Hubby and I had such a fun film feastival experience last night that I had to share. I totally surprised him and planned a night in London city center for an “Edible Stories Event” and the theme was James Bond 007. I admit I’m not the biggest Bond fan (I’ve only seen a few) but he is a massive fan and has seen all of them, some more than once. His favorite era is the Sean Connery Bond.
While I know going back to the city on the weekend after being there all week for work might not be his idea of fun, I knew this 007 thing would be a good hook! He loves to plan and coordinate, so to avoid him trying to investigate what I had up my sleeve, I had to give him a good line and sinker to go with the hook. But he took the bait and it was, all and all, a success. It was a murder mystery kind of an evening, with all the props, literature, food (and martinis) coordinated around this classic and beloved English spy series. Mostly it was a chance to do what we love to do most, feast on films!
We’ve gotten pretty darn good at it over the years too. Why? Because Hubby has been blessed to serve on the juries of International film festivals all over the world, and I am lucky enough to be his plus one. While I did miss a few out of the twelve festivals he has attended, the ones I have been able to go to I have literally gorged on the films. Festivals such as Karlovy Vary and Zlin (both Czech Republic), Berlin (Germany), Venice (Italy), Locarno (Switzerland), Yeravan (Armenia), Mar de Plata (Argentina), Hong Kong, and twice each at Setubal (Portugal) and San Sebastian (Spain).
Besides the films, of course there is the cultural aspect of traveling to these wonderful countries and spending a week or two getting to know the area, history, food and the people. Of course there are a plethora of stars at these festivals, Julia Roberts, George Clooney, Matt Damon, Madonna just to name a few, which brings with it the usual paparazzi. Rather than the photo call, I am more interested in watching the press conferences and hearing first hand their responses to some of the thought provoking and sometimes inane questions. For instance, at the Venice Film Festival in 2011 a journalist asked Matt Damon (who was there promoting his film Contagion) about his hair (or lack thereof) and a bald Matt’s response “Dude, why do you always ask me about my hair, at every single press conference?”
Another memorable hot button press conference interview happened to be at that same festival. Steve McQueen the director of the powerful film Shame starring Michael Fassbender was asked why the actress in the film Carey Mulligan wasn’t in attendance. He shouted, “Because F**king Baz Luhrmann wouldn’t release her from filming his movie The Great Gatsby to be here for this important premiere. It is ludicrous!” Sometimes there is more drama happening in the press room than in the theaters!
But I have to say that seeing these films from all over the world gives you a glimpse into life through another lens. Most of these films don’t get seen by the wider audience. Sure you get typical Hollywood type films premiering at these festivals. That brings the stars out and that brings publicity. However, many films that never make it to wide release because they are filmed in (for instance) South Korea, on a small budget, with no name actors. Sadly, they might only get seen by those people lucky enough to be at the festival. And yet, they are often the movies that stick with you years after you see them. Simple films about real people, with touching stories, and powerful themes.
One film that still haunts me and that I feel is one of the best films about forgiveness and redemption ever made is called “I’ve Loved You So Long.” It happens to star English actress Kristin Scott Thomas but the film is in French. I never knew until this film that she is fluent in French. The film did do fairly well, but of course not the level it might have done if it had been in English. Reading subtitles does take a bit of getting used to, and that isn’t the first thing Americans rush to the cinema to do. But once the hurdle has been jumped, you open yourself up to an abundance of amazing films from all over the world like this. I still get a lump in my throat when I think of the final scene in the movie! I’m so grateful I had the gift of seeing it and meeting the writer/director. Hubby’s jury awarded the film top prize, which I believe was well deserved. And it is always at the top of the list of the films I recommend when people ask me.
Another YDP recommendation comes by way of the Locarno Film festival, a little Irish gem “Kisses” which touched hearts with its story of love and friendship. Two kids from a rough part of Dublin decide to run away from their abusive families and their journey brings them closer together. It shows a side of Ireland not often seen in the quintessential rolling green countryside in the “Quiet Man“ type of Irish film. And these child actors were so believable and raw that you forgot you were actually watching a film.
Finally, a film that did get wide release in America but has also gotten a warm reception in this part of the world is “The Road Within” and stars Zoe Kravitz, Dev Patel and Irish actor Robert Sheehan. This poignant and challenging film about mental health beautifully written and directed by Gren Wells played at the Zlin Film Fest in Czech Republic. Sometimes films heavy on dialogue don’t translate well to other languages. Hence that is why action films tend to be more popular world wide. But this film is enhanced by its emotional through line. And no matter where in the world you go, people are affected by various mental health issues such as eating disorders and obsessive compulsive disorders and those human concerns translate language barriers. People can read the body language and process the feelings portrayed on screen without needing to rely on the words. This is why Ms. Wells’ direction is so delicate and on point.
I mainly feel blessed that I can have these film feastival get aways with my Hubby/ best friend. Though he has to be involved with the other members of the jury on film deliberation, he and I have our own banter and discuss each film at length. We often stay up well into the night analyzing the different aspects of this amazing art form. Even the commercial and fluff films have their place. Like the Bond films, being entertained is indeed an important factor. It helps people escape into another realm and sometimes is a necessary release from life’s stresses.
And I must say I am extremely proud of my Hubby and all his efforts and involvement in these juries. He takes his responsibilities seriously and spends time after the festivals writing up articles and briefs about the films and the experience. Though years ago I had the opportunity to attend two different Academy Awards shows, one Emmy Awards and one Grammy Awards shows, my experiences going to these festivals with my Hubby have far exceeded those memories. For instance, at the end of each festival there is a grand red carpet closing ceremony and celebration. And just like the 007 Bond night, being the girly girl that I am, I enjoy getting dressed up for the occasion. But mainly I love the festivals because my Hubby makes me feel included in the process. Furthermore, though I no longer work in the entertainment business I still have an affinity for this ever present and changing industry. I see how important even a small budget short film from a remote country is when it can change the heart of a single person, as well as has the potential to touch the lives of many.
So since we had our Bond night, I thought I might share a recipe for, what else, a Martini! I had my first martini a bit late in life. I was well into my 30’s before I actually started to drink any alcohol. When I tasted my first martini I have to be honest it was too strong for me. I felt like I was drinking medicine (maybe some people like that) and I didn’t care for it at all. So going to the Bond themed dinner I knew that they would be serving Martinis (shaken or stirred like in the film) and I expected to have the same reaction. However, the ones served last night were lovely! And the secret apparently is the use of both gin and vodka together. It is called a Vesper Martini and Bond fans might recall Bond requesting one in the book “Casino Royale”. However, instead of an olive which is standard in a martini, it has lemon peel. Very refreshing I must say! Thank God we were only served one! Hiccup! That was all I could manage!
The Vesper Martini recipe
10ml Lillet Blanc or Cocchi Americano (as Kina Lillet, which Bond likes in it, is no longer avail)
Shake all the ingredients with ice in a shaker, then pour using a strainer into a chilled martini glass or – if you have one – a champagne goblet. Add a lemon twist.
And please, if you have one, don’t drink and drive! Luckily we live near the Thames River, so we didn’t have to drive. We took a river bus!
Shaken and Stirred Love Feastival,
ps. Besides all the above photos from the years at the different film festivals, I wanted to share this pic of some of the “Swag Bags’ that they give out to the jury members. Some very cool keepsakes, that’s for sure, of some great memories! Fingers crossed there will be more to come!