Newcastle at the moment isn’t quite a city known for its film moments. Sure there have been occasions; Transformers filmed some blockbuster-style action on Grey Street last year, I, Daniel Blake gave a harrowing account of the UK’s benefits system, but otherwise, a Northern representation is lacking. The kicking off of Newcastle International Film Festival last night (29th March) seemed to suggest this was changing.
Proceedings began with a rousing performance from the local Royal Fusileers band before things were settled down for an introduction from Jacqui Miller-Charlton MBE. Speaking of the revolutionary spirit that long ago began the industrial revolution in Newcastle, Jacqui made clear that Newcastle International Film Festival was set to change the film world and the North’s involvement in it. NIFF will be championing local projects, bringing film projects up the country, and strengthening the ever-growing film industry of Newcastle.
In true Geordie style, the opening ceremony presented cult thriller Get Carter (starring Michael Caine) at The Tyneside Cinema to a glitzy and anticipatory audience, before a Q&A with the film’s director Mike Hodges (he did Flash Gordon too!?). Ashamedly this was my first viewing of the 1971 film, so I felt extremely privileged to be able to watch it not only on the big screen as intended, but on the last remaining 35mm copy in the world.
The film itself is a gritty and dark tale following Jack Carter (Caine) as he travels up the country to solve and avenge the mysterious death of his brother. You can tell we’re in Newcastle not only from the (sometimes quite shoddy) accents but also the impressive, arcing, long lens shots of famous bridges and other Newcastle sights. You could hear the warmth of response in The Classic restored auditorium to these sights, it was refreshing to see Newcastle depicted on screen without drunken, orange looking lads in deep V necks. In my opinion, the best description to be found for the film would be to call it ‘of its time’, though the swathes of cult fans in the crowd would happily put forward something more substantial than this. Tarantino and Ritchie would take a swipe at me too apparently, the two directors praising the film’s innovation and helping to create its cult status later in the century, it is considered by BFI as being the 16th best film of the 1900s.
The well known, haunting intro music from Roy Budd was a much-repeated topic through the Q&A, particularly its economical use throughout the film, leading Hodges to the firm assertion that most films nowadays overuse music in a patronizing way, trying to lead the viewer into a certain emotion through sound.
From a Cardiff student who made his way up North for reasons a tad less sinister than Carter, that’s all from the first night of the festival! Through the next few days we’ll be bringing you more NIFF reviews of films premiering in venues across the toon.
By Rowan Lees / @rowanlees