland’s next film festival as customers, with Williams adding: “Although it’s the last Screenplay it’s not our last time in Shetland.” They are also looking forward to coming back for Up Helly Aa and the Folk Festival.

The 2023 film festival contains six action-packed days of movies available at Mareel, from Welsh folk horror, to classic Scottish cinema, and a feature of homemade films from Shetland amateur filmmakers.

Typist Artist Pirate King producer Cairo Cannon and director Carol Morley. Photo: Dave Donaldson

One of the highlights of Screenplay 2023 comes in the form of Typist Artist Pirate King, a biographical comedy about one woman’s journey across England as she revisits her past.

Writer and director of the film, Carol Morley, said her inspiration for the film came after she received a Wellcome Screenwriting Fellowship and looked through their archives containing diaries and sketches from Audrey Amiss, who the film is centred on.

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She explained: “There were 80 huge boxes that hadn’t been catalogued with 50,000 sketches, diaries and scrapbooks of everything she’d ever eaten.”

Amiss trained as a painter at the Royal Academy, but she had a breakdown in her final year of study during the 1950s.

Described by Morley as a “revolving door psychiatric patient” after this, she documented her experiences and took a job as a secretary.

Morley added: “The first box I looked at was just everything from her coffee table swept into one box, and it had her old passport in it. In the days when you had to put your occupation on your passport, she’d put ‘Typist Artist Pirate King’, so I feel like she gave me the title.”

The film focuses on Amiss travelling around England to revisit her past accompanied by a psychiatric nurse. Morley described her as an “exceptional person who was very funny, and valued her sense of humour”.

All of Amiss’ diaries and sketches are held in the Wellcome Collection archives in London.

Morley attended Screenplay before and is coming back for the second time.

Kermode said: “Everyone wants to come back but we never had the space, Morley is one of the very few guests we’ve had return.”

Sunday morning features a sing-a-long Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical with a special video for Screenplay filmed by Emma Thompson, who hoped to come up but couldn’t appear in person.

This year’s Screenplay sees the hybrid model used in 2022 after Covid, continuing with a variety of live and online Q&As.

Other highlights include the Big Screenplay Film Quiz tonight (Saturday) at 7pm which sold out within two hours, and the Giant Poster Giveaway held in Mareel’s auditorium on Sunday.

Members of grassroots group Maddrim Media are getting back together for The Great Maddrim Reunion this afternoon at 1pm, showing some of the films the group have created since their inception in 2006.

The festival has a range of family-friendly films on such as Scrapper, a piece about a 12-year-old named Georgie who has been living alone after the death of her mother but her world changes drastically when her father comes back into her life. There’s also Winners, a movie about Yahya, a nine-year-old growing up poor in Iran with a passion for cinema.

The inspiration for Winners comes from writer and director Hassan Nazer’s own childhood.

He grew up in Iran and moved to the UK when he was 18 and returned to film Winners where he grew up. He explained: “I have a connection to this story, because it’s the story of my personal childhood as well. So, for me it was very important to go back to the same exact location, and cast children from the area to have the same authenticity.”

Winners won the Audience Award at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in 2022. Nazer’s story sees Yahya and his friend Leyla finding a statuette in the desert and enlisting the help of his boss Nasser Kahn to find the original owner of the item.

Hassan Nazer. Photo: Dave Donaldson

It wasn’t all smooth sailing filming the movie in Iran, as Nazer explained: “One of the issues around the film is that they want to make sure when people are making films in Iran they don’t show the bad side of Iran, and only show the good side.

“But for me it’s important – this story isn’t about the dump area, but it’s something I was involved in personally myself. When I was young I was picking up pieces of plastic and selling them on so I could go to the cinema, and I wanted to go to the exact real location.”

After coming to the UK, Nazer opened up several takeaways in Aberdeen and studied film and media. He said: “I had to work hard to save up some money, and my father helped me too. Most of the profits of this business goes to the arts and the cinema.”

Screenplay is also showing films as part of its Look North theme. Godland is centred around a Danish priest in the 19th century who travels to Iceland to build a church and photograph the inhabitants there.

Meanwhile Sick of Myself features two main characters, Signe and Thomas, who are described as two narcissists engaged in a battle with each other for more fame and social status. Both films are Norwegian.

The festival wraps up on Sunday 3 September with a couple of nostalgic movies, Gregory’s Girl, and one of Hubbard’s all-time favourite films O Brother, Where Art Thou? Tickets are available online.

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