Monday, 6 September 2010

2nd Annual Yellow Fever Independent Film Festival

The second Annual Yellow Fever Independent Film Festival kicked off last weekend at the Stormont Hotel in Belfast. Building on the format of last year’s successful event, this year saw an even bigger, better festival cramming a shed-load of film screenings and special events into just four days – that’s double the days last year’s festival ran for. As well as the impressive array of film screenings, there were also workshops, Q&A sessions with filmmakers, Cos-Play events, gaming facilities, special guests and a whole host of other exclusive treats that had indie film fans salivating with glee.

Whilst numbers were once again quite modest (this truly is an underground event) they built on last year’s and marked the festival as one of the strongest, most promising new annual events in Ireland. If there is one thing the team behind Yellow Fever lack; ambition, determination and motivation aren’t it. Festival organiser and founder of Yellow Fever Productions, George Clarke once again reiterated throughout the weekend why he set up the event - to support and promote local independent filmmakers and provide them with a platform to showcase their work and get some recognition; as well as giving those in attendance the opportunity to see what other independent filmmakers from around the world are producing. The festival is modelled on the Freak Show Film Festival in Orlando, a pilgrimage Clarke has made for the past few years to spread the Fever…

Kicking things off was a Zombie Aid Charity Walk – a first for Belfast – in which participants dressed as the living dead and shuffled their way towards the steps of local government buildings at Stormont, before chowing down on a Dead Meat BBQ. All money raised from the walk went to Make A Wish Foundation and The Billy Caldwell Foundation.


This year’s festival also played host to a myriad of premieres including the world premiere of Snow Blind, a visually stunning post-apocalyptic Western in which a lone gunman must deliver a woman with mythical powers to an evil Governor. Unfurling against the backdrop of a frozen, inhospitable earth, Snow Blind is Germany’s first full-blown green-screen movie and a virtual visual feast that had to be seen to be believed. The film received the award for Best International Film – Belfast-born/Berlin-based star Stephen Patrick Hanna was in town to say a few words about the film and pick up its award.

Speaking of all things ‘post apocalyptic’ (a term that was used quite a bit throughout the festival!), also receiving its Irish premiere was The Sky Has Fallen, an enticing concoction of visual and thematic ideas reminiscent of Hellraiser, City of the Living Dead and The Road; the whole of which is a highly unusual, compelling and strangely poetic film which can only be described as a post-apocalyptic love story. A couple must do battle with mysterious figures who threaten their existence in a plague-ridden world almost devoid of humankind. And speaking of couples in extreme situations, this year’s YFIFF had the world premiere of bleak philosophical Italian drama Maimed Howl, in which two young disaffected lovers in the midst of an existential crisis procure a gun and attempt to find meaning in life by revisiting places that were significant to them, filming events on a camcorder as they go…

The Sky Has Fallen
Events took a lighter, though no less gory turn with the Irish premiere of zombie comedy George’s Intervention. Ever wonder what happened to the likes of Ed from Shaun of the Dead, Bub from Day of the Dead or Colin from, well, Colin once the credits rolled? This sweet and wacky US comedy – which also picked up the award for Best Film and Best Actress (lovely, lovely Lynn Lowry) - features a group of friends who stage an intervention when their zombie friend George’s appetite for human flesh becomes rather problematic and a few of his neighbours go ‘missing.’ Director JT Seaton attended the festival and also screened his short film Nightshadows as part of the Gay of the Dead Film Night. Nightshadows is a highly atmospheric and unsettling short that explores notions of guilt, obsession, mortality and the lengths people will go to in order to preserve their youth - it screened before director Ian Powell’s (also in attendance) striking and unnerving gay art-house chiller Seeing Heaven made its European Premiere. While searching for his twin brother, young escort Paul embarks on a dark and dangerous odyssey through a lurid netherworld of male prostitution and the porn movie industry. Experiencing bizarre nightmares and orgasmic visions – shared by his clients when they have sex with him – Paul realises a mysterious masked stranger has a morbid interest in him… A moody thriller in which the style of vintage Italian Horror legend, Mario Bava is effortlessly evoked – so much so that Seeing Heaven received the award for Best Cinematography.

Seeing Heaven
The shocks continued thick and fast on Saturday night, with the screening of Someone’s Knocking at the Door, a nasty, twisted and unforgettable horror in which a group of medical students experimenting with psychotropic drugs, are hunted by a demonically possessed pair of serial killers, whose modus operandi involves raping their victims to death with their grotesque genitalia. Director of SKATD Chad Ferrin, picked up the award for Best Director this year.

One of this writer’s personal favourite moments from the festival came with the screening of Marcus Koch’s broodingly dark drama Fell, a psychological character study following the tormented Bill as he descends further into depression and psychosis after a painful break-up. Fell is a challenging and relentless exploration of psychological turmoil, the fragility of the human mind and a startling depiction of tragic mental breakdown that echoes Polanski’s Repulsion. Equally harrowing was moody US drama Absence (another world premiere), in which the lives of three lost and restless souls collide violently in an intense and gripping drama about a kidnap plot, gone awry. Very fucking awry. Told from three separate points of view, it unfolds in three vignettes which tie together a larger storyline, culminating in an unforgettable and devastating climax. Also receiving its world premiere was Rhineland, the gutsy character driven tale of a struggling young soldier whose only guides as he comes to terms with the brutality of war during the final bloody months of WWII, are a disillusioned lieutenant and a bitter sergeant. Rhineland is an ambitious, gripping and effectively realised exploration of the futility and horror of war.

Erwin
A plethora of short films were also screened at the festival and these included winner of the Screening of Recognition Award, Old Man Flying Machine - a nostalgia-hewn and poignant reflection on childhood hopes, dreams and the idea that growing old doesn’t mean we must neglect or forget our aspirations. The winner of Best Short Film Mississippi Sound – in which past misdeeds are dredged up in an atmospheric and intense two-hander, as a pair of cousins fishing on the eponymous river find revenge on their minds. Director Ryan Blake George (who came over from the States and whose meth-addiction feature Takes A Lot To Rock You picked up awards for Audience Choice and Best Actor – the mesmerising Jesse James Locorriere) also screened his prior short, Edge; a dark and disturbing glimpse into one woman’s dangerously unhinged mind. Winner of Best Local Film was the short Erwin, an atmospheric and deranged film that surely resembled what From Hell would have looked like had it been set in Belfast after the apocalypse and directed by Jean Pierre Jeunet (it was directed by local filmmaker Stephen Petticrew, who obviously has a keen eye for darkly arresting visuals). Picking up the award for New Wave Short Film Director(s) were Keith Mackin and John Reck for their gritty short Six Minutes of Freedom.

Closing the festival was the hit Edinburgh Fringe comedy show How to Survive A Zombie Apocalypse. Taking the form of a seminar, introduced by the leading expert in his field, and ‘zombology’ guru, Dr Dale Seslick (Ben Muir - check out my interview with him here), How to Survive A Zombie Apocalypse is a hilarious one stop shop to the world of zombie survival techniques. Aided by a dedicated team of specialists from the School of Survival, attendees learned everything they needed to know when coping with the undead as they rise from their graves and begin eating their way through the world’s population. Unfortunately, this writer discovered – much to his chagrin – that he wouldn’t last NEARLY as long as he initially believed he would in the aforementioned zombie apocalypse. Damn my indecisiveness - damn it in the face! Hey, at least I’ll outlive the vegans…

Submissions are now open for next year’s YFIFF. Click here to visit the website of Yellow Fever Productions and click here to support independent film makers.

2 comments:

Sadako said...

Very cool! Wish I could have gone.

Cody said...

How exactly does one contact James? Lastseenleaving@gmail.com is my way of sending missives. I hope he uses it. Please do Mr. Gracey.