Taking place within the lecture room on the basement floor of Bolton’s fantastic Museum, Aquarium and Archive, Bolton Film Festival’s special range of F-Rated film preceded an also fantastic industry panel on women in film. To be “F-Rated”, the film in question must be in possession of female director and/or a female writer and starring a principal woman on screen.
Kicking off this special selection of female film was, perhaps, the best film of the festival: Tammy Riley Smith’s Lady M. Opening with a narration and a blue umbrella controlling the frame, Samantha Bond (1995-2002 Miss Moneypenny in Bond) is on her way to audition for the role of Lady Macbeth. In only the opening sequences, Lady M displays both the lead character’s intimacy with desire of the role, and the comedic tone too. Furthermore, Lady M delivers an important message of the difficulties older women face in getting acting roles, something of which was perfectly conveyed in black comedy, surrealism and tie-ins with Macbeth itself.
In pure retro fascination, the next film, Tracks of Greece, was presented in a 4:3 aspect ratio (old school square picture). In further fascination, there was a lack of dialogue for a considerable amount of time, coinciding with a slight confusion of where the story was leading to, including the occurrence of a child, Nikolas (Marios Kotetsis), in dire need of a toy red car, whilst his mother, Dimitra (Elena Mavridou), is losing the plot. As a non-linear narrative is present in Elina Fessa’s Tracks, early-presented story events begin to eventually make sense, resulting in shocking consequences, whereas overwhelming confusion was present at first. The usage of a non-linear narrative was refreshing to witness at Bolton Film Festival.
Reaching the mid-point of Bolton Film Festival’s F-Rated film saga, there is Written/Unwritten, a story of love, family, and the clash of cultures… to an extent. Opening with the family of a new-born conversing with a doctor in a hallway, the separation of the grandfather, Pardica (Sorin Mihai), ordering from a coffee machine immediately suggests a rift or displeasure of sorts. Once it is established that the new-born is a result of underage sex, the doctor needs valid ID to be provided by an adult, so that the baby can be released. As suggested in Written/Unwritten, legal papers are not exactly the Gypsy way, so of course, it kicks off big time. The way in which the dialogue is written – specifically Pardica’s – establishes a gripping, real feel to what is occurring on screen. There are instances when Written/Unwritten feels very real.
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Opening with a selection of artsy shots, and then transitioning to a church choir, Veronica Andersson’s Liberation opens with beauty, but closes with darkness. Centering on a mother and daughter pair, it is the mother, Ewa (Magdalena Kizinkiewicz) who must help her daughter, Magda (Maria Kusmierska), who has been raped. Like Tracks, Liberation is terrific in making its viewer feel uncomfortable when frighteningly dark occurrences are presented on screen. From instances of a deaf Ewa being refused abortion to later instances of self harm, Liberation sometimes feels like a punishment for its viewers in watching the female characters suffer horrendously.
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Now this one was quite impressive as it is of a somewhat basic or limited story, yet full of pure suspense, and is easily one of the festival’s best thrillers. In another 4:3 picture presentation, Farnoosh Samadi’s Gaze is, essentially, about the consequences of one’s nosiness and willingness to interfere. So, Marzieh is on her way home from a late night at work, travelling by bus, and she witnesses the theft of an old man’s wallet. She knows what the thief, Amirreza Ranjbaran, has done, and he knows that she knows… because he saw her looking. Being the moralistic heroine that she is, Marzieh reports the thief to the bus driver, and Amirreza is booted off. A good deed is done! But because Marzieh got involved, Amirreza – almost comically – is tailing the bus on a motorbike. Though morally correct, Marzieh has now put her life and her family’s in danger – was it worth it?
Concluding the F-Rated film selection, and looking like it could fit in with the other wartime dramas on ITV3, Aoife O’Kelly’s Lula recreates the true story of a Polish resistance officer, Zygmunt (Mateusz Mirek), returning home to his pregnant wife, Lula (Marta Kane), during Nazi occupied Poland in 1944. Happiness, however, is only temporary as the Gestapo are on the lookout and as one would expect, make an entrance upon Lula’s farm home and household. As fascinating as the true story is, and as tremendous the acting may be, there is an overwhelming replicated feel to Lula when try-hard suave, Major Heinz Vollbracht, enters the story and is, essentially, a poor man’s Col. Hans Landa from Inglorious Basterds. That aside, Lula is impressive in the way that tension, danger and uncertainty are all expressed. Furthermore, the notion of the “shakycam” really worked wonders in Lula, despite this short film not being of the action genre where “shakycam” is likely to be found – credit to Aoife O’Kelly’s wonderful manipulation of the camera and direction.
Ultimately, the films selected within the F-Rated showpiece were all terrific, and congratulations to all involved. There was, however, a lack of pure genre within the F-Rated selection, and a lack of happy or fun stories being told, though Lady M was the closest to that with its comedy factor. Fun factor or not, the F-Rated concept and presentation was a clearly success, and something of which can only get bigger and better for next year’s festival. Sadly, however, there was a noticeable lack of men within the lecture room for the F-Rated films – something that has to change next year.