The home of an 800 year old university and one of the biggest student populations in Europe is becoming known for more than academic life: over the last three decades it has become an important landmark on the international film festival calendar for its annual celebration of the moving image. With the Cambridge Film Festival this July featuring indoor and outdoor screenings of new and classic feature films, shorts and documentaries, UKHotMovies.com brings you a lowdown on the increasingly-high profile event.
The ancient city of Cambridge is by its very nature a place of fantasy and magic. Its medieval colleges and echoing courtyards suggest another world, a perfect backdrop to the modern magic of cinema. The Cambridge Film Festival describes itself as "tracking filmmakers across the globe to bring discoveries and surprises from both up-and-coming and established talent."
Launched in 1977, the Festival was cancelled from 1997 until 2000. But, since re-launching in 2001, it has become one of the most prestigious in the UK, hosting a dizzying number of premieres each year.
The Cambridge Film Festival has grown steadily over over the years, with over 15,000 people attending in . In addition, thousands attended outdoor screenings hosted throughout Eastern England at locations such as Norwich, Ipswich, and Ely. However, the most successful Festival to date was the one held in July 2003 when attendance topped 20,000 as cinema lovers attended and celebrated 50 UK premieres, over 200 films and events, and six outdoor screenings.
Praise for the festival has come from many different angles through the years. The Guardian described Cambridge as "a match for the Edinburgh and London film festivals" with "peerless arthouse programming." The Times claimed the Cambridge Film Festival "easily outclasses its metropolitan rivals." Derek Malcolm, the famed journalist and critic also praised the event saying that it was "one of the best programmed festivals in the country."
Recent premieres hosted at Cambridge include such films as Pirates of the Caribbean, Goodbye, Lenin!, Spirited Away, Talk to Her, Bowling for Columbine, Cats and Dogs, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Barton Fink, Reservoir Dogs, Thelma and Louise, and the Three Colours trilogy
Hundreds of famous actors, actresses, directors, and other film professionals attend the Festival each year. Some of the names include Cate Blanchett, Richard Harris, Joel Schumacher, Jane Birkin, Peter Greenaway, Alex Cox, Timothy Spall, special effects maestro Ray Harryhausen, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Philip Kaufman, Jeunet et Caro, and Hanif Kureishi.
Of all the major British film festivals, Cambridge is probably the most welcoming for the general cinema viewer. A festive atmosphere is created by the presence of unpretentious actors, actresses, and directors along with many parties and receptions hosted by the Festival. However, much of the leisurely atmosphere comes from the popular outdoor screenings and American-style drive-in screenings.
One interesting addition to the 2004 Cambridge Film Festival was A Critical Condition: The State of Film Journalism in the UK, a forum focused on examining the role of critics in the UK film industry. Many film lovers complain that they have been convinced not to see a great movie due to the opinions of a film critic. Both critics and the public met in order to examine and critique the role of critics in film and their impact and contribution to the larger market and culture. The public was able to discuss their opinions with the critics who play such a role in determining the quality of films.
A Historical Overview of the Cambridge Film Festival
Cambridge was created to serve a dual purpose. First, its founders wanted to have an outlet for screening the best in new international film. Secondly, the creators of the festival wanted to rediscover important, yet ignored, films and their makers; many fine films are discontinued or unwatched for many years, and the Festival sought to remedy this situation at least in part.
The Festival's original home was the much loved single-screen Arts Cinema in Cambridge city centre's Market Passage. Eventually, it became too small for the thousands of film lovers who began to attend the Festival and today is held in the Arts Picturehouse. With three screens and advanced technology, the Picturehouse is the most profitable and best-equipped film venue in the region as well as a centre for film presentations and education.
Today, the Festival states that its "mission is to showcase the very best international cinema to the widest possible audience, by premiering and previewing outstanding new work as well as acknowledging cinematic classics through retrospectives and revivals." The Festival has used educational and entertainment events to spread the word to movie goers about both old and new films.
The UK's top independent film company, City Screen, produces the Cambridge Film Festival; they also control the Picturehouse network. Due to this relationship, Cambridge has access to and receives myriad benefits offered by the company. For example, City Screen allows the Festival to have continuing relationships with both film distributors and film makers as well as easy access to cinema customers throughout the country.
In 2004 the Cambridge Film Festival also took over the Birmingham Screen Festival; they were awarded the job due to their previous success at creating successful, popular events. The eight day festival was a huge hit with screenings of movies, television shows, games, and multimedia productions.