The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Film Features

The Quietus Blog From The Branchage International Film Festival
Luke Turner , October 2nd, 2009 18:00

Throughout the weekend, The Quietus keeps you posted on all the best happenings at this year's Branchage International Film Festival

Quietus' Luke Turner and our film editor David Moats will be updating this blog throughout this weekend's Branchage International Film Festival on the Island of Jersey.

Sunday, October 4th 00.35

Luke says: And so Branchage reaches its final day, and The Quietus has been a little slack with our updates - but only because there's so much to take in here, not only in the festival but the Island as well. Saturday was spent struggling out of bed to see Sleep Furiously in a barn; nevermind the setting, this is a thoughtful explorations of how a rural community exist in the face of the rapid, drearily inhuman changes that creep upon them from the outside. Resolutely unsentimental, it's nevertheless a beautiful portrait of both land and people, ending on a sad note no doubt being replicated across rural Britain - an auction of farm equipment, empty troughs and posts for a fence that will never be built.

David says: The slightly miserable looking man munching a complimentary burger at the back was Sleep Furiously's director, Gideon Koppel. He talked about how the film was not a documentary, something I dismissed as pretentious filmmaker speak until he explained how he had actually "fudged" certain scenes. In scenes shot in the village school, he didn't like the look of the real school teachers so replaced them with locals who seemed more interesting. It was refreshing to hear a documentary filmmaker admit to, indeed embrace, the necessarily subjective and manipulative aspects of documentary. The film was very much about his experience of the town in which he grew up - the residents were tools for telling the story. He didn't put in the time getting to know the community because he's "not a very nice person and that would be counter-productive". A booming voice from the back comes from filmmaker Andrew Kotting, who thunders "I can confirm that Gideon is quite an unpleasant person"

Saturday, October 3rd 10.12

Friday night's projection on Gorey Castle was a spectacular, visually unsettling event that really couldn't have happened anywhere else. Video artists Seeper had mapped the dimensions and features of the castle wall, including windows, and pipes, so that the images being projected followed the castle's contours. Cartoon snakes jumped between arrow slits, and roughly-hewn stone morphed into rotating cubes. The effect was a bit Windows screensaver-esque but rarely do you find falling cubes and colourful bouncing balls large enough to inspire a bit of sublime terror. The front courtyard was packed full of locals literally saying "ooooooooh" and "ahhhhhh". When the wall covered itself with a greenish cloth one lad was heard saying "Look Dad, it's a dinosaur! I'm scared" Dad: "I thought you liked Dinosaurs, don't you want to be a palaeontologist when you grow up" Child "Yay!"

As castles go, Gorey is pretty impressive - not so ruined that it simply blends into the hillside, but not so perfectly kept as to look like the hollow wooden monstrosity at Disney Land. Also, unlike historical sites on the mainland, the site wasn't marred by naff, childproof safety fences and warning signs, so Mr. Turner and I did a bit of extracurricular exploring. Heath and safety aside, there were some amazing views overlooking the sea and down the cliff wall to certain death. We were routinely freaked out by shadowy figures brandishing weapons, who turned out to be educational wooden soldier manequines.

There were also baffling but excellent bits of art illustrating different aspects of Medieval culture A crazy wrought iron sculpture of witches burning in Hell is way better than a badly written plaquard beginning "Imagine a time..." Another gruesome statue illustrated the truth of Medieval warfare - there's surely room for a concept album called Infected Suppurating Wounds.

Friday, October 2nd 18.26, Branchage Spiegeltent

Luke says: Day two of Branchage Festival, and I've been hurtling around Jersey in the hire car in search of fortifications and rock formations, at one ramming the motor into the side of the road to avoid an oncoming Volvo. There was a terrible crunch, but fortunately no damage was incurred. Our suave Chicagoan film editor Dave Moats arrived on the Island safe and sound, and we both appeared on the genial Billy Jam's Radio show broadcasting from Jersey old to New on the excellent WFMU station. Interviewed before the Quietus were descendants of the family who christened the bridge-and-tunnel state, and a Marilyn Monroe obsessive who owns a dress that belonged to Eva Braun, complete with a swastika on the zip.

A local 14-year-old musician called Isaac Evans sang live, putting most East London shower to shame with a voice reminiscent of Joanna Newsom without the shrill end and daft lyrics about sprouts. He apparently got the gig because his old man picked up Billy from the airport - which is sort of the way this very family feeling festival works.

David says: Having spent too many a night waiting around in the desolate discount-airline area of Luton airport, I opted for the more glamorous ferry ride to Jersey. I caught the Condor Ferry from Weymouth, a quaint but slightly eerie sea side town who's only visible signs of progress since the 70s are the modern beer cans sprinkling the beach. The journey was pleasent enough, the sea was calm and I slept most of the way save for a few strolls on the deck. There were a group of jolly gents wearing matching monogrammed polos speaking in what, to my American ears can only be described as 'Pirate' (Somerset?). They kept chanting "Grrreen Armeeey" for unclear reasons [probably something to do with football - embarrassed English Ed]. The view pulling out of Guernsey, our first stop, was spectacular - something like doing a flyby of a real-life model train set.

The first impression of Jersey was quite the opposite - industrial, modern, full of shipping cranes and freight. The harbour was surrounded on all sides by newly erected luxury condos, mostly hideous, and a massive cineworld, the only one in Jersey, it seems. It's kind of private development which in nearly every city grows by water like bull rushes. Luckily a few minutes walk form the hotel was the postcard type Channel Islands I was kind of hoping for. Before I knew it, I was in Branchage's Spiegeltent giving my film-spiel to a fellow Yank from New Jersey's WFMU.

Luke Says: Part of The Quietus' involvement in Branchage is our mentoring of a young Jersey writer for the duration of the festival, as chosen by a competition of which we were judges and masters. This afternoon we met up with Jonny Videgrain, a chap whose sartorial style matches his written flair, and who we'll be tutoring in the ways of Quietian Righteousness over the course of the weekend. He's off to write about Amiina's soundtrack of Lotte Reiniger's animation, while myself and Mr. Moats are heading up the coast to Gorey Castle (the picture above - this is a peculiar festival easier to illustrate with pictures of ramparts than anything else) for a video installation which apparently makes the ancient fortress look as if it's crumbling into the sea. We'll be taking the bus.

Thursday, October 1st 23.49

Back in the Quietus' temporary Jersey HQ, and I'm looking out at the three foot LCD depth indicator on St. Helier marina's mouth reading zero metres, the castle lit up, and buoys of many a hue winking in a line where the horizon should be. Ah, winking boys...

Today, while engaged in the surprisingly difficult task of trying to find a fish and chip shop in which to spend some of Jersey's pound notes, I suddenly found myself on a street filled with men in flak jackets wielding machineguns. It was not Madonna's goons seeking redress for the shoe pie we gave her the other day, but armed police imported from Scotland to provide security during the trial of Curtis Warren, a Liverpuddlian (quiet at the back there) accused of trying to smuggle £1 million of the green stuff into the island. Word is the police mucked up the evidence and he's going to get off. No doubt he'll be mumbling his way through Super Furry Animals albums and writing his 'lovable rogue' memoirs before the season is out.

But I digress, for while Jersey seems to be revealing itself to be a strange sort of place, we're here for the films of the Branchage Festival, and tonight is the opening night. Not only to we get a screening of Werner Herzog's Encounters At The End Of The World (a film that otherwise would have been unlikely to get a screening in the Channel Islands, let alone in the opulent Jersey Opera House) but the great idea of bringing together Encounters... editor Joe Bini, who has collaborated with Herzog since the late 90s, and a Jersey-born volcanologist who appears in the film. No more needs to be said about Herzog's film other than that, as an at times proselytizing documentary (the message: we're doomed, it's our fault, in 20000 years it's the spongy or itchy looking critters that survive in such extreme environments still be around), it's an emphatic success.

It might not have the peculiar beauty of some of Herzog's other work - the most astounding footage comes in the under-ice scenes shot not by the director but his friend, the producer/musician/diver Henry Kaiser. But it's the German director's skill in creating juxtapositions (the Victorian museum of Shackleton's hut against the ugly brutalism of McMurdo base, frozen-snail flinging distance next door) and getting under his characters' skin - for characters, in both senses of the world they are - that makes it such a success. But the biggest character of all is Antarctica, which hisses and cracks as the ice shifts, which allows massive jet transports to slam down on its frozen coastal waters for only some of the year, which sends bergs north that, if they would melt, would fill the Nile for 75 years, that sends penguins insane and attracts as McMurdo's support crew 'outcasts' from - principally it seems - North America - the country you perhaps learn the most about in Encounters... than anywhere else.

In the Q&A, our local volcanologist tells us that Herzog was intense and grumpy from altitude sickness, and Bini reveals that he and Herzog never discuss the meaning or methodology to the director's work. However, he suspects that Herzog's favorite parts of the film are the frozen sturgeon and the chimp riding a goat, and that the insane penguin story might have had a helping hand in the editing suite. If that sentence doesn't make sense, go watch it.

A curious smell of wet sand, decaying seaweed and farting barnacles on the exposed rocks is filling the room as the tide goes out faster than the fine red in our bottle (another bonus to the proximity to France), the castle has disappeared as its illuminations are turned off, and it's time for a nocturnal wander on the rocks... I may be some time.

Thursday, October 1st 14.51

Disaster! Apparently the weather's not right for fishing and Saturday morning's screening of Sleep Furiously is full. What? A festival that gives punters and not hungover music press types priority? Whatever next! Good on them. Sleep Furiously, though, is certainly worth an exploration — a thoughtful documentary about life in, and the battle to save, a threatened rural community. It's a tale that is sadly familiar across our countryside.

The tide has come in and covered the rocks around Castle Elizabeth, making it a temporary island once again. Curiously enough, this has made it appear larger, as if it were making its stately way towards us across the bay. There's the odd bang and puff of light grey smoke against the dark stone ramparts as someone, for some reason, lets off cannon. A blue amphibious vehicle catches stragglers who've misjudged the tide and makes its way down the ramp to head across the waters towards Jersey proper.

Thursday, October 1st 13.00

I (Quietus Luke) am currently typing this in my hotel room as I look out over the sea, sand and menacing-looking rocks to Elizabeth Castle, built to keep the pesky French at bay. The tide is racing in at a fair old lick, and the little stick figures on the causeway that joins the Castle to St. Helier are going to have to get a shift on if they don't want to get mildly damp. Perhaps Health & Safety weren't being over-zealous in not letting the Festival have British Sea Power play on a reef a mile out to sea. Downstairs in the hotel lobby are the suited fellows of the ICS Heat Pump Technology conference, whom we shall try to keep at bay in the local hostelries after the screening of Werner Herzog's Encounters At The End Of The World that opens the Festival later this evening.

I was about to update with a few tidbits about the Festival and some thoughts on British Sea Power's Man of Aran Soundtracking, which I'm introducing on Sunday . . . but just got a call from Branchage's organiser Xanthe asking if I want to go out mackerel fishing with her uncle. You don't get that from Michael Eavis, now, do you?

So to keep you going, here are Film Editor David Moats' pick of the festival:

Encounters at the End of the World

From the onset, this is not your typical Disney-funded glossy nature doc. It does feature some stunning shots of the Antarctic landscape which must be viewed on a big screen; the difference is that these images — especially of the undersea world the scientists call 'The Cathedral' — induce sublime terror rather than warm and fuzzy Lion King emotions. Also check out Herzog's more personal exploration of the man vs nature theme in Grizzly Man, playing separately at the festival.

Read The Quietus review of the film

If....

You've probably already seen Lindsay Anderson's masterful If...., featuring a breakthrough performance by a young Malcolm McDowell, but you probably haven't seen it screened in an actual college of similar vintage. An important document of its time (1968) and a poignant exploration of how society shapes us, or doesn't from a young age.

Read The Quietus' introduction to the influences and ideas that shaped If....

All Tomorrow's Parties

A worthy document of the last 10 years of the festival for true music lovers. Culled from camcorder, 8mm, and even mobile phone footage sent in by the fans, this innovative film is well edited and incredibly watchable. The performances, some now the stuff of legend, are convincingly stitched together and matched to brilliant sound, giving you such a strong impression that you're there that you might accidentally find yourself clapping.

Read The Quietus review of the ATP film

The Posters Came From the Walls

A funny and endearing anthropology of that curious animal, the Depeche Mode super-fan. Whether or not the rumour is true that the band was so embarassed by their devotees that they sidelined the project, this film by Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller has received a criminally small distribution. This will be a rare chance to see it on a big screen.

Read our interview with The Posters Came From The Walls director Jeremy Deller

Sleep Furiously

Come for the excellent Aphex Twin soundtrack, stay for a truly fascinating documentary. This beautifully shot portrait of rural life documents its subjects without mocking or sentimentalising their existence. Long shots of sheep on hills are juxtaposed with close-ups of cows giving birth. It's less about politics and more about photography but the photography is more than enough to carry the film. Look out for the time-lapse shot of a baby which gives the film its title. Plus, you get to watch it in a barn.

Sounds Like Teen Spirit

A heartwarming and slightly worrying film about the Teen Eurovision contest. Your enjoyment might be more akin to watching Eurotrash than a genuine music documentary but there are plenty of interesting characters (not unlike the child stars of Spellbound) and drama to keep you interested along the way.

Also check out the classic Some Like it Hot at a drive-in screen; intriguing art documentary Wild Art: Suzy & Olly; Shane Meadows and Paddy Consodine's latest, Le Donk; Moon; and several programmes of shorts, networking and education.![][5608][350x263]

If you love our features, news and reviews, please support what we do with a one-off or regular donation. Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus. Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.