Taking place within Bolton Market Place’s luxurious Light Cinema, the 2018 edition of Bolton Film Festival opened with its timely named “Opening Night”.
A packed crowd in screen 5 were presented with a terrific and diverse range of contemporary short film from the UK and Norway. The nine short films on the night opened with Joscjka Laikeninks’ Backstory, and then some two hours later conclude with Time Away, the directorial debut of Bolton Film Festival Patron and star of TV’s The Bisexual, Maxine Peake.
With a diverse range of films on show, the comedic element of the evening came in the form of the short and sweet, Ouija Sex. With hints of black comedy and hilarious surprises, Mondo Ghulam’s Ouija Sex is legitimately a case of “What it says on the tin”, though the minor detail of the central character carrying a loved possession – a framed photograph with a Woolworths in the background – is comedy gold that went unnoticed.
On the flipside of comedy, there is sadness. Opening Night displayed a handful of socially realistic or generally sad dramas. Vika Evdokimenko’s Aamir presented a gripping based-on-true-events story of a 13 year-old, separated from his family and alone in a degenerate refugee camp. Filmed within Calais Jungle, Aamir is in possession of a grainy film look – produced on film or edited to look that way – making an appropriately gritty viewing for a certainly gritty film.
In continuing the darkness of drama, Sean Dunn’s British by the Grace of God hit the screens. Set in Scotland during the Brexit referendum, British by the Grace of God is, at times, a black comedy as it is a tragedy. Centralising on Irene (Kate Dickie), her household exploits at first, with either her husband or son, are portraying her as a woman ignored and an individual in a depressingly lacklustre life. Only when out with her girlfriends during a hen night does the real fun begin. Certain occurrences with the husband late on do suggest British by the Grace of God to be a black comedy, but the slight instances of racism and tragedy late on suggest otherwise.
Onto the showpiece occasion of the evening, and in an impressive directorial debut, Maxine Peake’s Time Away successfully displayed hints of the trauma experienced by parents raising a Thalidomide child back during the 1960s. Set in a quiet-ish café by the seaside, a young couple, Michael and Patricia (Tom Gibbons and Charlie May-Clark respectively), expecting their second child are having a day (and meal) out to an extent, as escapism from the troubles at home. In almost replicating Tarantino’s habit of café/restaurant table conversations, Maxine Peake is tremendous in displaying the different forms of individual anguish experienced by the couple. For a first time director, Maxine Peake has displayed skills of which have ensured a bright future behind the camera for the Dinnerladies’ actress.
The evening of filmic entertainment was then rounded off with a lengthy, charming and insightful Q&A featuring Time Away’s Katie Wimpenny (writer), Maxine Peake, and Adrian Bate (producer) alongside the Festival Director of Bolton Film Festival, Adrian Barber. The Q&A session revealed that Time Away is serving as a prelude of sorts to the feature-length drama, Caravan, to be filmed next year, continuing the story of the pregnant couple from Time Away. Maxine then went on to talk about her future projects, one of which to be based upon the late Hillsborough disaster campaigner, Anne Williams.
Opening Night proved to be a special night for Bolton Film Festival and Bolton as a whole, showcasing many talents on the night, but also leaving a taster for the high quality of content to be displayed over the coming days. Lastly, but quite importantly, the inclusion of a sign language specialist on the night was something very admiring and very special to witness. Adrian Barber and the rest of his festival team should be extremely proud.
Keep an eye on our site for more coverage from Bolton Film Festival 2018.