Chichester International Film Festival gets under way

Roger Gibson
Roger Gibson

With the Chichester Cinema at New Park celebrating its ruby anniversary this year, cinema founder and president Roger Gibson admits he felt an added pressure when he was putting together this year’s 28th Chichester International Film Festival (August 8-25).

It is certainly the cinema’s most ambitious festival yet.

“But yes, there is always pressure! You always think that you need to do better than you did last year. You always fear that you are going to reach a plateau, but the motivation is always to beat the previous year… and we do do that.”

Partly it’s a question of experience, the accumulation of contacts over nearly three decades of offering the festival: “The contacts have built up over the years, but it is a mixture of things. We also like to show tributes. Half the films are old, half are new, and with the older films the biggest problem is getting them licensed. You have to go through lots of loops, but with the new films, it is a lot to do with knowing people.”

Roger will judge this year’s event, as ever, on both attendance and on levels of audience appreciation: “Sometimes you think why I am doing this! I could just put on Marigold Hotel for three weeks and have done with it, rather than getting together 130, 140, 150 films. But it is very satisfying. I was a painter. I used to do art, but I gave it up some time ago. I find programming the festival very creative. It is a very creative process, the way it comes together. It is like a horrendous jigsaw puzzle. You want certain films and you are not sure whether you are going to be able to get them, and then you might book one film and wish you had held out for another.”

But Roger is delighted with the programme which has now come together.

“We are delighted to open this year’s festival with the UK premiere of a Dutch film The Conductor, which sets up one of the major festival themes, celebrating women as both directors and subjects.

“Directed by Maria Peters and starring Christanne de Bruijn (both attending), The Conductor focuses on the amazing true story of Dutch born Antonia Rice who became the world’s first woman to successfully conduct a large symphony orchestra in the late 1920s.

Roger is also promising “14 wonderful and notable” international films are as part of Re-Discovering Women Directors, a selective historical survey from Ida Lupino in the 50s to the late Agnes Varda’s last film.

The golden age of the documentary continues with over 20 new films. Roger is also expanding the jazz focus this year with six documentaries including Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie and Blue Note Records.

“The festival has always championed new talent and independent world cinema and nearly all are UK premieres. Some from the UK will be introduced by their filmmakers. But we are pleased to be showing films from Moldova (Werner Gruber, a thriller), a brilliant slow burning drama Stray from New Zealand, a poetic Russian film The Person Who is Not, from Ukraine the weirdly humorous The Gendelyk, and The Funeral, a disturbing ghost story from China (waiting to be passed by the Chinese censor).”

The festival will also welcome director Michael Radford to introduce his Il Postino, a rare screening now, but one of the most popular films ever made. The retrospective will be supported by six other Radford films. Three other retrospectives are dedicated to Albert Finney, Bernardo Bertolucci, Nicholas Roeg, and with a single-film tribute to Bruno Ganz (Bread and Tulips), Ermanno Olmi (Il Posto), plus Stanley Donen, Michel Legrand and Andre Previn. The Finney retrospective will have local resonance. Finney lived in Emsworth and contacted the cinema during its digitisation fundraising to make an anonymous donation.

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