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Fringe Report is now closed. Fringe Report closed on its 10th anniversary, Thursday 12 July 2012. It remains online as a record of 10 exciting years in the arts. Till July 2013, previously unwritten content is being added to the site from the past 10 years, but we are no longer reviewing new material. You can still write to us on the existing email addresses. Good luck with your shows.
The Northern Lights Film Festival 2008
by Peter Andrews
The Northern Lights Film Festival (NLFF) (www.nlff.co.uk) is in its 6th year. It runs from Sunday 30 November to Saturday 6 December at venues across NewcastleGateshead (www.newcastlegateshead.com) in North East England. NewcastleGateshead is 284 miles from London and 121 miles from Edinburgh. It has a population of about half a million while the wider area of Tyneside has a population approaching a million.
NewcastleGateshead has recently had a cultural rebirth. Antony Gormley's Angel of the North (www.gateshead.gov.uk/Leisure%20and%20Culture/multimedia/virtualtours/angel_qt.aspx) guards the A1. The Sage Gateshead (www.thesagegateshead.org) has a world-class concert hall, additional performance spaces and educational facilities. The Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art (www.balticmill.com) is a major international exhibition space.
Linking Gateshead and Newcastle upon Tyne is the Millennium Bridge (The Blinking Eye) (www.tynebridgewebcam.com). In Newcastle is the Tyneside Cinema (www.tynecine.org). It has recently reopened following a £7 million restoration project. It is here that the film festival is based. Other venues include the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, the Side Cinema (www.amber-online.com/sections/side-cinema) and The Star and Shadow in Byker (www.starandshadow.org.uk).
The Northern Lights Film Festival's remit is now to put the spotlight on breakthrough talent from world cinema. This year NLFF will be screening 1 International, 7 UK and 15 regional premieres in a programme that includes cutting-edge drama, films focusing on topical issues, documentary, music film, short film, horror, family and a romantic comedy.
There will be a Music Night with The Wrecking Crew, a film about the legendary session band - they've played on Beach Boys hits, on The Mamas and The Papas' recordings, on Frank Sinatra records, on Monkees' singles. They were Phil Spector's Wall of Sound. Also on is Slingshot Hip Hop that follows the hip hop scene emerging from Palestine. Patti Smith: Dream of Life is a stream of consciousness biographical piece.
There's a Horror Night too. Gasoline Blood - a zombie grindhouse style film. There's Mum & Dad which the director, Steven Sheil describes as 'the Heathrow Airport Chainsaw Massacre'. In the final Horror Night film - Blood Car - petrol prices have gone through the roof and someone finds an alternative human fuel.
The highlights of NLFF include Helen, a debut feature film by husband-and-wife writers-directors Joe Lawlor & Christine Molloy and partly shot in Newcastle. It tells the story of the life of Helen who 'plays' the part of missing girl Joy in a police reconstruction. Gradually Helen insinuates herself into the lost girl's life. Año Uña is a piece of Mexican cinema. It marks a debut for Alfonso Cuaron's son, Jonás Cuaron. This is a meditation on the passage of time and the impermanence of things. Captain Abu Raed - Amin Matalqa's feature film - is a tale that restores faith in humanity and the power of an individual to stand up for their neighbour. It is set against the backdrop of modern day Aaman in Jordan.
In Were The World Mine high-school student Timothy is gay, out, and miserable in his all-American small town, where the all-boys prep school he attends has a pretty serious fixation on rugby. He retreats into fantasy. Autumn Ball is a story set in Tallinn, Estonia during the last days of the Soviet Union. It portrays the lives of people living in a charmless Soviet tower block. French Film is a rom com from debut director Jackie Oudney - shot on location in London - but commenting on French film. Cook County looks at the ravages of meth addiction. It is its first screening outside the USA.
The Opening Gala features Better Things (2008), the first feature length film to be produced by Newcastle's Third Films. Shot by local cinematographer Lol Crawley with a cast of predominantly young and first time actors, Better Things is a first feature from Duane Hopkins. Better Things follows the everyday lives of people living in the Cotswolds and dealing with their relationships.
The Closing Ceremony features The Big Pitch - an awards ceremony. At last year's Festival, NLFF in partnership with culture10 (www.visitnewcastlegateshead.com/viewpage.php?id=834&s=80) provided Moxie Makers (www.moxiemakers.com) with a platform to launch the UK's biggest feature film production prize worth up to £250,000. During the past year, a short listed team of 6 writer/producer/directors have worked with industry professionals to develop and package their product. An industry panel and the audience will watch as the teams sell the merits of their feature-film project to the panel, and most importantly inspire the audience with their vision. A question and answer session will follow before the live audience vote to select the winning team.
There will also be an Audience Award, a Script Development Award (with support from Northern Film and Media (www.northernmedia.org)) a Short Film Award and an Online Film Award (in association with www.northeastmovies.co.uk).
The new festival director this year is Brian Gordon. Brian Gordon was the Nashville Film Festival's artistic director for seven years and oversaw the annual event's film and workshop line-up. During his time the Nashville Film Festival became one of the best regional film festivals in the USA, noted for its mix of big city film festival atmosphere and Southern hospitality. Prior to coming to Nashville in early 2001, Brian Gordon spent thirteen years as director of the San Francisco International Film Festival's Golden Gate Awards Competition.
He says: 'Northern Lights Film Festival is the UK's only festival featuring new and breakthrough talent that also brings together all sections of film from education and production to exhibition. With our expanded film programme we aim to significantly increase audiences, and offer something for everyone in the coming years. The fact that the newly transformed NLFF will give audiences the opportunity to see the films from the hottest young filmmakers in the world is really exciting and a great foundation for the festival's future. I look forward to the special relationship I hope to build with Northern Lights - and to seeing some of the fantastic new work.'
(c) Peter Andrews 1 December 08
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