Portobello Film Festival.
The Film Festival was created in 1996 as a reaction to the moribund state of the British film industry, to provide a forum for new film-makers and give exposure to movies on different formats. Many of our previously out-on-a-limb directors have since been recognised by the big fish in the industry. The festival has been dubbed ‘the wild side of Brit Film’ (Metro), ‘this pioneering film festival’ (Evening Standard), ‘the biggest celebration of independent film in Europe’ (The Independent) and ‘London’s biggest filmic free-for-all’ (Time Out). That the Portobello Film Festival shows tomorrow’s films today is evident in the number of ideas first presented here that regularly crop up in the mainstream.
At the start Portobello lacked a cinema – The Electric didn’t reopen till 2001 and anyway we have never charged admission, which makes screening in commercial cinemas problematic - so through virtue out of necessity, the Festival has screened films in diverse venues like parks, theatres, clubs and bars.
In 1996 we showed films in two tents on Athlone Gardens with 35mm and video projection. The selection included local movies "Performance" by Nicholas Roeg/Donald Cammell and "Leo The Last" (John Boorman) plus, in the indie section, the yet to be recognised Guy Ritchie ("The Hard Case") was short listed for the Golden Boot Award. Other shortlisted films that year included Gaz Mayall’s “The Great British Spliff”, Steven Galvin’s “The Hole”, Ritchie Winearl’s “The Imitators”, Christine Edzard’s “As You Like It” with James Fox and Deborah Ferguson’s “Attitude Adjustor”. The eventual winner…a Golden Boot sponsored by Dr Martens footwear, and held at a special ceremony at De Lane Lea Studios in Soho was Caspar Walsh for “Stairway”. 1997: the Festival created a vibe in Athlone Gardens again with a bar, restaurant and three cinema tents. More audio-visual style-shapers were screened. Hexstatic showed their stunning “Natural Rhythm Trilogy” along with Giles (Orbital) Thacker’s image wizardry. Bill Drummond came along to the 3-day event to see the K Foundation’s burning a million quid and 25 hours of the M25 films. Phil Smith presented the only public showing of his Metalhedz/Blue Note documentary. By now we were attracting well over 200 entries, from a public appeal in Time Out, colleges, bars and production houses. The Festival has always been committed to showing all films submitted and providing free entry to all screenings. The Golden Boot was awarded to "Junk", starring Adam Ant, by Cassius Rayner.
In 1998 the festival turned the notorious night club Subterania into 3 cinemas. Don Lett’s "Punk Rock Movie" was screened as was his "Audiovisual Bashment" (previously only shown at the ICA) in the Tabernacle. The Festival also combined the prose talents of writers with the artistry of VJ’s, including authors Courttia Newland, Nicholas Blincoe and Tania Glyde. Poets, Selina Saliva and Jock Scott also beat out their words to images. Shane Meadows of "twentyfourseven" fame showed early VHSs with his grit and wit clearly showing in its raw form. The Golden Boot was won by Marie Paschou’s "Un Jour" a moody handmade animation from France.
The technical quality of films has progressively got better over the years as has the quantity of films submitted. The Festival has also expanded abroad, screening films at Cannes, Macau and Venice in 2000. The Festival is a real living film festival. Films at Cannes and Edinburgh are regularly screened first at the Portobello Film Festival. Audiences, too, have constantly increased over the years from 1,000 the first year to over 15,000 now. The fourth Festival, on Portobello Green inh 1999, hosted local films, kids films from the BBC Community Films Unit, documentaries and features. This was the first year with a Megasceen for daytime viewing. "Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" and "City of Lost Children" were great hits in the evening. Other venues included the new Belgo Zuid on Ladbroke Grove and Subterania again. The Golden Boot was won by Andy Shelley for "Grandpa".
2000 wasthe biggest event by far to date. The Festival was hosted in a diverse range of venues from the luxury of Screen West to the nightclub ambience of Subterania, from the informal Video Café at the Beat Bar in Portobello Road to the outdoor Megascreen and the Big Top multiplex in Emslie Hornimans Park. We received over 300 brand new independent shorts and features. The total screening time was 144 hours shown over two weeks. The winner of a JVC camcorder for Best Direction on Video, "The Real Notting Hill", was picked up by Channel Four. Courtney Love came to see Pam Hogg’s film with Primal Scream, "Accelerator". The Festival included a music day with films about Bob Marley ("One Love"), The Clash ("Westway To The World") and The Sex Pistols ("The Filth And The Fury") that drew in vast crowds. Best Movie went to “Observations In Holland”.
We had an International Section of very high quality films from around the world submitted via our website www.portobellofilmfestival.com .
In 2001 the Festival continued to expand with screenings at Subterannia, Uncles, Emslie Hornimans Park, The Chilled Eskimo, Screen West and The Electric Cinema. We screened Lars Von Triers “The Kingdom”, “O Brother Where Art Thou” when the megascreen was attacked by an outraged local who thought the Klu Klux Klan section was racist (he did not stay to watch the end of the sequence), “The Cup” a wonderful Tibetan film about an apprentice Buddhist monk who wants to watch the World Cup, the world premiere of “One Giant Leap”, and Roger Pomphrey’s “Life, Death, And Damian Hirst”. The winning movie was “Flipside” by Richard Van Der Berg about a bad trip at a posh party.
For full details of Festivals 1998 – 2005 please click on date buttons at top of page.