HAY-ON-WYE FESTIVAL OF BRITISH CINEMA
Fri 21-Sun 23 Sept 2012
words: MICHAEL MILLS
Hay-on-Wye has form. It’s a common observation amongst those attending the Festival Of British Cinema that it has the feel of the town’s more famous literary events in its early days. There’s the cosy town hall venues, hard plastic seats and boundless enthusiasm.
The festival was dedicated to the best of British cinema, but limited itself no further and its eclectic bill was one of its biggest draws.
There were big budget favourites like Hot Fuzz, challenging art house fare like Two Years at Sea and, in Albatross, the sort of middle class shagging that always goes down a storm. One couple did leave partway through Friday night’s showing of Tyrannosaur, but they’d had a hard week. Fair enough, it’d be a tough film to get through even if you’d just been treated to three triple chocolate sundaes.
The passion of the festival staff for their subject would be impressive enough on its own, but it seems to have caught an audience too. Events dedicated to showcasing short films drew in full and diverse audiences, while links with local filmmakers meant there was more than one professional on hand to give you a debrief over a cup of tea afterwards.
Showings of Marley and The Music Lovers (the latter playing in tribute to the late Ken Russell) packed out the Parish Hall and Booth’s Cinema on the Saturday night. This was no mere mobilisation of the local grannies, either; there were, as one steward told me, “plenty of unfamiliar faces about” Only if you’re from rural Wales can you appreciate the gravity and excitement of that remark.
It’s important to remember the films playing in the local multiplex are only a fraction of those being made. For every film about Batman, there’s another about Morris dancers or sheep farmers or Scottish hermits. We can’t let 2012 be remembered as the year British cinema gave us only Keith Lemon: The Film.