Cambridge Film Festival 2017 – preview

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The 37th Cambridge Film Festival is taking place between the 19th and 26th of October, promising a feast of over 150 films and events, including premieres, actor and filmmaker Q&As, exciting curated strands, and Virtual Reality screenings.

Founded 40 years ago, the Festival began life at the intimate old Arts Cinema in Market Passage, its home for 20 years, and was relaunched – following a short break – at the current Arts Picturehouse in 2001. As Festival Director Tony Jones points out, Festival screenings may now be the only opportunity to see many of the low-budget or foreign language films sourced by the Cambridge team.

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The digital revolution may have been ‘a boon for the big commercial releases, enabling cinemas to concurrently play what appear to be the most bankable titles’, but it is ‘squeezing out more adventurous or challenging fare.’ Jones laments that ‘while new cinemas may open with large-scale funding or community-based resources, there are still few models of truly independent programming’. All the more reason to celebrate and support the ‘intimate and approachable’ Cambridge Film Festival.

The opening night film is the hotly anticipated drama Battle of the Sexes, starring Emma Stone and Steve Carell. It captures the unlikely-to-be repeated moment in sporting history where ex- tennis champ Bobby Riggs challenged the legendary Billie Jean King to a tennis match to prove who was better at tennis – men or women.

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Other must-see films which are showing in advance of their general release are: hilarious, unique and often surreal The Square which arrives fresh from its Palme d’Or win; Colin Farrell in the chilling The Killing of a Sacred Deer; Paddy Considine’s Journeyman, the much anticipated follow-up to Tyrannosaur (which was premiered at a previous Cambridge Film Festival); the emotionally and visually powerful drama A Fantastic Woman; The Florida Project, Sean Baker’s follow-up to his iPhone sensation Tangerine.

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Fascinating new documentaries include 78/52, which analyses the iconic shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, the ‘Man Behind the Curtain’, and the screen murder that profoundly changed the course of world cinema. 78/52 references the number of set-ups (78) and the number of cuts (52) in the still-terrifying scene. One entire week out of the four weeks scheduled to shoot Psycho – a full quarter of the film’s production schedule – was dedicated to the infamous shower scene.

Regular Restorations and Rediscoveries strand includes silent films with live music, such as new prints of Casanova (1927), Shiraz (1928) and The Woman That Men Yearn For (1929), featuring Marlene Dietrich’s first real starring role, alongside black and white classics such as noir melodrama Mildred Pierce (1945) and sardonic thriller The Wages of Fear (1953).

This year, in collaboration with the Festival of Ideas, the CFF team has programmed India Unboxed. From classics by the old masters of Indian cinema through to the best contemporary documentaries, this series is a great introduction to the film of India – beyond Bollywood! New Catalan cinema, Korean cinema, Short Fusion and an expanded microcinema programme (Archive and Memory) continue, along with the Family Film Festival, which includes free films and national treasure Neil Brand, with his piano-tastic Comedy for Kids and Adults, playing along to, and illuminating, silent classics featuring the likes of Laurel & Hardy.

New for 2017 will be a bespoke Virtual Reality strand, showcasing four extraordinary works which stretch the creative boundaries of this emerging medium. These will take place in a special ‘screening’ room located in Emmanuel College, limited to five participants per session.

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The closing night film is the critically acclaimed, powerful noir, You Were Never Really Here by British director Lynne Ramsay. It features a stand out performance from Joaquin Phoenix as a Gulf-war veteran and former FBI agent turned killer-for-hire, specialising in saving victims from child sex rings. There is also an evocative soundtrack by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood.

You can see a special retrospective of Lynne Ramsay films, including Tilda Swinton’s award winning performance in We Need To Talk About Kevin and Samantha Morton in Morvern Callar.

The Cambridge Film Festival is operated by the charitable Cambridge Film Trust and backed by the BFI’s Film Festival Fund which awards National Lottery funding to UK film festivals, giving audiences the opportunity to see a broader range of British and international films.

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For more information on Cambridge Film Festival 2017 see http://www.cambridgefilmfestival.org.uk/

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