Hello, my name is Hannah and my taste in film is dubious at best…
When the Sunderland Shorts team decided we would each write a blog post like this, it seemed like a good idea. I’d be able to tell you all about my role within the festival team and what my favourite films are. Then I realised what my favourite films are and was awash with anxiety about how I’d be judged because of it. But do you know what? I don’t care- I’m Hannah and I have an ‘eclectic’ taste in film (and I’m proud of it!)
Before we go into the good stuff, here are the basics. I work for the MAC Trust in Sunderland and together with my colleague Kristian (you’ll have seen him post on here) we are donated to the film festival as part of the core team. I’ve been with the festival since the beginning and was very enthusiastic about getting it up and running. I am by no means a film buff, but I really do love the arts and have seen just how much they can have an effect on the lives of people. Sunderland needs festivals and events like Sunderland Shorts, to build audiences and interest in cultural activity. Think about how good you feel after you come out of the cinema having seen a good film on a Friday night- I want everyone to have that feeling all of the time. I am the volunteer coordinator for the festival, bringing together and managing our small army of helpers along with recruiting film reviewers, programming community film screenings and just about anything else that needs doing. I’d love for you to read this and think “Hannah seems nice enough to work with, I’ll volunteer”, but I’m pretty concerned it’s going to have the opposite effect. Do get in touch if you want to join our team though!
Now, 5 of my favourite films. I have left out obvious favourites because I assume that we’re all Star Wars/ Indiana Jones/ Toy Story fans, right?
1. ET (My absolute favourite)
At the first Sunderland Shorts Film Festival, we held an after-party towards the end of the festival for all the team, volunteers and filmmakers in a local pub. A gin and tonic (or 3) later and I somehow found myself telling other members of the team about my favourite film and the weird things it does to me. ET is fantastic. It’s been a firm family favourite in our house ever since I can remember. When I was younger I felt a real connection to Gertie (Drew Barrymore), believing that the way she reacts and grows to love ET is exactly what I would have been like, I still do. It is a heart-warming film with just as many laughs as there is suspense and moments of sadness. How can you not feel like you need a friend like ET when he gets drunk, plays tea parties, and wants to learn form you through mutual respect and admiration? There will never be another film that I love and dread watching all in one, because, as my team found out on that night, I cry every time I watch it. And the only way I can stop that, it by eating digestive biscuits. I don’t know why, I don’t know what happened in my life for that to be the case, it just is. But I am more than happy to consume all of those calories, to be sucked into the relationship between Elliot and ET over and over again, to discover the true meaning of friendship and to wish that one day, I’d find my own ET.
Based on the true story of Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and his French-Algerian care giver Abdel Sellou, Olivier Nackache and Eric Toledano depict an unlikely companionship in this French film between an extremely wealthy paraplegic man and his live-in carer, who is from the ghettos of the city. Philippe finds Driss’ attitude totally refreshing, after years of living in his body that barely works and plain but pleasant carers. Driss is different. He is embroiled in gang culture. He likes disco music. He is sexy. Above all, he really cares and Philippe knows this. Through Driss, Philippe can experience the world again and Driss knows that he can live a better life than the one he currently does. To watch this film and know that it is based on a true story is just incredible. I think I love it so much because it is fun. It tackles some difficult issues (disability, class, gang culture) in a way that makes you feel at ease with it all. The performances are stunning and there are moments of pure joy and others of complete frustration. Life, ey? If anything, this film represents people at their best- making do with what we have (or don’t) and doing our best for those we really care about. Please watch this instead of ‘The Notebook’ and stuff when you’re feeling a bit rubbish, I promise you it’s a much better option.
3. Sleeping With the Enemy
Julia Roberts is great, isn’t she? I first saw this film maybe 10 years ago after my mam suggested we watched it together. I don’t usually trust my mam on films- not that there’s anything wrong with a Hugh Grant rom com, but I like something with a bit of suspense or grit to it most of the time. Well, I apologise right now mother, because you were right. There’s a scene in this where Laura (Julia Roberts) is in the bath and it makes me jump EVERY SINGLE TIME. I’ve seen it about 30+ times now. This story of a controlling husband and a wife’s journey to escape his hold is full of creepy, eerie, and disconcerting twists right until the very end. It puts me on edge and gets the adrenaline pumping. You’ll never look at how you arrange your tins in the cupboard the same way again.
4. The Muppets Christmas Carol
Controversial to throw a Christmas film in here? Probably. There are a lot of worthy films that could have been in this 5 for the fascinating, thrilling and beautiful storylines, the cinematic quality and award winning performances. That’s just it though- this is the best acting you will ever see from Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy! They way Kermit plays Bob Cratchit, the loyal employee of Ebenezer Scrooge is second to none. His doting wife (Miss Piggy) the perfect mother, both just wanting to make their Christmas a special time for the rest of the family. Sometimes, I think film adaptations of books lack the pleasure you get from actually reading the book, but The Muppets Christmas Carol absolutely transforms a Dickens’ classic into something we can all enjoy. I’m not claiming it’s Michael Caine’s moment of glory, particularly with that singing towards the end, but it’s stood the test of time as a festive favourite and you can’t ask for more than that.
5. The Artist
This French film won every award going when it was released in 2011 and rightly so. The black and white silent film was the perfect marriage of hope and misfortune for its lead characters, Peppy Miller and George Valentin. Even the dog, Uggie, delivered a perfectly timed performance. In a time where the big blockbuster is all about action and special effects, this film reminded me of why I love film so much. It took everything away but the music and the image and that was the most special effect of all. I also fell a little bit in love with Peppy as a character, so much so that I once went to a music festival that had a fancy dress day where you had to dress as a character from a movie, and I went as her. In hiking boots, not tap shoes I’m afraid. Photographic evidence supplied, as George would say, “With Pleasure”.