Academy Award-winning actress Tilda Swinton is helping to develop a new film festival with the goal of building enthusiasm among young cinemagoers.

Swinton Helps Start New Film Festival

on July 07, 2008 by Phil Contrino
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By Richard Mowe

A new film festival that aims to eschew glamour, celebrities and red carpets, is scheduled to take place next month in a ballroom in Nairn in the north-east of Scotland - thanks to actress Tilda Swinton, 47, who lives in the area with her ten-year-old twins, Xavier and Honor and partner John Byrne, 68, the playwright and artist.

Aided and abetted by Mark Cousins, a producer and formerly director of the Edinburgh International Film Festival of which Swinton is a patron, the aim of the event, called The Ballerina Ballroom Cinema of Dreams, is to generate an interest in cinema among youngsters.

Running from 15 to 23 August the films will unspool in a venue called the Ballerina ballroom where such bands as Cream, Pink Floyd and The Who played gigs in the Seventies. Nairn also was a favourite holiday destination of Charlie Chaplin.

“The festival grows out of a passion that Tilda Swinton and I have for trying to get as imaginative films as possible to young people,” said Cousins.

Originally Swinton and Byrne moved in 1997 from Chelsea to Tain, on the Dornoch Forth, north of Inverness. She sent the children to a local gaelic nursery (taking lessons themselves so they could speak the language at home). In 2002, Honor and Xavier were ready for Moray's Rudolf Steiner school so, in order to be closer, Swinton and Byrne bought a house in rural seclusion just outside Nairn, "the Brighton of the north.”

Although full details of the programme have yet to be revealed titles that will screen include Powell and Pressburger's I Know Where I Am Going, Henry Hathaway's romance Peter Ibbetson (1935), Sylvain Chomet's animation The Old Lady and The Pigeons, and Mohammed Ali Talebi's celebrated children's film, The Boots. The closing film is Federico Fellini's classic 8 1/2.

Special digital projection facilities are being provided by Bjorn Koll, the managing director of Salzgeber, a Berlin-based company who are one of the leaders in new technologies.

Cousins who filmed Swinton as part of The New Ten Commandmants (shown at the Edinburgh International Film Festival to celebrate 60 years of the UN”s Declration of Human Rights) is adamant that the event’s character will be defined by the total absence of hoopla. He added: “There will be no champagne receptions, absolutely not, no opening addresses and no politicians - it will be purely triple-distilled cinephilia.”

Swinton and he hatched the plan when he went to her house for the shoot. “I played with her children, raved about movies, and planned this passionate, surreal film festival.”

“We hope that we are playing with the boundaries between seriousness and play, adult and child, professional and grungy, local and international,’ said Swinton. “Our wee festival will be really welcoming, friendly, especially for kids, and inclusive. We hope that John [Byrne] will do some designs for us.”

The Oscar-winning actress has generously funded the event so far. A seed grant from HiArts and help from the British Federation of Film Societies have been obtain and currently the organisers are applying to Scottish Screen. Swinton hopes that this will be an annual event, a movie retreat (or, rather, as the late artist Ian Hamilton Finlay used to say “not a retreat, an advance”).

Cousins said that three films would be shown every day, from new works to classics. Just in case other festival directors were wary of a new kid on the block, he assured: "But what we are not trying to do at all is compete or stamp on the toes of those festivals that are trying to be premiere festivals." He wanted instead "to reinject some romance into the film festival circuit" and to escape "the shackles" of release schedules.

The guests are expected to include a mix of festival directors, film producers from the UK, curators, journalists and local children.

Swinton and Cousins are also in the midst of setting up an "8 1/2 Foundation" (after the celebrated Federico Fellini classic), aimed at building enthusiasm among young cinemagoers.

Red carpets, however, are likely to loom for Swinton later in August when she attends the Venice Film Festival for the premiere of the Coen Brothers’ latest opus Burn After Reading, a spy comedy with John Malkovich, George Clooney, Frances McDormand and Brad Pitt.

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