Emma Geliot's picture

Every year a town in Brittany celebrates British film and awards prizes to a new clutch of potential blockbusters alongside the smaller and quirkier output of cinematic auteurs, destined for the arthouses of Europe. We sent mother and son team Petra Aydin Barberini (words) & Eric Aydin Barberini( pictures) to capture a flavour of the Festival du Film Britannique Dinard. Here is their first response.

There’s no denying it I’m excited, I love film and I love Britanny, so to combine the two is my idea of heaven. It’s a little harder to convey this excitement and my love of European film to my son, a fan of American director Wes Anderson. Eric patiently listens to my wistful memory of a church hall in Dinard in 1995, where I had the luck to see a premiere of Eric Rohmer’s masterpiece Conte d’été -Summer’s Tale. I’ll have to limit my tales, or I will be braving the red carpet alone.

How will this year’s politically charged atmosphere affect one of the major art forms exported from the British Isles? Who are the hot filmmakers behind the competition films? How to behave on the red carpet and will it rain?

Dinard has played host to the British film festival for 27 years. The timing was astute as film production in the UK doubled during the 1990s. It celebrates its connections with the UK, the most obvious being the convenience of having the cross channel ferry port of St.Malo just across the bay, but there are more subtle and complex historical connections too. The Dinard film festival has become a must for those looking for European distribution.

The jury has a good eye for commercial success. Previous Dinard winners have included Shallow Grave (1994), Billy Elliot (2000), Bloody Sunday (2002), Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003) and Dagenham (2010). However, more interestingly, it showcases low budget, independent films alongside these better-known productions. With a mixture of cinephile and professional audience members, it can be a hugely beneficial experience for a new filmmaker.

2016 is the year that the UK made a seismic political decision based on That Referendum.

The festival starts with a sense of foreboding. The director of the festival, Hussam Hindi, points out this is not ungrounded. EU funding to the British Film Industry (namely, the MEDIA programme), gave €130m between 2007 and 2015. This funding ensured the successful completion of many of the film productions that have featured in the festival.

This year they have had more entries than ever. Hussam Hindi put this down to the need for the filmmakers to express their desire to remain part of the European creative community. “Here at Dinard, we never felt threatened by Brexit”, Hindi says, “Quite the opposite, because British film professionals will do everything to get their films beyond the UK, instead of the inward-turning isolation behind borders wanted by their politicians”.

There are six feature films in competition for the Hitchcock Awards. Four have themes exploring the creative process. Four are directed by their writers, three are full of musical references, two by auteur writer/director/actors. All have youthful protagonists and one is even an embryo.

Here in alphabetical order the competition feature films from Festival Du Film Brittannique Du Dinard 2016:

Away 

This film is an unlikely innocent pairing of Joseph (Timothy Spall), a middle-aged man drinking himself to death, and Ria (Juno Temple), a young woman escaping a brutal partner. A deserted Blackpool in spring adds a fairytale background for a childlike optimism she’s previously been denied. Character-driven, with strong performances from Temple and Spall. Director David Blair delivers an uplifting, spiritual journey and a love-story of a father and daughter that never were.

Away received a Special mention from the Festival Jury awarded by Claude Lelouc

Chubby Funny 

Writer, director, actor, Harry Mitchell, wins our hearts as Oscar, a charmingly self-absorbed young actor, typecast as the ‘chubby funny’ friend. He is subtly in competition with his flatmate and fellow leading man material, Charlie (Augustus Prew). Will he win the girl? Unlikely. Will he ever notice his long-suffering best friend, Sophie (Isabella Laughland)? We hope so. The onscreen naturalism of this group of actors was delightful, particularly Oscar and Sophie’s relationship. Oscar, a man with absolutely no issues, manages to soundtrack his life with pompous classical music as if it’s a grand epic.

(Image at top of this feature: Chubby Funny (2016), Director Harry Michell. Film still courtesy of Dinard Film Festival)

Moon Dogs 

A celtic quest; a love triangle. Stepbrothers – insular, enigmatic Thor (Christy O’Donnell) and nervy adolescent Michael (Jack Parry-Jones) –grow up as they orbit around the feisty, worldly Caitlin (Tara Lee).

Director Philip John weaves panoramic Scottish landscape (beautifully photographed by Alistair Walker) with musical composition by Anton Newcombe. Producer Kathy Speir was a driving force behind this Scottish, Irish, and Welsh funded project. Brave casting works well with newcomer musician O’Donnell as the musical genius Thor, Lee has the looks of a young Madonna on screen as she beguiles the two lads, with Parry-Jones playing it for charming laughs.

Prevenge

Writer, director, actor, Alice Lowe is the incredible force behind this dark comedy performance, that will make every mother and mother to be grimace in recognition. Her witty screenplay makes her character Ruth sympathetic, even as we feel sorry for the victims of the killing spree orchestrated by her unborn baby.

The variety of well-crafted glimpses into the lives of each of her victims creates much-needed respite between the moments of blood and gore. It’s an unusual thriller, with Ruth as an unreliable narrator, who never misses her antenatal appointments. The Welsh landscape has never looked so menacing. We loved this movie but weren’t convinced the festival audience would feel the same

Sing Street 

Family economics force the teenage Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) from his safe private education at Christian brothers’ local school. Once smitten with the mysterious Raphina (Lucy Boyton), he forms a band to win her love and supports her aspirations to become a model. The rag-taggle group of kids, usually on the wrong end of the bully’s fist, finds inspiration in the New Romantic and pop bands of the 1980s Top of the Pops.

John Carney writes and directs what I predict will become a classic of family viewing. It has the perfect combination of ‘80s nostalgia, believable pop, a commercially viable soundtrack and a laugh and cry, coming of age love story. Sing Street swept the board of Hitchcock awards at the festival and is an obvious commercial hit, destined to succeed in the European and American markets.

The Beautiful Fantastic

Writer/ Director Simon Aboud has written a gently beautiful film, which the French audiences saw as a quintessentially British piece. The world of Bella (Jessica Brown Findlay), a librarian with OCD, is filled with colourful, quirky characters in an unidentifiable period, threaded through with elements of magical realism. Bella would love to write a children’s book. Gradually, through learning to live alongside her cantankerous widower neighbour Alfie (Tom Wilkinson), she develops a love of the organised chaos of gardening and finds her narrative with the help of cook Vernon and his children (Andrew Scott) and Billy, a young automaton designer (played by Jeremy Irvine). An obvious candidate for commercial success, this fairytale was overshadowed by Sing Street; otherwise it would have fared well in the Hitchcocks.

I’ve never before been at a film festival where, at the start of the each screening, the producer or director feels it necessary to apologise for the political situation in their home country. The British are famous for apologising, but this is head hanging on a whole new scale. Each one feels obliged to state, “I’m so sorry, it’s not my fault….” followed by either, “I’m Irish/Scottish” or, “I voted to remain.” The audience claps enthusiastically and keeps reassuring them they are still loved and wanted in Europe.

There is hope here, however slim, the torrential rain starts just as the British cast and crews arrive, but gradually the black clouds disperse and the party begins. If, like us, you have no desire to strut the red carpet to the gala events, you can always avoid the prescribed route by sneaking down to the front and straddling a barricade. There is always a way.

In depth interviews with our favourite teams from Chubby Funny, Prevenge, Moon Dogs to follow, along with information about the new Shortcut Competition, The Jury and the team behind the festival. 

www.festivaldufilm-dinard.com