Friday, April 20, 2007

Portobello Film Festival Launch

Programme for Portobello Film Festival; photo by Val PhoenixCobden Club

Oh, dear. I had been looking forward to this evening to launch this year's festival even if it meant a trek to the foreign climes of West London. Nice canal and all but... The Cobden Club is an impressive venue, an old brick working men's club with an unexpectedly posh interior. However... Whose idea was it to site the bar and the screening room in the same space? Within a half hour the noise level from those chatting at the bar was enough to impede and eventually overwhelm the film soundtracks, making it impossible to enjoy the films.

I stayed for half of the four-hour programme of short films and then gave up, so sorry to those I didn't see but take it up with the management.

Standout film of the first two hours was Get Your Tags Out, dir Ben Hilton, which made me laugh out loud. The premise is clever: women treating shopping the way men treat football. So, we had two groups of women staking out their turf and wearing their "colours" and taunting each other in alleyways and shopping malls.

I was intrigued by Viva Liberty! (dir Dishad Husain) which started off brilliantly, as nerdy, bespectacled "Woody Ali" (brilliant) finds himself in the clutches of the US authorities after a misunderstanding on an airplane. As a piece of satire, the premise is excellent, but it didn't sustain the initial burst. This film definitely suffered from the background noise, as it was very wordy. Still, I felt it dragged.

The Wheelhouse (dir Sean Garland) was badly hampered by technical problems with the DVD, so I can't really comment on it.

The Tail (dir Andy Shelley) was another clever film satire on discrimination, setting up a small 1950s-type town in which everyone has a tail. What happens when one man loses his?

Dottie: The Little Girl with the Big Voice (dir Dawn Westlake) took a similar theme of not belonging but in animation, and was also quite funny. For some reason it had subtitles, as well, which proved helpful as it screened during a noisy period.

Thoroughly Modern Mili, by the same director, was less successful, a live action satire on US militarism that went on too long and didn't sustain its premise of a French woman working for the US government. This film was substituted for the opener, Teer, which had technical problems and so didn't screen.

Looking forward to the fest but, strangely, no information was given out about it on the night. Most odd.

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