Ambitions get higher for film festival

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Roger Gibson, Chichester International Film Festival’s artistic director, admits that he tends to be a bit head down, buried and focused.

It’s only when people congratulate him on the festival that he realises just what a terrific event it has become - one definitely worth celebrating in this, its 20th anniversary outing.

A couple of decades ago, Roger could never have dreamt that this was what the festival would become - a major centre for UK previews and premieres in a programme backed up by a huge range of themed sections and talks.

Organising it every year certainly doesn’t get any easier, but when he looks back, Roger can see with satisfaction just how far it has all come.

“It gets more difficult every year in a way because as the festival grows, your aims become more ambitions, and there is greater stress each year in trying to do better than the year before,” Roger says.

The particular challenge this year is to beat last year’s best-ever attendance, up by nearly a fifth on the year before - a happy challenge indeed for a festival which began as just a few films during the Chichester Festivities.

“We were putting on a few films during the Festivities and thought that we would create a film festival. When we had the first one, it was just about 20 films, but after about two or three years, we felt it was being rather swallowed up by the Festivities. And so we moved it from July into August and it has stayed there and grown ever since.

“August was a good time - after Edinburgh, before London and also after Cambridge. The positioning for getting films is very important - though obviously we still have the major problem of not getting films that are being kept for London (in October). From the point of view of UK releases, the window for us is September through to early October.”

But within those constraints, year after year, Roger comes up with an impressive programme - this year in particularly trying times.

“We were very concerned this year because of the recession. A couple of months ago we didn’t know if we were getting to get any money from any one. But now from having no money in the pot, we are back where we were last year - and that’s quite a relief.”

And the rest has fallen into place, with a busy and appealing programme.

Running from August 18 to September 4, the festival promises to bring cinema enthusiasts 18 days - plus two separate pre-festival open-air screenings - crammed with premieres and special events.

Retrospectives include:

Terence Rattigan, including David Hare introducing The Browning Version (1951) with Michael Redgrave, and an illustrated talk on Rattigan’s films by his biographer Michael Barlow, who also introduces Journey Together (1944),

A short selection of the films of Sir Ian McKellen, including Richard III (1995) and Gods and Monsters (1998).

Tributes to the late Claude Chabrol(1930-2010), including a preview of his last film Bellamy (2010), starring Gerard Depardieu, and Pete Postlethwaite with an illustrated talk by Michael Coveney

Mahler’s Centenary with Ken Russell introducing his Mahler (1974); John Coldsream (Dirk Bogarde’s biographer) introducing Visconti’s Death In Venice (1971); Jeremy Barnham’s illustrated talk on Mahler in film; and the UK premiere of Mahler On The Couch (Percy and Felix Aldon, 2010)

Dirk Bogarde’s 90th commemoration (1921-1999) with an illustrated talk by Brock Bogarde and John Coldstream. Films include Victim (1961), King and Country (1964) and The Servant (1963).

The festival will also see partnerships with:

Pallant House Gallery with Frida and Diego-complementing the exhibition with related films on Jacques Gelman (Cantiflas films), Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (1925), Thunder Over Mexico (1933), Frida (2002) and an illustrated talk on Film, Art and Politics by Ian Christie, professor of film.

Horrors at the Multiplex: The best of Fright Fest (five horror films).

50th anniversary of The Avengers, introduced by Brian Clemens, in conjunction with University of Sussex.

For further details visit www.chichestercinema.org.