Blog Archive - Tue 1st Dec 2009 - Film Festivals - Why Go To Them? - Heason Events

Film Festivals - Why Go To Them?

1st Dec 2009

Just over a week ago I returned home, exhausted after a very long weekend's work at the Kendal Mountain Festival. Kendal is the biggest festival of its kind in the UK, and some say in the world.  Some 7,000 are reputed to travel to the famous Lake District town for the weekend of films, lectures, awards and socials. I've been visiting the festival on and off for about 7 years, and for the last 2, have been involved in a professional context as film programmer. Most of this job takes place long before the festival weekend screening the films, writing copy for the programme, and working out a sensible sounding timetable. The weekend itself is still pretty hectic, troubleshooting technical issues, gathering feedback, programming the awards ceremony, contacting winners etc. But it's also an opportunity to absorb myself into the world that quite literally supports me. I make my living organising events for the world of climbers, and Kendal is a superb example of the spirit that that keeps this world alive and buzzing. Hang around in one of the many bars or in a queue for a film screening or lecture and you'll quickly notice the place is a veritable hall of fame. This year, to name but a few, I saw Johnny Dawes, Alain Robert, Tom Hornbein, Andy Kirkpatrick, Ian Parnell, Andy Parkin, Leo Houlding, Kenton Cool, John Bracey, Zoe Hart, Jim Curran, Ken Wilson, Sir Chris Bonington, Rich Cross, Matt Heliker, Pete Robbins, James McAffie, Nick Bullock, Dave Pickford, Dave Birkett, Lucy Creamer, Steve McClure, Chris Sharma, Ueli Steck, Stefan Glowacz and a whole host of others who I either didn't see, or simply didn't recognise. Then there's the film makers and photographers of whom there were at least as many. The reason I listed these people is not as some sort of super-sad tick-list, but to point out that every single one of these people is there in the bar talking to whoever they happen to be standing next to. At the end of the day they are, by and large, every day people with some unusual skills and exciting stories to tell! The atmosphere is simply electric.


If you do make it out of the bar - and many don't - into a film screening you may wonder why bother when many of the films are available on DVD and even online. There are a number of reasons: a big audience will always respond better than you and a mate at home, laughing, wincing, oohing and aahing together; the sound will invariably be better and louder than a set of speakers plugged into your computer; the screen will certainly be bigger; there's a good chance that in this day and age you'll be watching stuff in high definition; presenters will tell you a little about the film you are about to watch; in many cases the filmmaker / director / producer or even the cast will stand and say a few words about their film and may even answer your questions if you ask nicely; and perhaps most importantly of all, some of the films at the festival will be screened for the very first time ever - all stuff that you just don't get at home. As you leave the theatre you'll inevitably be drawn into conversations with others about what you've just watched. All in all it can be a very memorable experience.


Aside from the films and the social scene in the bar you've normally got a host of interesting lectures on offer, book and poster signings, bargains, free whiskey tasting, photo exhibitions, stands to peruse, literary award ceremonies, hog roasts and sponsored climbs. That's Kendal anyway. There are other festivals. They're not on quite the same scale as Kendal, but the principles are very much the same and the atmosphere equally good. Here's a list in case you're not aware of them:


In the UK

Fort William - March

Dundee - March

Edinburgh - October

Sheffield - March

Llanberis - March


Big ones abroad:

Banff - November

Graz - November

Autrans - November

Telluride - May

Trento - April

Wanaka - July