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BIAFF’s theme song should have been “Hot hot hot”. Harrogate was baking in gorgeous sunshine on the weekend of 23-25th April 2004: perfect for the flower show; less than ideal for us. A large attendance – the Cairn Hotel was fully booked – and window blackouts meant each session combined screening with sauna.
But it was worth the sweat.
There was a strong buzz of praise from delegates for the venue and the organisation. A few things went wrong, of course, but most went well. Brian Dunckley courted controversy by programming Saturday’s mini-cinemas for variety, including some Bronze and even a Blue among the more usual Gold and Silver level movies.
It was a record year with 223 entries. Albert Noble of England entered 5 films ranging from 1 minute to 105 minutes long. Willy van der Linden of Belgium, Ken Wilson of England and William Bain of Scotland provided four films each. There were entries from countries as far afield as South Korea., Australia, Russia and the USA. And there was a welcome bumper bundle of top notch movies from the UK.
To begin at the beginning:
FRIDAY - we saw some of the winners in the Geoffrey Round Digital AV International competition. The event has a long title, but the pieces were concise. The trophy winner was “The Vanishing Race” by Johan Werbrouck & Freddy Adam of Belgium – a powerful tale of how North American Indians were mistreated by the white men. Second was Allan Green’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” which brought some old-masters to life with a wickedly funny twist to each one. Third came Valerie Rawlins’ “I’m Not Afraid To Die” – a moving meditation on battle, based on a scrap of paper found in a soldier’s effects.
SATURDAY - four mini-cinemas packed in 126 movies between 9.30am and 5.15pm. Any one delegate could easily see 36 movies. My favourite moment was when a 17-year-old Danish lad introduced “My Grandad’s Autumn’. This tale of a young boy coming to terms with his grandfather’s death was made by a group, all under 18, who deliberately did not enter as juniors. They wanted to see how they would be judged as adults. Their award? Silver. The two lads who wrote and directed, two girls whose sweet high voices made the touching soundtrack songs, their young star and his mum were all present.
The highlight of the Gala Dinner in the evening was nearly the presentation of a UNICA Gold Medal to IAC President, Valrie Ellis, for all that she has done to encourage and promote amateur movie making in the UK. Unfortunately, Chairman Reg Lancaster had to admit he had left the medal in his room … before the risque jokes could start, Val quickly stepped in to say she hoped it was not a prize for meddling.
SUNDAY - the gala show packed in 22 movies, an extract and two trailers for future events … plus a recorded thanks from Mino Croce whose study of a puppet theatre group, “Strings of Life”, was the first documentary since 1988 to win the Daily Mail Trophy as best film in the festival. The day also included an amusing talk by Don Atkinson, AMPS, on film and television sound recording.
A successful festival is made by the films and the attendees. Both were great.
Among my own highlights were:
This year several film makers came to see other people’s work but did not collect their own prizes. Even Alison Dewar and Nick Kirk, who attended the Gala Dinner, failed to pick up their Gold for the music video “Voodoo Child” … they were helping a fellow film maker on a shoot next day.
A surprise and pleasure was watching actors being accosted by admirers throughout Saturday. Narelle Summers and Keith Pottinger came to movie fame through Ken Wilson’s Phase 4 work and seemed politely astonished to find that so many people recognised them. Ken himself and his wife Carol are used to such acknowledgment. Ken averages four or five first class movies each year and many feature Carol. Of this year’s crop only two were screened: “A Second Chance” – a timewarp romance story set in an enchanting, idyllic country meadow and “The Power of Three” a tale of modern witchcraft.
The most touching moment of the festival was the applause for Peter Coles, whose AV sequence “Quadruple Bypass” dealt unflinchingly with his own heart operations and the support he had received from friends. Peter’s smile said he was pleased to be alive. The audience enthusiastically agreed.
- Dave Watterson May 2004
P.S. Reg Lancaster hoped the term BIAFF would catch on as a word rather than a set of initials. Ken McRonald quietly pointed out that to Scots ears it sounds like two words: “B----- Off” !