Colchester Film Festival

Unseen Cinema: What We Do In The Shadows (Apr 2015)

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Colchester Film Festival presents ‘Unseen Cinema’ every month in Firstsite Colchester. Each screening is a taste of the very best feature films that weren’t screened or had a limited release in your local multiplex cinema.

Feature: What We Do In The Shadows
Director / Writer: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi
Cast: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi, Jonathan Brugh
Date: Thursday 23rd April 2015
Venue: Firstsite, Lewis Gardens, Colchester, Essex CO1 1JH
BOOK NOW (£6 Adult, £3.50 Senior/Student, £3 Members)

This film is yet another vampire movie but don’t let that discourage you from watching it as it is not your typical movie dealing with the undead. Directors Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi also star in this brilliant representation of what the vampire life is really like through the style of a documentary, but in this case a mockumentary. Very much like the style of popular TV show “The Office” it makes for a funny and witty concept.

Viago, Deacon and Vladislav are vampires who are finding that modern life has its difficulties, such as paying the rent, keeping up with chores, trying to get into nightclubs and overcoming the flatmate conflicts. This all makes for a hilarious idea and there are great performances throughout. Even the occasional bad CGI effects just add to the comedy. The flat itself has a wonderful design giving it a kind of gothic theme working well with the individual characters living there.

With a small negative of the film being a lack of plot it really doesn’t matter in a film this funny. The comedy is perfect even with a few random moments here and there but the simple deadpan style works well. Watch this film with an open mind. It’s not your classic style of comedy – it’s something to get your teeth into.

By Tom Findley
Film Reviewer

Unseen Cinema: Nightcrawler (Mar 2015)

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Colchester Film Festival presents ‘Unseen Cinema’ every month in Firstsite Colchester. Each screening is a taste of the very best feature films that weren’t screened or had a limited release in your local multiplex cinema.

Feature: Nightcrawler
Director / Writer: Dan Gilroy
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton
Date: Thursday 19th March 2015
Venue: Firstsite, Lewis Gardens, Colchester, Essex CO1 1JH
BOOK NOW (£6 Adult, £3.50 Senior/Student, £3 Members)

The dark twisted world of crime in L.A. unfolds here being filmed live to television news but who’s really behind that camera? Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a desperate man determined for work and here he muscles his way into the world of L.A. crime journalism, only to become sucked into it so much that he doesn’t care for the dead he is filming and merely sees the dead as profit for himself. This brilliant spine chilling performance from Jake Gyllenhaal is one of his best, making the audience afraid of his character. His eyes massive and bulging makes for a crazy look, which adds to the characters dark personality. His speech is smooth and suggestive making the character of Lou Bloom sinister and manipulative.

Full of excitement, action and in some cases dark humor Nightcrawler makes for an excellently well made film from writer and director Dan Gilroy. Although Jake Gyllenhaal is the star of the movie other performances such as Rene Russo (as TV-news veteran Nina) are also well done through out the movie. Director Dan Gilroy has captured the element of crime superbly in a stylish and realistic way making this film ever more believable and shocking.

By Tom Findley
Film Reviewer

Interview: Jesper Quistgaard – Colchester Film Festival Best Film Winner

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In the lead up to Colchester Film Festival 2015 this October, we caught up with last year’s Best Film winner.

Danish filmmaker Jesper Quistgaard submitted his 16 minute film Heavyweight (available to view here) with no expectations, and came away awarded with Best Film. “It’s a great interest to us that the film is screened out in the world. I want people to see it. My feelings are that, except maybe at Colchester, most film festivals around the world very much try to take in films that are more artsy and intellectually stimulating, rather than emotionally stimulating. Colchester is the first film award I have received so it means a lot!”

Heavyweight follows one parking attendant as he faces the constant hardships of his job. Inspired by his 6 year old son who believes he is a police officer, he turns vigilante against one particular group of individuals who wronged him the previous day. “There’s justification for drama in everyday life and we, as an audience, quickly understand how he must feel. The reason we made a sympathetic lead character is because I want the audience to feel with him. In general the audience is indifferent to what they see on screen, we have to really give them a reason to cheer for a guy. We felt we accomplished that, and for that I’m proud.”

“The writer and I wanted to do parking attendants justice, so we were out a few days ourselves with the real attendants. I got shouted at and it was really quite horrific. Even Rudi [Köhnke], our lead actor, went out one day with an attendant in Copenhagen.”

“We faced many challenges making the film, as it is when working for free on something that has a tiny budget.” One of Quistgaard and his team’s biggest challenges was the tight time limit they had for development and pre-production; “The deadlines in the film school we made the film through were pretty harsh. In effect, that meant we had to write and produce it at the same time. So while writing it, we had to pin ourselves to some things such as how many characters there would be and who they were. We had to cast Rudi and the boy William in particular while writing, thus making us unable to change that later in the writing process. That was hard.”

“I became interested in filmmaking after seeing the scene where Boromir dies in The Lord of the Rings aged 11. That scene holds almost everything I think is epic and wish to accomplish as a filmmaker, but it was a short film called Kinderspiel by German director Lars Kornhoff that pulled the blanket from under me. I guess it taught me what a short film could tell. It made the whole audience cry including me. From then on I was hooked.”

Colchester Film Festival has a dedicated Foreign Drama category as well as a varied mix of foreign films integrated in its other categories; comedy and romance, animation, comedy, and sci-fi and horror. “It’s always difficult making great drama in Denmark because it’s such a small, cosy society. The truly amazing and horrifying thing at international film festivals is that there is so much wild talent out there. It makes me feel small but also forces me to push harder.”

“Film festivals are a huge part of why we even make films. If I could make a living off of short films, I would do that. But right now we need film festival’s recognition to impress the established business to allow us to make feature films.” Not even a year on Quistgaard has already felt the benefits of winning Best Film; “Suddenly I am more eligible to receive funding and support for future endeavours, but personally it’s given me self-esteem and more backbone. I was actually on Danish TV for winning, so yeah, it’s a big deal.”

Unfortunately Quistgaard was unable to pick up his award in person due to commitments for his next film Ødeland [translated: Wasteland). “It’s practically the same team as before with a new producer called Cathrine Odgaard, who is also my editor. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, it’s about a father who finds out his daughter is suicidal and they have to travel to “the mainland” to find antibiotics for her self-inflicted wounds. There they find a boy with medicine and decide to bring him back to their little island. The question is whether they can trust him or not, since they are unsure if he belongs to a cannibalistic gang. I guarantee plenty of drama and action with another great performance by Rudi Køhnke.”

“My experience at Colchester Film Festival has led me to think that I’m on the right track and that I did some right things. I will definitely be sending in “Ødeland” as well.”

When asked what advice he had for aspiring filmmakers, Quistgaard replied “Consider how little the world needs new film makers. Supply and demand is not in our favour. So the only way you can ever get to make films is to prove that you do something better or more unique. Also, don’t be a know-it-all. Listen every time someone says anything, especially when it comes to getting critique. It’s always easier to see what’s wrong with someone else’s work than your own. So listen when people give you their opinion – they see clearly and you don’t.”

Last year Colchester Film Festival received more than 5,000 short films from over 60 countries worldwide. For many of the 36 selected, it was their UK premiere.

Short and feature film entries for this year’s festival are now open. Submissions are free until 1st June (

By Cara Weatherley

Unseen Cinema: Blue Ruin (Feb 2015)

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Colchester Film Festival presents ‘Unseen Cinema’ every month in Firstsite Colchester. Each screening is a taste of the very best feature films that weren’t screened or had a limited release in your local multiplex cinema.

Feature: Blue Ruin
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Cast: Macon Blair, Devin Ratray, Amy Hargreaves
BOOK NOW (£6 Adult, £3.50 Senior/Student, £3 Members)

A revenge movie with a twist and a realistic plot is not very common but director Jeremy Saulnier pulls it off brilliantly in his film Blue Ruin. With a fantastic opening sequence that instantly captures the audience’s curiosity, we follow the story of a mysterious man named Dwight Evans (Macon Blair) who is living a quiet, lonely life until an act of vengeance takes place changing Dwight’s life into a convulsive fight for survival.

Director Jeremy Saulnier creates a dark and twisted realistic plot about revenge exploring the consequences an action can really make to ones self. With minimal amount of music to help us we have to rely on the camera and each shot works  beautifully to capture the emotion of each character with the lighting and scenery. The whole look of the movie has a realistic style to it making it a believable story throughout the entire film. With a cast that is not very well known this works well in its favour as they all seem more believable than a big Hollywood star featuring in it. Devoid of any Hollywood cliché action scenes or over use of violence Blue Ruin challenges the stereotype of the redemption movie and gives us an idiosyncratic view of the true horror of crime.

By Tom Findley
Film Reviewer

Meet the Filmmakers: The Rendlesham UFO Incident

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A sold out auditorium watched the world of ‘The Rendlesham UFO Incident’ on the opening night of the 2014 Colchester Film Festival back in October. Daniel Simpson’s found footage sci-fi thriller was a fitting opening to the festival as the film was shot on location in Rendlesham forest just a short distance from Colchester.

The film follows three metal detector enthusiasts as they venture into the forest in search of Saxon gold 33 years after the infamous Rendlesham UFO incident. Their attentions soon shift from treasure hunting to aliens as they capture incredible footage of a UFO. Their friendships are put to the test as night falls, their navigation equipment fails and they find themselves facing a terrifying encounter with an unforgiving alien presence.

Writer and Director Daniel Simpson, producer Laurie Cook, screenwriter Adam Preston and the film’s stars Danny Shayler and Robert Curtis attended the premiere and took questions from the audience after the screening. Here are some highlights of what the cast and crew had to say:

Camera: Roger Allen
Editor: Angela Makepeace

The Rendlesham UFO Incident is now available to purchase on DVD, in store or online from

Submissions are now open for this year’s Colchester Film Festival at