LIGHTS, camera, action!

The Chichester International Film Festival zooms into view this week, offering a range of movies from different genres, eras and continents. It’s the 26th edition of the event, which has earned a reputation as one of the most eclectic and forward-thinking programmes on the circuit.

This is thanks in no small part to Roger Gibson, the festival director who founded a cinema at Chichester College in 1979 that relocated to the intimate New Park Community Centre in 1986, the site that hosts the festival. Gibson’s pedigree in the film world is highly useful when the director travels abroad to source exciting releases and hidden gems.

His work in the movie industry was recognised earlier this year by the Cannes Film Festival when Gibson was made one of four “jury members” at the event. This role meant choosing a European film as the winner of “The Label” award. Having watched, studied and critiqued films for the majority of his life, it goes without saying the role is a pretty natural fit for Gibson.

Two films at the festival come direct from Cannes – American drama Patti Cake$ and The Square, which won the prestigious Palme d’Or prize at the French event. The latter movie isn’t coming out in cinemas until next year – one of a number of exclusives that Gibson has secured.

“There are just under 150 films overall and of those 40 are new and 20 are previews and premieres,” says the director. By way of emphasising the international element of the programme, Gibson says there will be three directors travelling to Chichester from their home countries to present their films.

Shubhashish Bhutiani will make the trip from India to introduce his emotionally-charged drama Hotel Salvation, the opening film of the festival, while German filmmaker Michael Rosel will be in conversation after a screening of his psychological thriller, Dolores. Meanwhile, a few members of the creative team behind South African movie Blood and Glory, set during the Boer War, will be in attendance.

Fourteen films will be accompanied by question and answer sessions, part of Gibson’s attempt to start a conversation about film and bring together filmmakers and audience. “I always try and get somebody down to talk about the films when I can,” he says. One film the director is particularly looking forward to showing to audiences is Nocturama, the French-Belgian-German “controversial” terrorism thriller which provides the cover image for this week’s Guide.

As Gibson describes it, the film is about a “group of people from different classes and backgrounds who decide to set bombs off in Paris and then hide away to await their destiny”. It was shown at the London Film Festival last year but, to Gibson’s surprise, it hasn’t been picked up by distributors since. As for documentaries, always a strong part of the festival, Gibson picks out Al Gore’s new film An Inconvenient Sequel as a must-see, not that he needs to sell the eagerly-anticipated follow up to Gore’s eye-opening first movie.

Also worth a mention according to the director is Bertrand Tavernier’s My Journey Through French Cinema, which pretty much does what it says on the tin in an elegant, thorough manner. With so many European films on show – not to mention Gibson’s regular travels around the continent – how does he think New Park’s relationship with Europe will be affected by the Brexit vote?

The director says he hasn’t spoken to his European counterparts about the referendum but that it will impact the cinema because it is part of the Europa Cinema group. “If you show that more than 50 per cent of your films aren’t from the UK, you do get money from them [Europa Cinema]” says Gibson. “That will stop, obviously.”

Returning to the festival programme, Gibson is keen to highlight the work New Park does to support new and emerging filmmakers. New Park invited submissions of low-budget films, as it did last year – but with a key difference. “Last year we had 600 submissions,” says Gibson. “It was barmy and we couldn’t deal with it. This year we charged $10 and reduced the number considerably – the serious people are still submitting, though.”

There are a few audience awards to be dished out, too. The system has changed from previous years because the cinema team are wary of a blockbuster like Dunkirk – showing at the festival – scooping the one and only prize. “There is still an award for the best feature film but also one for best documentary and best premiere,” says Gibson. The low-budget film awards are also split into feature and documentary.

“People are very keen on voting for their favourite films and it’s important for filmmakers to be recognised too.” This journalist can vouch for that, judging by the ecstatic reaction from the team behind Indian film Bridge which won an award in Chichester last year.

“It’s interesting you say that because there’s an Indian season on at the BFI at the moment and that film is showing,” says Gibson, proving that success at his festival really does go a long way. As for the festival’s audience, Gibson reckons they are always ready to take a punt on a film they might not have heard much about.

“We always ask people to take a risk and most people do. These are the kind of films you’ll never see again.” On the other hand, the programme contains a good few established and even iconic films – not least the movies that make up retrospectives on Tilda Swinton and David Lynch.

Understandably, Gibson wanted to capitalise on the new series of Lynch’s cult television series Twin Peaks, currently streaming. The director calls Swinton a “real independent spirit” and is looking forward to the screening of Orlando in particularly, the film adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s gender-bending time-travelling novel.

Late British legend John Hurt is also paid tribute to, with a showing of his movie That Good Night, among others.

What to look out for at the festival

Open Air Screenings

Hopefully the rain will stay way for the two al-fresco screenings that launch this year’s programme. Open air films have become something of a tradition at the festival, with one film designed for families and one for adults on separate nights. This year follows that tradition, with Pixar’s Cars 3 being shown tonight from 7.30pm and Dirty Dancing tomorrow at the same time. Pixar’s Cars franchise has been popular with families in its three instalments to date, while Dirty Dancing, left, surely needs no introduction.

Retrospectives and documentaries 

Two heavyweights of cinema are celebrated in the programme, with retrospectives and documentaries on actor Tilda Swinton (Her films Orlando and A Bigger Splash will be featured among others) and filmmaker David Lynch. His cult favourites Mulholland Drive and Blue Velvet, left, will be screened. Illustrated talks pay tribute to the late Andre Wadja and John Hurt. There is a retrospective on Hungarian director Mick Csaky which includes nine of his films. A spotlight is also shone on new Romanian cinema. 

European Films and World Cinema 

As ever there is a big emphasis on global cinema at the festival, with hardhitting films from Europe and further afield. Choice picks include Nocturama, a French terrorism thriller, a movie by Catalan director Albert Serra about the last days of King Louis XIV and The Square, the controversial Swedish picture that won the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes festival. South African film Blood and Glory, set during the second Boer War, is sure to be a highlight as is Hotel Salvation, left, an Indian film about an emotional journey. 

New films and premieres from UK and US

New Park Cinema has been closed for a number of weeks so the festival is taking the chance to screen some mainstream films missed in the interim, such as Dunkirk and Hampstead. A decade after Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth rammed home the message about global warming, An Inconvenient Sequel, left, is on the programme. US thriller Detour is sure to be a draw, while Daphne explores the world of a young woman in a changing London. Delirium is a moving film about the power of music while Risk traces the story of WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange. 

Music and art films and live events

There is a focus on jazz films and documentaries, with a film on late saxophonist Bobby Wellins alongside a live performance by Brightonbased jazz singer Claire Martin. Other films include Buster Plays Buster Keaton. and Chasing Trane, a documentary on legendary musician John Coltrane. Silent film The Lodger, directed by Alfred Hitchock, will be shown in St John’s Chapel with live piano accompaniment. Films about visual art include a documentary on David Hockney and a reconstruction of the life of Raphael Sanzio.

The Guide's top picks for the festival


Warren Beatty’s film focuses on the Bolshevik revolution and is based around John Reed, the American journalist who witnessed much of Lenin’s reign and was buried in the Kremlin after his death in 1920.

The Seasons in Quincy

A moving four-part visual essay about late critic and theorist John Berger, whose book Ways of Seeing changed society’s relationship with art and culture. The Seasons in Quincy is the result of a five-year project by Tilda Swinton, Colin MacCabe and Christopher Roth to produce a portrait of the great thinker.

The Tell Tale Heart

Steven Berkoff’s low-budget interpretation of Edgar Allan Poe’s short story about a servant who plots to murder his master because of his “vulture” eye. The Tell Tale Heart was first published in 1843 and widely held to be a classic of the Gothic fiction genre. 

The Odyssey 

Filmmaker and conservationist Jacques-Yves Cousteau embarks on an aquatic adventure in a film that covers 30 years of a life well lived.

The Naked Sir John Hurt

Dan Boyd’s film about the great actor’s roles, from a devious Elizabethan courtier in A Man for All Seasons to a charming homosexual iconoclast in The Naked Civil Servant. Boyd was a long-time friend of Hurt’s and is thus in a great place to anaylse his life and work. Boyd will be present for a question and answer session.

Beyond the Hills

Part of the New Romanian Cinema programme, this is a powerful  drama centred on the friendship between two young women whose lives and sexualities are put to the test when one of them finds religion.

Chichester International Film Festival runs at New Park Cinema from August 10 to 27. Visit